COVER

Fes­ti­val At the Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val, shows like Dis­tract­ingly Sexy, In­ter­stel­lar El­der, and Ac­cel­er­a­tion ex­per­i­ment in labs and in space

The Georgia Straight - - Contents - BY JANET SMITH

At this year’s Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val, women in lab coats and space suits abound. Plus, early re­views from Vic­to­ria, a look at the new and im­proved Fringe Bar, and more.

Women at this year’s Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val are don­ning their lab coats and space suits, and wrestling with cryo­genic freez­ing, GMO apoc­a­lypses, atomic par­ti­cles, and neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy. Fe­male char­ac­ters are delv­ing deep into sci-fi and sci­ence—a sign, per­haps, that women have fully busted into these once male-dom­i­nated fields in force? “I find that in the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy world there is quite a bit of the at­ti­tude—even in very pro­gres­sive fields— that women aren’t good at sci­ence,” says Mily Mum­ford, whose Fringe solo show Dis­tract­ingly Sexy is pre­cisely about that topic. With an un­der­grad de­gree in neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy and a mas­ter’s in in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy, the mul­ti­tal­ented Van­cou­ver ac­tor and play­wright be­hind sci-fi–happy works like Franken­stein, and Gen­er­a­tion Post Script is speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence. “It’s been dom­i­nated by males for so long they be­lieve women can’t do it—even though neu­ro­sci­en­tif­i­cally there’s no dif­fer­ence in the brain.

“But women have been in sci­ence since Egyp­tian times—and we don’t re­ally learn about them.”

Trac­ing that his­tory with barbed wit, Mum­ford says she was sur­prised her­self by the sheer num­ber of women in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy through the cen­turies—sev­eral whose sto­ries she re­lates and em­bod­ies in her re­flec­tive one-han­der. At one point, for ex­am­ple, she be­comes Aca­cia, a Neo­pla­tonic scholar in an­cient Alexan­dria who was a pow­er­ful as­tronomer and math­e­ma­ti­cian.

Mum­ford in­ter­min­gles tales from the past with con­tem­po­rary ob­ser­va­tions from her fields.

“A woman in sci­ence is sort of treated like a uni­corn,” says Mum­ford, an alumna of Vic­to­ria’s hit Atomic Vaude­ville the­atre troupe whose new project, Ne­bula Com­pany The­atre, is wholly de­voted to the in­ter­sec­tion of art and sci­ence. “Even if it’s not bla­tantly sex­ist there’s this misog­yny of ‘You’re weird! What do I do with you?’ ”

IF MUM­FORD IS ROOT­ING out the un­sung women of sci­en­tific his­tory, Vic­to­ria ac­tor­writer In­grid Hansen’s In­ter­stel­lar El­der is ready to ex­pose a dif­fer­ent kind of fe­male in the fu­ture: what the show dubs, in its sub­ti­tle, “a badass grandma in outer space”.

The cocre­ator be­hind past Fringe hits like Kitt & Jane and Lit­tle Or­ange Man has chal­lenged her­self to cre­ate a play al­most en­tirely with­out words (ex­cept for a speak­ing com­puter whose voice sounds eerily sim­i­lar to the Sky­train’s robo-voice). In it, Hansen uses her con­sid­er­able phys­i­cal-the­atre skills to play a 300-year-old as­tro­naut, the sole guardian for a ship full of cryo­geni­cally frozen hu­man be­ings (played by you, the au­di­ence). They’re Earth’s last sur­vivors, thanks to eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter wrought by “Prime Min­is­ter Bieber” and his forced over­plant­ing of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied Swiss chard. You heard that right.

“When I was do­ing my re­search and watch­ing a lot of sci­ence-fic­tion, I no­ticed some­thing I’d never re­ally thought of be­fore: where are the older women in sci­ence fic­tion?” Hansen tells the Straight from Ed­mon­ton, where she’s ap­pear­ing as part of a na­tional Fringe tour in which her strange and styl­ized show has gen­er­ated ma­jor buzz. “I still don’t know the rea­son for that: is a lot of it cre­ated by men? I don’t know…”

Her char­ac­ter was in­spired by her own “mis­chievous” grand­mother, Hansen re­veals. “She would get into these mis­ad­ven­tures at her se­niors’ home,” she re­lates. “She would steal things from nurses’ sta­tions and take things from other peo­ple’s clos­ets.…one time she was wear­ing a hot-pink party dress she found in some­one else’s closet—in the mid­dle of winter.

“At first we were ex­plor­ing this char­ac­ter in a se­niors’ home,” she adds of the play. “And then we ended up tak­ing her to space: a very dif­fer­ent kind of iso­la­tion, where she’s lit­er­ally the only per­son alive.”

She de­scribes the piece as a blend of sci­ence and magic re­al­ism, though it’s par­tially based in fact. “I did do some re­search into the Mars One Project—which is ab­so­lutely ridicu­lous! And Prime Min­is­ter Bieber is di­rectly in­spired by the or­ange guy down south.”

Hansen may look to real-life re­search, but she takes artis­tic lib­er­ties that push In­ter­stel­lar El­der to an­other whacked-out level en­tirely.

see page 23

Dis­tract­ingly Sexy In­ter­stel­lar El­der

With de­grees in neu­ro­bi­ol­ogy and in­ter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy, Mily Mum­ford still finds sex­ism in sci­ence in (above), while In­grid Hansen con­jures a new kind of sci-fi hero­ine in (be­low left).

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