Edmonton amputee actor Kristi Hansen to star in short documentary

Tamarra Canu did not realize Kristi Hansen was an amputee when the pair first met during work on a film last year.

‘She’s just crushing the stereotype every day,’ says filmmaker

Edmonton actor Kristi Hansen stars in a forthcoming documentary film, The Act of Being Normal, set to release this fall. (Tamarra Canu)

Tamarra Canu did not realize Kristi Hansen was an amputee when the pair first met during work on a film last year.

Hansen, an Edmonton actor who was born with a short right leg and had her foot amputated at age 12, wears a prosthetic. Canu, a filmmaker, was shocked when she found out, then interrogated her own reaction.

"I think I was upset that I was shocked because there shouldn't be anything surprising about that," Canu said Tuesday on CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"The more I got to know Kristi, the more I realized that she's just crushing the stereotype every day."

Canu's now working on a 10-minute documentary film that explores Hansen's life and acting career.

The film, The Act of Being Normal, recently won a $10,000 production grant from Telus's Storyhive initiative. Projects pitch their films online and compete with each other for community votes to win funding.


Robin Hood, reinvented

Hansen, 36, hails from Saskatoon but moved to Edmonton in 1999. She studied theatre at the University of Alberta and MacEwan University and has a long list of acting credits to her name.

She's also a regular Fringe Festival participant and co-founder and co-artistic director of Maggie Tree, a women-centric theatre network in Edmonton.

Recently, Hansen starred in the world premiere of The Silver Arrow: The Untold Story of Robin Hood at the Citadel Theatre.

That play, written by her friend, Edmonton playwright Mieko Ouchi, puts a twist on Robin Hood's traditional story by casting a woman in the title role. Ouchi wrote the play with Hansen in mind.

"It was a very physical role," Hansen said. She was familiar with sword fighting, but learned aerial acrobatics for the part.

Canu travelled to the Banff Centre earlier this year to capture footage of Hansen training for the play.

According to Sydnee Bryant, the Citadel's media relations manager, the play's 24 performances drew 13,703 patrons, with seven of the shows selling out.

Struggling to be 'normal'

Hansen said more celebration of diversity in society and the entertainment industry means she doesn't have to try to appear as an able-bodied person all the time.

"For 15 years, I felt I had to 'pass,' being on set or being in rehearsal and people not being able to know," she said. 

The film captures part of her struggle to be "normal" and succeed in theatre.

Canu expects the documentary to be ready for viewing in the fall.