RE­VOLVER FES­TI­VAL

WOMEN TAKE SPOT­LIGHT

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - BY JANET SMITH

Spring­time’s re­volver Fes­ti­val has al­ways walked the cut­ting edge of the­atre, and with this year’s fe­male-strong lineup, it’s lead­ing the way again.

At re­volver Fest 2018, all the main-stage shows ei­ther are cre­ated solely by women or fea­ture them as cocre­ators.

“I think it’s ex­cit­ing and telling that there are this many women on the pro­gram—that they had the space and con­fi­dence to ap­ply,” says Elysse Chea­dle, the the­atre artist be­hind Fuch­sia Fu­ture. “I’m also ex­cited by the va­ri­ety in the sub­ject mat­ter.”

Fe­male play­wrights are tak­ing on ev­ery­thing from sexual abuse (12 Minute Mad­ness) to sur­viv­ing the apoca­lypse (Kitt & Jane) to, in Chea­dle’s Fuch­sia Fu­ture, noth­ing less than pop­u­lar science, ex­is­ten­tial­ism, and the colour pink.

“I tend to de­scribe my­self as a col­lager rather than a writer,” she ex­plains over the phone. “I like to col­lect a bunch of source ma­te­rial that I find in­spir­ing to chal­lenge my­self, us­ing move­ment and writ­ing.”

For the ab­surd “ni­hilis­tic mu­si­cal” Fuch­sia Fu­ture, that in­volved three seem­ingly far-flung in­spi­ra­tions. The first, and fore­most, was the the­o­ries of pop­u­la­tion ge­neti­cist Ge­orge Price, who came up with a math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion to pre­dict the like­li­hood of al­tru­is­tic be­hav­iour. “He said that no be­hav­iour is ever re­ally any­thing but self­ish—which is kind of a de­press­ing thought,” Chea­dle ex­plains. “Price be­came fa­mous for this equa­tion. And then he ev­i­dently went in­sane.” In the fic­tion­al­ized Fuch­sia Fu­ture, his wife and son try to cope when he dis­ap­pears.

The sec­ond in­spi­ra­tion was a spe­cific mono­logue from Jean-paul Sartre’s Nausea, one in which the nar­ra­tor watches an old woman work her way down the street with “ex­is­ten­tial dread”, Chea­dle says. And the third el­e­ment was bis­muth—the pink­ish, radioactive el­e­ment that has a half-life a bil­lion times longer than the age of the uni­verse. In the work, pink be­comes a re­cur­ring, and threat­en­ing, colour. Chea­dle puts as much em­pha­sis on move­ment as on words in her process. “I’m in a bit of a strange place be­cause in a lot of ways I’d like to de­scribe it as phys­i­cal the­atre, but I use so much text,” she says. “I love word­play, I love rhythms. Plus, we have mu­si­cians.”

THE­ATRE ARTIST RAINA von Walden­burg is just as ea­ger to push the form in 12 Minute Mad­ness, but for her, the sub­ject mat­ter is much more per­sonal. She mines her own dis­cov­ery of a re­pressed mem­ory—sexual abuse by her grand­fa­ther—and serves it up with dark hu­mour.

“I didn’t feel any shame or gross feel­ings about com­ing out about it. It felt a lit­tle bit like wag­ing war,” the play­wright and di­rec­tor says can­didly to the Straight over the phone from her Van­cou­ver home, talk­ing about the mul­ti­year process that led to the play. “I was able to out this crap. With shame you go into this lit­tle closet and stay quiet about it and you feel very, very bad about your­self. So in­stead of im­plod­ing in this lit­tle closet of shame, I outed the moth­er­fucker. And it helps to be able to ex­ter­nal­ize those darker in­ter­nal thoughts.”

The play fea­tures 12 women play­ing the 12 per­sonas that she could feel emerg­ing in her­self when, dur­ing a ther­apy ses­sion about three decades ago, she re­al­ized the trauma that had hap­pened to her.

“The minute I re­al­ized it, I swear all these dif­fer­ent parts of me came out,” she ex­plains, stress­ing it wasn’t the same as the con­cept of split-per­son­al­ity dis­or­der. “I could ac­tu­ally feel the dif­fer­ent parts of me. I could hear the ther­a­pist talk­ing, but the in­ner bat­tle was so huge.”

The strong­est weapon in the artist’s arse­nal has be­come her hu­mour around the sub­ject. “My big­gest sur­vival mech­a­nism in life has been not to take stuff around me too se­ri­ously,” says von Walden­burg, who hopes the play will give other sur­vivors strength. “Let’s take this dirty, dark thing that no one wants to talk about and let’s throw it around like a Fris­bee.”

She adds that the move­ment around #Metoo has made her topic eas­ier to con­front than when she tried in 1998. “This is amaz­ing that women are ac­tu­ally fi­nally be­ing lis­tened to—and of course there’s a back­lash, but still, there’s a strength that wasn’t there in the ’90s.”

The re­volver Fes­ti­val presents 12 Minute Mad­ness at the Cultch’s Historic The­atre on May 23 and from May 25 to 27, and Fuch­sia Fu­ture at the Cultch’s Vancity Cul­ture Lab on May 24, 26, and 27, and on June 2 and 3.

In 12 Minute Mad­ness, per­sonas em­body the fall­out of sexual abuse (Chris Ran­dle photo), while Fuch­sia Fu­ture (be­low left) turns pink into a sin­is­ter colour.

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