Inner Elder: A journey of resilience through laughter

Actress Michelle Thrush on stage against a dimly lit background.
Michelle Thrush in her one-woman show, Inner Elder. © Ben Laird
Actress Michelle Thrush sits on stage against a dimly lit background.
Michelle Thrush in her one-woman show, Inner Elder. © Ben Laird

Gemini Award-winner Michelle Thrush unveils her life with remarkable honesty and humour in her one-woman show, Inner Elder, arriving at the National Arts Centre from April 11-13.

A comedy born from real-life challenges

Michelle Thrush embraces the inherent vulnerability in presenting her life on stage, including her upbringing in Calgary with parents battling alcoholism. Remarkably, Thrush infuses her narrative with humour, transforming her challenging life story into a source of laughter and inspiration for audiences. Thrush shares, “This show is my real-life story. All of it came from my life. All of it is real.”

Inner Elder invites audiences on a transformative journey guided by the wisdom of those who have supported Thrush throughout her life. Despite the heavy themes, the show maintains a comedic tone, attributed to her brilliant storytelling and the direction of Karen Hines. Thrush explains: “Balancing humour and storytelling with trauma and resilience is something we do as Indigenous people quite easily.”

From early struggles to acclaimed performer

Thrush’s journey from a turbulent childhood to becoming an award-winning actress is nothing short of inspiring. She recalls the racism and hardships faced in school, and how drama provided a sanctuary; eventually leading her to pursue acting.

Her distinguished career in entertainment spans both television and film, marked by memorable roles in North of 60Blackstone — a role that earned her a Gemini Award — and notable appearances in Bones of Crows and Prey. Beyond her roles, she has been honoured with numerous awards, including the prestigious August Schellenberg Award of Excellence and the Betty Mitchell Award for her performance in Inner Elder.

An open heart: The power of storytelling

Developing Inner Elder was a profound experience for Thrush, pushing her to share intimate aspects of her life. Thrush’s ability to transform personal and collective pain into comedy highlights the healing power of art. “There’s a certain sense of humour that comes with trauma. A humour that allows us to step aside and look at what’s happened, but also not take things too seriously,” she notes.

Inner Elder is Michelle Thrush’s love letter to audiences, a testament to survival, resilience, and the universal human experience. “All of us carry our own stories inside,” says Thrush. “We all experience love, compassion, fear, shame, and pain… — that’s what makes us human.”

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