Briana Rayner: Improviser, actor, voice artist, & Co-Artistic Director The Instant Theatre Co

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Briana Rayner is an improviser, actor, voice artist, and classic typewriter enthusiast. She’s the Co-Artistic Director at The Instant Theatre Co, the taller half of the improv duo Virginia Jack, and a regular at Vancouver’s Queerprov show. Recent credits include The Flash, The Girl’s Guide, and the award-winning short films Stakeout, Mental and Resonance. She won Leo Award Nominations  for her work in the short dramas Bruised, The Stakeout, and Resonance. Briana spent five years as a dedicated clown-doctor in a long-term care facility telling purposefully bad jokes, singing songs, and tripping over her feet. In her spare time, she likes to bake and watch shark attack videos.

What do I do best?

Absolutely my first solid skill is procrastination. I think of it as the first step in my creative process. Honestly though, I think it’s my way of thinking around something before I dive in. Inspect it from many sides, let my mind explore while I clean or make banana bread or do any task I can get my hands on. Even this interview is one of them. One of my dear friends is visual artist Amy Rubin Flett, and she would call this “working on it on a different level.” If this is not what she meant, it certainly what it’s become for me.

What makes me the best version of myself?

I really need alone time and good food. For me, when I can run on a regular basis and eat well, everything else is improved.

What are my aspirations?

Personally, I aspire to feel like my brain is less a big mess of old telephone wires and more peaceful and orderly, like a nice library card catalogue. Or, if I think of the sense of calm I have when I can smell the ocean and just linger in that, I think “more that please”.  That’s an inward personal goal. Outwardly, I want to be a good parent, impact others in more helpful ways than hurtful, and damn if I am not trying very hard to use less plastic (for that last one and other sustainable lifestyle choices I often look to @livingfreeashley on Instagram)

For business, I would like to be better at the business side, for one. My website is perpetually out of date, so don’t go there unless you want to feel like you got a time machine. I perform improv comedy regularly, and look forward to doing more scripted work more often. I love to write and story edit also – my largest block is  carving out the time. I don’t know that I am one of those people who will get out of bed at 4am for some writing time before my toddler wakes. Actually, my biggest fear there is that I will get up early to write, and she will wake up ready to play. I’m not afraid of success. I’m afraid of being asked to be a dog at an ungodly hour.

My Biggest Success?

I was asked once “Career or kids?” I said both. I got a skeptical look back, and I said “Don’t tell me I can’t have both.”

I was cast in a short film, RESONANCE, and filming was pushed by several months. This meant I would be 8 months pregnant by the time we shot. The writer/director, Will Minsky, is also my husband. He said “Let’s make her pregnant, but we won’t talk about it, she just is. We never get to see that in film, a pregnant woman just going about her life.”

While I was pregnant, I also wrote another short film, The Stakeout, that I would be able to shoot a few months after giving birth that I could look tired in, and not feel like it would be a big deal if I hadn’t lost weight. It was shot with my six-month old on set, with full support of director Jax Smith.

I got nominated this year for the Leo Award for Best Actress in a Short Drama for both films. So really, I suppose my greatest success, in a way, is recognizing you don’t have to listen to people if it doesn’t feel right for you. And that can be really hard.

My Most Challenging Moment?

Answering this question is like trying to answer “What is your favourite item at a super duper buffet?

It’s pushing through to follow your gut in any moment when a person in a position of power tells you otherwise.

My Motto?

I do what I want.*               *Please note that’s not “I do what I want at the expense of others :)

My Favorite People/Role Models?

This list could go into eternity.

Both my grandma and my baba were powerhouses who I want to live up to. My parents raised me in a loving, fun, creative home and from them I really learned that people keep growing and stay open if they push themselves to do that.  I really love the brains ‘n hearts of Jax Smith and Meeshelle Neal, and value so much that they got me writing more – especially supporting that after I had a child. Sarah-Jane Redmond is a wonderful role model for me in having an acting career and also being an excellent parent. My Co-Artistic Director, Brent Hirose, at Instant Theatre because he appreciates my ridiculous show ideas while reining me in juuuust enough. Will Minsky, because he pushes himself to be better all the time. Erin Skillen who kicks in doors and takes names relentlessly. And my dear friend Michelle Bourne-Zulu, who has known my heart since I was ten, will always tell me just how out of date my website is, and help me accessorize because I am absolute balls at that and she’s brilliant in so many ways. Christine Wheeler for being an intuitive friend who also helps me untangle my telephone wires. And, a person I don’t know and am inspired by is MacKenzie Crook for the quality of his work writing, directing and performing in “Detectorists”.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Ah…I love in a good café anywhere in the world. Small towns are great. Places I’ve been in the past few years that I really fell in love with though were Iceland, Berlin, and New Orleans. I love New York too because obligatory.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I get a lot of joy keeping a fish tank. Snails are way faster than you think.

My Current Passions?

Along with performance and writing, I’m passionate about leadership communication and all the skills connected to it. Also creative collaboration, and being the best dog I can be for my kid.

I will also always be passionate about how to make my hair look like a French woman’s, though I may never manage to achieve it.