Carly Anna Billings is an actor, singer, comedian, theatre-maker, podcaster and storyteller born, bred and based in her favourite city, Hamilton. Carly is a mixed, second-generation Italian-Canadian and Ojibwe artist who only learned once she was halfway through high school that her family was Indigenous. This realization strengthened her connection to her home in Hamilton, being on the traditional lands of her people the Mississaugas of the Credit. “It has taken me many years to learn to lay claim to my place in some communities. Like many reconnecting Indigenous folk, the knowledge of my family’s history and culture had been hidden, not talked about” shared Carly. As a result Carly knows she has a lifetime’s worth of cultural celebration and catching up to do; this project is a large part of that.
In 2021 Lighthouse Theatre sponsored the Garden Project through Porch Light Theatre, an annual funding initiative to commission Hamilton-based racialized IBPOC artists with seed money to create and develop new work. Carly is one of the recipients from the project and Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel had the chance to meet Carly recently. Carly shared with Derek her new one woman play she is writing about her journey in claiming and connecting with her heritage and culture. Derek knew that Lighthouse wanted to continue to contribute to the creation of Carly’s story and so welcomed her to the Lighthouse Play Development program.
Carly’s play Meat(less) Loaf is a celebration and exploration of everything past that is present, it is a story that moves through her relationships to family, to food and to what it means to be yourself and have that be enough. As long as Carly can remember food and cooking have been integral to her life. “Food is where my family gathers, food is the thing that keeps us going, food is where we share our stories. It is integral not only as our fuel but also as the thing that both encapsulates and transcends culture”. When she discovered her indigenous ancestry Carly started to see connections between the foods she had grown up eating and staples of the indigenous community. The pizza fritte she had grown up making and eating was very similar to fry bread, realizing that she had unknowingly been engaging in a version of this culturally significant dish felt comforting and Carly wanted to find more connections and knew food was her way forward. A key part of her solo play includes Carly cooking on stage, walking audiences through the celebration of ingredients and her journey. “Meat(less) Loaf is what happens when a 20-something vegetarian actor with an ancestory.com subscription, too many feelings and a love for Meat Loaf desperately wants to create something good… part storytelling, part culinary adventure this is the tasting menu of searching for who you are”.
Carly is delighted to be a part of the Play Development program. With Derek’s support the project is maintaining its momentum, allowing her to support herself as a playwright and performer while also having the ability to workshop her play with contemporaries and enlist a dramaturg to create a show-ready draft of her solo play. “This support has meant a sigh of relief, a bit of stability in this weird and wild art world of the past few years. Derek’s support has mean so much to the viability of this project”. Carly is extremely passionate about the magic of art, stories and language that can bring us together. Learn more about Carly and her many artistic projects by visiting her website linked below.