Let’s go back in time to the Fitzgerald High School graduation exercise of 1984. The young graduates are sitting there listening to a guest speaker go on and on with the old clichés like ‘The future is yours.’ - ‘You can become whatever you want.’ - ‘Any dream is possible.’ - ‘The future is up to you’.
We wonder if students at graduation exercises really listen and pay serious attention to any guest speaker but at least one graduate was paying careful attention to her guest on her graduation night – Ruth Lawrence from St. Jacques.
Lawrence knew long before she left high school that she wanted to actively pursue a career in the Newfoundland arts scene. She had long been inspired by local CBC productions like ‘Tales From Pigeon Inlet’, ‘Up at Ours’ and the CODCO productions. Along with the encouragement of guidance counsellor Don Lawrence, who instilled her with a love of acting, she was determined to follow her career choice following Fitzgerald.
Now, becoming a member of the provincial arts community back in the 1980s was no easy task especially for a young girl from a small rural community. Lawrence, however, didn’t let that stop her.
She completed one year at MUN and then took off for the mainland where she entered institutions like Niagara College in Welland, Ontario and the George Brown Theatre School in Toronto, a trade school for actors.
Following her graduation from George Brown in 1991 and against the advice of her friends who wanted to her to stay in Toronto where ‘all the jobs were’ Lawrence, a Newfoundlander to the core, wanted to come back ‘home’ to work – ‘home’ being Newfoundland and Labrador.
She got her first professional job in 1989 and has never looked back.
In addition to numerous smaller projects she received international attention for her role in ‘Random Passage’ and for her work with the Independent Film Channel production of the women’s right to vote movement in the province.
Since then Lawrence has evolved from acting into producing, directing and writing and having her productions shown and respected in many parts of Canada.
It wasn’t always easy for Lawrence along the way in becoming one of the best-known members of the provincial arts community today. But maybe all of our 2012 graduates can take a lesson from her in that she had dream and she stuck with it through thick and thin – that she never gave up. Many of the students from her George Brown graduating class of 1991 have did not make it in the arts world for any number of reasons but Lawrence did.
She said it was a due to a lot of luck and support. While that may be true to some degree, it is also due to her work ethic and her determination to become one of the best at her craft.
So, graduates, the old clichés you’ll hear in 2012 will be some of the same ones Lawrence heard back in 1984. And just like 1984 they are just as true today as they were then. Any dream is possible if you’re willing to work hard to get ahead. And always remember that it doesn’t matter at all if you’re from a small rural community – you’re just as good as anyone from anywhere.