It’s 1994 and a young Anna Paquin has taken to the stage to accept an Oscar for her role in The Piano. As her speech ends, a young Ellie Heath’s begins. Though her audience looks a little different — her own reflection in the bathroom mirror.
From that point on, Heath knew that like Paquin, she was born to perform. Though she started in front of a mirror, she has since performed in front of many audiences.
In 2007, Heath completed MacEwan’s theatre arts program, which she says was “incredibly fun, humbling, and also a huge commitment.”
On top of her studies, Heath took part in an intensive theatre training program put on by the Citadel Theatre and The Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, formerly known as The Banff Centre. She says that the program was strenuous and disciplined, but rewarding, nonetheless.
Her training prepared Heath well for a career in the theatre, but as many performers know, talent and training can only get you so far. It takes a lot of grit, resilience and an incontestable love for your craft, all of which Heath has, to make things happen.
Heath’s career has had its highs and its lows. She has spent some seasons on big stages in lead roles, and other seasons with 30 auditions and not one role to show for them. Her love for the theatre drove her forward anyhow.
“Theatre is not a stable career,” she says. “That being said, there are moments I’ve had on stage that eclipse any kind of happiness I’ve felt elsewhere.”
Shortly after the aforementioned season of 30 success-less auditions, Heath was eager to get back on stage. As luck would have it, Edmonton’s Grindstone Theatre was on the hunt for a female-based comedy show.
Heath, having a knack for comedy, jumped on the opportunity. Together with Caley Suliak and Alyson Dicey, Heath formed Girl Brain. Girl Brain presents a comical twist to the inner workings of — you guessed it — a girl’s brain through sketch comedy.
In their first year as a group, Girl Brain won Vue Weekly’s 2018 Best Comedy Show in Edmonton. They’ve performed in several beloved Edmonton venues, like the Citadel Theatre and the Roxy Theatre, as well as venues in Toronto, Philadelphia, and Florida, among others.
“I am legitimately proud of everything we have accomplished,” she says, and understandably so.
To date, Girl Brain has sold out every show. But with the global pandemic taking centre stage, theatre has been at a standstill. Yet Girl Brain as a group, as well as Heath as an individual, have found ways to carry on.
“To be honest, it has really impacted me, not having this outlet in my life,” Heath shared, “but at the same time, as a creative person, it has also forced me to pivot and start creating more online content, which has been super fun!”
In the interim, Girl Brain has replaced in-person shows with Zoom events, and Heath has been hard at work developing a solo show, which she looks forward to producing and performing in the future.
Theatregoers and performers alike anxiously await the day regular theatres programming can resume. With COVID vaccine doses slowly being distributed in Alberta, they may be able to do so soon.
When it is deemed safe, the Roxy Theatre will be reopening its doors, with Girl Brain set to take the stage. Girl Brain is also scheduled to perform at the SkirtsAFire Festival in March. In the meantime, check out Heath in Girl Brain’s online videos and start this month with a laugh!
Images by BB Collective Photography.