This is part of my ongoing series of posts focused on profiling interesting people I've met (or aspire to someday meet!) that are doing cool, creative work that I think you should know about. I'll also be picking their brains on all things art.
I first saw Ellie perform as part of Girl Brain, where I was immediately won over during a Hozier song parody, "Take Me To Brunch". Ellie is hilarious, super talented and it's been exciting to learn more about her many creative endeavours. I think you'll enjoy reading about her journey, too!
Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I am producer, playwright and performer in Edmonton. I have co-written and starred in various theatre productions over the past decade. I am currently one third of the sketch comedy troupe, Girl Brain in addition to performing as a solo act at Weird Al Karaoke, Odd Wednesday, Blue Halloo and other comedic variety shows in town. Occasionally, you can find me as comedic relief on various CBC radio programs. In addition, I freelance as a social media marketing manager as well as a teacher of sketch writing at Grindstone Theatre. I've also been working on a musical EP with my talented friend Nano Uribe in recent months!
Apart from work, I am a lover and a laugher. My family and friendships are incredibly important to me. I am motivated by beauty and connection, and love long walks, beautiful sunsets, good music and great conversation. I also own a lot of hats. :)
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the arts?
Ever since I saw Anna Paquin win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1994 (she was 11 and I was 8), I was absolutely smitten with the idea of being an actor when I grew up. I used to practise my Oscar speech in front of the mirror, and when I was 11, I got my first professional acting gig playing Brigitte in the Sound of Music at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre! Ever since, being on stage has been my biggest passion.
What/who inspires you?
My grandparents really inspire me creatively- they are both artists in so many facets of their lives.
My grandma is such an interesting and vast person- she has worked so many jobs and has excelled at all of them. She is a hall of fame athlete, an award winning Synchro coach, and an author and publisher of an important Synchro tome. In addition, she has had many of her short stories included in distinguished publications and is also an incredible painter.
My grandpa is an accomplished artist as well. His watercolour landscapes are well known, so much so that one of his works was featured on Albertan coinage in the 1990's. He is also a skilled luthier and wood worker- he has made many beautiful guitars for my dad. It is so wonderful to hear my dad singing and playing on a guitar that my grandpa made. Going back to his wood working, I am lucky enough to have quite a few pieces of furniture in my apartment that were made by my grandpa.
To keep it in the family, I am also constantly inspired by my dad who is a prolific and skilled singer songwriter and by my mom, who is a talented painter and interior decorator!
What does your creative process look like?
I've really gotten better over the years at writing ideas down in the moment they come to me- these can be anecdotes, thoughts or funny phrases that I later hope to turn into a sketch, or a piece of writing. It's so helpful to have a backlog of ideas, especially on those days when inspiration runs dry.
I also find once I sit down to write (which I do every day), I generally begin with my notepad of ideas, and often once I get started and if things are jiving, a whole well of new ideas will start percolating! The act of sitting down to write is so important for me, even if it doesn't end up being a successful session- putting myself in the right place for inspiration to come flooding in is an important part of the creative process.
That includes surrounding myself with other creative people and having round table discussions about ideas and projects. Even if we're not working to a specific end, those moments of sharing are so important and inspiring. A lot of what drives me to keep going is the inspiration I get from my colleagues. And just doing it.
How do you deal with creative blocks? Do you have any specific strategies that help you push through?
See above! My solution to creative blocks is to write down anything and everything that inspires me in the moment so that I have reserves to go to when I am feeling uninspired. I also read, listen to music, appreciate art and regularly go out to see live theatre, live music and live comedy so that I can be inspired by the point of view of others. Seeing the world through another lens can be a really motivating force to get out of a creative rut!
What's the best piece of advice you've received in regards to your work/your career in the arts?
My dad always said to me, "You don't ask, you don't get." This has been very helpful to my success in my career in the arts- I've never been one to wait for the phone to ring and for things to fall into my lap. This has led to many opportunities I never would've had if I hadn't had the courage to put myself out there, work hard and demand my share of success and stage time!
If I were to give my own advice, it would be to just do it! Put the words down on paper, get the paint on canvas, sing the song, dance the dance. The world is never too full for more creativity and art!
What is Girl Brain and where did the idea for Girl Brain come from?
Girl Brain is a sketch comedy troupe that I formed with my two friends, Alyson Dicey and Caley Suliak. We were all sitting around chatting about how difficult it can be as actors to be at the mercy of directors for work. After years of auditioning and "waiting for the phone to ring", we decided to take matters into our own hands and we started writing, producing and performing our own work. 2 years later, and we have had major success! We've sold out every single one of our shows, we've gained a large following on social media and last January, we had Carolyn Taylor from Baroness Von Sketch as a guest on our show!
Girl Brain is empowering. It's human. It's full of love and silliness. For me, Girl Brain is being able to embrace the beauty, complexity and messiness of every day life with humour and intelligence.
Do you have a favourite performance/on-stage memory?
Having Carolyn Taylor play my herpes in a sketch last January was pretty flippin' hilarious and surreal. That being said, I think our first Girl Brain show will always take the cake. I was scared shitless to put our work up on stage for the first time- it felt incredibly vulnerable. That being said, the whole hour was jam packed with laughter, and I will never forget the high of walking out into the lobby afterwards to scores of smiling and eager faces. I was on cloud 9 for weeks afterward!
Where can we see you perform next?
Girl Brain will be performing our Leap Year show at the Roxy Theatre (8529 103 st NW) on February 29. We also have shows at the Roxy March 27, 28 and May 16!