Monday, February 20, 2012

FRIGID Festival Interview - Rachelle Elie of "Big Girls Don't Cry"

By Byrne Harrison

Rachelle Elie has been developing her unique vision of contemporary society for over fifteen years, beginning at Bishop’s University with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  In Vancouver’s Studio 58 Professional Acting Program she found her strength in characters and physical theatre. Rachelle’s professional debut began with her first solo show, Bibi & Spid, which she created for the new writers’ festival Four Play at 58.
Tours with Axis Theatre and Theatre de la Seizieme, as well as performances with Vancouver Theatre Sports’ Mainstage Company rounded out her stay in Western Canada.. Rachelle’s experience with comedy continued with several performances at the Edmonton World Street Performers festival, headlining the Opening Night Gala for CBC TV.  
In Toronto Rachelle honed her performance skills in the city’s many stand-up comedy venues, touring across Canada, the USA and Australia, and appearing on She’s So Funny (Women’s Television Network) and Adventures in Comedy (The Comedy Network). Her comedy style has continued to evolve through work with master teachers Philippe Gaulier, Sue Morrison, Mike Kennard and Francine Cote.
Over the last ten years Rachelle has created and performed four original solo works across Canada and has been described as “…an exquisite performer” by SEE Magazine and “….frighteningly intelligent” by the Montreal Gazette. In 2008 Rachelle won an Oustanding Comedy Award at The Ottawa Fringe Festival for her show JOE: The Perfect Man.
Rachelle is performing her latest creation Big Girls Don’t Cry in the New York Frigid festival in February 2012. When not performing Rachelle paints and continues her work as co-founder of a Kenyan artists’ collective. She lives in Toronto, where she is raising two boys, age eight and ten, with her husband.

Show: "Big Girls Don’t Cry"

How did you first get involved in theatre?

I was a model for three years in high school and one of my mentors told me when she watched me on the runway she thought I was an actress. I decided to study theatre at Bishop’s University in Quebec and received a Bachelor of Arts degree. I then continued my training at Vancouver’s Studio 58 Professional Acting Program.

Who are your biggest influences?

Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, Lady Gaga, Lily Tomlin, Chris Rock, Leo Basci, Sasha Baron Cohen, Madonna, Jim Carey…I’ll stop!

Tell me a little bit about your show. 

This show combines my years of training and experience as a professional clown and stand up comic. It’s my most autobiographical piece to date and topics include Haitian fathers, Kenyan night clubs, and aging Barbies

What inspired you to write it?

I had just returned from Kenya and found the experience left me feeling overwhelmed with tears of joy and sadness. When girls grow up, have kids, and get married, and pursue a satisfying career…or not get married, not have kids but pursue a career, we’re expected to get our emotions together and we’re not supposed to cry. The reality is that we do cry and we want to cry. We also live in a society where people shut themselves off from their emotions and my job is to delve deeply into feelings and share them with the world.

Who are your collaborators and how long have you been working with them?

I work with James Keylon and Francine Cote ( I have been working with them for over three years. Mike Kennard of Mump and Smoot ( and I have worked with him over ten years. Luke Jackson ( and Sean Szutka helped me with music and I have worked with them for three years.

What's next for you after FRIGID?

Skiing with my family in Mont Tremblanc for a week and several scheduled performances in Toronto theatres.

And finally, if you could say anything to your potential audience, what would it be?

I have been exploring my heritage in this show, analyzing and dissecting that part of my personality. My dual American-Haitian heritage has shaped who I am and influenced choices throughout my life, and in developing this piece I have (re?) discovered that aspect. I hope you’ll  leave with a new awareness that what you see is not necessarily what you get, and that nature and nurture play strong, dual roles.  I also play with what lies beneath my own stereotype.

"Big Girls Don't Cry"
Company: Crowning Monkey Productions
Written by Rachelle Elie

The Red Room
85 E. 4th Street

Feb 24, 8:00PM
Feb 26, 6:30PM
Feb 27, 6:30PM
Mar 01, 6:30PM
Mar 03, 6:30PM
Mar 04, 2:00PM

No comments: