Christiane Brew is a professional improvisor, storyteller, and actress based in Tokyo. She practices Johnstonian, Spolin and UCB methods, and she has performed improv and scripted plays on stages in Tokyo, NYC, Dubai, London, Hong Kong, Australia, Bangalore and Vancouver. She has taught in Tokyo, Bangalore and the UK. And she’s coming to Wellington very soon for her workshop, Improvised Storytelling for Solo Performers.
ONE: HOW DID YOU COME TO IMPROV AND PERFORMANCE?
I've been solo performing since I could walk. In the bath, the garden, up the street, and in front of the TV. After another episode of 'Murder, Mystery, and Suspense' was ruined with my performance of an improvised song and dance about sibling rivalry and cheese, a monologue and my legendary recorder playing through my nose, Mum took me to auditions for the Christmas pantomime, Cinderalla. I got the main role of Cinderella and some much needed focus and discipline around theatre. From there, I did drama at school in Cambridge, summer schools in London, theatre with Cambridge Theatre Company and then stopped everything dead until I came to Tokyo 8 years ago, because work, life, and bad choices.
I've been in Tokyo for the past 8 years, and they've been a journey of rediscovering the love of theatre and developing my skills in performance, directing, and production, in many mediums such as improv, stand up, scripted theatre, teaching improv, and performance storytelling.
I then got itchy for more and started travelling for improv in 2016 and began coaching a wonderfully, vibrant, fresh team in Bangalore (who are now thriving, have their own space and are about to host their second international improv festival!). Since then I've made a point to study with 'big' and 'small' teachers from around the world, with their different viewpoints and approaches, to perform and play with as many nationalities as possible, and to teach the things I love to those that are open to learn. Ahhh, improv.
TWO: WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING IN TOKYO?
As a women, urgh! As a strong ass, independent, superwoman, bearable and sometimes exhausting! In terms of actual work opportunities though, I get lucky because of my skill set and a smaller pool of competition. The Godzilla movie was an honor to be cast in as 'he' is a national icon here, plus my nephews think I'm totally ace. (I can't believe they sat still through the Japanese movie 3 times, trying to follow the subtitles, just to see me. They were 8 and 10 at the time. We could've face timed.) I also got a foot in the door with motion capture 2 years ago, due to a producer seeing me perform improv. So I have now worked with Kojima and Capcom. My biggest role to date is the mocap for Kojima's new video game being released this week, 8th November, Death Stranding. I'm Mama. The face and voice is provided by someone LA famous. And Capcom? That still has to remain a secret though til 2021...... Gah! Video games take ages to make!!
THREE: WHAT BRINGS YOU TO NEW ZEALAND?
The first ever Auckland Improv Marathon! I've known the director, Matias for a few years now, but we got talking in Tokyo on his last visit, under the train tracks, while eating mint choc chip ice-cream. He asked me. I said "YES". So, I'll be in Auckland, Wellington and then Christchurch delivering workshops, catching up with old friends and meeting more beautiful souls in our wonderful global improv community.
On a more serious note, I've heard you have great wool products and Japan is very cold in the winter. I'm searching for durable socks. Thanks.
FOUR: IF YOU COULD BE A CHARACTER IN ANY STORY EVER, WHO WOULD YOU BE?
I don't have favourites because I work on gut in the moment. My answer today, would be different to next week. However, generally, I love playing subtle evil or borderline psychotic, scripted or improvised. So much depth of character to play with and the story can go anywhere.
FIVE: WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT AT THE MOMENT?
Stories. And writing. I'm blessed to have rheumatoid arthritis and all it's wonderful pain-in-the-arse complications. If I hadn't been diagnosed, then I doubt I would be doing what I do now. That needs to be recognised and celebrated, so, I'm putting together a collection of comedic stories about my journey from pre- diagnosis and how it changed me physically and mentally. I hope it helps other owners of RA to be inspired, newly diagnosed people to take ownership, and to share the illness with those who have absolutely no idea what it is.
That was five things! Christiane is the first of our guest tutors and is leading a one-off workshop on Improvised Storytelling for Solo Performers. We recommend it for any improvisors looking to build solo work or support narrative structures, and performers building scripted or comedy storytelling in other forms. It’s on 14 November at 6:30pm - book now!