Visit the coastal town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and you'll likely bump into Karsen Bourque, 30. He preps food at a pizza joint, organizes paperwork at 89.3 K-Rock – "the best rock in the Annapolis Valley" – sells his handmade candles at Applewicks and packages goodies at a bakery (where he's also an enthusiastic taste-tester).
But having a busy work schedule doesn't prevent Karsen from giving back to his community. Every other Saturday, he helps the bustling farmers' market accomplish their zero-waste initiative as he taps his toes to the local fiddlers.
Karsen Borque is popular around town. After a day of work and friends and fans as he strolls down Main Street, heading to L'Arche Homefires.
L'Arche Homefires, which opened in 1981 as part of the broader L'Arche International movement, "seeks to create innovative approaches to authentic community building between people with and without disabilities." Karsen, who was born with down syndrome, joined this caring community five years ago. He currently lives with three other L'Arche members and four assistants.
Though he loved living with his mother and two sisters in nearby Cambridge Station, L'Arche Homefires gave Karsen the opportunity to live independently and work at Applewicks. The plan is working well, maybe a little too well for someone who can never turn down an exciting job offer.
Karsen was surprised to learn how long it took to craft a sixty-second movie.
Nonetheless, Karsen makes time to explore new passions. He's an avid musician who rocks out with his friends at L'Arche and posts the jam sessions to his YouTube channel. He also enjoys listening to audiobooks and participating in a number of L'Arche's social events. On Fridays there's a big L'Arche supper in Wolfville, where Karsen is occasionally joined by friends from across the five communities in the L'Arche Atlantic Region.
Everyone would agree that Karsen has a fulfilling life, with a number of great jobs and an enviable social calendar. Yet, he felt like something was missing: his unfulfilled, lifelong dream to be an actor.
Like any millennial, Karsen grew up adoring Robin Williams' films and can recite his stand-up bits with that iconic Robin Williams zeal.
Inspired by movies like Hook and Williams' stand-up performances, Karsen tried to make it as an actor. When he was a kid, he auditioned for a film down in Halifax, but his dream of acting was not meant to be, until recently.
As a part of L'Arche's My Plan program, Karsen meets with a team to reflect on everything from his daily routine to his life-long aspirations. During last year's meeting, he discussed his dream of acting. He wanted to know what it felt like to make a film.
This year, fate was on his side. L'Arche Canada had just announced its first national PSA campaign for TV, radio, cinema and social media. L'Arche Canada had put together an impressive team of award-winning creatives and was filming a micro-series called It's About, based on the lived experience of people with disabilities across Canada. The second episode was called "Face Off with Exclusion" and an actor was needed to play the coach. The short film would be shot in Acadia University's hockey arena. Karsen knew the arena well. He used to mentor youth with varying disabilities at Acadia's S.M.I.L.E. program.
Karsen applied for the role and got the part!
He came to the set camera-ready, with his own lunch, no less. The production provided snacks and Pepsi, and he wound up drinking a lot of Pepsi over many hours. He was surprised to learn how long it took to craft a sixty-second movie. Cameras, lighting and sound equipment were setup for each shot, while the director drew up the X's and O's for more than a dozen Acadia Axemen, assistant coaches and referees. The production was a lot of work, but Karsen relished the entire process.
As the film industry celebrates inclusion, it's a great time for Karsen and his friends to provide eager audiences with a fresh cultural perspective
Once all the equipment and fellow actors were in place, and the script was memorized, it was time for Karsen to make his acting debut. In the film, he walks across the ice and gives the team a motivational speech that evokes raucous cheers. The players may be the ones handling the puck, but in the film, nobody dazzles more than Karsen.
Not long after the editing process, Karsen first saw the finished short on a smartphone. Though the image was small, the film inspired big goals for Karsen.
He wants to continue acting but he isn't waiting for anyone to hand him his next gig. Three of his housemates have now expressed an interest in acting. With the cast in place, Karsen hopes to make his own film, a comedy that would've made his idol proud.
And why not? Hockey isn't the only industry that has begun to Face Off With Exclusion. As the film industry celebrates inclusion, it's a great time for Karsen and his friends to provide eager audiences with a fresh cultural perspective.
Before long, Karsen's many friends and fans in Wolfville aren't just going to want high fives; they're going to be requesting autographs.
To learn more about the amazing individuals living at https://www.larchehomefires.org.
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