Wednesday, December 4, 2019


I've had a dream gig lately: directing a troupe of womxn clowns in Vancouver. We've been developing turns based on masculine impersonation, and it's fabulous to watch each of these clowns birth the strange, unique man inside of them. All of their inner-men are broken, tender, hopeful, ridiculous... and damn amusing.

I was working with one clown the other day on her solo turn. She is super funny and talented, but she told me she'd been in her head about the upcoming show.

I've just been like, what am I doing, what are we doing, as feminists... Then she quickly looked at me. She felt bad, because she knows that masculine impersonation is my big thing. She added, It's not like I don't think you're a feminist...

Naw, I get it, clown. It's complicated. I've built a tiny career on being the worst masculine impersonator out there. But what am I doing, as a feminist? And now I'm encouraging other women to do it too? 
Why are we playing men? 
What are we saying, by playing men? 
Are we saying men are funnier? 
Are we reinforcing the gender binary? 
Are we saying we're not funny as womxn? 
Do we suck? Should we shut up right now? 
Is something burning on the stove that needs our attention? 
Is there a scarf we ought to be knitting instead? 

I don't personally know how to answer anyone else's questions. I can only speak to my own experience. 
I've had gender trouble my whole life. When I was very young, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told them "Boy Dog Fisherman." Why was that what I wanted to be? Was that the beginning of everything? Apparently I didn't just have gender trouble back then, I had species trouble too. But that's a whole other blog post. 

The point is, some part of me has always wanted to be a man. I think a lot of non-men have felt that way at some point in their lives. And when I leaned into that—when I started living my fantasy trying to be a man in my comedy—I got a lot of laughs and I got paid. Playing a man gave me permission to be fierce and take up space. Playing a man gave me the privilege to risk. It taught me how to take that sense of permission and privilege, and apply it to all of my future characters regardless of their gender. It made me a better overall performer. 

And I believe that my particular brand of masculine impersonation says something to womxn; I want it to say something to them. I'm not trying to be a convincing man, I am parodying the patriarchy. And as a non-man, I'm in a great position to do that. I've had my nose pressed up against the patriarchy's window for a long time now. 

So is playing a man feminist? I believe it's deeply feminist. Because it's a feminism that I don't have to construct in my mind. My body understands the patriarchy and how I'm not it, and it knows what to do to send it up. Take up space, be entitled, get your cookies. Bam. 

And if it isn't feminist, or if it isn't someone else's definition of feminist, that's fine too. I don't personally believe that comedy and social justice are the same thing. I'm not saying they're not related— I'm not going to go all Jerry "It used to be easy to get laughs back when I could date teenagers and still be cool" Seinfeld on you. As comedy makers, it's important to be keeping track of what's funny, and what's funny changes. Thank Satan. 

For example, Punching Down used to be funny. Punching Down is not so funny anymore. There might be some comedy rooms somewhere in which Punching Down is still funny, but I haven't been in those rooms. Unless we count Adelaide, South Australia on the day of the Clipsal 500 big car race. 

Otherwise, it's pretty much no longer funny to punch down.

Beyond that, I don't much judge what is and isn't funny, and why. What we laugh at, and why we laugh, are not always easily explainable. We laugh because we need relief from some sort of tension that builds up in our souls, just from existing. A lot of things make us laugh that we don't "approve of" as any kind of prescription for how we should think or act. The relief of laughter is an exhale of car exhaust, stomach-lining and subconscious dust. It is at least part-catharsis—part-flushing-out-what's-inside. We laugh at the inappropriate, the taboo, the utter-garbage that clutters and infects our minds because... Society. And we have to. 

So I am not here to judge why some things are funny. 
But I will say, with some certainty, based on my experience alone, that—in times like these—it is funny to watch people who are not men attempt to portray men for comedic purposes. 

It's funny because it's Punching Up. It's funny because, as womxn, we're uniquely situated to parody the patriarchy because there's no way we'll ever be the patriarchy. We have received the same lessons about manhood that the men have. We've watched as that letterman sweater got tailored to everyone but us. So when we steal that letterman sweater and wear it, that's whatcha call subversive. We will never fit into the Patriarchy Sweater, and so, we flop around in its sleeves, and we revel in the space between us and it, between our clownish ambition and our reality. And people laugh. 

I could spend years in therapy (actually I have) trying to figure out why playing men is so satisfying for me and for audiences.
I could beat myself up about this thing I like to do, and see it as one more big excuse why I, as a woman, don't deserve to take stage time and don't deserve to encourage others to take it.
Or I could say fuck it.
This works for me, and I observe that it works for a lot of people.
It is one way to be funny. There are thousands.

But it is one.
And I, for one, recommend it. 

Saturday, September 28, 2019


I was talking to a workshop participant who was debating whether she should take a teaching-comedy-course offered by a clown teacher, we'll call him Dr. X.

She said: Dr. X was trying to convince me to take this class of his, and I told him, "I haven't had a show of my own hit it big yet." And Dr. X said that that didn't matter, that teaching and performing are two totally different things.

Then she asked me, What do you think? 
So I thought.
I think I have two different answers.

First of all, I must mention that two of THE MOST IMPORTANT theater/comedy teachers IN MY LIFE, the ones who really taught me about using my instrument and freeing myself— brilliant teachers! life-changing forces for good!—I saw them both perform and neither one made me laugh. AT ALL. Those were surprising, horrifying moments: seeing these idols of mine, these mentors, totally eat shit. I realized then that they were great teachers and not-great performers, and I made a weird kind of peace with that, like when two people break up but keep living together because of the kids or the rent or whatever. They just moved into separate bedrooms in my heart. 

So, I believe you can totally be a great teacher and not-as-successful a performer. Yes. 

And we probably all know great performers who are pretty lousy teachers, too. Real smart people who have thought a bit about how they achieved their own comedic heights, but maybe they haven't figured out how to translate it to the masses, or they don't care enough, or they're just not meant to teach. 

They ARE two completely different art forms, teaching and performing. Yes. 

Good teaching involves curriculum planning, lesson designing, trial and error, energetic generosity, generous curiosity, humility, learning environment cultivation, organized practice rituals, egolessness (or sincere attempts at such), and a firm grasp of classroom management skills.

Good performing involves mental illness and whiskey.

But seriously.

I'm sure we all recognize that less-awesome performers can of course be amazing teachers, and verse vice-a.

Here's a question then, why do we instinctively assume that teaching and performing go together?
Famous, super talented people could fill any workshop anywhere always, why is that? And when you see a show that blows your mind, and you hear that company is teaching a workshop, why are you like I GOTTA GET ON THAT?

Clearly, there is something deep inside us that suspects—if we really love the way someone performs,
if we fall in love with them a little bit—and feel instinctively that they would understand us—and we them—on the most HUMAN of frequencies—then we believe they have something to teach us. 

And it defies logic. I can prove to you with many complicated logic proofs that Great teaching and great performance are totally separate! No connection! Still, everyone feels in their hearts like you Christians feel about your Santa. There's no factual basis, but we believe. 

And I do think there is something to that, too. We have to love and respect our teachers in order for them to teach us something. If we admire what they do, if we enjoy watching them perform, that is another way to learn from them. Great comedy is magic. And learning a magic trick is really only half of learning magic, right? You have to learn the trick, sure, but you also need to experience the rockets in your own eyes that shoot out when you love a trick from the audience-side. The love of the trick is the fuel for making that trick sing. It's nice when your teacher can give you that too.

Maybe it doesn't matter at all.
But it might matter a little bit.

Ultimately, I respect that workshop participant of mine who feels like maybe it's a little too soon to teach comedy, before she really feels like she's nailed it for herself, and given it fully to the world.

Teaching and performing are not inextricably linked, but they're next to each other, right? Like the way I wanna put silver and gold bangles next to each other. I wanna wear ALL the bling, ALL the time... except sometimes I can't pull it off.
Sometimes it's better to just wear one, keep it simple.

We can dream of both. We can pull off both some times.
Other days, recognize silver for silver and gold for gold.
They're both precious, bitch, after all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


It feels like I haven't fringed in ages, but really it's only been a year and a half. Man, it's amazing though. I look at my friend's facebook posts about shows and after-show bar experiences and it all feels very far away and I feel very old. But it's only been a year and a half! How old could I get in that amount of time? Old enough to sit down in my rocking chair and reflect on the crazy scope of the international fringe scene? Apparently! So, now that northern hemisphere fringe season is starting to wind down, why not come sit by my fire (crackle crackle), listen to the creak of my chair (creak creak) and my voice blathering on about old Fringe memories that aren't actually that old? 

This blog post is really for people who are interested in the difference between the English-speaking scenes, and will be very boring for (1) people who are not interested in those differences; (b) have already done all these festivals; or (gamma) people who have just finished a fringe... why would you want to read this if you've just finished a fringe? Shouldn't you be napping? Shouldn't I?

Quite possibly... and yet, I have facebook friends from all the English-speaking Fringe communities, and they're always wanting to know if they should take their shows to the OTHER English-speaking Fringe communities, and I think, as someone who has dabbled in all of those fringes, maybe I can speak on that shit a bit!

If you don't feel like reading any further, I'll get right to my thesis statement: If you're Australian or British, or used to doing those festivals and being successful and having fun, then get your ass to Canada. If you're used to doing Canadian fringes and being successful and having fun, and wondering if you should do Australia or the UK, I'd say, only maybe.


Let me tell you about the cream puffs that are the Canadian fringes. They are the coziest, cutest, easiest fringes of all. Not like I knew that when they were the only fringes I'd ever done. I thought they were big and hard and scary! But ha ha ha! Then I went to Edinburgh and got my ego handed to me in thin raw slices of carpaccio-like misery!

Canadian Fringes are only two weeks long, and you get about 8 performances. So there are things like DAYS OFF, which is insane. Also, there aren't that many shows! The biggest fringe in North America, Edmonton Fringe, still maxes out at under 400 shows. Compare that to, say, Edinburgh's 4000 shows, or even Adelaide's 1300 shows. Actually don't compare them, cuz ya can't.

Canadian audiences vary from being adventurous and fun, to old and stodgy. They're a good mix, but in general, their tastes can be pretty white-bread. There are ready audiences for conventional stuff. If you are a straight white man who likes to sit on a stool on stage and tell amusing stories, you might do fantastically well in the Canadian fringes. That said, more off-beat artists can also do great in the Canadian fringes, because these fringes are super word-of-mouthy. Also, the audiences are Canadian, so they're real polite about taking fliers from you, and even acting interested/grateful to hear about your show.

Another feature of Canadian audiences is that they LOVE ACCENTS. So especially if you're British, because Canadians have an especial hard-on for Brits, but really, if you're from anywhere not-US/Canada, there's going to be built-in enthusiasm for your show.

As if that wasn't enough, Canadian fringes, for the most part, FIND YOU HOUSING. That's right, the fringe itself actually finds a place for you to live, for free, in some art-friendly house where you will in most cases feel nourished and looked after, and where your host will most likely become a friend for life. This is called billeting, and it is a gift from heaven. 

So, yeah, if you're from the UK or Australia or anywhere else, you should probably get in on the Canadian Fringe scene.

The trick to this scene, however, is just that: getting in. Those Canadians know what they have, and they don't make this easy. Each Fringe is determined by lottery, which usually happens in this hemisphere's autumn. So you pay a 25$ application fee and then, if you're international, your show goes into an international pile. And there are only a certain number of international shows picked for each festival. The good (or bad) news is that the lottery isn't curated, so no matter how good/bad your show is, it doesn't matter, it's just luck of the draw.

Once you've done one Canadian Fringe festival, you are then eligible to participate in the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) lottery, which also costs 25$, but if you get picked, then you are automatically accepted into however many fringe festivals you want for that year.

Otherwise, you have to apply to each individually, and the chances of getting in, frankly, are slim each time.

Another option, which many fringe veterans take, is BYOV, or Bring Your Own Venue, which means that you don't have to participate in the lottery, you just find a venue that works for you, pay the Fringe fees plus the venue rental fees (so the total does end up being quite a bit higher than if you're accepted via the lottery), and you're good to go. This is great if you already know a festival and know what the good BYOV venues are, (and where the bad/out-of-the-way venues are) or if you're a known quantity at that festival and will bring in audience regardless of where you are. If neither of these things apply to you, then BYOVing is much riskier. It could work, but it could also be a disaster.

Still, when you consider the disaster that Edinburgh is for so many performers, it's not that scale of disaster, at least.


So far, I've done Edinburgh twice: one time I did the Free Fringe, one time I was co-produced in a sweet central venue with a 60/40 split and a flyering team. Both times I hired PR. I broke even the first time and made a few grand profit the second time.

I've tried to answer this question in previous blog entries, but the short answer is this: Edinburgh is a well-oiled machine that is set up for already-successful artists it mostly already knows. Venues are all BYOV–the festival doesn't find you a venue—and the popular venues are all carefully curated. Are there breakout stars who find some fame and/or a big career jump at Edinburgh? Sure, but the "breakouts" I've witnessed were well-connected already, like they were someone famous's son or their director had won a big award previously. If you're holding onto the fantasy that you will be discovered at the Edinburgh fringe, you cray. And as I've mentioned, you've got to be careful even if you've found success on the Canadian circuit. British tastes are decidedly different than Canadian tastes. If you're a white man with a stool, get in line behind the 5000 other white men with stools who have been doing Edinburgh every year for the past twenty years. Audiences are going to see thosewhite men with stools well before they consider taking a chance on you. But in general, they like weird, they like visual, they like risk, they love comedy. 

There are Facebook groups and books devoted to tips and tricks to survive and thrive at Edinburgh, so definitely consult those before you go for it. But for Satan's sake don't delude yourself that it's going to be anything but mongo stressful and exhausting, even if you do well. It's an incredibly intense atmosphere. It was really almost too much for me my first Edinburgh, and I was pretty successful and had good friends with me.


I've done Adelaide Fringe twice and Perth Fringeworld twice and Melbourne Comedy Festival once. I worked with an Australian producer who managed my marketing and negotiated with my venues for me. I made decent coin at all of them, except for Melbourne Comedy, which is my biggest disaster festival to date.

For North Americans, the Australian fringes might look attractive, especially if you want to escape winter. Summer in Australia, you say to yourself. What could go wrong?

Sure! Why not? Not as big and daunting as Edinburgh, right? And if you want to go to Australia, this is as good an excuse as any. But success at Australian fringes—and I'm talking about the big ones, Adelaide and Perth (don't ask me about Melbourne Comedy because clearly I don't know)— is dependent on a bunch of factors that are real good to know before you commit.

Australian fringes are also BYOV. And all venues are not created equal. Some venues are like theme parks with hundreds of people wandering around going to shows, and some venues are semi-abandoned buildings with broken air conditioning several blocks away from a street anyone's heard of. The best venues at Australian fringes are, like Edinburgh, carefully curated, and unless you're a bit famous, you probably won't get programmed there unless someone from the venue has seen your show. Or, it's possible you might, but probably only if your show fits into the genres that Australian fringes like best: comedy, magic, circus, sexy comedy, sexy magic, and sexy circus. If you have a sexy magic comedy circus show, Australia is going to really take to you.

The Adelaide fringe is long as fuck (almost 5 weeks). Some performers only do a portion of it, but if you're relatively new to the festival, it makes sense to do the whole thing in hopes that word of mouth spreads. And yes, you might need PR, and definitely a flyering team. Perth Fringe runs are shorter, but again, if you're unknown there you might need marketing support.

I have a lot of admiration for my Aussie artist friends who cut their teeth on those huge fringes, because that shit is CRAYYYYY. Adelaide venues are often stuffy circus tents, Perth venues can be weird office buildings. In general, these fringes feel almost as intense as Edinburgh.


I feel incredibly lucky that I've had great times at these festivals, and very few disasters (I'm looking at you, Melbourne Comedy! Suck mine!). But I also feel lucky that I am not a devil-may-care risk-taker that would do any of these festivals before I was pretty sure they would go well for me. 

So how do you know when a big leap like an overseas festival is the right choice? It's a great question. I'll share a story of how I decided to make that leap. When I did the Edmonton Fringe in 2014, which was my biggest Fringe to date at that time, my "marketing" consisted of about 300 photocopied, Microsoft-word-template 4-to-a-page "fliers" that were one-sided, black-and-white, and suuuuper shitty. I don't even think I handed them all out; I really didn't flier at that Fringe, and I sold out my whole run real fast and won some awards to boot. Word of mouth was just really, really on my side. The amount of return I got on that festival was definitively bigger than the effort I put in to get bums in seats. But also, I had just directed a show that was a big hit in Edinburgh, so I knew if I went the next year and dropped that name in my marketing, it would also open doors for me. That combo of factors felt like Momentum. It was like wind, that feeling of something pushing you forward that is motored by way more than just you and your elbow grease. 

So, pay attention to momentum, to where the wind pushes you. 
Also, of course, do your research. Track the careers of shows similar to yours. And remember that whatever path you go, you'll learn a shit load. Really, what else are we here to do?

And for all you fringers who for some reason are still reading this, I salute you! We all salute you! You've worked hard and brought beautiful art to the world! Take my chair by the fire! Isn't it cozy? Here's some cocoa; I put cinnamon in it. Creak creak creak. Time for that nap. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


I got tons of hate mail for my last blog post Does The World Need Your Bouffon Show? 
Ha ha ha, no I didn't at all. 
But I did get a few people saying things to me like, "Whoa! That took some guts!" 
That took guts? Really? 
Imagining putting on an unnecessary bouffon show! 
Now that would take some guts. 

But seriously. 

I certainly wasn't saying that nobody should make bouffon shows. 
I was just saying, let's take a deep breath and really consider if our audiences need our bouffon shows. I mean, it's a reasonable question. 

But let's move on. No, wait, actually let's not. 

What bothers me about much so-called bouffon work is that it wants to make a point about how racist/sexist/unenvironmental/queerphobic/etc. the world is, and so it casts the audience as the complicit asshole against which to make that point. But as I've said umpteen times, today's audience both isn't that asshole and doesn't feel like being cast as that asshole just to help you make your deep art.

But one thing I definitely am not saying is that we need to stop combining comedy with societal critique. Au contraire. We need a lot of societal critique comedy. More now than ever. But I do want us to look at the way we are using societal critique in our comedy, and where our standpoint is vis à vis the audience. Aimez-vous mon francais? Bah, oui! Donnez-nous les croissants! 

My favorite comedy has a bouffon brain and a clown heart. 

Evidently, back in the day, Clown and Bouffon were very separate things—actually, according to the Old Guard, they still are. So, for example, a lot of Clown is taught and practiced as if it exists in a completely different time and place in which nobody gets raped or racist-ed. I think that's one thing that rankles me about a lot of clown work I see: the omnipresent striped socks, the weird childishness (let's not even talk about the makeup and the noses). What world are these clowns living in? It's a world of nostalgia, I guess, and it's cute, in its way, but it's hard for me to find it funny because it doesn't feel like it's really going on right now. It's not on any particular precipice right now

That's not to say that it isn't potentially risky for the performer; clown work is always vulnerable and thus risky (if it's any good at all). If the performer is present with the audience and offering something of herself that she doesn't usually show the world, then, sure, she's on a personal precipice, and we have to give her props for that. 

But the thing that separates cute-clown-work-that-doesn't-ruin-anyone's-day, from really-hot-feisty-work-that-the-world-needs-to-see, is the bouffon brain.

The bouffon brain is miserable and furious and howling. It sees the state of things and it shakes its fist. But it reads my blog so it knows that no one wants to meet it head-on. It calculates, it schemes, it makes a plan. It picks up a clown in a dive bar and proceeds to fuck that clown in a dirty bathroom stall. It inseminates the soft brain of the clown with its hot jet of bouffon pain. And thus, a clown is born unto the world that is lovable and relevant at the same time. And lo, the world laughs and soils itself with pleasure.

Sasha Baron Cohen is a nice example. I actually had a fight with Gaulier about this, if we're defining fight as He talked and I listened and disagreed with him silently in my heart, which pretty much defines my Gaulier experience. Gaulier said Sasha Baron Cohen, his most famous protégé, was pure bouffon, and I disagree. Cohen's characters are clowns: they're idiots, they fuck up all the time and do the wrong thing but it's always from a place of not-knowing and meaning-well. But Sasha Baron Cohen clearly has a bouffon brain, and he engineers his clown characters to get into scrapes that are provocative and challenging in very specific, targeted ways. 

Now you might be saying, "Bitch, Sasha Baron Cohen is no clown because he doesn't love his audience/targets. He is tricking them." Sure, sure. But,clearly, he entraps his audience/targets somehow, right? They end up trusting him enough to give him what he wants. Sometimes he goes too far and loses their trust. But he wouldn't have any success at all if he just came at those audience/targets with his bouffon brain out in front for all to see. He must be lovable and vulnerable to them, first. 

So love first, like a clown always does. Audiences are the clown's best friends, their heroes.
Be on their side.
Confirm their generally-enlightened world view; keep it firmly in your mind when you create work.
Love them first, and love them long time.
Way before you tell them how fucked they are.

The best advice I ever got, probably ever, was from my English teaching mentor back at the prep school I used teach at. He used to be a lawyer before he became a teacher, and he was a shrimpy little impeccably-dressed man with an air of total magnetic approachability and intimidating-ness all at once. I loved him deeply. He used to say to me, about my students, If they know you care, you can say anything to them. 

It's a principle that I use both in my teaching and in my performing. My students and my audiences have to know, right away, that I see them and that I love them. You have to see them first, or else they won't believe your love. But if you see them, and then you love them, you can take them through all kinds of hell or harsh critique or whatever. You can tell them the truth, if you see them and love them first.

Remember, too, that in order to teach anyone anything, or challenge them in any way, they have to really love you too. Do you see a sea of delighted faces eating up your character's every gesture? Great, you're in a very good place from which to start fucking with them a lil' bit. Don't see that yet? Get there.

You need to be a great clown before you can be a great bouffon.
And if you're already a great clown, then for Satan's sake don't stay locked in the land of striped-socks and whimsical umbrellas!
Get out there and make a point!
The world needs your hot, angry, loving love! 
Stat! Stat! Immédiatement! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019


Oh freaky-deaky left-leaning theater artist with activism in your heart, I know just how it is. 

You're a good person and you really want to make the world better, and you carry around the not-insignificant guilt that you weren't born a climate scientist or an abortion doctor. What can eyeeee do to make the world better? you think, every single fucking day. And it wears on you. You can't help that you love the arts. And so, you go through your life taking your performance classes, scouring Goodwill for your freaky-deaky costumes, and just praying that someday, the activist's path and your path will effortlessly converge. That, just by being you and living your truth, EVEN YOU will find a way into social change. And the world will be better for YOU being here. At last. 

Then you discover Bouffon. You learn about its origins in wicked social critique, its ability to skewer societal norms and to mock the status quo. You're like, THIS IS FUCKING IT. You immediately start building a show about income inequity or global warming or #metoo. You're like, this is what I can do to help the world. 

Oh, I get it, freaky-deaky left-leaning theater artist with activism in your heart (or, FDLLTAWAIYH). It's not easy dealing with the reality that you're a spotlight-hogging narcissist whose big want is for people to pay to watch you cavorting about on a stage. It's a tough mirror to face, and we've all been there. It's not unreasonable that you crave more than that. You see the world bleed; naturally you want to stanch that wound. You want your Satan-given talent to be for MORE than just your own jerkoff material.

Sure, of course. And good for you! You know the time is past for Hey I Should Make a Solo Show About That Time I Studied Abroad and Learned About Racism. You know it's gone way past Oo Or I Should Make A Solo Show About My Depression/Anxiety/Bipolar Diagnosis. Yes, and you're right about all that! You know, at least, that the world doesn't need a solo show about you. You want to make a show about something bigger than you, and for that, yes, you deserve praise. 

But hold on there, FDLLTAWAIYH. Just hold on a cotton-picking minute (see what I did there? No, the world also doesn't need a show about the time that blogger offended you with her use of "cotton-picking."). Remember that when bouffon was developing as a codified form, or even before that, when it was just a twinkle in some hunchbacked village idiot's eye, lots of people went to the theater. Before television, it was the only excuse to wear that ascot you really liked. Even when Jacques Lecoq was doing it in the 50's and 60's, normals went to theater shows. Maybe even conservative-type people went to theater shows! So maybe there was a chance, back in the 50's or 60's (which, just to do some math for ya, is over fifty years ago) that "the king was in the room", or, to say it another way—if you were doing bouffon fifty years ago, there was a slim chance that someone who needed to be challenged on their shittyass worldview was actually in the audience watching your show. And maybe, just maybe, that old shittyass dude had the potential to be slightly affected—maybe even changed—by your bouffon show. Just maybe. 

Fifty. Years. Ago. 

Now, if I may, a summary of the last fifty-plus years of theater: those people don't go to the theater anymore. 

At all. 

Or more to the point, if you want to make a show that a Trumper might go to, try making Aladdin or Mary Godfucking Poppins. There will be no Trumpers at your weirdass-looking bouffon show. They have too many sports to watch on TV, they have too much Arby's to eat, they have too many tiny-fetus cookies to bake for their anti-choice rallies. You'll never see them at your freaky-deaky show. Period. 

So who is coming to your bouffon show? Who sees your poster and thinks, This is for me! You already know the answer: freaky-deaky left-leaning theater artists with activism in their hearts! Or if they're not artists themselves, they are in queer knitting groups with such artists, or such artists walk their rescue chihuahuas two times a week, or whatever. The room is full of people who want to support you and feel just as you do about our fucked-up world. Actually, it's very possible that the abortion doctors and climate change activists are even in the room, on a short break from all their making-the-world-better. 

In short, your audience is a room full of people who are suffering from all the news telling them how fucked the world is, and they are all doing everything they possibly can to fix our fucked world every day, or at least just to survive it, and they decided to take an hour off from all that activism and pain to drink a goddamn red wine in a plastic cup and see your show. 

And you think this is your moment to be all activist on their asses and teach the audience how fucked up income inequity or sexual harassment is? Um, no bitch. Because every single person in the room already agrees with you, and they don't need your reminder. It's only going to further bum them out. 

You know what they need? They need the fantasy. They need to live in a beautiful world for an hour, in which the underdog is empowered and bathrooms are all equally unisex and sparkling clean. They need a taste of freedom. 

And you can give that to them! The most radical, activist thing you can do on that stage is be your freaky-deaky self in your freaky-deaky dream world, just be as weird as you are and act as if that is 1000% right and accepted and normal already, feel your fantasy and live it loud (and, of course, curate an experience because we're all tired of shows and now we all want experiences). We need success stories of radicalism, not horror stories about how things are now. We know how things are now. The only way any of us are going to have the strength to change the world is if we see How The World Could Be enacted right before our eyes. There's your activism, bitch. That's what you can do for the world. 

That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't make fun and satirize and skewer... you just have to consider who's going to be in the room and what they need, which is different from what the world needs. That's where you must wield your bouffon power not like a blunt instrument but like a scalpel, as my bouffon teacher friend Nathaniel Justiniano likes to say. It's gotta be surgical and it's gotta be precise. 

Otherwise—no matter how many people are in your audience—you're just screaming into an empty room. 
Don't be that bouffon. 

And while we're on the subject, take those foam pads out of your pants. 
But that's a bouffon gripe for another day. 

Monday, January 7, 2019


In the beginning, there was the fourth wall.
And it kept the performer safe, if a bit out of touch.
Now—lo!— the fourth wall has broken! and issuing forth from behind that fourth wall is—behold!—the new immersive performer!
Oh, the mighty power of the immersive performer!
Oh, the mighty FREEDOM of the immersive performer!
And yet, with great power and great freedom—lo! lo!—comes great responsibility!
Verily, it is so! I say unto ye! Lo! 

What follows are a definitely-not-biblically-styled pair of blog entries: one about your rights as an immersive performer, and one about your responsibilities as an immersive performer.

Let's define an immersive performer right now: you don't work with a fourth wall, and so, the entire performance space and everyone in it is part of your performance. You interact with the space and with the audience. You are probably employing some degree of improvisation in your work. You are a rock star of incredible magnitude, and you should be very proud of yourself.

Those of us who perform immersively have needs that are different from fourth-wall performer needs. We have a right to have those needs fulfilled. Our needs need to be fought for if we are to be successfully immersive.

These posts are generally directed at performers who are dealing with traditionally non-immersive venues, producers and tech operators. If you are an immersive performer in an immersive show, with an immersive producer and immersive technicians and one big immersive orgy love fest, well, you're awesome and you're very very lucky—but I'm probably not talking to you.

I'm talking to those of us who are trying to bring immersive performance into venues not initially set up to be immersive. That shit is ROUGH sometimes, and we need to support each other.

As immersive performers, remember, we are on the front line of the Great War between the modern revolution of immersion and the stuck-in-the-mud non-immersion that is taking its sweet time to die. Be gone already, non-immersive performance! But alas, she is stubborn. More on her never.

And so, warriors of immersion on the front lines, on the fault line between immersion and non-immersion, let me list some of your rights— rights no one will hand to you, rights for which you must advocate. Here's the stuff that can get you on the bad side of control-freaky venues and tech operators. Here's where the drama is. But this is also where it happens. This is where we wage the war. You must be brave! You must fight for what is right!

1) YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO GET YOUR TECH/VENUE NEEDS MET SO LONG AS YOU ARE NOT A DICK. As an immersive performer, you are performing heroic feats for an audience that desperately needs you. Contrary to what you want to believe, heroes are high maintenance, by necessity. It's not called Superman's Modest Studio Apartment of Solitude. Being immersive means you have needs: you have sound needs, light needs, staging needs, audience configuration needs. Yes, you've become that performer. Yes, you are higher maintenance than performers who work within a fourth wall. 

And here is the cruel paradox. What producers and venues of historically non-immersive performance want most of all is a wildly enthusiastic audience who will come back and back. What producers and venues of historically-non-immersive performance want is immersive performance, which can touch audience members in a way no fourth-wall performer can! The paradox is that historically non-immersive producers and venues want immersive performance without having to work at it. They know what they want, but they don't know what they have to do to get it, and they don't want you to tell them. 

This is where Being Super Nice, Professional and Direct comes in. You are a superhero with a job to do. Venues and producers and operators can sometimes be super accommodating, and sometimes not at all. It's your job to stand up for what you need, be assertive, be positive, be friendly.

Now, I can be a real snob and a diva. I know what my performance requires from venue techs and event producers, and sometimes I find myself judging the bad ones harshly in my heart. But I'm hoping I don't let them see it. That's when the fourth-wall acting comes in handy! Just drop that imaginary fourth wall between you and that dick venue tech or producer, get what you want, say thank you and hit the dressing room!

2) YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO LIGHTS AND SOUNDS THAT ADD TO THE IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE. Yup, if you are calling yourself an immersive performer, then lights and sounds are not just somebody's else's business; they're yours too. You cannot always do much about lighting in non-immersive spaces—short of bringing your own, which I've heard is a thing some geniuses do—but you owe it to your immersive performer self to do something. You can get the house lights on low, which can help you see audience members if you're on stage, or illuminate you if you're going into the crowd. You might be able to get some sort of special aimed just where you want it. You get to be in charge of the lighting for your performance, and any adjust you can make will make your performance that much more immersive!

And yes, you probably need your own microphone. Sometimes venues have good mics, some don't, but do you really want to leave the sound of your performance up to that much chance? No you don't. Personally, I have an expensive-ass wireless headset mic and I like it that way. I use a Countryman E6 mic and a Sennheiser wireless pack. The Countryman is great because it's super comfortable to wear and it's so small that it doesn't get in the way of my facial micro-expressions. My Sennheiser receiver/transmitter pack runs on rechargeable double A's, which is great because when I give my receiver to the sound tech, he doesn't have to worry about plugging it into power as well as plugging it into the sound system. Sound techs always seem pleased to have to worry about one less plugging responsibility.

Do I have friends who have super cheap mics and like them? Yes I do.
Is my expensive-ass mic actually better than theirs in terms of sound quality? I don't really know. I think so.
Am I better than my friends? No, I am not.
We are all one, and your mic choice is your business.
But yes, you have to soundcheck that shit, either way.

3) YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DESIGN AUDIENCE LAYOUT (IF IT'S FEASIBLE). Producers and venues think about the bottom line when it comes to audience: how many people can they squeeze in to make that money. They are NOT thinking about maximizing the drama of your entrance. They are NOT thinking about the best way you can be seen when you're in the audience. They aren't really considering the audience's experience—because fourth-wall performance deals in the illusion that the audience is not even there—so of course they don't matter! Producers and venues might even resent you for thinking about the audience's experience, or for daring to interact with them. They may not want you interacting with the audience because that makes them think of lawsuits. So if you want an aisle up the middle, if you want a special reserved chair, if you want the chairs arranged in a loose semi-circle, whatever you want, you gotta ask nice in advance and hope for the best. Seriously, the more in-advance you can contact a venue and let them know what your immersive needs are, the more likely you are to get what you want. And you also gotta be prepared for no special favors, because of ye ol' bottom line. You might be faced with the lamest, most-fourth-wall-enforcing seating plan in the world, and nobody will accommodate you, and you gotta kill anyway. 

Nobody tells you that you have to advocate for your performance to make it as immersive as possible, but you 100% do. The more you can curate the experience for the audience, and attend to every aspect, the more in control of the immersion experience you will feel—and that radiates into your performance. If you have asserted your immersive rights before the show, you will glow in all dimensions when it's your time to shine.