Today’s very special “Spotlight” was a long time coming; we focus today on the woman responsible for founding Quick As A Wink, the wonderful Michelle Herx!
Michelle’s forming of Quick As A Wink began as an exploration of writing and local history. “In the year 2000, I began researching and writing the musical Glory Days: The True Story of the Great Windsor Fire of 1897,” Michelle says. “I had been retired for a few years after raising 3 children and working as a sign language interpreter and teacher of the deaf. I began returning to the arts in my retirement, doing wood carving and paintings. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome surgery caused a temporary disruption in that creative pastime. It was during that time that the idea of writing to replace the woodcarving came to mind. I began to research about the town of Windsor, was astonished by its rich history and became fascinated by the story of the Great Windsor Fire. This important historical information was never taught to my children in the West Hants/Windsor public schools! And so I began to write.”
Once the piece was written, however, Michelle realized that Glory Days would need to be produced locally. “The vibrant history of this area and the town’s glory during the 1800s made it clear to me that we should not produce a play about Windsor in Kentville or Bedford, which have the nearest community theatres to Windsor,” Michelle says. Thus, she took matters into her own hands. “In 2003 I began asking prominent town and business persons whether they thought a community theatre should benefit the Windsor/West Hants area. After getting positive responses and support, a Board made up of local business people and others was chosen and Quick As A Wink Theatre was established!”
When it came time to name her new theatre society, Michelle says had a little help. “Willard Wood, former owner of Moe’s Place Music Sales, was one of the theatre’s strongest supporters and was on the first Board of Directors,” she says. “He suggested that we use one of Haliburton’s Sam Slick sayings — the shortest we could find — ‘Quick As A Wink’ as our name. It denotes not only a tie to the local history, but imparts the spirit of lively entertainment.”
Since founding Quick As A Wink, Michelle has been involved in numerous productions in many different ways, including writing, directing, acting, and more! She has many fond memories of her QAAW productions, though one show in particular stands out for her. “My ‘favourite’ production to work on, though I could name many, was the oratorio by Deborah Brevoort called King Island Christmas,” Michelle says. “I heard the CD score of this oratorio while I was in Alaska early in the 2000. I immediately saw it in my mind as a complete stage production. This was six months before I even started researching Glory Days and three years before the formation of our community theatre! I contacted Ms. Brevoort to talk to her about obtaining the production rights. She said it had never been performed in Canada before! In 2006 Quick As A Wink Theatre became the first theatre to produce her oratorio in Canada. We fundraised and flew the New York City playwright, Deborah Brevoort, to Windsor for opening night! She praised our version of the show! It was requested back by popular demand and we remounted our second production of the show in 2010.”
Michelle’s favorite memories of Quick As A Wink, however, are not linked to any one production in particular, but to something much larger. “My fondest memory of Quick As A Wink Theatre is the sense of contributing to the growth and development of people in the area, but most especially the youth,” Michelle says. “People of all ages, backgrounds and abilities have always been welcomed and accepted at Quick As A Wink. Youths and adults develop skills of cooperation, self-confidence, public speaking and deportment. They learn to take directions, contribute creatively and work together as a group. The pride that they feel at the end of their successful run shows in their beaming faces. For example, after the musical Sleepy Hollow one young cast member - this was his first theatre performance- came up to me, gave me a huge hug and said ‘This was the best experience of my life!’ That is a memory I will always treasure.”
Michelle adores theatre and appreciates the variety of reasons people enjoy the arts. “People may be attracted to theatre for many different reasons,” she says. “As actors, people may enjoy the challenge of assuming another persona. For the other parts of the team, whether off-stage, backstage, or in marketing and promotions, creative minds can work on sets, props and costume design, directing, stage management, print media design, marketing and advertising, and technical aspects such as lighting and sound. As for audiences, people come to theatre for a variety of reasons. They may want to be simply entertained. They may wish for a brief two-hour escape from their daily life and to be transported to a different one through the magic of theatre. Others may seek an emotional tie with the action of the play or its characters. The attraction to theatre may be as diverse as the people themselves!”
Outside of theatre and Quick As A Wink, Michelle has many other interests and passions. “My greatest passion is, of course, my wonderful husband, Dennis!” Michelle says. “He is ‘one of the good ones’ who loves, supports and respects me unconditionally and I him. You may not know that Dennis and I walked across Spain - 800 kms - from the country’s eastern border near France to the Atlantic Ocean on the Camino de Santiago pilgrims’ way in 2011! Other than the performing and visual arts, I also travel, sew, read, research, write, sing and play guitar, volunteer and enjoy many fitness activities including golf, walking, biking, swimming, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing. I am trying to improve my knowledge of French this year, and would especially love to become more fluent in speaking it!”
Michelle remains actively involved with theatre and the arts to this day. “Though I am not on the Board of Quick As A Wink at this time, I still remain its founder and strongest supporter,” Michelle says. “I continue to be available for volunteer work within the theatre and other community theatres. I am currently directing the drama The Women of Lockerbie for CentreStage in Kentville. It will be on stage weekends from September 18th through October 24th. In addition, I am a member of the Hants County Arts Council and support their work as well. I sketch, paint and carve when I have free time.”
We would like to extend a huge thank you to Michelle; your hard work, determination, and drive lead to many wonderful productions, lifelong friendships, newly discovered passions, and an amazing theatre community that is still going strong today. We could not be more grateful for all you have done, and wish you the very best in all your future adventures!
Do you have someone you think deserves to be highlighted in our “Spotlight on …” feature? Let us know and you may see them featured next! New “Spotlight on …” segments are posted every Wednesday.