Through fault of my own, I am performing in a solo show I wrote.
From July 21 to July 28, 2018, I will be showing and telling a darkly comedic tale at the Kingston Storefront Fringe Festival. I say “through fault of own” because I wanted to challenge myself creatively. Not content to churn out words on screen and paper, I thought performing my own play would be a suitable endeavour. After all, I'm a stand-up comic and although I may not tour anymore, I still perform at Hirut Fine Ethiopian Cuisine's Hirut Hoot, and other fine comedy establishments. How hard could it be doing my own stuff on stage?
Haaaarrrrddd. Hurry hhhhaaaarrrrrddd.
I am being put through rigorous dramaturgical analysis, a disciplined rehearsal schedule and a physically demanding process. This is all in thanks to my director, Jennifer McKinley. Ms. McKinley is a writer, performer and producer, once co-artistic director of Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival (2014-2017) in Toronto She is a lead coordinator with the Feminist Art Conference, and wrote, produced and performed her solo show, OperationSUNshine at the 2017 Toronto Fringe, as well as at the 2018 Feminist Fuck It Festival in Toronto.
She is a living, breathing theatrical artist. She is as far away from my comfortable stand-up world as I can get.
I saw Operation SUNshine at the FFIF and thought the work unique in voice. Not only is Jennifer a skilled performer, she has a rare ability to merge comedy and horror, sharing personal stories powerfully and with compassion. When I found out I won a berth in the Kingston Fringe, I contacted Jennifer, with the hope of her having the time and interest to direct my show. Fortunately she did and agreed to be my director.
Over the rehearsal process, I've been encouraged to feel the intensity of my character's situation. Here's the difference between stand-up comedy and acting in my opinion: stand-up is like being a commander. You hit the stage, grab the mic and deliver. Your job, above all, is to make people laugh. Material aside, that is your goal, to elicit laughter. It is not to delve into the back story, circumstances or sad psyche of a character. As I have learned, in theatre the actor creates a trusting environment. The actor embraces the audience, rather than controls it. I suppose a lot of stand-ups do this, but I must say that is not my M.O. I think a lot of stand-up comedy comes from a place of anger. At least, it does for me.
This feeling stuff is hard.
As a writer, it is essential that I feel a character. Thoroughly. Down to the bones. In space and time. But that feeling is transmitted through the written word. It's conjured in thought and relayed through the body by breath held, goosebumps raised, and once in awhile, racing heartbeat. This is the goal of the written word – to inhabit the imagination of the reader. Feeling is not thrashed out on stage. That is an actor's job.
This is the job I will be doing soon in Kingston.
As I said, I wanted to challenge myself creatively. That I am. I am having my ass kicked by a social justice warrior-artist almost 20 years my junior. And I love it, my creaking knees and aching joints aside.
My goal is to do right by my characters, by my director, and by my stage manager, the emerging triple threat theatre artist Natasha Rotondaro.
I am one lucky stand-up comic and writer to have such a dedicated team. Hope to see you in Kingston.