Humans of Campbell River: Heidi Cuff

Humans of Campbell River is a collaboration between Destination Campbell River and Bluetree Photography. Showcasing the stories of those who call our coastal community home. Each week we deep dive into a new story and the connections between people and place. This week we’re sharing the story of Heidi Cuff.

My name is Heidi Cuff and this is my story.

Theatre has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mom was always involved in community theatre – directing, acting, stage managing. My brothers and I would inevitably end up in whatever production she was working on, simply because we had to tag along. My first memory of being on stage, was when I was 4 years old. It was completely magical to me and from that moment on, I was hooked.

We moved around quite a bit when I was younger. My Dad is American and my mom Canadian. My Dad always felt drawn to return to the US and my mom to Canada, so we lived on both sides of the border: California, Ontario, Florida. I was a shy, introverted kid, so social situations were never my strong suit. Despite this, I always wanted to be in the school plays. My teachers didn’t know what to do with me. I wanted to be on stage, but I could barely get a word out in class. So, they created non-speaking roles for me – a doll, an angel, various animals.

Photo of a blonde woman in front of the Tidemark Theatre

Over the years, my confidence grew from the roles I played on stage. In high school I got involved with every aspect of the arts that I could. My parents were always supportive but also impressed upon me that the arts were more of a hobby and not an actual career. On my 19th birthday I received a phone call from a friend I met at theatre camp at the Young People’s theatre in Toronto when we were 13. She was in LA. She was acting, auditioning and – she needed a roommate. That was all I needed to hear and a few weeks later I touched down at LAX.

La la land. It was such a trip. So surreal. We had a little apartment just off Melrose Street right across from Fairfax High. Our neighbor next door was the sweetest older lady who used to be one of Marilyn Monroe’s personal assistants back in the day. We were flat broke, but we put our heads down and worked as hard as we could. We auditioned as much as we could around our schedules. Auditioning was fun in the beginning but after a while it became a rejection filled grind. When a friend ended her life on her 30th birthday because she hadn’t ‘made it yet’ in Hollywood, I decided it was time for a change.

Woman in front of the Tidemark Theatre

I enrolled in a communication studies program. I knew by that point that I also wanted to go on and get a master’s degree in Educational Theatre. There were only two Universities that offered the program – one in Arizona and one in New York. New York sounded like the more exciting option at the time, so I applied.

I arrived in New York 6 months after 9/11. The city was still smoldering in places. As soon as you travelled south of the village you would get hit with an acrid burning smell that made you cough and your eyes water. There were piles of rubble and debris on the corners and sidewalks with orange pylons marking them for traffic. Ash was still falling from the sky and the military presence throughout the city was unsettling.

The first year was intense. New York was so different from LA. I worked 3 jobs to keep up with basic expenses while I was going to school. It was an insane hustle, but I learned so much. I was exposed to art, dance, theatre and culture like never before – on a level of professionalism I had never experienced. But also, public art, street dance, buskers – it was amazing. New York was never my dream city, but over time, I fell in love with it.

Woman posing at the Tidemark Theatre

Six years flew by. I was finishing writing my thesis, wondering what to do next with my life when my brother called to tell me that my first love from high school was looking for me on the newly launched social media app Facebook.

It’s funny how quickly life can change. After a whirlwind romance with my love, I made the decision to leave New York to come to BC. My now husband had family in Campbell River, so we planned a trip to visit when our daughter was just a few months old. I still clearly remember walking with my daughter for the first time down the Discovery Pier – ocean on either side of us, with the sun hitting the mountains just so…. We’ve been living in this beautiful west coast paradise ever since.

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As soon as I discovered the Tidemark, I made it my goal to work there. The history, the beautiful Art Deco architecture – it’s fun, pink exterior! I’ve been working at the Tidemark for 10 years now, coordinating the marketing and programming. We started out presenting 10-12 shows a season and have worked up to almost 100. We were getting ready to launch our biggest season to date when the pandemic hit. The past 2 years have been challenging, to say the least. However, we have such an amazing, passionate team, who are all incredibly talented and driven. That passion has been the glue that held the team together and allowed us to take the necessary step into the world of digital programming during a global health crisis.

But the other really amazing part of this story is the community that I found here. Campbell River is beautiful – no one can deny that. But it’s the people that are the heart and soul of a place. I have lived in many different communities over the course of my life, but none have been as kind, generous and supportive as ours. When we announced our new digital season at the theatre, the community was right there supporting us. Not only were we gifted with financial support in the form of donations, tickets sales and funding grants – the steady stream of emails, positive reviews and social media comments thanking us and encouraging us to keep going, has meant so much.

We are now serving a global audience, with new viewers in 19 different countries around the world – and expanding further every day. We are in the midst of planning a new season and working to ‘build back’ our theatre experiences in new and forward-thinking ways. It’s an honor to live and work in this community and I’m excited for what the future holds.

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