If Veenesh Dubois could step back three years, she would likely tell herself, "All your dreams will come true."
But the Coquitlam playwright and actor would probably rewind her life to when she was a child living in Fiji and the moment her father left her, her mother and her two sisters to find a better life for himself and his family in Canada.
Dubois was five years old when her mom and siblings immigrated a couple of years later but she was forced to stay behind in the care of her grandparents and the community of sugar mill workers who congregated under a mango tree.
For years, Dubois could not forgive her father for abandoning her for four years, and it's a story she tells many times today, especially since she has written a one-woman play about her childhood experience, aptly titled Under the Mango Tree.
Much to her surprise, Dubois' semi-autobiographical work has taken off and has won rave reviews.
In 2009, her debut play won the Pick of the Fringe at the 25th annual Vancouver Fringe Festival and, last year, she was invited to perform it in Victoria, Edmonton and Toronto.
Next week, it can be seen in her hometown, at the Evergreen Cultural Centre as part of a double bill, and later this year, on Gabriola Island, Winnipeg, at the Firehall Theatre in Vancouver.
Her gravy has come in the form of television gigs. Last year,Dubois appeared in an episode of Fringe, an American science fiction series on Fox; the pilot episode of the yet-to-be-released Alcatraz; and in commercials for Tim Horton's, Coast Capital Savings, Kenco Coffee and Advil.
Currently, Dubois is working on a film screenplay and a series of children's books.
Under the Mango Tree, she said, was her way of having an edge in the cutthroat world of performingarts.
"Iwanted to create my own work and I wanted to be in charge of my own career," she said. "I was just tired of someone else telling me what I had to go out for and what role I could have. I said, 'There's no way I can get what I want if I don't do it for myself.'"
The idea for the Mango script came after a return trip to Fiji and after watching The Syringa Tree, a play by Pamela Gien about a childhood under apartheid in South Africa. Dubois was reluctant at first to pen the play but after receiving positive feedback from the acting community about her personal story and seeing SarahHayward's one-woman show in Vancouver, Dubois felt confident enough to give it whirl.
"I didn't realize that telling my story would get me across Canada and now I'm getting requests to bring my show to the U.S." she said. "It's basically everything that I want for my work."
Still, she makes sure her family comes first (she has since reconciled with her father). Her husband is her stage manager and her three daughters are with her at every step.After all, they know her journey as an immigrant and as a mother fighting to flee two bad marriages.
"I put my things away until I raised my family," she said. "I knew how important it was to raise children and to be there for them. But now my children are old enough and I'm able to pursue this and I'm glad I waited."