Name: Lara Jean Chorostecki
MEI Program: Spring Semester 2003
Hometown: Brampton, ON
Now living: Toronto, ON (most of the time)
Favourite Location: Rome
Favourite Memory: Many sunsets
Favourite Food Memory: Fresh feta cheese in Greece
If you could revisit one place or relive one MEI day, which would it be: The day I arrived in Europe. So much possibility.
One bit of advice for new MEIers: Drink it in.
What path led you to finish high school with MEI- you had taken a year off, hadn’t you?
I had taken a year off of high school the year before to work as an actor for the Stratford Festival, but had always planned on going with MEI to finish off my degree. There was a short span of time where it looked like my contract with Stratford would interfere, but in the end I very fortunately was able, not only to travel with MEI and complete my high school diploma, but to also return to Stratford two weeks after we all flew back to Canada.
What was your biggest challenge when you were overseas as a student?
Space. I was used to living on my own outside of any sort of school or student setting for a year before MEI. It was a challenge and growing experience for me to live and travel with others on a daily basis. But the structure of the program was fantastic in allowing for solo exploration along with encouraging new friendships.
What is the lasting impression you took away from your experience on the MEI? My world picture grew and I fell in love with a continent that I have grown to call my second home.
Give us a couple of highlights from your journey since MEI.
I returned to work at Stratford for 3 more years before moving to Toronto where I performed for Canstage. I then moved to London, England for school. I challenged my BA with professional experience and completed my Masters at the Central School of Speech and Drama. After post-grad, I moved back to Toronto for some theatre work and to try my hand at film and T.V. The last three years have been filled with various guest spots on Canadian shows, a recurring role on Dan For Mayor (CTV) and becoming a series regular on Camelot (airing on CBC in the fall of 2011). Most importantly, I have returned to Europe every year since 2003 for at least a month (sometimes longer), slowly exploring the major cities and beautiful countrysides.
What has been your most rewarding project to work on to date? Romeo and Juliet. I performed this in 2009 in Fairy Lake, Newmarket for Resurgence Theatre Company with a tight knit group of actors, many of whom I knew from Stratford. It was one of those rare instances where the casting, direction and design blended together so beautifully. I gained so much as an actor through that experience and relished going to work every day. I have had other great cast and crew experiences, but there was something about that group doing that show that was magical for me. Oh- and I was playing a part I’d been wanting to play since I was 16….
Who inspires you now in performing/life?
My best friend, who I refer to as my sister. Our journeys, as many people’s, have been filled with huge highs and lows, but her ability to constantly challenge herself to be better, to change for the good, to be compassionate and understanding, inspires me daily. My constant pursuit of self-improvement keeps me going. My curiosity keeps me traveling. My insatiable appetite to know more about myself, this world, and to find my place in it keeps me alive.
Did your experience on MEI in any way help prepare you for what you’re doing now? I always knew I would travel, but MEI was the perfect transition into showing me that I could REALLY travel. With others, solo, where-ever, when-ever. Yes, the education aspect was fun, the courses themselves interesting and relevant to wherever we were, but most importantly, an experience like that empowers a young person to know that they can begin to open their eyes to new and exciting opportunities. Work and school have taken me to various places, and since 2003, I have never been afraid to land in a new city, in a new country, across an ocean from home, and be confident that I will navigate my way through the streets, make new friends, and open my world view that little bit wider.
One last bit of wisdom?
A very close friend of mine once told me over tea, “the beauty of travelling and living in another country is in being given the opportunity to reinvent your identity. You begin to discover the parts of yourself that you already love.”