Sarah Michelle Brown: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Today’s Notable Young Professional is writer, producer, director and actress Sarah Michelle Brown, whose stage play ‘First Hand Woman’ hits New York City this month for its highly-anticipated debut. What was the inspiration behind the project? Find out in today’s profile…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I’m a multi-passionate artist who writes, produces, directs and acts in theatre and film. I have a stage play called First Hand Woman that is taking New York City by storm this month. It’s a journey of the soul, as a woman slowly comes to realize the truth of her relationship through five parts of herself – the rather rambunctious stages of loss. It’s a universally powerful story of heartache and healing that takes the characters and the audience through years of hard-earned life lessons in just 90 minutes.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
My company is me. From a very young age I was always putting on one show or another. Be it at school assemblies, at home or at the cottage. I don’t recall having a specific inspiration to do it. I just always loved it. However, I did have a detour through biochemistry. When I was a teenager, I’d become too shy, too introverted to get up in front of people, and I really stopped doing that kind of thing altogether. Instead, I went into science. But once I was immersed in my studies of amoebas and DNA, I just felt like something was missing. I ended up listening to my heart, with the full support of my parents, and left science and a four-year academic scholarship behind me.

I would say that the biggest influence on me getting back into the entertainment industry was a wonderful and dearly departed acting coach by the name of Jacqueline McClintock. She was a mentor, a friend and an astonishing artist in her own right. She strongly encouraged her students to create their own work and as a result the people who had the privilege of studying with her have gone on to do some extraordinary things. Meeting her changed my life. And as a consequence I dove back into the arts again.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part of what I do every day is a difficult question to answer. For me, I live for when First Hand Woman went up; when I’m on set directing, when the project is alive. That’s the magic part: seeing an audience laugh and cry from something that I created! Yeah, that’s the absolute best feeling.

The most challenging part is probably funding. A mentor of mine once said, “Never put your own money into your projects.” And I truly believe that is solid advice. However, if I had waited until outside funding arrived to mount First Hand Woman, I’d still be waiting. So putting your own money into your projects and then living on a wing and a prayer (and lots of hard work) can be tough on the spirit in this industry. 

As I told my dad: It’s a crazy field that I’m in. If you really go after the prize with all your heart, and you work really, really hard, and you’ve got a great project, MAYBE, you’ll “make it.” But, the flip side is, if you don’t go after it at all, you DEFINITELY won’t make it. Yep, that’s the arena of the arts.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Now that’s a tough question. Looking down the road for me is always about dreaming big. So I would love for First Hand Woman to catch on like wildfire and take on a life of its own. I’ve had so many people from around the world ask when it would be arriving in their city, so it would be great to make that happen. I would absolutely love to take that show on the road, represent Canada and get people around the world fired up. Another goal? I’d like to direct longer-format films and split my time between the States and Canada (and Hawaii, why not?).

What does success look like to you?
Success to me happens when an audience member goes and makes positive changes in his/her life based on the impact of seeing First Hand Woman. That never ever gets old. If I could do that on a much larger scale, and have wonderful financial rewards for my efforts, I’d be even happier.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
My most memorable milestone is happening right now. Bringing First Hand Woman to New York City is an astonishing opportunity. When I first came up with the idea of the story nine years ago, I knew that at some point this show needed to have some sort of life in The Big Apple. So bringing it down to the New York International Fringe Festival is a giant deal for me. That, in and of itself, is my first really big dream come true.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Persevere. Richard Pinter, an acting coach at The Neighborhood Playhouse, pronounced this to my class many moons ago. He said that most people get too depressed or too tired of the rejection and the financial lows that we face in this industry. He said that the most important thing was to persevere through those tough times. That piece of advice has come back to me several times over the years, especially when it came to First Hand Woman. I’ve persevered with this play and believe in it, and I’m so excited that my hard work is leading us to NYC.

Also, and this is a big one: Do what you love. That’s actually the most important thing. That is what will make long hours and difficult times worth it.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I have supported Nellie’s in Toronto. It is a beautiful shelter for women and children. This is an important organization because it helps women to transition out of abusive relationships. I love that they give people a safe haven during a difficult time.

What to you is notable?
Self-expression. Having the courage to say what’s on your mind.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone all the way. I’ve been an Apple gal for over 20 years.