Interview with Brigette DePape

by Ottawa Fringe

June 23, 2008

Brigette dePapeAs we set up for our interview, Brigette is helping to figure out the finishing touches on her set. Behind her on the stage of the SAW Gallery is an intricate art installation on its back wall: a mural of the logo for the band ‘Motorhead’, done up with 8,000 silver push-pins. It’s not particularly relevant to Brigette’s show, “She Rules With Iron Stix,” an exploration of the curious world of baton twirling. A plan is in motion to cover it up with a black sheet.

“It’s all under control, you have to go to rehearsal,” calls out Brigette to the person helping figure out the solution. She turns back to me as I ask her where she was born. “Winnipeg. I just moved to Ottawa this year to study at U of O, because they have a really good international development program. Theatre is more of a hobby, I guess, but I’m very passionate about it. I hope to mix social justice and international development with theatre. That would be really cool.”

An interesting mix, and I ask Brigette to give me an example of how that might take shape. “I was in a play with a social message this year, called Lysistrata, where women bind together to stop a war. Next summer I might go to Israel to help teach drama to kids, to Arabs and Jews, as a way of helping them to work together, to create something together, and hopefully to help them stop their prejudices against one another.”

Brigette dePape Brigette dePape Brigette dePapeBrigette has been involved in the theatre for quite some time. Baton twirling is got her started performing in front of people. “I was eight when I started baton twirling. I was a competitive baton-twirlier for five years. In baton twirling, it’s really about performing, pleasing the crowd and smiling and doing different moves, to make them laugh and enjoy themselves. I think that’s where performing started for me. I got into acting, took some lessons… I did my first fringe when I was fifteen. I wrote a one-woman show and performed it at the Winnipeg Fringe.”

“I stopped baton-twirling when I was thirteen; you had to practice way too much, and it was really competitive and a bit dorky. And then I was baton-twirling at this random art party, and someone from a local magazine saw me and said, ‘hey, would you like to perform at one of our events?’ I hadn’t baton-twirled for a very long time in front of people. But that started me back into baton-twirling, and I thought that maybe I could make a show about a baton-twirler. Because whenever I say I was a baton-twirler, I get some varied reactions: ‘Baton-twirling still exists?’ and are shocked, but there is a whole baton-twirling world that is going on as we speak. Even in Ottawa, there are about fifty of them in Gatineau. And I even got some help from them for some choreography in the show.”

So what are baton-twirlers like? “I talk about them in the show. You actually have to be quite strong, I mean arm strength, to be a baton-twirler. Because you have to throw the baton high in order to do any real cool tricks. Yeah, it’s kind of dorky. They’re all kind of different, I guess. Whenever anyone thinks of a baton twirler they think of a majorette. Which is the one who marches in a parade, wears the hat… weird sort of costume. But baton-twirling does have a world championship. China always wins, but one year Canada won and it was this huge deal.”

Brigette DePape’s show, She Rules with Iron Stix, plays daily (except Monday) at the SAW Gallery venue in the Arts Court.

Previous interviews:
Amy Salloway (Circumference)
The Absinthe Collective (A Leave of Absinthe)
Peter Hayes (The Tricky Part) and Greg Landucci (Mr. Fox)
Penny Ashton (MC Hot Pink / Busty Rhymes)
Keir Cutler (Teaching the Fringe)
Celeste Sansregret (Wonderbar!)
Jem Rolls (How I learned to stop worrying and love the mall)