Retired Stampeder Jon Cornish steals new spotlight on improv stage

Click to play video: 'Cornish moves from mid-field to centre stage'
Cornish moves from mid-field to centre stage
WATCH ABOVE: The decorated running back is stepping out of his comfort zone on the grid iron, to audition for his next act in life. Lisa MacGregor has the story – Sep 20, 2016

From the big lights of McMahon Stadium to the spotlight at Lunchbox Theatre, former Calgary Stampeders running back Jon Cornish is performing on a different kind of stage these days.

The retired football player is a special guest actor for the new live show Monday Night Lights, where he plays an injured or potentially injured quarterback – you never know with improvisational theatre. But it’s a hand-off of words instead of a football for Cornish in this playbook, with the Dirty Laundry theatre company.

The decorated football all-star is stepping out of his comfort zone but says his experience in the CFL helps him with his acting chops.

“Over time as an athlete, you have to gain some skills as an entertainer,” Cornish said. “So hopefully, those skills would carry over because I don’t really have any formal acting training or anything.

“I thought that coming into this, my experience on the field – interacting with reporters, public speaking in general – would be a benefit and it certainly has been. You listen and that guides the conversation. So it’s not like you have to really think about what you do because it’s just natural and you know your character and it just flows. It’s been a pleasure working with all these professionals. They’re carrying me right now. It’s really nice.”

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Cornish retired after spending nine seasons in the CFL with the Stamps and needed a new outlet to express himself outside of working as an associate at TD Wealth Management. A friend of a co-worker set him up with the opportunity for a so-called audition.

“It’s something that I knew I would have to create,” Cornish said. “After you get in the business of entertaining, you want to find a way to do it, to share your energy with other people.”

First act or first quarter, the 31-year-old still puts on a show for the crowd. He rolled with the punches with the professional actors improvising with him and kept up with his character.

“I’ve become pretty good at holding back laughter – I think everybody on stage is pretty good at it because it’s quite hilarious being out there,” he said. “On the football field, you always see the people in the stands but here, there’s a darkness because the lights are just on stage and it allows you to just sort of step away from yourself and become this other character. It’s weird, I’ve never really felt it before. But I understand the difference when the curtains part.”

Like any actor, no matter what the role, you have to start somewhere and Cornish is open to expanding his horizons in the acting industry.

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“Maybe if I ever do this again, I’ll step out of my comfort zone a little bit more.”

“My character might get killed off so who knows, I am the guest.”

You can watch Monday Night Lights live at the Lunchbox Theatre every Monday at 7:30 p.m. and visit the Dirty Laundry website for tickets.

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