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FRINGE FEST: Beverley Elliott uncensored

Veteran film and TV actress bares her soul in one-woman Fringe Fest show
Beverley Elliott
Vancouverite Beverley Elliott of ABC’s Once Upon a Time stars in her one-woman play ...didn’t see that coming, part of the 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Good things happen when Beverley Elliott runs late.

The veteran actress arrived 30 minutes late for our interview (she drove towards East Van when she should have headed for Kitsilano, and had to backtrack), but the resulting conversation, revealing as it was, was well worth the wait.

She’d also been running late a few years ago when she stepped up to the mic and shared a 10-minute tale in the second edition of Flame, Joel Wirkkunen & Deb Williams’ now monthly storytelling night at Cottage Bistro.

“I thought it started at 7:30, but it started at 7,” she says. “Joel’s phoning me going, ‘Are you coming?’ And I said ‘Yeah, I’m just parking my car,’ and he said, ‘You’re on next.’”

Not knowing how her story would compare with the ones that had already been shared that night, Elliott took a steadying breath and launched into a tale about the time she caught the bouquet at her niece’s wedding.

The audience ate it up. “I just felt like, this is what I love doing,” she recalls.

That night sparked a storytelling journey whose next stop is ….didn’t see that coming, Elliott’s one-woman show that premieres next week as part of the 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

Through stories, re-enactments and original songs, Elliott – a prolific character actress who was name-checked by Clint Eastwood when he won an Oscar for Unforgiven – shares true tales from her past that involve transformative and unexpected encounters with strangers (the bouquet story that started it all is included in the show).

Some of her stories are tearjerkers; others are cringe-worthy and hilarious; all are deeply personal and relatable.

“Storytelling can help us heal parts of ourselves that are hidden, or shamed, or put away,” she says. “I think we can learn from each other so much. That’s why art exists in the first place.”

Perhaps the biggest thing that Elliott didn’t see coming was her career in the performing arts. Growing up the daughter of dairy farmers in a tiny Ontario town, performing “wasn’t part of the tapestry of what we were going to do. We were very practical.”

And yet, somehow, this daughter of practical parents dreamt of becoming a performer. Elliott loved to unleash her voice in empty stairwells and in church, although she was too shy to actually sing or act for anyone.

But when she moved to Vancouver in 1982, she had “the distance of all those provinces between my family and my upbringing and who I was, and I found the courage to explore what I always wanted.”  

So she signed up for an acting class, started gigging in clubs, and kicked her performing arts career into high gear.

However you measure it, she’s done well. Elliott has appeared in dozens of television and film productions (from 21 Jump Street, Danger Bay, and The Beachcombers, to Harper’s Island, The X-Files, Unforgiven, and 2012). She sings as often as she can and continues to share stories in the monthly Flame events. Earlier this summer, she hosted the second night of the 2014 Leo Awards.

And as Granny on ABC’s mega-hit fantasy series Once Upon a Time, she’s even finding herself a featured guest at fan conventions, an experience she describes as eye opening.

“I remember years ago thinking, ‘I wouldn’t want to go to one of those fan conventions, they’d all be so weird,’ but now I’m going, ‘Anything coming up?’” she laughs. “I’m just Beverley from Listowel, I’m not really Granny, I’m just an actor doing work, but fans really care, and that’s what I’ve learned at the conventions. It’s a responsibility, and I’m in gratitude mode, because I love working.”

…didn’t see that coming runs Sept. 5-14 at Performance Works. Find tickets and show times at

Reel People at Fringe

Beverley Elliott isn’t the only Vancouver film and television player in this year’s Fringe Festival. Daniel Arnold, writer and co-star of the critically acclaimed “feel bad comedy of the year” Lawrence & Holloman, co-stars with Marisa Smith in Hannah Moscovitch’s Little One. The real-life married duo play adopted siblings, one of whom is a psychopath. That’s gotta make for some interesting post-show pillow talk. Sept. 5-14 at The Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab.