Sharisse LeBrun grew up in the New Brunswick theatre community. As a St. Thomas University student, she saw firsthand the impact theatre can have on people. Now, at 25-years-old, she’s the new director of the Theatre New Brunswick Theatre School.
“I always hoped down the line that I would get to be a director here, but I never expected it to be now,” LeBrun said.
LeBrun has been acting at TNB since she was 11 years old, but it took her a while to figure out she wanted to pursue it as a career. Although she grew up in more of a sports-oriented family, she dabbled in piano, dance and theatre.
“I came [to TNB] because I just had a really cool babysitter who did TNB and she would play theatre games with me and I just thought she was so cool and talented,” she said.
LeBrun graduated from STU in 2016 with an honours in English and major in Great Books. She said her education at STU contributed to making her a good director, teacher and actor.
“I think STU allowed me to get a really well-rounded education, which when I was younger I didn’t think that would make me a better artist,” LeBrun said.
“I [thought I just] needed more arts training, but I’m really thankful that I had to dabble in so many different schools of thought and ways of understanding the world, cause I think it’s enriched me.”
She remembers teachers in elementary school asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“And I said, ‘Oh, I want to be Tania Breen,’ who was my teacher at the time and became the director [of TNB] not too long after that.”
LeBrun always wanted to be a performer. She started her academic career thinking she wanted to be an actor, but it didn’t work out as she’d hoped.
“The doors that I wanted to open weren’t opening, or they were opening, and they weren’t what I was expecting and I kind of realized that the life [that comes with being an actor] wasn’t enticing to me.”
So LeBrun enrolled at STU and started volunteering and teaching at TNB.
“And then my first day in with the kids [at TNB], I was like, ‘Oh, this is how I do what I love, but make the impact that I want to make.’”
As a STU student, LeBrun acted in The Coronation Voyage by Michel Marc Bouchard, Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare and Trudeau and the FLQ by Michael Hollingsworth.
After graduating from STU, she went to graduate school in Toronto, aiming to find a job that was just as exciting for her as it was walking into her first day volunteering and teaching at TNB.
But it didn’t exactly go as planned.
“I felt like I was just going to be a teacher under three other people and have to follow this strict curriculum … and in my mind, I was going to work for a bunch of theatre schools in Toronto and I was going to learn from them and bring all this brilliance back to Fredericton,” she said.
“I pretty quickly realized that, the brilliance is here.”
So LeBrun came back to Fredericton and landed her dream job as the director for the TNB Theatre School. Tania Breen, the previous director, wanted to apply for a job at STU, but she needed to know there was going to be a good team left at TNB.
Breen is now a professor of musical theatre at STU.
LeBrun feels lucky to take over the theatre school from Breen. The classes are full, they’re doing 10 shows a year and everything is in “incredible shape.”
As for the future of TNB’s Theatre School, LeBrun is working on developing a playwriting class.
“We have a lot of awesome resources to be creating more and more playwrights in this city, so I think this will be a great thing to add in.”
She also hopes to have more space down the line to offer more classes, which means more opportunities for students as well as for theatre directors. LeBrun also wants to explore what TNB can start doing for kids facing economic or accessibility barriers.
“I think it’s so important for kids to have a space where they can be themselves and see others being themselves and figure out who they are,” she said.
“We get to witness firsthand how empowering theatre can be for people.”