Toronto-based actor, UTM alumna, and former editor at The Medium Madeleine Brown shares the secrets to her career’s success and the importance of humble beginnings.
Madeleine Brown’s career is studded with numerous accolades—both of her plays, Madeleine Says Sorry and Everyone Wants a T-Shirt! premiered at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The former play sold out 85 per cent of its run last year and the latter completely sold out its run this year, receiving Patron’s Pick and NOW Magazine’s Award for Outstanding Ensemble. When asked about these experiences, she detailed the importance of platforms such as the Toronto Fringe Festival and her time at UTM in shaping the trajectory of her career.
When asked how the theatre program at UTM has helped shape her career, she begins by claiming UTM’s theatre program has taught her “probably everything!” that she currently finds herself practicing as a working actor. From a practical point-of-view, she points out, “Learning to write a cover letter—written correspondence—it’s easy to forget the practical or administrative side to being an actor. As a performer, how to break down a piece of Shakespearean text to approach it, my evolution as an actor begun with the foundation I started in school that I continue to develop.” When asked if writing and editing for The Medium back in the day helped influence her playwriting or any other aspect of her career, she was quick to praise the developmental platform that arose from her involvement with The Medium. “100 per cent! In my first year, I was adamant on not writing for the Medium—my parents were English profs—it was a terrible, unimpressive form of rebellion. Instead, I wanted to be involved as a volunteer copyeditor—this helped me get into the process of what it was like as an editor. The copyeditor at the time, Luke, said ‘You should write something!’ My first article was about chocolate chip cookie reviews on campus (Starbucks was the winner) —I had always liked food and cooking, so I felt more qualified to write about that. Anyway, The Medium introduced me to writing in collaboration and with an editor for the first time, helping me shape my own ideas, with my copyeditor and section editor challenging me. I was challenged about my ideas, ‘Oh, is that really as far as you could go?’, ‘What’s really interesting? What’s really unique?’, which didn’t happen in my schoolwork, where I was basically writing on my own. I learned that feedback from other people is the only way you can learn to write.” It was as a result of this encouragement and feedback that Madeleine delved into more critical analysis about her work.
On the newspaper setting of The Medium, she clarifies, “(It) forced me to be humble about my work, about meeting deadlines and not being fussy—as a playwright. Now, I force myself to turn out a new draft each week, and I can’t sit on anything. Whatever happens, it goes to print, or goes to performance, and I’m forced to leave it at the mercy of whatever happens. That’s how you get better as a writer!” Another key skill Madeleine attributes to her time at The Medium is “writing with awareness for a community. Writing essays in school were writing essays for the prof. For course requirements, I had no drive and no passion. Now I think about the people that are going to be receiving my work.” Overall, Madeleine sums up her time at The Medium as having taught her to “re-assess what I write. I’ve written two plays and by no means do I think they are finished. Feedback helps me with what I write, moving forwards.”
While juggling being a full-time actor, producer, and playwright, Madeleine also currently studies improvisation at Second City. She admits, “I did one improv course at UTM, and never really thought about it again after that till recently. I wanted to try something different. I’ve always been inclined to comedy, I’ve always liked it, but it wasn’t the first thing I’d go to. I’ve found it very helpful as a writer, since improv is basically writing a play on your feet. It’s so wreck-less—a place where you throw tons of ideas and in a short span of time, go with the flow and see what happens. It’s fun to be [classmates with] a majority that want to have a career in comedy—it brings new influences into seeing how people create work. While the Toronto theatre community is big enough, it can feel small in many ways, and it’s nice seeing different aspects of the community. As an actor, you can get hung up on the opportunities you’re missing in your own world, so it’s nice to nip into another one. “
When asked to give words of advice to writers and actors who are perhaps afraid to explore the possibility of their talents as full-time careers, Madeleine stresses, “Curiosity is key—in any aspect of my life, beyond the creative part. Relationships are huge – a lot that I am motivated to do now, I wouldn’t be doing without being inspired by the people around me. Since graduating, I’ve questioned what I’m actually doing, but the people around me motivate me to keep me going. Also, keep trying! I’m motivated to just do—take that chance. People have the potential to do anything—if you have the motivation and the curiosity, you’ll find a way to do it. Know what you’re getting into as well.”
When asked if there were any upcoming projects she’s excited about and that she’d like to promote, she sighs and says, “Nothing specific. I’m looking to produce something in the spring, but I have no concrete details about that yet. I’m probably going to be staring at my laptop for the next 6 months, but I hope that there’s something more in store.”
This article has been corrected.
- December 3, 2018 at 12 a.m.: Madeleine’s name was corrected to the right spelling in the headline.
- December 3, 2018 at 12 a.m.: In the second paragraph ‘Everybody Wants a T-Shirt! was changed to ‘Everyone wants a T-Shirt!’
- December 3, 2018 at 12 a.m.: Third paragraph, peer copyeditor was properly changed to volunteer editor