Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Getting to Know Christine Marie Brown

Christine Marie Brown has made her home in Seattle for the last 2 years after nearly a decade in New York. Christine made her Broadway debut in the Tony-award winning production of both parts of William Shakespeare's Henry IV. She has also appeared Off-Broadway at the acclaimed Playwrights Horizons theatre company and in an award-winning New York International Fringe Festival production of Harold Pinter’s Ashes to Ashes. Nationally, Christine's theatre work includes leading roles at The Guthrie, The Old Globe, South Coast Rep, Baltimore Centerstage, Shakespeare & Company, Buffalo Studio Arena, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Shakespeare Center, Kansas City Rep and TUTA (Chicago). Locally, her work has been seen at Seattle Rep, ACT, Seattle Shakespeare Company, 14/48 Festival, Engaged Theatre Project, Sandbox Radio LIVE!, Endangered Species Project, Mirrorstage and Northwest Playwrights’ Alliance. She has been a vocal coach and teacher through Jack Straw Productions and has taught at Cornish College for the Arts as part of their summer theatre intensive.

Where did you grow up and what drew you to acting?

I grew up in Columbia, MD, a planned community near both Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I was a shy child but I saw a production of Romeo and Juliet in elementary school and thought to myself, "I could do that." I have no idea where that came from....I was a typical kid; curious but also bashful, so why I thought that performing on a stage seemed like something I could do...?

I understand you lived in NYC for a decade and performed on Broadway in Henry IV. What was it like to work as an actor in New York?

I lived in NYC for about 9 years. I moved there after graduate school. I had a showcase performance that was part of the graduation from the Old Globe MFA program that a lot of casting directors, agents and directors attended. I also arrived there with my AEA card, which I had earned though all of the performing and understudying I did at the Old Globe, so I had a very supported, professional introduction to my start there. NYC is a union town (Seattle is not), so being a member of SAG and AEA were a huge bonus. I had the same agent who signed me after my showcase, until I moved here, but it was still a tough place to be at times, even with all of that support, training and union status. The biggest hurdle for me was the amount of energy it took to live there--to pay one's rent and get around, the amount of hustle, people, energy. This all makes it the most exciting place to be and to be next to all of those Broadway houses; to audition for such big shows and big names; it's a lot of fun, but very heady as well. For me, to work in NYC as an actor was this fantastic feeling of being connected at the highest level of the profession, to past and present theatre professionals who you admire and idolize. And because it can be such a tough and competitive place, I felt extremely accomplished.

What inspires and fascinates you in your work as an actor and as an acting teacher?

What inspires me is the earnest and fearless pursuit of truthful human behavior. I love that part of the rehearsal process; how can we sharpen what is going on between these people? "Hello" is never just a greeting. I'm also really inspired by actors who are willing to look ugly, stupid, silly or make a choice that just doesn't work--but they are really trying to figure what's happening in a scene or a character. I am deeply inspired by real listening onstage and true vulnerability; actors who are willing to drop their own masks for a moment and let us in to see the cracks behind the veneer.

I am fascinated when I go and see old plays and end up feeling so connected to what the characters are going through, that I forget that the story was written hundreds of years ago, I'm just totally taken into the world because of the truth and beauty of the performances. This does not happen often so it's very memorable when it does. As a teacher, what inspires me is watching people make discoveries; about themselves, about a text, about what it really means to be in front of an audience, about how to really listen to a scene partner; I love watching people become more confident and excited about learning how to act.

What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out as an actor?

2 things:

How important it is to have other life goals and pursuits not connected to your acting career. What kind of relationship do you want to have? What kind of place do you want to live in? What other studies and disciplines do you enjoy? Sports? Cooking? Photography? Teaching? This career is a marathon, not a sprint, so stay connected to what you love about life.

And also the idea that NYC and LA are definitely not the only places one can be a thriving actor and theatre artist in the US. They have the biggest markets and the most industry and I would encourage anyone who wants to be in those places to GOGOGO! But for those folks who just can't stomach the thought or have been and hated it, there are actually a lot of other markets; Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, San Francisco, Boston & of course Seattle-- and even Denver, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Portland, OR, St. Louis and Pittsburgh have small but very present theatre communities. I think knowing what kind of environment you like to be in is really helpful. Do you like sunshine? Mountains? Great lakes? Concrete jungle? Where do you really want to make a home?

For example, I really wanted to be in NYC and I'm so glad for my time there. But the city of Seattle and the surrounding western Washington beauty appeals to me much more in terms of how I want to live every day life.

Thanks Christine! Welcome to our Freehold Faculty team!

Annette Toutonghi (on left) and Christine Marie Brown (on right) performing in Freehold's Engaged Theatre production of King Lear in Summer, 2012. Photo by John Ulman.

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