New Dottore for Dustin

It’s great when a Dell’Arte Famiglia member asks you to make them a custom mask. You now it’s going be used to create outrageous art.Here’s the new Dottore mask I made for Dustin Allen!

 

Drowning kittens

I just finished reading You’re Better Than Me: A Memoir by Bonnie McFarlane. It was a funny, vulnerable, gutsy and sincere read.

I think most performers have a moment (or moments) when they are onstage and they think “what the hell am I doing up here? they hate the show. who the hell do I think I am?” I’m sure there’s performers who don’t have those moments- I envy them. Often right before I go onstage, all I can think is, “how did I get myself into this? I wonder if I can give them their money back…” Even if the show has gotten a good review. Even if I’ve done it before and the audience laughed. These thoughts always creep in.

McFarlane articulates this perfectly in her book:

People have always said I have a lot of stage presence, that I have confidence when I’m up there. I don’t know what I’m projecting, but inside, I’m nothing. I’m horrified. I’m terrified. I’m a bag of drowning kittens. But somehow, some way, I just kept talking. I shrugged off their hatred. I smirked at their loathing. My face said I’m high-fiving myself. Then I got off, head held high, and mumbled a couple of “Whatevs” as I walked outside. I made it around the corner of the club before I started sobbing uncontrollably, wondering to myself why I still hadn’t invested in a tube of waterproof mascara (pg 103).

 

Ms.Sugarcoat gets some rewrites…or not.

Ms.Sugarcoat. Here’s the thing- in the show Ms.Sugarcoat teachers the History of Canada. She avoids teaching about Residential Schools, because NO ONE learned about that shameful piece of Canadian history. So Pat, Ms.Sugarcoat’s beaver puppet blurts out the truth about the Residential Schools and she locks him up in the class’s puppet trunk.  I wrote the show in 2012. This year, guess what? They are teaching about Residential Schools, starting this fall! It’s part of the curriculum! It’s about damn time! Or to quote Pat, “It’s a miracle!”

I debated taking out the whole scene. Then thought, “what if she’s a teacher who has to address this new curriculum?”  Teachers are probably terrified on how to approach teaching this subject. Mainly because every word they say is being monitored. IF they don’t approach it the right way, parents will be on them. Administration will be on them.

And this reminds me why I do Ms.Sugarcoat. Teacher burn out is 5 years. Why? Because they are not just teachers. Nope. They spend most of their days parenting. They are lucky if they get through all the curriculum they have to in the year. And if they aren’t raising children to the parent’s expectations, they are in hot water.

In the end, I didn’t change the scene. Thanks to a good friend (Mary Lou) who said “it’s a period piece”. And she’s right.  So many of us were not taught the dark side of our history. And why did it take so long for it to be addressed in schools?

Other updates- Transgender washrooms and GBLTQ in puberty…. of course Ms.Sugarcoat has no idea how to address these issues either. And how much of this is her job? And if she doesn’t do it in the “right” way, well, here come the parent emails….

Orwell

I’ve decided to spend the summer working on a new show. A solo show that has shadow puppetry and I’m doing it in both official languages, oh and I’m gonna play live music.  No. Big. Deal.  I have no idea why I do this to myself. I get an idea for a show, apply for the grant, then when I get the grant I’m both ecstatic and terrified. Who the hell do I think I am to pull this off? Pressure makes diamond…. or hard shit.

The show: Animal Farm Treatment. Yup, good ol’ George Orwell’s classic animal allegory. However, I’m doing an adaptation, bringing the animal farm metaphor into our current economy of the have and have nots. About inequality, neoliberalism and globalization.  The hope is to bring the show to high schools, get students inspired to vote and question authority.

I didn’t read Animal Farm in High School. I read it about a year ago when my Dad handed me a copy, “I think you’ll like this Al”. He was right.  For the study guide to go along with the adaptation, I’m learning about George Orwell.  He died at 46. Of TB. But before he left this world, he had an extraordinary life. He was a police officer in Burma, joined an antifascist movement in Spain, got shot in the throat, lived as a poor writer in Paris and London, and published several books on all these experiences. When he wrote Animal Farm,  it was turned down by four publishers (mainly because British firms, sometimes on government advice, declined to offend the country’s Soviet allies).

I often wondering why I do shows with social or political messages. I mean, of course I know; I’m passionate about fighting for change. I’m pissed off about injustice and this is the way I want to raise awareness. But I wonder sometimes, because I’ll look out and see 5 people in the audience. Why am I not doing more commercial work? I’d have a better shot at getting an audience (and making a buck) if I just did the original Animal Farm.  From reading about Orwell, I am in awe of his ability to stay true to himself. And to tell the truth.

New goal for the show- be more like Orwell. Truthful and brave.