Carolyn Fe is a true artist: curious, adaptable, an outlier, a free-spirited visionary who questions accepted standards and pushes against established rules to bravely navigate the daunting corridors of her soul, reinventing herself and redefining her craft. She is an innovator who has always expressed herself through the performing arts, (formerly dance), but it is through theatre and music, specifically the blues, that she fully embodies all of her talents as an insightful lyricist, evocative interpreter, and singularly authentic performer.
Fe was the recipient of the 2018 Toronto Theatre Critics’ Award winner for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Precy in Calpurnia. She has also been wooing Blues music aficionados with her appearances at established venues such as Toronto’s Hugh’s Room, 120 diner and others, plus her residency at Montreal’s House of Jazz; inspiring her to keep writing more music while she steps up on other stages in theatre and in front of the camera in various television and film roles.
She has a recurring role as the host’s grandmother in Nickelodeon Channel children’s show “Blue’s Clues & You” which has been nominated for 2 Daytime Emmy Awards (winners will be announced June 26, 2020).
- What passion project are you working on these days?
I’m a multi-tasker so I have a couple of passion projects that I am working on now. As a musician: I just released a single “Jerusalem’s Thorns Civilian Remix” available on carolynfe.bandcamp.com since May 22, 2020, which happened to be Asian Heritage Month in Canada. I am also collaborating with musicians from all over the world on new works with me laying down my voice on their tracks and/or my lyrics and melodies to their music.
As an actor: I am in the midst of writing a play about how someone saw their life as they reach their end game; gratefully, I am working from my home studio on voice acting gigs for commercials, audiobooks, PSAs, and animation. With the theatres and venues closed due to the pandemic and social distancing restrictions, I am preparing, with fellow actors, for two online readings of plays that will be recorded and presented as old-style radio to be broadcasted on the CBC and podcasted in the near future.
- What first inspired you to become a musician/actor/dancer? What was your training?
Funny you asked! I am a retired professional dancer/choreographer. In my younger years, I was a classically trained dancer, moved on to contemporary dance; eventually had my own dance troupe, and toured Europe. One day, I would love to choreograph again but for today, I am an active singer/songwriter of the blues genre and an actress. As a singer, I was classically trained (yep, Opera!) I believe in the classical training for discipline and technique which certainly helped me keep my voice strong and solid. As an actress, my training comes from college (CEGEP in Quebec, Canada). My inspiration to become an artist came from seeing the Ballet.
- What are some challenges that you have faced while building a career in the arts and how did you overcome them?
I am a late bloomer artist. The industry does not pay much attention to us. There are many late bloomer artists out there. I want to be seen as someone who has something to say. As a POC (person of color), an Asian and as a late-bloomer, the industry has to widen their horizons with their claim to inclusivity. They need to take a good look at who they have been excluding. With that, I continue to persevere, make noise, and be heard. I like to push the envelope. I like to challenge the status quo, I like to see how far I can go with my work. I like to break the parameters and step into the unknown and uncomfortable. After all, isn’t that where we learn and evolve as humans?
Those who appreciate my work understand that at any time I can return to that comfort zone for them. They know that there is a journey to be had when they follow my work; in music, I can do a standard Blues sound to keep things comfortable and then move on to pushing the sounds of what the Blues can be.
In acting, I like to take on roles the defy “my category” as an actress playing the antagonist even though I can play a soft, loving, cookie-baking mother or grandmother anytime. What folks may not understand or appreciate is the “WHY” I do this. All I can say to them is, “Aren’t you the one who’s been looking for something different? Something that challenges you? Something that makes you catch your breath?”
It takes perseverance, will, smarts and champions who support are important to have as assets but what they do not realize is that I wade against the currents of performing and creating a life because of my Asian (Filipino) heritage, now I have ageism added on to the load I carry.
- What lessons have you learned that has proven the most valuable?
In the end, it is a job. I love my job and my job does not completely define me.
- What is your WHY? (why do you do what you do?)
Why not. Because I can. (I say this with the greatest humility and gratefulness.)