Photography by Becca Lemire
When you don’t see what you want, you go out and create it, right?
That’s exactly what Tennille Read did when she wasn’t finding the roles she wanted to play as an actress.
As the co-founder of Theatre Inamorata, her theatre company develops and produces female-centric stories for the stage. Equally exciting, Tennille can be seen as Biana in the third season of Workin’ Moms.
Learn how Tennille finds inspiration, takes initiative, and what sets her up for a perfect audition.
Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade?
Sometimes it feels like every time I don’t get a role that I audition for it’s a lemon being thrown at me! Especially when I’ve poured so much heart and prep into it. Rejection is an enormous part of being an actor, but it’s also an incredible character shaper. I’ve learned to be resilient, persistent, resourceful and focused because of the challenges that come with being an actor.
When I wasn’t booking the kinds of roles I wanted to play just after graduating theatre school years ago, three of my friends were in the same boat, so we got together to form a theatre collective. We weren’t auditioning for the roles we liked, but even more telling was that the kinds of roles we liked were few. So, we took the initiative to explore the kinds of stories we wanted to act in.
Over time, we helped adapt The Picture of Dorian Gray into a full play that we ended up producing. The male roles were changed to female, and our writer set the play in modern day. The play gave us the opportunity to perform interesting characters with a lot of agency (which isn’t always the case for female characters - I know, shocking). We ended up with a rich project, with a diverse cast, a relevant story, and a platform for all of us to be introduced to industry professionals with. Almost always, this is the kind of project that makes the most impact because of the personal investment in them.
Describe your ideal work environment to get sh*t done.
My ideal work environment to get sh*t done is so important! I’m very particular. I need a bright open space that is somewhat quiet and it has to be tidy. It’s an idea that enables me to memorize lines or research a role or record an audition with an optimal amount of focus. If I don’t have those elements in my workspace it’s next to impossible to get into a productive zone.
How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?
I need to take risks in order to grow and expand. I take risks whenever I’m doing something new, or going for a part that is outside of my comfort zone or committing to a theatre gig after doing lucrative TV work for a good stretch of time. The success I see when I take risks can look like personal growth, developing my performance skills, learning new skills, creating relationships with people I’ll work with in the future, or making some good cash.
But for me, it’s also about pacing myself. I see nothing wrong with re-grouping after a stretch of growth and just doing something that is simply fun and easy from time to time. But while that’s happening, I think it’s important to be aware of the expiration date that naturally occurs for creatives - which shows up as boredom. I think that awareness keeps me open to discovering what I need to do next, what I want, what direction my next move will be in. When I’m rested and ready, that’s when the next big risky opportunity comes my way. So I guess in a way, it’s a 50/50 ratio between risk-taking and stability.
“I need to take risks in order to grow and expand. I take risks whenever I’m doing something new, or going for a part that is outside of my comfort zone.”
How do you measure success in your career?
I think for me, I measure success in terms of feeling satisfaction in specific categories, and whether I feel like I’m moving forward. Those categories for me can be the caliber of the project, the type of character I’m playing, my income, who I’m working with, and how busy I am. I rarely get all these categories checked off all at the same time, but as long as there are at least a few of them are on the table, I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. If I find I’m only checking off the same categories over and over again however, I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. I need to be doing new things and expanding my skills, scope or income. I know that the moment I compare my career to anyone else’s, I risk feeling like an utter failure. So I try not to do that.
You're 30 minutes away from walking into an audition. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?
Thirty minutes away from walking into an audition, I’m usually in a quiet place where I can focus and ground myself. I’m usually running the materials in my head, or just talking to myself. Sometimes it’s challenging to find that quiet place for auditions because the waiting room can be small and full of talking and excited people. I actually find myself avoiding eye contact in waiting rooms, or hanging out in the restroom until the very last minute - anything to stay in the zone!
Remaining fresh and innovative can be hard. How do you stay creative and where do you look for inspiration?
I try to stay creative when I’m not acting. I paint and sketch a lot, and it gives me an outlet to pour my creativity, even if it isn’t performing. Plus, I have something to show for it afterward which is a nice bonus. I also feel that it allows me to keep the flow of creativity running through me, not to get all woo woo on you. But I think it sends the message into the ether that I’m open for more creative opportunities. I look for inspiration for acting by going to the theatre and watching my favorite actors or films that have amazing stories.
Give us the play-by-play of your typical morning routine.
My typical morning routine involves a strong cup of coffee, meditating for at least 15 minutes, then sometimes I journal, tackle some emails, and then I either go to the gym, prepare for an audition, or be on set. I love mornings because they really set me up for the rest of the day.
What is something that you read, watch or listen to regularly?
Lately, I’ve been loving podcasts. I listen to Off Camera with Sam Jones when I need to hear other actors talk about their process, their lives, their failures and successes. It makes me feel less like an alien. I also listen to Mind Your Business with James Wedmore when I want to hear how successful entrepreneurs navigate their business and what kinds of tools and mindsets they have. His content isn’t always applicable to being an actor, but there are a lot of similarities. I also watch a good dose of dog videos on YouTube because they make me happy. Instantly.
What impact are you making through your work?
I hope my impact is increasing the visibility of ethnically diverse people on stage and screen. I didn’t see much diversity in the shows I watched as a kid, and definitely not many mixed ethnicities like myself. It’s so much better now, but we still have further to go. I want to see more stories about the female experience from all parts of the world. But I also want to see ethnic people playing those lead roles that traditionally white actors get. More and more it should just be about the human experience, no matter what shape, colour or form.
Finding time for yourself can be difficult. Do you have a self-care routine and what does that look like?
My self-care routine includes meditating, listening to inspiring, interesting speakers, exercising, and a lot of rest. I’m an introvert, and the career I’ve chosen is so opposite to that! I need to make sure I’m carving out time every day to be by myself. Sometimes the voice in my head creeps in that says “I should be doing this or that” or “I should be doing more” and I have to really address that in the moment and trust that resting actually is doing something for someone like me. It’s giving me the recharge I need to take on a day on set, or an audition, or event, or even just a hang out with friends. Otherwise, I can get quite irritated and exhausted and then I’m no use to anyone!
What's next for you? Can you tell us a little bit about something exciting you're working on?
I’m excited about what’s next. I was cast in two theatre productions that are running in rep at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival this summer. I get to play Roxane in Cyrano De Bergerac and Camill-a in A Winter’s Tale (they’ve changed the male character Camillo to be female). Both roles are an actor’s feast to play and it’ll be my return to the stage after a two-year hiatus. I also can be seen in an upcoming film by Adam Egoyan called Guest of Honour. I’m excited to see how it turned out.