It was 1974. The beauty pageant tradition was thriving. Like the Oscars, the Grey Cup or a quality Friday night made–for–tv movie, the pageant found the whole family huddled around the tv to worship the beauties. This particular pageant had the central Hamilton streets atwitter: Miss Teen Hamilton.
Would it be Lisa Langlois? We hoped in solidarity. Would our very own girl next door win the crown? She did. Then it was onward to Miss Teen Canada and the Miss Teenage Inter Continental Pageant, but sensing a lack of honesty in the field even at the age of 15, Lisa moved on to what she perceived to be a more authentic choice for herself and entered Ryerson University for Journalism.
Retrospectively, Lisa confirms that a film career was not her intention, but somehow it fell in her lap when her dance teacher at the time, Marlene York, suggested she look at commercial work to make money while in University. This decision was the charm and in four short years the acting doors opened.
Once again the Dundas and Hamilton televisions delighted as local fans watched her film debut in Claude Chabrol’s mystery Blood Relatives (1978) opposite Donald Sutherland. Surely she would be swept away to Hollywood: she was. LA had her captive for ten years enamored with her vulnerability. The entertainment field is notorious for soaking up the innocence of new talents and not every starlet survives the process. Lisa attests to the fact that some very huge stars were surprisingly unhappy and damaged by the business.
She admits she wasn’t quite prepared for this injurious aspect of the scene and never felt she was in touch with her genuine self when maneuvering through this world. Eventually, she worked her way back to Toronto and then came her son’s tragic car accident. Many years and many surgeries later her child is on the mend, and now she’s back in the Hammer to mark her return to the stage at the Pearl Company in Sylvia’s Fraser’s, My Father’s House.
This is a stage adaptation of Fraser’s novel, a hard–hitting, homegrown memoir of incest and abuse. It’s about speaking truth and in Lisa’s words, not just about “Sylvia Fraser/victim who was abused by her father. That is just the “back drop”. The play is about Sylvia Fraser/survivor/thriver and hence, it is about hope.”
As a vehicle for her return, playing this role appeals to her deep aspiration for authenticity. A survivor herself, she recalls the many times in audition rooms filled with men that an inexplicable sense of fear suddenly overcame her. She stumbled and the words didn’t come out smoothly but like Fraser, she overcame. This is resilience and I think it speaks directly to our #metoo generation. The new story is about thriving and Langlois is fully embodying it.
Future plans include collaborating with “Geoffrey Clarfield (he is a journalist and anthropologist who also produced, Ghosts of our Forests)” on the plight of the the Yazidi people, in a modern day Holocaust/Genocide and continuing to develop Fraser’s autobiographical work for film, a project that has been ten years in the making.
Lisa herself attended school at Ecole Notre–Dame on Cumberland Avenue, a few blocks from Sylvia Fraser’s actual house, and she intends to extend this type of accuracy throughout the process by casting and filming as much as possible in Hamilton. Both our city, the steel town turned arts incubator, and greater society, filling up with the long unheard stories of women are ready for this project. Lisa has hit her stride, in my opinion. She’s dodged the counterfeit lifestyles of the rich and famous, the fascia of the beauty pageant, and the invisible restraints of abuse.
Now, she’s home and it turns out to be just the right place at the right time for the right person. Welcome back Lisa. You made it possible for a lot of people to dream in 1974 about a girl next door and a bigger world. We’re all gathered around waiting to watch the next chapter of success.
Don’t miss My Father’s House playing the next two weekends at the Pearl Company: a story of hope and truth. V
My Father’s House
Playing at: Pearl Company
16 Steven Street, Hamilton
Showdates: May 30 to June 8 @ 8pm
June 21 and 9 @2pm