Wednesday, July 10, 2013

In a Word... Katherine Sanders on Spoiled Child (Fringe: Winnipeg, Vancouver)

The Charity of Celebs
There should be a sense that nobody but you could have made this piece.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Katherine Sanders has been creating, producing and performing her own work for 15 years. Born and raised in Calgary, she has a background in ballet and modern dance, a Bachelor's degree in Theatre and a career as a creator, teacher and producer. Fringe audiences may have seen Katherine in Monster Theatre's 2006 hit show, Jesus Christ: The Lost Years, which she co-wrote and starred in with Ryan Gladstone. Ms Sanders was also in the inaugural Monster Theatre show, Fairy Tale - A Choose Your Own Adventure, which opened at the Winnipeg Fringe in 2000. Apart from Monster Theatre, Calgary audiences have seen Katherine perform at Loose Moose Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, and One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre. Katherine's work has been produced and performed as part of One Yellow Rabbit's High Performance Rodeo, and she was nominated for a Betty Mitchell award for her performance as Louise in Marion Bridge at Alberta Theatre Projects. Since moving to Toronto in 2006, Ms Sanders has performed at the Diesel Playhouse, Unit 102, and at the Stirling Festival Theatre, where she was able to realize a dream by portraying the characters of Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett, Joanne Worley, and Cher in a 1960's comedy revue. She also has a career in Theatre for Young Audiences, having toured extensively with Quest Theatre for Kids, taught as an Artist-in-Residence with Trickster Theatre in schools across Alberta, and currently produces the HarbourKIDS programme at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. She is also the Artistic Director of NachoMama TYA, which produced her play The Super Secret Subway Society to critical acclaim at the Toronto Kids Fringe in 2012.

CHARPO:  Before we get into the meat and potatoes I want to congratulate you on your web site which is not only there (when so many Fringe companies have none) but is also spiffy as hell! It seems to me you're going into this Fringe thing with eyes wide open - is that the case?

SANDERS: Thank you very much! Not everyone is as lucky as me - I have a very talented friend who did my website for me and went WAY beyond the call of duty. I have done the Fringe before, several times, but it's been seven years since my last tour, and longer since I last did a solo show. I learned the hard way that it's not enough to just show up, slap up a few posters and let your audience find you. My first solo experience, at the Edmonton Fringe in 2001, was a real eye-opener. I also work as a producer and presenter, and I've seen plenty of artists who don't make it easy for people to find them, with websites, bios, high-res images etc. I knew that if I waded back into Fringe-land, I wanted to do it right. Glad you noticed!

Tell a good story, from your own unique perspective.

CHARPO: Now - in the old days a solo play was where Fringe went to die but now it's high art with some of the great talents of the world participating. How do you get above the noise of this kind of competition?

SANDERS: I think the important thing is to tell a good story. As long as you have that, it doesn't matter who you are or how well known you are, the audience will be with you. It also needs to come from a personal place. There should be a sense that nobody but you could have made this piece. That's how you stand out, I think. Tell a good story, from your own unique perspective.

CHARPO:  Now tell us specifically about the genesis of the work. 

SANDERS: There are two things I think about a lot that made their way into this work:
a) "First World Problems" and whether I have the right to complain about them (answer: not really).
b)  things that I wish I could change about the world, and I mean CHANGE – not donate money to, or raise awareness of, but singlehandedly, permanently change, right now.
Out of point a) evolved a character who personifies "First World Problems". I drew on my own background - I'm the only child of two only children. We weren't rich, but I was used to being the centre of attention. So I exaggerated my insecurities about that upbringing to create Spoiled Child - a child star who has now grown up to find that life isn't as easy as it first seemed. I also thought a lot about reality TV stars - people who are famous for being famous, and whose future wealth depends on staying that way.
Point b) introduces Spoiled Child to the kind of huge problem I wish I could fix. A controversial issue that affects the future of the human race and all species on this planet, which requires global cooperation to solve, (not to mention universal agreement about its existence). Throw in a cute animal for a mascot, and you have Spoiled Child Saves the Polar Bears. 
Ah, the $64,000 question. Of course I'm not ready!

CHARPO:  On one of its apparent themes: do you see celebrity involvement as a help or hindrance to important causes; it seems to me - as much as I admire him - people are getting a bit tired of Bono.

SANDERS: Celebrities DO bring awareness to a lot of things that we otherwise wouldn't have heard about, and I think the culture of that reflects more poorly on us regular citizens than it does on the celebs. Do we really need Bono to tell us to care about something? Do we only care because he does, or seems to? In general I have no issue with celebrities endorsing causes. For the most part I think it helps more than it hurts.

What I'm satirizing in this work is celebrities who think they're making MORE of a difference than they are. Like Dennis Rodman figuring he'll just go and hang with Kim Jong Un, and sort out this whole North Korea problem. Coming back telling us "Kim's not such a bad dude." And I'm also poking fun at the idea that ALL a celebrity has to do is bring awareness to a cause. The rest of us will donate our little bit of money, but these wealthy celebrities just have to go somewhere and be photographed, or write a song, and they feel they've done their bit.

CHARPO:  Are you ready?

SANDERS: Ah, the $64,000 question. Of course I'm not ready! I've still got 18 days! It's the FRINGE!

Ha ha, just kidding. Yeah, I'm ready. I'm ready to get back out there and join in the fun. I'm ready to tell this story to an audience and see how they respond. I'm ready to learn more about what it is I'm trying to say and figure out how to say it better. I'm making this show as awesome as I possibly can, but there's always room for improvement. That's what the Fringe is all about. Put a show on its feet. See how it goes. Make it better. Do it again. With lots of beer tent time in between.

CHARPO: Now the tough one: why should someone see your show (i.e.: the quick-pitch)?

SANDERS: It's a bizarre and hilarious satire about celebrity, charity and cute animals, featuring music, mystery, and Margaret Atwood. The ending is in the title. Spoiled Child Saves the Polar Bears. How does she do it? You have to buy a ticket to find out!

Spoiled Child is at the Winnipeg Fringe and the Vancouver Fringe

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