“A Day in the Life” with: Vancouver Actor Holly Collis Handford

Holly Collis Handford, sometimes known as HCH, is a brilliant actor, improviser, and a genius musician and composer.

We got our BFAs in Acting from UBC together and graduated in 2021, and since then, she’s been in too many shows to count. When it comes to theatre, she has done it all. From theatre for young audiences, to numerous Shakespeare plays, to new musicals, to playing the most charming Mr Bingley a production of Pride and Prejudice has ever seen, and more!

When she’s not acting, she’s at The Improv Centre on Granville Island bringing laughter to the people. She isn’t any regular ol’ improv comedian though, she’ll surprise you with characters you’ll root for and fall in love with, and she’ll also rip out fully improvised songs while self-accompanying on the acoustic guitar that could top CHARTS, people! These songs will have you singing along in no time and will be stuck in your head for weeks. That’s a Holly Collis Handford guarantee.

When I say this, I mean it: Holly brings music into everything she’s a part of – theatre productions, improv shows, cleaning her house. If a show needs a song, Holly writes it. If a song needs to be sung, Holly sings it. If you need a harmony, she’s there. She’s not only a brilliant singer and musician, but she might be the smartest composer and music director this city has ever seen.

She writes songs that fit the shows’ stories and needs, songs that’ll make you laugh and cry, and she writes them all considering the singers’ voices and characters. She goes the extra mile. She’s written laments, comedic group numbers, operas and more. SHE’S THAT GOOD, FOLKS! So good that she’s applying for her Masters in Music Composition!

She’ll be starring in Cats at Theatre Under The Stars this summer, and I urge everyone to check it out even though she didn’t write the musical herself (though she could’ve).

Holly Collis Handford is a generous and sensitive person, and that shows in all facets of her art and collaboration. She takes care of her co-actors or the singers she’s writing music for, and she puts care into the characters she plays and every moment that she’s onstage. She’s a joy to watch and an even greater joy to be around (which is saying a lot).

-Written by Erin Purghart, artist and friend

Holly Collis Handford
In the dressing room of Pride and Prejudice at the White Rock Players’ Club.
Holly Collis Handford
My view as the musical director and co-composer for Gillty as Fin, an original musical written by Studio 58 theatre students.
At the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my Dad!
In Yellowknife, NWT on tour performing The Troll Grandfather with Axis Theatre!
Holding my printed headshot (taken by Veronica at The Portrait Sessions), ready for an audition.
Holly Collis Handford
Onstage at The Improv Centre improvising a song about waterfalls. Photo taken by a fellow improvisor mid-song.
Holly Collis Handford
At Cat Yoga Yvr promoting the musical Cats with Theatre Under the Stars!

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Which hood are you in?

I live in East Van!

What do you do?

I perform theatre and write music! I sing, dance, act, and play many musical instruments. I perform with local theatre companies and teach classes in the community. I am a mainstage ensemble member at The Improv Centre where I perform regularly, host shows, and teach workshops. I recently worked for Studio 58 at Langara College as the music director, co-composer, and show musician for the original musical Gillty as Fin and I recently wrote, directed, edited, produced, and composed music for my first short film.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently playing Skimbleshanks in Theatre Under the Stars’ production of the musical Cats!

Where can we find your work?

Cats runs every other night from July 10th to August 23rd at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park (alternating with the musical School of Rock!). Tickets can be found here. You can also find me at The Improv Centre on Granville Island which has shows Tuesdays through Sundays, plus I am teaching a beginner’s workshop there for LGBTQ folks on July 20th. Follow me on Instagram.

 

About Emilea Semancik 155 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to work as a freelance writer and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. Taking influence from journalism culture surrounding the great and late Anthony Bourdain, she is a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of books. You can find her food blog on Instagram: