Profile by Jane Ledwell
When Brielle Ansems plays the role of Josie Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico this summer, she wants audiences to see into “the performances we put on for each other every day.” She reflects, “Others don’t always see our selves in ways we see ourselves... Unfortunately, our opinions of ourselves are often lower.”
As “a shy kid” growing up in Montague, Brielle says that singing was her “lead-in to all her performing.” Singing songs she wrote became Brielle’s “access point to relating with peers and dealing with anxiety.” This summer, after being selected during Canada-wide auditions for a lead role in A Moon, and preparing to record songs in studio, Brielle says, “I’m stepping across a threshold into where I wanted to be for so long,” pursuing a professional career in acting and in music.
Writing and singing songs since she was twelve, Brielle discovered acting later. She tried a year at St. Thomas University after high school, but says, “It was not the right fit when I knew I wanted to be home doing music.” She wound up finding work in dinner theatre and loved it. “It was a little taste of acting—getting just to invest myself so much in becoming someone else,” and it led to her entering the theatre program at Holland College School of Performing Arts.
This spring, towards the end of her first year, Brielle got the Watermark’s call for auditions from instructor Jody Racicot. “It’s something I wouldn’t have gone for, even a few years ago,” Brielle admits. “But I’ve had self-growth and experience the last few years.”
Still, “I wasn’t expecting much to come from (the audition),” Brielle says. On the night she got good news from the Watermark, “I was in bed, super tired after a long day of class.” When she saw that she got the part, she says, “I had to jump out of bed and have a dance party, I was so excited.”
Brielle says, “Especially since I am still in school, I am in a perfect place to learn and take in so much, surrounded by professionals at the Watermark.” She gives huge credit to Holland College: “The instructors are so ready to help guide students to finding themselves as artists—students are still trying to find what route they want to take, how they want to open themselves up to being human,” she says appreciatively.
Throughout the summer, Brielle will perform her music on nights she isn’t acting, and will being work at The Hill Sound Studios to record her first EP. Her songs reflect her growth and her past relationships, but “in particular my relationship with myself, and how I interact with my own thoughts, and how that affects how I interact with others,” she says.
Songwriting “is often revelatory—even for me… Music is one of the most personal things an artist creates,” Brielle says.
While singing, she shares “something I already discovered about myself; while acting, she exposes “something I’m the process of discovering.”
Brielle could talk about the character Josie Hogan all day: “There’s so much vulnerability to her,” she says emphatically. “Josie is a firecracker Irish-immigrant farm woman in the early 1920s, raised to be tough by her father, growing up with three brothers… She has been put in the role of mother for all the men in her life and struggles to find out who she is as a woman outside that dynamic.”
Asked what artistic director Robert Tsonos saw in her that led to her casting, she reflects. “There’s definitely not a shyness to Josie, but there’s a part of herself she doesn’t show to anyone until she’s forced to,” she suggests.
Then she decides: “Islanders are proud to see someone local, who loves and associates herself with the Island, in a role that is powerful.”
And for her, the most powerful thing will be “to have a breakout professional performance in a place that is so beautiful, in a theatre that is so warm and so welcoming and professional in all ways—to be welcomed into a family they’ve so well established already.”
—Jane Ledwell has been writing for The Buzz for 20 years. She is a poet, author and editor. A recent book is Bird Calls: The Englishwoman on an Island (Nimbus).