L’insécurité linguistique / Language Insecurity

(Le français suit)

A little shameless self-promotion, which will only really be accessible to you if you speak or understand French. Unless there are subtitles available somewhere. I haven’t checked for that yet. I can’t do everything, people.

Anyway, one of the wonderful projects I was lucky enough to be cast in (over Covid!) has been released, and it’s a really lovely coming-of-age / take-down-the-man webseries about renovictions in Toronto. It’s beautifully shot, the cast is terrific. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s called Ainsi va Manu.

Here’s the trailer:

The full episodes are available here.

Insécurité linguistique

I was a little reluctant to even audition for the role of Mme Gisèle because even though I’ve written “fluently bilingual” on every resume I’ve ever written, every time a new opportunity arises in my mother tongue (yes, I learned French first, actually though I now consider it my second language. There’s a whole section for folks like me in the census!)

In high school, I always got good grades in French. I felt I spoke it more often than most people in school (an all French-language school I should mention – Not French immersion) Grammar and spelling didn’t seem to be too big an issue.

Until I got to university and it turns out grammar was a huge problem. The majority of my courses were in french in first and second year. When I got to second year, I wrote an assignment in French and got a 60%. I wrote a second, similar type of assignment in English and got a 90%. When I approached the teacher, he basically told me my French was shit, and corrected my anglicisms WHILE I WAS SPEAKING TO HIM.

This wouldn’t be the first time I had someone actively criticize my French mid-conversation.

I tried to maintain my French – working in Ottawa for almost a decade, working in France for a year.

A here’s a fun thing that happens in the workplace you might not know about – when people know you speak French in a predominantly anglophone environment, you become the go-to person to translate things between French and English – even though you are not, in fact, a translator and you have the skills to complete work more that isn’t translation-based. You often get assigned translations anyway. Hey! How about that.

I left Ottawa – our officially bilingual capital eleven years ago. Francophones are in the minority in Toronto and Southern Ontario. But we still speak the language. Our accents are a bit different. What do you expect? We live a hop skip and a jump away from the US. We don’t speak it as often because it isn’t as readily available. We have to work harder to keep it up.

People wonder why the French language is dying in Ontario – in Canada. I think a huge part of it has to do with the fact that the people who DO speak the language are afraid to do so in public less their coworkers or university professors chastise them.

So yeah. I was a little reluctant to audition for the role.

But I was reluctant when I auditioned for Les improbables (now, the LIF) a few years back – Toronto’s french language improv group. There, there was no judgement (other than my own perceived one) – just an open welcome and desire to play on stage in our mother tongue.

I felt that support in Ainsi va Manu, as well. I’m very grateful about that.

En français maintenant !

J’ai eu la bonne chance d’être engagé (pendant Covide, même!) dans un merveilleux project qui viens tout juste de sortir. C’est une très belle webérie au sujet des rénovictions au Toronto, qui comprends des thêmes de passage à l’age adulte et de démolir “the man.” Le tournage est magnifique et les acteurs sont formidables. Je suis fière d’avoir être capable de participer.

Vous verrez la bande-annonce ci-haut ainsi que le lien aux autres épisodes.

Linguistic insecurity

J’avais honte d’avancer mon nom pour le rôle de Mme. Gisèle parce que, même si j’ai indiqué que je suis “complètement bilingue” dans chacun de mes CVs depuis toujours, ça me rend nerveuse chaque fois qu’une nouvelle opportunité m’est offerte dans ma langue natale (oui, j’ai appris le français en premier – même que maintenant je la considère comme ma deuxième langue. Il y a une section dévouée aux personnes comme moi dans recensement canadien. C’est super cool!)

J’ai bien réussi dans mes cours de français au secondaire. Je parlais la langue probablement plus souvent que la majorité de mes collègues (dans une école francophone, je dois mentionner – pas une école d’immersion. C’était tout en français sauf, bien sûr, les cours d’anglais.) La grammaire et l’orthographe ne semblaient pas être un grand problème.

J’arrive à l’université et soudainement la grammaire – c’est un grand problème. La majorité de mes cours étaient en français dans ma première et seconde année. En deuxième année à l’université, j’ai écrit un devoir en français et j’ai obtenu un résultat de 60%. J’ai écris un autre devoir semblable, mais en anglais, et j’ai reçu un 90%. J’ai voulu en discuter avec mon prof qui m’a dit essentiellement que mon français était horrible et ensuite m’a corrigé les anglicismes au fur et à mesure que je les faisais EN LUI PARLANT.    

Ce ne serait pas la première fois que quelqu’un me critique mon français-parlé mi-conversation. 

De même, j’ai voulu maintenir mon francais. Je suis resté à Ottawa pendant près de dix ans, et je suis parti travailler en France pendant un an. 

Oh, et voici une chose très amusante qui se passe aux lieux de travail que vous ne connaissez peut-être pas – quand les anglophones savent que vous parlez français, vous devenez la personne pointe pour faire les traductions entre le français en anglais – même si vous n’êtes pas, en fait, une traductrice et que vous avez les habiletés de faire beaucoup de tâches qui n’ont rien à faire avec la traduction. Too bad. Vous allez avoir besoin de traduire quoi qu’il en soit. Eh! C’est le fun! 

J’ai quitté Ottawa, notre capitale officiellement bilingue, il y a onze ans. Les francophones sont dans une position minoritaire à Toronto et dans le sud de l’Ontario. Mais, on parle toujours la langue. Nos accents sont un peu différents, mais à quoi attendez-vous? On habite un saut de puce et un bond des Etats-Unis. On ne le parle pas aussi souvent parce que ce n’est pas aussi accessible ou disponible. Nous devons travailler plus fort pour le maintenir.

Les gens se demandent pourquoi la langue française est en train de disparaître en Ontario – au Canada. J’imagine qu’une grande partie de la raison est parce que ceux qui parlent la langue ne veulent pas le parler de peur que leurs collègues de travail ou leurs professeurs d’université ne les réprimandent.

Alors voilà. J’étais un peu nerveuse pour aller à l’audition (virtuelle) pour le rôle. 

J’étais aussi nerveuse pour l’audition avec les Improbables il y a une couple d’années – la troupe d’impro française de Toronto. (maintenant la LIF.) L’a, il n’y avait pas de jugement (sauf le mien envers moi-même) – c’était ouvert et accueillant avec un désir de jouer en scène dans notre langue maternelle 

J’ai aussi retrouvé ce soutien avec Ainsi va Manu. Et pour cela, je suis très reconnaissante.

Me, as cult leader "John" in Outlaugh Toronto.

2019 Briear in Review

I get it. We’re well into 2020 by now, and I should have done this earlier in the year, but I’m not giving up on me, and the end of 2019 was rough, so just let me do me, OK? OK.

I’ve found tremendous joy in 2016, 2017 & 2018 writing my Year-in-Reviews and I don’t want to miss the boat. And hell, why not feel like it’s January again and not like 2020 is taking off like a rocket into the future and we have no control over it. That reminds me, my Lighthouse Word this year? NOW.

NOW…

In 2019 I…

  • had a continued run of successful Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? shows with amazingly talented special guest improvisers at Comedy Bar, allowing more opportunities for improvisers to share the stage with the improvisers to whom they look up.
  • Completed the Harold Studio Series at Bad Dog Theatre.
  • Released 7 new episodes of The Constant Struggle Podcast with my brother Nick.
  • Performed many fun sets as Semper Pie with my wonderful improv partner Alicia Douglas, including a few rounds at the World’s Biggest Improv Tournament and on the Stupid Good Comedy Show.
  • Continued writing and performing sketches in The Utilidors with my sketch partner Dave Lahti.
  • Continued seeing a counsellor to help manage my anxiety.
  • Had a super successful monthly run of Improv Fallout with Improv Niagara at Mahtay Café in St. Catharines.
  • Was invited to be a guest judge at the Brock Improv Summit.
  • Got a fun Valentine’s Day make-over on the Marilyn Dennis show with Dan.
That hair though!!!
  • Continued run of successful POPAGANDA shows at the John Candy Box Theatre with the amazing faculty members of the Second City Training Centre & other awesome local improvisers.
  • Taught my first (couple) Level C class(es) at SCTC.
  • Was asked to be the special guest in a few improv shows.
  • Improv Fallout celebrated its first birthday with a sold out performance, fun prizes and a special toast.
  • Changed my phone number. (Real-talk: I never liked the 647 one)
  • Survived another year around the sun.
  • Got to reconnect with an old pal & former roomie who lives far far away now.
  • Got back into stand-up comedy, performed all around Toronto & Niagara.
  • Opened an improv studio for Improv Niagara. Promptly closed it after 6 months because of its drain on resources.
  • Was asked to guest on a few podcasts.
  • Got a callback at Generals!
  • We released the series of informational videos about recycling for the Niagara Region.
Stuff Tie Toss!
  • Performed narrative longform for the first time with Improv Niagara in St. Catharines’ In the Soil Festival.
  • Played another season in the Toronto Comedy Softball League. The Jokebox, my team, took home the championship again, although I missed the finals. 😢
  • Performed in the Toronto Fringe Festival for the first time with the awesome KidsFringe show: BOY VS FLY
You don’t have to throw a shoe.
  • Ran a few improv & mental health workshops for women with Fantastic Funny Folks (Candace Meeks & Alicia Douglas.)
  • Survived a Twitter ban.
  • Had a blast hosting a fundraiser show for my buddy Dan Rosen.
  • Survived my car trying to kill me on College St. Subsequently got a new-to-me car.
  • More auditions this year than ever before. (Thanks Samm!)
  • Went camping for the first time in a long time with Dan under the craziest, brightest Full Moon.
  • Booked my first commercial!
More squeeze, please!
  • Taught stand-up at Second City for the first time.
  • Met the Mayor of St. Catharines at a flag raising ceremony for Culture Days, in which Improv Niagara participated for our 2nd year in a row.
  • Took a really cool photo I hope to be able to share with you one of these days.
  • Made it to our 3rd wedding anniversary with my love, Dan.
  • Took an improv workshop with the former Artistic Director of the UCB, Shannon O’Neill.
  • Made it to Tribal Council in Outlaugh Toronto.
  • Celebrated Guess Who’s Coming to Improv’s 5th anniversary! Brought the show down to Niagara for the first time.
  • Performed with a new improv duo partner, Andrew Lizotte, in a fun project entitled High Status Idiots.
  • Voted in another Federal Election. (My guy didn’t win.)
  • Sold a friggin’ house & moved into a new home.
  • Raised 150lbs of food for needy people in our community in Niagara.
  • Nous avons dit adieu à ma très chère grand-mère, qui nous a quitté à l’âge de 99 ans.

So probably the end of the year is why it took me so long to write this year-end post. I realize that now. However writing it now feels very good, very cleansing. My grand-mother was full of joie-de-vivre and a very funny woman. I’m certain she would want me to continue doing a similar path.

Que la santé, l’amour et la réussite vous accompagnent dans tous vos projets. Bonne année!

It takes a village

Last night, my Niagara-based improv ensemble premiered our competitive-style “Improv Fallout” show for a standing-room-only house in downtown St. Catharines. It was, to be brief, incredible.

Mainly, I wanted to point out what else went behind the production, because it was one of the first times in my career as a comedy producer that I had a team of individuals around me, supporting a project so enthusiastically that ALL these things happened:

  • First of all, they actually invited people to come friggin’ see them perform, so we packed the house ’til it was, as mentioned standing-room-only.
  • When given the rehearsal schedule, some performers requested additional rehearsal time to ensure their performance would be up to snuff.
  • They showed up for rehearsal like, AN HOUR before their call to help set up without being asked.
  • They created an art wall for the show JUST FOR FUN.

Screenshot 2018-03-25 23.20.42

  • One of the performer’s partners agreed to work the Box Office.
  • One of the performer’s partners took really great photos during the show.
  • A performer who WASN’T EVEN ON THE SHOW agreed to collect email addresses so we could continue to spread the word about our group and ran back and forth to help make sure the show ran smoothly again, without being asked.
  • One of the performers fearlessly approached people asking for suggestions before the show started.
  • One of the performers hand-crafted voting circles with one colour on one side, and the other on the other side, which was challenging she admitted, but worth it because they looked so good!
  • Some of our performers took to social media before, during and after the show to share the experience with others.
  • Some of our performers learned how to use social media for the show.
  • One of the performers went to Fabricland for the first time in her life to actually buy fabric to be used to discern the different teams on stage.
  • Our tech created a special playlist for the show to get the audience feelin’ funky.
  • One of the performers risked his neck to drape the curtains in such a way as to make the space look a bit more ascetically pleasing.
  • One of the performers drove a long long way to come to the show even though she’d worked all day and had to go right back immediately after the performance.
  • One of the performers refused payment until it was physically forced onto him. (That’s right, the performers were paid.)
  • All of the performers were super supportive of one another on stage as well as off stage and, even after being “voted off” the show stayed intensely engaged with participating in the show with members of the audience and online.
  • I’m probably forgetting a million more things…

 

It’s INCREDIBLE to know that this wonderful collaboration is what it can feel like to create live comedy.

Support Live Local Theatre

This weekend, I had the pleasure of watching my Dad perform in a production of Mary Poppins put on by the Port Colborne Operatic Society; an organization in which he’s been involved for 39 years!  The production was spectacular. The costumes, the singing, the FLYING! I mean, come on!

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Re: Flying.

It hit me this year, seeing the PCOS’ productions every year since I was a kid is likely responsible for my desire to perform. I remember watching the plays and thinking: “ One day I want to be up there!” Although that’s since changed to “I want to be up there, but like…by myself with a microphone… or with a small group of people making things up on the spot… or performing something I’ve written myself… likely with less singing, like WAY less singing.”

My parents put me in performance from a young age. Dancing and playing the piano. I can’t begin to imagine a childhood without live performance, or without art.

So, consider this is a plea from me to you. No matter where you are, or who you’re with, go see live performances of plays, of comedy, of music of whatever you can! And bring a friend, a child, a niece or nephew, a parent or aunt or uncle, a Tinder date, ANYBODY.

You never know whose life you might inspire.

marypoppins56- dad.jpg

See: acting.

New Episode of the Constant Struggle featuring Alex Wong!

Our new episode of The Constant Struggle podcast features actor & improviser Alex Wong. Click on the images below to find our more about his awesome acting journey and his cool new webseries “In Real Life”:

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Episode #10 with RYAN HUGHES is UP!

http://theconstantstruggle.podbean.com/e/e10-hurricast-with-ryan-hughes/

In this episode, Nick & Brie chat with actor, writer & improvisor Ryan Hughes about some of the struggles he’s currently facing in the pursuit of his art.

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Dis Ryan!

Ryan speaks of a few pros and cons of the day job, and what happens when it’s gone. He discusses issues of confidence and mental health. We also delve into a deep discussion about women in comedy and *~*GASP*~* even feminism!
***
With GREAT shout-outs to:
CARLY HEFFERNAN
JESS BEAULIEU & NATALIE NORMAN (THE CRIMSON WAVE)
CATHERINE MCCORMICK
DANIELA SAIONI
ILLUSIONOID
***
Be sure to check Ryan out on Twitter @ryanfhughes & his improv troupe
Peggy Molson @peggymolson
Peggy Molson are competing in the Big City Improv Festival’s “TKO” tournament. Their semi-final set is at Comedy Bar on Tues. Oct. 13th @ 8:00 PM. Go check ’em out if you’re in Toronto.
#StruggleOn

Chicken Pod! (The Constant Struggle’s Newest Ep!)

Episode 6 of my brother and my podcast, The Constant Struggle, is up & we’d love it if you’d giver a listen.

This time around, Nick’s got a new writing deadline he wants to get to before he takes off to Scotland with his family. Will the trip inspire him to write something while he’s over there? We’ll see!

Will Brie survive her month of insane-work hours and continue to work on her comedy all throughout, or will she have a complete mental breakdown along the way?

Find out, by downloading the episode on iTunes or checking it out right here:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/audio/postId/5711034?url=http%3A%2F%2FTheConstantStruggle.podbean.com%2Fe%2Fe06-chicken-pod%2F

Oh, and if you want to sign that petition to help get Kevin Smith Canadian citizenship, click here:

https://www.change.org/p/government-of-canada-grant-kevin-smith-a-canadian-citizenship?recruiter=309221733&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive

Struggle On, friends!

A pre-emptive apology to my Toronto Fringe-performing friends

Given the recent surge in Facebook invites, either I’ve become increasingly more popular (not likely) or it’s the Toronto Fringe, and all the performers I know in this city seem to have a show this year. And believe me, I would love nothing more but to enjoy your talents on a weekday afternoon, the time you so desperately need an audience, but I’ll be at work.

Anything in the early afternoon too, yup. Working.

In the evening? Probably just leaving work. If I’m lucky.

Shit, the project I’m working on these days has be so busy that when I DO finally get off my shift, it’s all I can do to not fall asleep on the streetcar, call the 501 my bed and ride it fully unconscious until the morning comes and I’m forced to exit and stumble into the freezer that is my current place of employ.

Not that I’m complaining about the fact that I am employed. I’m happy about that. In fact, I’m dependent on it.

You’re all such a tremendously talented bunch of amazing folk.

But what I am saying, is that I really REALLY will try to see your shows, but if I can’t, I’m sorry. And I wish you the best of broken legs throughout such a wonderful festival.

Bon courage!

Struggling On

logo1On a day like today, the first day this month that I’ve had to work full time hours on the weekend (just Sunday this week, in the coming weeks it’ll be expected of me Saturdays and Sundays), more than ever I feel the need to promote the latest episode of Nick & my podcast; The Constant Struggle:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/a28d3-56ed11

This episode was taped on Father’s Day, and we discussed the grind of getting your creative work done under not-so-ideal circumstances. I have a feeling the next episode is going to talk about more of that because this month I will have even less time to do the things I love, which is pretty crazy disheartening.

It’s getting more difficult to manage the balance of work and passion. Work seems to be weighing more heavily. Too bad I’m not a millionaire, y’know?  Anyway…

In this episode, we give shout-outs to:

  • Drop & Give me 20 stand-up show (Marc Hallworth)
  • Robert Ariss Hills (improviser, graphic designer)
  • Dan Dingwall (a dude)
  • Susannah Kiernan (triple threat)
  • Ken Hall (improv guru)
  • Alexis Bernstein (networking queen & creative expert)
  • The bird clock
  • Porter Airlines

Books & Movies

  • Save the Cat (Blake Snyder)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • Inside Out (2015)

Podcasts

  • The Moment (Brian Koppelman)
  • WTF (Marc Maron)
  • The Crimson Wave (Jess Beaulieu & Natalie Norman)

***

#StruggleOn friends!

Do one thing every day that you really really hate, but you know you have to do because it will make you a better performer

Earlier this week I tried something I hate.

A character monologue.

I’m always fascinated by some comedians I know who seem to come up with this plethora of weird and wonderful characters, for which they’ve created this fun universe and they bring them up on stage and speak to the audience in that character for upwards of ten minutes, and people love it. They tell jokes in character. They have funny accents. They dress up.

I just hate it so much.

Not when other people do it. I just hate doing it, myself. It if were to serve a sketch, in which there were several people, no problem. I’ll play a weird and wacky character. But on my own, just speaking directly to the audience? No thank you. Well, that is, outside of comedy school and this past Tuesday’s “Bombaes.”

I wrote and performed a character monologue inspired by something Kate Mulgrew said while promoting her book last month (was it last month?) at the Toronto Reference Library. It seemed to get very little response while I was speaking it, which is bizarre. As a stand-up comic, you’re used to getting a laugh at certain points in your set. But either it wasn’t funny, or it was just not good, I felt like I got nothing back from the audience, apart from polite applause when I was finished my bit.

Stand-up, fine. You’re telling jokes, and the audience responds in such a way as to let you know whether or not your jokes are hitting or missing. Improv, GREAT! No problem making people laugh there. But this? GAH. This is PAINFUL.

PAINFUL! AND DIFFICULT!  AND SCARY!

That being said. If anyone has a solo-sketch/monologue night in Toronto, I’m totally ready for you to meet this gal. She’s a real something else.