Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bonus Feature: Anna Gustafson on SheDot

“Behind the Scenes”, or “Inside the Delivery Room”?  
by Anna Gustafson

We’re having a baby. It’s a girl. She is the SheDot Festival, Toronto’s First Festival of Funny Women, and she is our first.  

Comedians are by nature very open with our lives. We offer it up every time we grace a stage. Each new brave endeavour is, in part, laying our reputation on the line. That is if you still have a good one intact to lay. It’s a giant leap, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Like parenthood. There is no 'kind of' pregnant, or 'kind of doing a festival'. This is only 'All in'.  

This baby was conceived in the feverish part of 2013. There were drinks. A blissful honeymoon phase followed where we believed we could simply call up comedy superstars and they’d be unfailingly available and generally affordable. Like us. 

These 'Dotters' are starting to feel like daughters. We want them to do well.

There is a tipping point where you go from 'doing something new next year' to a full out, all encompassing, marathon of hope. It’s when passion goes from being a conversational buzz word to blood on your knuckles. And it’s fantastic.  

You’ll have first time parent thoughts like, 'I probably shouldn’t have a glass of wine, because I have decisions to make that need to be made with clarity'. When does an artist ever say that? Out loud? To a list of industry contacts? So many firsts.

Baby metaphors aside. This is the best way for me to explain what it’s like behind the scenes. This recent experience.  

I’m standing at a local show and I feel a shift from being just a comic at the back of the room. The comic, slightly pissed that someone got a jump on a premise that they’d been stewing over. The one experiencing that little simmer of resentment toward the one on stage, because they are the one that is not.  

The shift that happened was to that of pride.  A few of the performing comics were ones that I’d helped jury in to be part of this festival, and I was rooting for them. I told my pal, “She’s one of our Dotters.” We’ve gone a bit wild with the “dots” and the “she’s” in the delivery of our message. We’ll drive with suspended creative licenses for a while after this. 

These 'Dotters' are starting to feel like daughters. We want them to do well. We want them to know how valuable their contribution to this art form is. Someone needs to start telling women this more often. We see our own resemblance in the new faces. It’s time to make amends for what some of us didn’t get in our upbringing.  

This project truly has been a labour of love. A long, gruelling, and painful one, where we screamed for drugs. 

This baby will be born the weekend of May 1-4. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I may or may not have experienced fantasies of abandoning this baby on the side of the road and going at Cinco De Mayo like a San Diego teenager across their first border.  

I kid. It’s my job. Bracing for anticipated postpartum.

We’re already planning for another. They say your second is much easier.  

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