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Feminist Fringe 2015 – By the Bi

Morgan Barbour co-founder of the Blazing Change Players theatre company was kind enough to answer our questions for #feministfringe. You can find out more about their show By the Bi below the responses:

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What makes a show feminist for you?For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist?

 

A show is feminist if it gives voice to women. That’s it, in my opinion. I don’t think it has to be fully created and produced by women, nor do I think the people involved need to all self-identify as feminists. One of my current favorite books at the moment was written by a woman and features a fierce female narrative. The author swears she’s not a feminist but damned if it isn’t one of the most feminist works I’ve read in a long time.

 

Would you call yourself feminist? Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why?

 

Absolutely, to both accounts. I believe in the equality of all peoples regardless of gender, race, age, creed, or sexual orientation. I hope that my work is a reflection of that. By the Bi is in a very unique position to not only give a voice to the marginalized bisexual community but to also give a voice to the women of that community without alienating the men.

 

Can you describe any feminist moments you’ve experienced at the festival?

 

The first few shows I say at the Fringe, while brilliant, were either entirely devoid of female voices or included women more as props than as compelling characters in a story. While unsurprising, it did leave me a bit discouraged. But then I went and saw Titus Andronicus at Spotlites and was very pleasantly surprised to be greeted by women playing both Titus and Aaron. Not only were their performances phenomenal, but there was no commentary on these traditionally male roles being played by women, which gave even more power to this casting. It wasn’t there for spectacle; the cast simply expected you to accept that these women were capable of these roles, and boy oh boy were they. Go see it. Do it. You won’t regret it.

 

Can you tell us about your experiences with harassment during the festival or elsewhere during your career? 

 

Early on in my training I was told that if I succeeded it was because I had a pretty face and a great ass. And let’s face it, both are true, but neither are the reason why I’m still working. It’s more difficult to be taken seriously as a woman in this industry. More often than not when I’ve told people that I co-own a theatre company and that I’m supporting myself entirely as a performer and writer I either get laughed at or receive some comment about how surprising it is that I’ve managed to accomplish that “at such a young age”, or that I’m incredibly lucky. But I’m almost 23 and I know plenty of men as successful and ambitious as I am who are taken seriously. They aren’t young; their success isn’t surprising; they’re just driven.  I’m fortunate to be doing what I love but it isn’t the result of luck.

 

Then there’s the objectification. This can be a superficial industry and I’m not foolish enough to think I won’t be judged on my looks and my body, but it’s also disheartening to know that to someone out there I will always be too fat, or too thin, sometimes on the same day. There’s always that chance that interviews will be keener to discuss my love interests than my craft. I’m working because I’m too willing to take off my clothes. I’m not working more because I’m too much of a prude. No, no, you’re right, it’s fine to proposition sex at this callback because “everyone does it in this town” and I’m just the bitter bitch who said no.

 

Any advice for people who have experienced similar forms of harassment? 

 

Some people are assholes. Some of those assholes are incredibly sexist. It’s a very unfortunate reality. That said, to be a woman in this industry – to be a woman in this world – you need a thick skin. You need to learn to stand up for yourself, but you also need to learn to pick your battles. Shatter that glass ceiling, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are not capable. Your choices are yours alone, your body is yours alone. Bust your ass, put your nose to the grindstone, follow your dreams, check those who try to heckle you when you can but remember that your emotional and mental health is more important than trying to educate every person who crosses your path.

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By the Bi is “…told through a series of fifteen vignettes utilizing a mixture of dance, music, and spoken word, BY THE BI addresses how society’s views and isolation of bisexual culture contributes to perpetuating harmful bisexual stereotypes of greediness, promiscuity, and confusion. It also brings to light the alarmingly high statistic rates of suicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape that too often become a reality for many bisexual young adults due to society’s perception of their sexuality.

[Description take from here]

[Buy your tickets here!]

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Feminist Fringe 2015 – Adventures in Menstruating with Chella Quint

Chella Quint, creator and star of Adventures in Menstruating, was kind enough to answer questions we sent her for #feministfringe. You can find a description of her show below the responses:

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1) What makes a show feminist for you? For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist? 

 

I think a show is feminist as long as it promotes feminist values. There are many feminisms and ways to be feminist for all genders, and one of the most feminist shows I’ve ever seen was a character comedy by a male friend in drag. The character, Miss Samantha Mann never says she’s a feminist, but she role models gaining confidence and independence as an unmarried older woman who is finally learning how to give herself permission to let go and be more free and confident. Charles Adrian is really gifted at playing her – it’s basically character as mask –  and I feel really special and empowered when I interact with Samantha.  Then of course there are explicitly feminist shows that take an aspect of something stereotypically ‘female’ and use comedy or theatre to send up the politics or hypocrisy of it.

 

2) Would you call yourself feminist?

 

Of course! 😀

 

Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why? 

 

In Adventures in Menstruating, I deconstruct a century of menstrual product adverts telling menstruators that they are assumed to be a) leak-free b) discreet and c) invisible and give audience members of all genders offers of ways to challenge menstrual taboos anywhere, and invite them to help me create better education and media narratives around periods in the future. I think it fits well within feminist comedy, along with a lot of other shows at the fringe, which is great.

 
3) Can you describe any feminist moments you’ve experienced at the festival? 
 

Every moment is a feminist moment when you’re a feminist. I’m always looking at things through a feminist lens. Deconstructing advertising messages has given me this filter I can’t switch off.  There are some specific ones I mention below  and they come out of some negative situations, but please read on!
 
4) Can you tell us about your experiences with harassment during the festival or elsewhere during your career?
 
I’ve been very lucky that everyone has taken a flyer for my show with a smile, or turned it down because they said they were leaving that night or had another show – no one has looked disgusted or recoiled. I also say ‘it’s a period comedy’ and if they walk away I call after them ‘it’s bloody funny…’ like ‘you’ll be sorry you’re missing it!’ and they always laugh as they’re leaving. If they stay, I throw a few more menstrual puns in – it really flows – it starts heavy but ends light – there are no puns in the actual show.
 
A couple of weird incidents have happened though that would definitely count as harassment. A random dude got on stage at a bar when I was doing an open mic night but two friends immediately flanked me while I heckled him off and out the door, and a couple of audience members got up and gestured for him to go. It felt good to have them beside me. I said ‘I’m from Brooklyn, man, I’ll fight you for this open mic spot if I have to.’ I got a little alarmed when he carried on staggering forward. I had been kidding. Then I said ‘you’re talking into the wrong end of the mic, pal. This isn’t really going to work out for you.’ And he staggered off into the night.
 
A few nights later I was watching one of the two friends who flanked me do her feature spot on the same show – she was immediately clocked as trans by a totally other drunk guy at the back who started heckling – I shot him a ‘teacher look’ a couple of times and he said ‘sorry’ but not very apologetically. It made our friend perform more fiercely and angrily, and she directed all the lines (in the poem about transphobia, coincidentally) at him. The audience were all totally on side other than this guy and his friend, and another friend sat with me got up and told him not to talk while the performers were talking, and he said ‘I’m helping!’ and she said ‘you’re really not’. And he left after that. The free fringe can be a little chaotic with noise bleed and people wandering in from other parts of various bars and venues not knowing what kind of show they’re going to encounter, but it’s mostly been positive, and those incidents mostly pointed up the supportive atmosphere among the performers I know.
 
Now -full disclosure – this is a written interview, and I had typed of most of it yesterday afternoon, and then last night after my show, we were taking a STAINS™ selfie with someone from our audience outside the venue and two young guys saw us taking a selfie and ran down the road in quite a jolly way to photobomb us in what looked like a joke we were in on. We thought it would be pretty hilarious but when they finally got up to us, one of the guys was quite drunk while getting into the photo and kissed our friend a lot and sloppily on the cheek while hugging us all.  I said stop, she didn’t consent to you kissing her. And he was like ‘what’s the problem?’ and I told him to fuck off, loudly, twice. His friend was like ‘aw I want to be in the photo can’t I stay?’ and I shouted ‘No you have to tell your friend why that was shitty. Go away.’ So they did. He took his friend away and they ran down the street. And we took our audience member and some other performers of various genders home for a party and we did period craftivism and drank beer and spirits all evening while listening to music. So now there have been three incidents that were negative, but things have been overwhelmingly positive otherwise and I’ve generally felt quite safe here.
 
5) Any advice for people who have experienced similar forms of harassment?
 
I open my mouth before I think most of the time, and I love hollaback for that. A lot of people say to only speak up if you feel safe doing so, but I never take that advice – I am very impulsive, and having ADHD doesn’t help. I find that humour and humanity are very good for diffusing situations, and sticking up for everyone intersectionally and challenging all kinds of harassment (you know – based on gender, gender identity, race, sexuality, class, ability – all the things in the equality act) creates a more positive atmosphere for everyone. I also do improv comedy and a lot of improv is about having each other’s backs and making sure everyone looks good on stage. I’d never hesitate to jump in but I am very outgoing and confident to a fault. It’s the Brooklyn in me – we are ‘aggressively polite’.

***

Adventures in Menstruating: What is that blue stuff… and why isn’t it red? Will all the menstruators performing at the Fringe really synchronise cycles? Really? And how can century-old ads still affect attitudes now? For everything you never knew you needed to know about periods, there’s comedian and sex educator Chella Quint. As heard on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, she deconstructs taboos with wit, adbusting and brute force. Period comedy for menstruators and non-menstruators of all genders. [Description taken from ticket website]

You can buy your tickets here!

 

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Feminist Fringe 2015: Shows to Watch

We know that the festival is nearly over, but there’s still a week to catch some awesome shows and celebrate women performers and creators. Here’s a list of Fringe shows by/about women of colour, queer women, and women with disabilities.

 
DISCLAIMER: I haven’t seen any of these shows yet, so I cannot vouch for their content, but from their descriptions, they look interesting and thus have made my to-watch list.

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Comedy and Theatre by/about Women with Disabilities:

 

Not Disabled Enough

 

Backstage in Biscuit Land

 

Fran Macilvey at the Fringe [Talk by author Fran Macilvey on 27/08/2015]

 

My Beautiful Black Dog

 

Touch

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Theatre/Comedy by/about Queer and Trans Women:

 

All the Nice Girls

 

By the Bi

 

Gospel According to Jesus Queen of Heaven

 

Mae Martin: Us

 

Little Red Show

 

Susie McCabe: The Drugs Don’t Work

 

Daggers Mackenzie

 

Trans-scripts
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Theatre by/about Women of Colour:

 

Around the World, My Journey Continued After You Left

 

Backside Monologues

 

Bayou Blues

 

Big Bite-Size Lunch Hour: Lunch in Cairo

 

Kindness of Enemies [Talk by author Leila Aboulela on 26/08/2015]

 

Tar Baby

 

Taming of the Shrew

 

Reclaiming Vietnam

 

Skins and Hoods

 

Portrait

 

My Name Is

 

Nina Simone: Black Diva Power

 

Digest TV: The Temp

 

Valiant

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Comedians (WoC)

 

Lolly

 

Nicole Henriksen: Honeycomb Badgers on Acid

 

Qyeen sweeTs: NorthernXposure

 

Ria Lina: Taboo Raider

 

Sameena Zehra: Homicidal Pacifist

 

Aspects of Joy

 

Devil’s Door Bell

 

Evelyn Mok: Idiot

 

Immigrant Diaries: Sajeela Kershi and Guests

 

Laughter with Njambi McGrath and Guests

 

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Feminist Fringe 2015 – All the Nice Girls

Ali Child and Rosie Wakely, creators and stars of All the Nice Girls, were kind enough to answer some of the questions we sent them for #feministfringe. You can find a description of their show below their responses:

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1) What makes a show feminist for you? For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist?  

 

For us a show is feminist if the creative team consists of women seeking to portray events honestly from a women’s perspective.

 

2) Would you call yourself feminist? Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why?

 

Yes we are feminists. ‘All the Nice Girls” is a feminist show because it is an original piece which we created dealing with the experience of lesbians in the first half of the 20th century.

 

3) Can you describe any feminist moments you’ve experienced at the festival?

 

We saw “Swallow” by Stef Smith at the Traverse. The cast consists of three strong female characters who all emerge triumphant.

 

4) Can you tell us about your experiences with harassment during the festival or elsewhere during your career?

 

None during this festival.

 

Prefer not to go in to all the numerous instances in the past.

 

5) Any advice for people who have experienced similar forms of harassment?
Report it. Think of yourself as you want others to think of you. Have high expectations of the way other people will behave.

***

 ‘All The Nice Girls’ takes an entertaining glimpse at the lives of Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney through the eyes of male impersonator Ella Shields. Starting out in Lena Ashwell’s concert parties for the troops in WW1 the young Farrar and Blaney quickly adapted their classical ‘cello/piano act into a ‘turn’ full of repartee and physical humour.

[Description taken from here]

Buy your tickets here!

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Feminist Fringe 2015 – Bayou Blues

Shaina Lynn, creator and star of Bayou Blues, was kind enough to answer some of the questions we sent her for #feministfringe. You can find a description of her show below her responses:

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1) What makes a show feminist for you? For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist?

Anytime a women tries to assert herself within a system that is oppressing her, feminism can be found. Whether she is a writer, a poet, dancer, doctor, or student. She is paving the way for young girls and women to live in equality.

2) Would you call yourself feminist? Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why?

I was born both Black and a woman in America. Which means I experienced discrimination at very young age. Instead of staying depressed by the oppression, I developed a passion for seeking justice for those like me. My art is a direct reflection of my struggles and hope for a brighter future. Bayou Blues recounts my upbringing as a young dark skin black girl named Beauty, living through the residue of the racist south. It is a dream world that uses poetry, dance, and rap to express the feeling of drowning. This production actively seeks for its audiences to experience the Rebirth. To “rise” and “shine” through the darkness into inner light. A light that will change the world.

Honestly, I was hesitant to claim the title of a feminist. At first I was left wondering where the rights of black women stood within the movement. But now I truly understand what it means to be a feminist. I started a blog dedicated to women http://pursuitofnappiness.org. And I see how my life, activism, philanthropy, and art echo the voice of woman all over the world.

3) Can you describe any feminist moments you’ve experienced at the festival?

There have been valuable connections made between myself and other female artist at the Fringe. Its been a great appreciation of each others talents and recognition of our strides.

It would be great to see a Fringe Festival Award for women and artist of color.

***

Bayou Blues is the drowning dream of a girl named Beauty in the bayou of New Orleans. Bayou Blues dives deep into her conscious on a journey into the waters that washed over that magical city, flooding the bayou that carries the residue of slavery’s damaging effects on black Beauty, value, & identity. This story is filled with the rich history of New Orleans taking the audience through Mardi Gras, Congo Square, Bounce music & more. Shaina captivates the audience with a tale told through spoken word, song, dance, animation, and rap. Bayou Blues opens at Venue 13 on Saturday August 8th, 2015 and plays every day except for Mondays until Saturday August 29th at 15:45.

[Description taken from here]

Buy your tickets here!

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Feminist Fringe 2015

As part of our  broader commitment to intersectional feminism (that is to say a feminism that fights against all forms of discrimination, such as those based on race, class, sexuality, or gender identity), we’re participating in #feministfringe and highlighting feminist performances during this year’s Edinburgh festival.

One of the things we’ve done is to send emails  out to performers/creators at the festival asking them about their thoughts on what makes on feminism, as well as asking them about their experiences with harassment at the festival. We’ll post the responses as we receive them.

Here are the questions we sent out:

1) What makes a show feminist for you? For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist? 
2) Would you call yourself feminist? Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why?
3) Can you describe any feminist moments you’ve experienced at the festival?
4) Can you tell us about your experiences with harassment during the festival or elsewhere during your career?
5) Any advice for people who have experienced similar forms of harassment?

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New submission from (anonymous)

As I was walking home from the shop with a friend of mine, all of a sudden a car full of men went past. Just as they passed us, one of them shouted at us from the car window: ‘PUSSY!!’ I’m not quite sure what these dudes meant by this, or what they wanted to achieve, other than making us feel awkward. But it certainly made myself and my friend aware of the fact that as women we’re not allowed to walk in public space without being punished.

I've got your back!
3+

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New submission from Anonymous

As I was walking home, minding my own business, after a long and exhausting day at work, some 13-year-old kid looked at me and told me, as he passed me on the street: ‘You’re ugly.’ What makes people like this kid feel entitled to comment on a stranger’s appearance in public? I wanted to explain to him how wrong it all was, and tell him to think twice before harassing people, but what came out of my mouth was simply: ‘You’re an asshole.’ Which, to be fair, he was.

I've got your back!
10+

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