St. Stephen – Emma Brown, who will be heading into her third year at Dalhousie University in September, has been awarded the Stephen Graham Bird Award by the Theatre NB Foundation. The prize, which is given to one student annually in NB, is awarded to someone pursuing a career in theatre and who has demonstrated exceptional talent and potential.
Brown, who grew up in St. Stephen, said she was interested in performing from a young age. “I got my start with Katrina’s Dance Works when I was six,” she said, and continued performing arts throughout her years in public school.
In her senior year in high school, Brown wrote and performed a one woman show called, “Skydiving Alone”, that she took to the New Brunswick Drama Festival, where she won an award before taking the show to the Atlantic Drama Festival in PEI. “The show was named after a friend of mine who passed away a couple months prior to starting the course,” said Brown, adding, “One of the things that was on her bucket list was skydiving, but she couldn’t find anyone to go with her. So she went by herself.”
During her time at Dalhousie, Brown has performed in and directed many projects, but her favorite so far has been directing the play, “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche” with the Dalhousie Theatre Society, whose cast and crew consisted solely of female and non-binary students, in addition to featuring women of colour, trans actors, and Indigenous students.
“I knew that I wanted to direct a show,” said Brown, “and I wanted to find something that was female centric, because I have a lot of really powerful women in my life and I wanted to do a show to celebrate that.” When she read “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” a play set in a fallout shelter the 1950’s during a nuclear apocalypse, wherein five women from a social group find out they are all lesbians, she knew she had found the right work.
Though performing has been her dream ever since she was young, Brown didn’t originally plan to study it at university. “Initially, I went to Dalhousie as a Commerce major,” she said. “I thought I was going to be in marketing, and be that person crunching numbers.
“I was like, let’s be practical. Let’s go get rich, and then do the other stuff. And then I took acting as my elective during my first year.”
At the end of that course, her acting professor asked Brown if she was planning to audition for the acting program. “And I said, ‘No, I’m a commerce major.’ And she said, Why?”
“And I thought that was a really good question, that I couldn’t easily answer.”
Though she had a significant scholarship to the Commerce program, Brown decided to audition for the acting program, and at the end of her first year she found out that she had been accepted into it.
Giving up a “traditional” career in finance for the performing arts may sound crazy to some, but imagine where we would be as a culture if every young person had a “sensible” career. No more Netflix binges and Spotify playlists. No more arts festivals and public murals. The health of a society can be measured by more than the GDP it generates, it could also be measured by the art comes as an expression of it. It’s ludicrous that as a society we might imagine creativity is a poor economic decision, when the reality is we just value it incorrectly.
Brown said when she graduates in 2021 she wants to continue working in theatre in Halifax, and dreams of starting her own theatre company that features voices that have historically been unheard, like the voices of women and of the LGBTQ+ community.