Marie Brassard can’t predict the future. But the celebrated Québécoise theatre artist has an uncanny ability to live out her dreams. When asked by her father at seven how she imagined her life as an adult, she promptly replied she would be an artist and travel the world.
“He told me it was my life and I could do what I wanted,” Brassard says. “Sometimes when I’m struggling, I think of my father telling me that and how it gave me permission to live the life that little girl dreamed of.”
Her seven-year-old little-girl self would be quite pleased with the last three decades. She has performed on stages around the globe (first in productions by legendary director Robert Lepage and later in her own work) and has earned accolades for both her incomparable skill as an actress and a brand of highly visual, technically complex theatre uniquely her own.
Technology has always been key to Brassard’s work. Sound, in particular, has been an essential element; not only a means to jazz up the final production, it’s a fundamental tool through the creative process.
“When I began making my own work, I didn’t really consider myself a director,” she says. “I thought the best way to enter that world was through my abilities as an actor. Altering the pitch of my voice became a way to discover different characters through improvisation.”
Brassard still creates mostly on her feet, committing words to the page only when she’s about to open and the technicians need a script. She typically creates in French, later translating the script to English. But her latest work, Me Talking to Myself in the Future, saw her first attempt at working the other way around.
“Normally, you feel a certain kind of censorship when you create in your own language because you’re aware of all the minute details,” she says. “If you’re a perfectionist, you’re always trying to find exactly the right expression. But you don’t have that when you work in another language. For me, working in English is actually much more free. It’s a bit like wearing a mask that protects you.”
Me Talking To Myself addresses both the determined child she once was and the old woman she imagines she’ll one day be. Like the life she’s lived, the show finds its roots in her youth.
“I remember the day I realized as a child that when I got older, I would look back at myself as I once was,” she says. “When I was writing this play, I was thinking about this day. It’s as if I was respecting the little girl and at the same time, answering her thoughts.”