I want to start off by locating myself. My name is Amanda Testini, I use she/her pronouns, and I am the daughter of Italian working class immigrants. My mom comes from a tiny town called Cercepiccola and immigrated over to Canada when she was 5, keeping vivid, lasting memories of running through the poppies at the farm she lived on, and my dad’s family is from Mozzagrogna, another rural Italian paese. Growing up in Canada, my parents gave me all the opportunity they could, which is how I was able to fall in love with theatre at such a young age. Though my family loved singing and dancing, no one ever had the privilege to study it formally, so when I decided it was how I wanted to make a living, they were all supportive.
As a teenager, I spent my summers performing in musicals at Theatre Under the Stars, or plays part of Carousel Theatre’s Young Shakespearian Company. During the year, I would study extra hard to skip grades in certain subjects at school. I would then forgo spares and instead take the half-day dance program at Douglas Ballet Academy. After graduating high school, I completed two conservatory programs, the Triple Threat Program at Randolph Academy and Studio 58’s Acting Program. I started working professionally right away in performing, choreography and directing capacities on everything from Shakespeare to Musical Theatre to New Works to Opera. In early days, I would also Front of House Manage, child wrangle, usher, fundraise, and work admin in theatre offices. In a post covid world, beyond my choreography or directing duties, I often swing into performances, sometimes learning up to 8 performance tracks, and even stage manage if someone falls ill. All of this to say, I have participated in theatre from almost every corner. I grow to love it the more I know it, and stand by my belief of its importance in this world.
As theatre is a lived, experiential art-form, my artistic practice and my life follow a similar set of values. I believe in the power of fun and playfulness, in irreverence, in not taking anything too seriously. I believe in deep devotion and presence, in relationship, interdependence, and community. I believe in personal sovereignty and agency. I believe in examining my own biases, interrogating them with curiosity and love at the forefront. I believe in clarity, and in the value of spending some time in the unknown. I believe in truth, and that truth often involves paradox. I believe in embracing the messy wholeness of humanity.
The work I create is playful, detailed and will keep you on the edge of your seat. I use my dance and choreographic background to move the space in stimulating, yet honest ways that always put the story first. My training and practice as an actor enables me to collaborate with performers to discover clear, nuanced inner lives and character arcs so that their storytelling is captivating, and fun to perform. In my artistic pursuits, the process is equally if not more important to me than the product, therefore I aim to create rehearsal spaces that are open and warm, where we use fun as a creative catalyst, where discovery is encouraged opposed to ‘putting on,’ and where personal agency is prioritized.
As a theatre artist working in opera, one of my other main curiosities is finding a distinction between truthful performances and performative recitation of canonic works. Already there is a shift happening in opera where music and acting is becoming more integrated, and I am excited to be part of telling operatic stories in that way.