Brontae Hunter is a stage acress and singer who feels as comfortable behind the microphone as she does talking on the phone. At the tender age of 21, she already has years of experience tucked under her belt.
Born in Lurgan Beach, she considers both Ripley and Kincardine home. Hunter says “as a kid I was always creating characters.” As a very young girl, she spent time in London because of a family illness and a little theatre space gave her the opportunity to bring these characters to life and develop her love of theatre.
Growing up she was surrounded by music; country, folk and celtic. Her mother, Paulette Lippert, played in a band, and a colleague, John Stewart, introduced Hunter to the blues. That was followed by connections with other musicians, where she developed a love for jazz. Her ability to sing all genres of music brought her to the stage of the Lighthouse Blues Festival in Kincardine.
“Marilyn and I were first introduced to Brontae back in the fall of 2007, when she opened up for Anthony Gomes, a nationally touring blues musician who was performing at the former Fireside Cafe in Wingham,” said Lighthouse Blues Festival founder, Rick Clarke. “We were immediately impressed by her natural poise on stage and her talent. We have since presented Brontae ourselves at a number of our blues shows and on stage at our Lighthouse Blues Festival. In fact, when we initiated our Youth Showcase Stage, Brontae not only performed but actually managed this stage for us every summer until she went off to school in Montreal. We are so proud of her accomplishments and excited about her future.”
Hunter was attending Sacred Heart High School when a program developed in a partnership between her school and Stratford Theatre, My Academy, provided her with the opportunity to play the role of Olivia, in Twelfth Night. She jumped at the break and at just 16-years-of-age, moved to Stratford to live with close family friends while performing on stage. It was during this time that she became immersed in the theatre, calling it her “deep dive into the acting world.”
By 2017 she was enrolled in the National Theatre School, a place where she could pursue her love of theatre and develop her talent. She had the opportunity to study with renowned professionals, including Ian Watson, Jackie Maxwell, Graeme Sommerville and Deb Hay.
In 2018, she created a one-woman play, Even in the Dead of Night, with artist Bronwyn Garden Smith, which premiered in Stratford. Other theatre credits include roles such as Fantine in Les Miserables and Sarah in Innocence Lost.
Hunter acknowledges many women who served as mentors and teachers, as she continues to develop her craft. She describes Seana McKenna, a veteran of the Shakespeare Festival and theatres across the country, as one of the most generous people who is conscious of young artists that she knows. Hunter continues to stay in touch with her and doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call her for her advice.
Hunter credits the late Valerie Hawkins, another stage actress, on “helping her become the actress I am today. She taught me how to handle Shakespeare, and how to really own classical language and make it me – a girl from Ripley.” Hawkins was also a singer, one who could handle singing opera as well as rock and roll. Hunter said Hawkins taught her that she could be a singer as well as an actress and she didn’t have to be pigeonholed into a certain style.
While COVID has limited opportunities to tour and perform on stage, Hunter is still fired up about her career and the possibilities that lie ahead. She says we need to find a safe way to have that live theatre experience again.
“Art is what creates community,” said Hunter. “At least, that has been my experience. I am a performer, that is what I do in this world and that is why I am here.”
While she is not as busy as she should be, or wants to be, she has been using this time to work on her music. She is producing an album of songs and monologues that she has written, with colleagues performing the speaking parts.
As for the future, Hunter isn’t putting limits on any opportunities, opening herself up to “an explosion of art forms” that may take her in many directions. Life on the stage in Canada, England, New York, film or music are all in her sights.
“You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself – you just have to be ready and in the best shape possible.”
Hunter has been participating in a competition designed by CBC and Toyota (https://www.cbc.ca/music/searchlight/), intended to lift up and offer greater exposure to independent and emerging Canadian musicians. Musicians such as Hunter were invited to upload a recording on Search light, and the public could vote daily on their favourite piece. Prizes include mentoring opportunities, funding for studio time and other supports that will help develop a young musician’s career.
Hunter submitted The Time is Now, which is available on all streaming platforms as well as her website, www.brontaesinferno.com. The contest has now closed, and results are expected to be released on June 1. She will find out then if she progresses on to the next round of the competition.
But whatever the outcome of the Search Light contest, you can be sure you will be watching and listening to Brontae Hunter for years to come. Her passion and enthusiasm for theatre, for music and for art are boundless and she will no doubt find her place on many stages in the years to come.
Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent