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Heart of our city: Andy Enns a force on the pitch and the stage

Fun is the name of the game for Andy Enns, whether on the pitch or on the stage. - File photo
Fun is the name of the game for Andy Enns, whether on the pitch or on the stage.
— image credit: File photo

He's a man of many masks – both metaphoric and literal — and he's been a community music and sporting staple since 2001 when work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency brought him from Surrey to Prince Rupert.

Andy Enns has played everyone from Dr. Frankenstein to the poor Jewish milkman Tevye, to Jean Valjean in both travelling and community production crews from as far back as he can remember, but give him some time if you ask him to recite a few lines.

"It seems that I can commit things to memory and have them in my head for a certain period of time," explained Enns.

"It almost ends up being like cramming for [an exam] where you try to jam it all in there and hope that it all comes out in the right order. Most of the time it does."

Fans of both sports and the arts alike have probably seen Enns at least once around town by now, whether it be in the recently-performed Les Misérables or on the rugby pitch carrying the ball.

He's easy to spot. At one point, Enns donned a luchador visage during his matches, but lately he's gone a little more animalistic.

"Most of the time, I'll wear the cat head. It's a furry cap with little pink ears," said Enns.

"Safety first."

The headgear is all part of having some fun on the field with the Prince Rupert men's rugby Seamen, who like to indulge in some amusement. It's also part of the entertainment during some of the Seamen's games, which usually take place in a colourful setting.

"Most of our games tend to have a bit of a festive atmosphere, where people dress up a little more," he said.

The Seamen will travel to events such as the Williams Lake Stampede, Terrace Riverboat Days, the Smithers Camels' Humpfest, Edmonton's Rugbyfest and the Abbotsford Gobbler

tournament.

"The tournaments themselves are their own little spectacle. Some of them, like Rugbyfest or the Stampede, you'll get 16 men's teams and another eight or 10 women's teams. It's a major party. In Williams Lake, you camp around the pitch, so you've got 300 people that are staying outside for a whole weekend," said Enns.

Unlike the theatre, where Enns had a background in band, choir and playing the valve trombone and piano but amazingly no drama classes, the now-eighthman had never touched a rugby ball.

"Well, when I moved up here, I was at the gym and Tom Jackson (of the CBSA), he walked by me and said 'Hey, have you ever played flag football?' And I said no."

Jackson then extended the invitation, which evolved into rugby at the conclusion of flag football's season.

"I started playing in 2001 and I've been playing ever since," said Enns.

Enns' preferred position (when playing full 15-on-15) is the eighthman, one of the most versatile positions that exists. It's a position that seems fitting for the arts and sports enthusiast.

The eighthman stands at the back of the scrum and provides extra weight for the push. They can also control the ball and provide an outlet for the backs as well as strongly carry the ball and break through opponent's stronghold defences.

Enns, who also works at the terminals, always has something on the go. In addition to playing, he co-coaches the high school team Charles Hays Hurricanes with fellow Seamen teammate George Baker. The team last Friday played a match against the Caledonia Bears from Terrace and came home with a 15-0 loss, but it was a solid learning experience.

"This is the kind of the frustrating part, if we were to have a couple more veterans there we would have been able to dominate even further. We definitely controlled the ball, but we had a little trouble getting through their defence," said Enns.

"We basically had a sure try called back for a penalty which ... kind of took the wind out of the boys' sails."

But Enns understands the life of a student athlete. It's a busy one and, at times, an absentee one. But it comes with the territory. And as Enns points out, the hybrid cross-breed of the arts specialist and the sporty jock may be on the rise.

"I'm not really much of an anomaly," he said.

"Almost a third of our high school rugby team is in band or choir, so when they put on a musical, which is every fall, it's a little hard to schedule games. So I don't know whether I set a precedent, but it's not an oddity at all to be in sports and music."

Some of Enns' favourite roles he's played is Dr. Frankenstein in I'm Sorry the Bridge is Out, You'll Have to Spend the Night, a monster musical and also his first performance as a Rupertite and playing the tin woodman in The Wizard of Oz down in Delta.

"[Bridge is Out] was a lot of fun. We had a fantastic set and a great cast," he said.

"In theatre, the two guys who kept me going the most were Rudy Kelly and Lyle McNish. Lyle's actually living in Kitimat, where he runs the theatre program, but he still comes back and does lots of stuff here ... [With rugby], the two Lawson brothers, Daryn and Robbie Lawson are definitely the guys that are the spark plugs in getting people motivated and doing stuff in this town."

Next for Enns is Udder Fest, Prince Rupert's own theatre and music festival in August, where he'll don another mask. Real, or not.

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