Jasper Nolos had to get used to life in Prince Rupert after spending years in Toronto.

Heart of Our City: Jasper Nolos gets reacquainted with home

Leaving to go to school seemed like a huge cultural change for Jasper Nolos, but the bigger shock was coming back to Prince Rupert.

At age 18, leaving Prince Rupert to go to school at the University of Toronto might have seemed like a huge cultural change for Jasper Nolos, but it wasn’t leaving town that was the biggest shock to the Rupertite’s system; it was coming back.

“Moving to Toronto, I was prepared for the big city but moving back to a small town, I didn’t realize how much I adapted to the larger city that I thought that coming back would probably be just like [it was before I left],” said Jasper last week.

“There were a lot of things I had to really get used to again.”

Jasper, born in Manila of the Philippines and a resident until age five when his family moved to Rupert, found his groove in Canada’s largest city, attending the country’s largest university.

At 71,041 full-time students, the University of Toronto alone dwarfs Prince Rupert six times over, but Jasper was prepared for it.

Studying English, Philosophy and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, he got used to the hustle and bustle that the metropolis had to offer and found the pulse of his B.C. hometown a little disconcerting after six years away.

“It was just really quiet and that bothered me for some reason. I was so used to the noise at the time,” said Jasper.

“I guess there’s a difference as well when you’re stuck in a bubble at university and the people who you talk to and interact with tend to be in that weird academia world so coming back home and not being in that bubble was a little strange.”

But it was in his return that the North Coast resident rediscovered some of his passions.

“One of the biggest things I found moving back home was reconnecting with some of the things I liked to do when I was here, so part of that was the theatre. I stopped being a part of it in Toronto and when I got back here it was just something I really appreciated to have back,” said Jasper.

Fiddler on the Roof held open auditions at the Lester Centre of the Arts three years ago and that production would wind up to be his path back to the dramatic world.

“They gave me a role. It wasn’t a large role but it gave me a taste for being back on stage and from there I actively sought out being involved in Udderfest,” said Jasper.

The Community Futures CED projects coordinator joined the Lester Centre board and the Harbour Theatre board (the decision-makers behind the community-driven Udderfest festival) to get a broader grasp of what goes on behind the scenes to make these sorts of productions run. If he hadn’t done that, Jasper thinks there’d be now way he could appreciate or understand the scope of work that takes place.

Les Misérables, the production based off of Victor Hugo’s historical novel was Jasper’s first indoctrination into both sides of the organizing and acting coin when it was performed at the Lester Centre in March.

“I volunteered to be a part of the production committee for Les Mis, so Les Mis to me was a project that started in in June [of last year] until March. So it went from ‘Are we doing Les Mis?’, ‘We are doing Les Mis – what do we need?’, ‘What does the team need from me?’, ‘Am I still going to be able to audition?’ and then going through the audition period and being part of the cast was something else,” he said.

“It’s the first time I got a larger role – I played Enjolras and I’d forgotten the commitment level it takes to be in a larger role, especially in a musical and for somebody who hasn’t sang in front of people for a very long time, it was kind of nerve-wracking – trying to make sure you hit those notes and carry a tune. But it was the role I tried out for and I was very happy to get it. That character was just fantastic,” Jasper added.

Enjolras is the charismatic French revolutionary who is ultimately executed for fighting for the impoverished masses and for his republican ideals.

“I was part of the chorus in Fiddler on the Roof … but Les Mis was different because this time I wasn’t so there was a lot more focus on really knowing the songs. You couldn’t get by with just moving your mouth,” he laughed.

Most recently, Jasper played St. Peter at the pearly gates in Chris Armstrong’s Henderson’s Assessment, a play performed at Udderfest 2014, while also taking part in Rudy Kelly’s Dan the Man.

The two-time Northern View Reader’s Choice award-winner for best actor has enjoyed acting, but it’s through running that he’s found a chance to connect with others. He’s coached the Rupert Runners’ Learn to Run participants after joining himself.

“[Rupert Runners director] Amber [Sheasgreen] approached me and recruited me to be a coach … At first you run with them but you don’t really know what to say because what input do I have [having only started recently]? But it makes you focus on your technique – how you should be breathing, your posture, when you’re running, what types of shoes you should be wearing, what you should do when you get to a hill. I may not be an expert but I do have experience and if it works for me, maybe they can try it out,” said Jasper.

The new coach organized the eight kilometre race and half-marathon for the Rupert Runners this year.

“People enjoyed it. We were successful … One of the key tells that people enjoyed the run is just looking around the community and seeing people wearing the shirt [we gave out] … it’s a good feeling.”

So while Toronto may offer its own charm and convenience that a typical big city might bring, there are certain resemblances in contrast with Prince Rupert, said Jasper.

“I don’t know if I’d say [the two] are complete opposites. There are differences for sure. Prince Rupert’s a small town, it’s on the coast, it’s a fishing community, it’s a resource town, but in terms of the people, Toronto’s one of the most diverse cities in North America and Prince Rupert is unique in the sense that it’s so diverse here. There are so many different cultures here all living together and that’s something you wouldn’t really expect from a small town,” he explained.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction and whatever happens with any new development, the biggest thing that I see is people are optimistic, and when a town is optimistic, great things happen.”