Oh Fringe World!

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It’s the final week of Fringe World and I am having more fun than a hipster at Bogan Bingo. We had a great season of Not Much To Tell You at The Blue Room Theatre, and although I very much enjoyed the show run, it was a relief to wake up on the final morning and not have to wonder about ticket sales.

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After bumping out my final show, I needed to find a way to unwind after a week of shows. I left The Blue Room Theatre thinking, food? Eat everything in Northbridge? Or maybe collapse onto one of my friends? Then, we walked past robot busker guy, and I had my answer.

In my downtime after Not Much To Tell You finished, I have been soaking up everything Fringe has to offer. Most particularly, many shows by many very fine and talented artists. I’ve just come from Brian Finkelstein’s First Day Off In A Long Time, which was a masterful example of honest, vulnerable storytelling, and pretty damn brutal. I guess any story that takes place on a suicide hotline is going to be brutal. But Brian’s a master at keeping the tension just bearable – and he’s bloody funny.

Last night I caught the Lords of Luxury and had my biggest laughs so far this Fringe. These four suited-up gentlemen had me gripping my sides like an idiot. It turns out what I really like in my sketch comedy is absurdist pop culture references, deadpanning, and wigs (see: Slumber Party Time Travel).

Adam Peter Scott’s Book Fight was an education in Stephen King’s back catalogue. Ostensibly a game show where panel guests answer questions about books, it was really a competition to see who could bring the most snark. To my mind, the night’s winner was burlesque performer Sugar du Joure for her handling of Adam Peter Scott, who kept groping (word choice intentional) for jokes about her ample neckline. (Scott, staring: “My mind’s gone blank.” Sugar: “It’s always like that.”)

A sweetly absurd adventure through dystopia was She Was Probably Not A Robot. Delightful, silly, and shot through with an unexpected vein of poetry. Stuart Bowden had the audience on side from the start, and pulled us into his cartoonish, faintly threatening world with ease. I’m a heart-fan of dystopian storytelling anyway, but Bowden’s spandex antics won me over the rest of the way. Also, great beard.

Fringe World, you are the bomb.

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Not Much To Tell You (Photo credit: Jonathon Hancock)

Developing my first show – and Pozible campaign!

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Well, this is pretty exciting. This year, a pretty big dream of mine is coming true …

I’m putting on my own show!

The Show

I’m creating a full-length stage show – a one-person performance, written and performed and produced by “this guy”. It’s a fusion of poetry, storytelling and stand up, and it’s called Not Much To Tell You. Thanks to the lovely folk at Metro Arts, who are including me in their 2013 Jul-Dec program, I’ll be putting on a public performance of NMTTY in their main theatre this October!

The Campaign

In order to do this, I have to raise some funds to cover production costs. I just today launched a Pozible campaign to crowdfund the costs of developing the show and putting on its first public performance.

Here’s my Pozible video (which was somewhat stolen by a visiting neighbourhood cat):

 

The Stakes

In case you’re not familiar with crowdfunding – you can go and pledge an amount of money (say, $20) to my campaign, and the money won’t get taken out of your account unless I reach my target amount of $700. So, it’s all or nothing. I either raise the full amount by the deadline (the 18th of July), or I get zero funding. High stakes! But there’s something in it for the pledgers – each pledge receives a reward from me (from poetry zines to a personal performance in your living room). Also, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of being part of my show’s journey.

The Place To Pledge: http://pozible.com/kaitlynsfirstshow

Thank you to all the people who have been supporting me – whether it was by reading my blog, or coming to my gigs, or urging me on with my creative practice. You are all wonderful! Creating this show marks a new chapter in my creative career, and having your support behind me makes it possible. And fun!

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this campaign as I flog it over the next three weeks … I’ll post another video soon as I work on writing the show, keeping you updated on my progress. (I’ll try to find a few more interesting hats, to keep the vlog fresh.)

Much love,

KP

 

http://www.timeforafilm.com/2012/12/04/movie-review-pitch-perfect-2012/

Movies That Are Good For Girls

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As longtime readers may know, I used to work with teenagers of the female variety, and I noticed that the only movies they would watch were awful Hollywood rom-coms. In other words, they were living on a steady diet of stupid.

myboyfriendthinksimfatI wrote a post a while back, shaming a few “bad movies for girls” – but now I’m stepping it up. I’m not just bringing problems, here; I bring solutions. So, what movies would be good for these teenage girls (and anyone else) to watch? What movies are out there that offer solid alternatives to the ol’ “I need a boyfriend, wah!” formula? I’ve made a list of movies that I wish those teenage girls would watch instead of No Strings Attached. If they ever felt like watching some light entertainment that didn’t end with Matthew McConaughey laughingly mocking a woman and then planting his face on hers*, I would like them to have some options.

* Notable examples of this trope include: “You throw like a girl” (Sahara, 2005); and “Bullshit!” (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, 2003), to which he romantically adds, “You heard me. Bullshit”.

I ran all the movies I could think of through the Bechdel Test before selection. If you’re not familiar with Bechdel, passing the test requires that the film includes:

  • at least two (named) female characters
  • who talk to each other
  • about something other than men.

The movies listed below pass that test with flying colours. (It’s harder than you’d think! Apparently only half the movies in cinemas at the moment pass it.) I also chose these movies on the basis that I just like them. They’re entertaining. They suggest that maybe – maybe – it would be feasible to make more films about diverse female experiences. I know my life consists of somewhat more than just “wah, boyfriend” (although that’s in there, too), so it would be nice to see the movie options out there reflect that.

So here are five movies that I think are pretty good for girls:

1. Stick It (2006)

Angry girl is angry! For reasons that have nothing to do with boys! Also, she is a kick-ass gymnast. She and her teammates learn to put personal ambition aside and work together to shake up Big Gymnastics. It’s a gorgeous example of overcoming petty competition in favour of communal thinking. And, thank the heavens, they weren’t competing over men. To top things off, this movie’s got some rad athletic scenes, set to a cool soundtrack. I’d much rather hear girls quote this movie than the Bring It On franchise, as this one gives the mean/angry girls a bit of depth, compassion, and even redemption.

2. Pitch Perfect (2012)

Similar set-up to Stick It: angry girl is angry, joins in a team competition with much eye-rolling, and eventually leads her new friends to victory. But this take on a familiar trope is just so. Much. Fun. With a capella singing groups battling each other on campus, heaps of screwball characters, and Rebel Wilson declaring herself the “best break-dancer in Tasmania” … I mean, I’m in. There is a half-baked romance in the wings for the protagonist (Anna Kendrick), but it’s pure exposition for her character. The real triumph is her relationships with the other girls.

3. Brave (2012)

Made for a younger market than the other films on this list, but such a beautiful story from Disney-Pixar that I had to include it. This Disney princess resists being socialised to accept her fate as someone’s wife, and takes matters into her own hands. The central dynamic is a mother-daughter relationship – rare for Disney films – and it is handled beautifully. I cry every time. Every damn time.

4. The Hunger Games (2012)

Katniss is a bad-ass archetypal Artemis figure who shoots straight, takes no shit, and will do anything to protect her sister. At first I wasn’t sure if this one would pass the Bechdel Test because Katniss spends most of the movie interacting with Gale, Peeta or Haymitch (two of whom fancy her) … But then my housemate (a man) reminded me about the beautiful scenes between Katniss and Rue, the young victor from District 11, in which they teach each other to survive.

In fact, the narrative plays with the romance genre by introducing a “meta-romantic subplot” – Peeta and Katniss must act as star-crossed lovers in order to survive the Games. Is the love real? other characters ask. Or is it just what the audience in the Capitol expects? I think somewhere in there are the traces of an interesting commentary on how our culture consumes romance.

5. Mean Girls (2004)

Did someone say “YOU GO GLEN COCO”?? After reading Queen Bees and Wannabes in the early 2000s, Tina Fey bought the film rights to the book and BOY DID SHE USE THEM. I am using so many capitals because I LOVE THIS FILM. This came out just after I finished high school, and ten years later I still hear teenagers quoting it. Fey certainly hit a nerve with this story of a high school newcomer who learns manipulation at the hands of girl cliques. It explicitly addresses problems with the way girls behave towards each other, and does so in a hilarious and highly-quotable manner.

To the guy who told me he would never watch Mean Girls because “What, it’s a chick movie”, I say GO EAT A HAT. Iron Man; Yes Man; Cinderella Man; Spider-man; Bicentennial Man; Lord of War; Iron Man 2; The Dark Knight; The Last King of Scotland; I Love You, Man; Spider-man 2; Children of Men; The Men Who Stare At Goats; X-Men; Men In Black; Man On The Moon; and Spider-man 3 – I’ve watched ’em all, and ENJOYED them (even Spider-man 3, no matter what people say), and I still have all my lady parts in tact. Oh, you know what, just read this.

"She doesn't even go here!"

“She doesn’t even go here!”

But, Bridesmaids ..? Some may remark upon the absence of Bridesmaids (2011) from this list … But I felt that it only barely passed the Bechdel Test. Yes, there are many female characters, but they do mainly get together to talk about men. And when we get a blockbuster Hollywood comedy written by women with a leading cast of women, it’s still centered around a wedding. I think this movie is hilarious, but I’m not sure it offers a great alternative to traditional patriarchal narratives. That said, I nearly cracked a rib laughing at the ‘airplane scene’.

Just a quick point: I recognise that my list of movies representing “diverse female experiences” is doing a great job of privileging young, white, hetero, first-world girls’ experiences. I get that. I would love to watch more diverse female characters on screen, and I welcome suggestions of movies to watch that can help me outside this bubble.

My overall hope is that we’ll see more movies being made that represent the rich diversity of human experiences, especially in the comedy/romance genres. There are so many more types of people out there! Let’s get their stories into teenage DVD collections, too. C’mon now.

Women. Am I right?

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“This is a real phenomenon: When women feel like outsiders, they lose interest.”

I read the above quote in an article today, and it struck me dead. In the article, a science student writes about gender bias in the scientific professions, and even though I don’t know my boron from my bunsen burner, I found myself strongly relating to it.

See, the thing is, on Wednesday night I had my first go at stand-up comedy. I entered myself in RAW Comedy, where beginner comedians can compete for a spot in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I had never set foot onstage at a stand-up gig before, and I don’t mind telling you I was petrified. I had a lively group of friends around me, chattering and laughing and telling me I was going to be fabulous, but every now and then I would just go blank with hot white terror.

Part of my terror came, I think, from the fact that I was one of only four women competing on the night. The other 11 were, as you might imagine, men. That in itself wouldn’t have been that intimidating. After all, I’ve been performing at poetry slams and readings for years now, which are still heavily male-dominated. That wasn’t the issue. It was what the men were saying. Joke after joke about violence against women. Seriously. One guy’s punch line was actually – and I quote – “Wouldn’t it be great to know you fucked a woman to death?” Then he talked about going to her funeral and gloating, saying, “Let that be a lesson to all you other ladies”.

Yes. Let that be a lesson to us. In case we ever forget, we aren’t safe here. Comedy is not a safe space – for anyone, I suppose, but especially for women. One male comedian spent his five minutes extolling his disgust at Julia Gillard, saying she had a penis and she couldn’t arouse the most desperate of men and so on and so on. Textbook misogyny: “a-woman-can’t-be-in-power-without-losing-her-femaleness” with a dash of “if-she-can’t-get-me-off-what’s-the-point-of-her”. Not a word, of course, about her actions as Prime Minister. Another man raged against his ex-wife, calling her a “crazy bitch” at least six times before I tuned out. One young, harmless looking guy, who looked like someone your brother might play Call of Duty with, thanked all the women in the audience for setting their Facebook profiles to ‘public’ so that he could masturbate to them.

I am truly baffled when I see male comedians make demeaning jokes about women, and then chuckle: “Ha ha, all the women in the room hate me right now”. All the women in the room – that’s fifty per cent of your audience, buddy! Too many amateur comedians seem to forget that alienating women means alienating half your potential ticket-paying customers. That comedy isn’t just for the benefit of other men.

By the time it was my turn to perform next, I was feeling sick to the stomach. I waited by the sinks in the ladies’ room, staring up at the posters of upcoming comedy tours. Rows and rows of male faces grinned down at me. I smoothed down my hair, eyeing my outfit. Before I left the house that night, I had pulled a ribbon out of my hair, not wanting the audience to be distracted by my gender. Already, I was “gender priming”, having been told for years that female comedians “just aren’t as funny”.

“Even in areas where actual performance is equal, when a certain group is reminded that they are supposed to be bad at something, their performance weakens.” (S. Wofford, Feminspire)

But I did it. I told some jokes. At the end of my set, I sat down with my friends, shaking like a flippin’ leaf. I had survived. I had even gotten some laughs. I put my head down on the sticky table and tried not to gasp for air. I know public speaking is meant to be scary, but it had never really scared me up until this point. Comedy is such a different beast. You can lose the crowd so quickly. And then you’re dead.

Later that night, after seeing off my friends and dragging myself home, I felt empty. Like all the humour had been sucked out of me. My five minutes up there hadn’t been too bad, I thought, but the other comedians’ various attacks on women had shaken me. I comforted myself that the crowd had liked those jokes as little as I did, with most people shifting uncomfortably in their seats or sitting in stony silence. At least the misogyny wasn’t being openly encouraged. But I wondered. After years of going to comedy nights, I can say that jokes at the expense of women are incredibly common. They’re often aggressive and sometimes violent. Why do these comedians still think these jokes would be an awesome idea?

I found myself thinking, are these the people I want to work alongside? Is this an industry I want to join? If I’m going to have to spend years feeling like a second-class citizen, why would I bother? And then today, I found clarity, staring at me out of that science student’s article. I felt like an outsider, therefore I was losing interest. I was already thinking of opting out of my lifelong dream (my mother says that as an eight-year-old I solemnly informed her, “I want to be a stand-up comedian”) because of some dickheads with microphones. Seems to me that comedy is so male-dominated not because women aren’t as interested in comedy. Rather, I think a lot of women listen to the sexist jokes and see the other female comedians putting themselves down to get laughs, and think, “Fuck this noise”.

Well, I won’t be so easily discouraged. If I cancelled my dreams every time some idiot made me feel inferior for being a girl, I’d never have gone anywhere or done anything. I’m gonna have crack at this comedy thing. And whether I keep working at it or decide it’s not for me, I hope my decision will be based on factors other than my gender.

“Barry Morgan shows off his organ”, Feb 2012

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A review I wrote for Buzzcuts and Perth Now of the Fringe World show, Barry Morgan’s World of Organs. After the show, I had the pleasure of meeting Barry himself. Such a grin!

Barry Morgan and I

You might know Barry Morgan, Adelaide’s celebrity organ salesman, from his appearances on the music quiz show Spicks and Specks.

Barry’s trademark toothy grin and his prodigious skill on the keyboard were all he needed to win over television audiences. So, when it was announced that Barry Morgan would be coming to Fringe World, I was curious to see how he would flesh out his camp keyboard act into a one-hour show.

Barry Morgan’s World of Organs is a mildly strange experience from the moment you walk into the Perth Town Hall. Underneath the grand proscenium arch sits a 1981 Hammond Aurora Classic with matching Leslie speakers, looking very small indeed in contrast with the pomp of the venue. A badly recorded voice comes over the speakers, announcing the star of the show. Then out walks Mr Barry Morgan himself, all smiles and big hair.

The organ salesman immediately launches into his hilariously camp patter, announcing “this organ must be sold tonight!” The rest of the show is an extended sales pitch, with Barry avidly trying to convince audience members of the wonders of the electric organ.

Barry works the crowd with delightful ease, throwing out organ innuendos that never seem to get old. On this night, the audience seemed at first uncertain, but quickly got into the spirit of things with sing-alongs and shout-outs.

Although Barry’s talent on the organ is the central spectacle, the show has a great audio-visual element. A screen hangs over the stage onto which Barry projects photos from his childhood and footage from the stage.

Aside from a very strange moment when Barry abruptly disappears from the stage to “change into something more comfortable” and then returns wearing an almost-identical outfit, the show runs along smoothly.

Happily, this is a Fringe show that is suitable for all audiences. It’s a fun, light-hearted hour of comedy that will be especially pleasing for music-lovers.