Wednesday, June 11, 2014

In a Word... Gillian English on Drag Queen Stole My Dress (Fringe)

A Theft in the Theatre
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Gillian English is the Artistic Producer and founder of The Theatre Elusive. Originally from Nova Scotia, she trained in theatre at Dalhousie University and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). A Toronto based performer; she has headlined the London Big Comedy Go-To, and The Spring Fever Festival. In the past, Ms English has been featured by CBC, CTV, The National Post, Time Out New York, NOW! Magazine and many other media outlets for her work in  theatre and comedy. She is also the curator of the hilarious online-dating message blog: Recent theatre credits include: Love in the Time of Time Machines (The Theatre Elusive), A Woman of No Importance (Alumnae Theatre Company), Antony and Cleopatra (The Theatre Elusive), I Don’t Like You (The Theatre Elusive), Matt and Ben (The Theatre Elusive), The Wormwood Prince (Next Stage Theatre)

CHARPO:  I guess I’m dumb, but I have only recently learned that some seasoned Fringers consider the Montreal edition as sort of a try-out to iron out the kinks of their show before they go on the national tour. But with you, those kinks have had ample time in performance to be ironed out. Tell the readers of the show’s history.

ENGLISH: My show started a year ago when I decided I wanted to do a one woman show. The idea was to tell the tales of all my ex-boyfriends and call it "The Failed Relationships of Gillian English". Then a drag queen stole my dress about half way through the Montreal Fringe Festival, and I got pretty cranky about it. I also realized that "Drag Queen Stole My Dress" is an awesome title. And I'm all about the title. So I went home and blurted all my stories on to the page. It was stupid long and had no story or message, it was just a bunch of stuff that's happened to me. And I left it at that for awhile, I needed to just think about it. And then in December, I started to tinker with it a bit, not much, just little bits here and there. And then in January, I got an email asking me if I wanted to be a last minute replacement at the New York Frigid Festival. So I naturally said yes, promptly panicked, and started editing. I had less than 5 weeks to get everything ready. I had been operating under the impression that I had until June to be ready. I don't think I've ever been so stressed in my life. I didn't manage to calm down about it until my second performance in New York. But the audience response was great, and my Colombian corset helped me into my old wedding dress. So now I'm just excited to do it again. There are a few things I'll be changing in this run, but not much; I have a solid idea of what I'm doing now, at least I think I do. I hope I do.
(photo by Dahlia Katz)

CHARPO:  How was the New York run and how does it compare with a Fringe run (PR, getting people in, etc).

ENGLISH: New York is always a great hustle, but flyering people in March on the streets of New York can be a tough racket. Sometimes an audience member on their way out of the show would a take a flyer because they were surprised that I was even trying. Then you get people who just don't engage, which you find everywhere, but there's a much higher concentration in New York. There's more emphasis on getting big media coverage, lots of reviews, interviews and articles to build interest on a much wider level than one-to-one interaction. It was super cool to hear "We saw your picture in Time Out Magazine, so we decided to check out your show." but I really like meeting someone on the street/ in a shop/ at a restaurant; and then giving them my pitch, and seeing them show up to a show. Whatever gets bums in seats.

I remember I was waiting to flyer the audience of one show on their way out, and the next artist in the venue was waiting next to me. She couldn't figure out what I was I doing; standing outside in the cold with a stack of cards for my show. I explained that I was flyering, and what that entailed, and her face just lit up and she exclaimed "OH MY GOD! That's such a good idea!" I couldn't help it, I said "Wow. This is literally your first rodeo, isn't it?" 

CHARPO: You’ve been to Montreal Fringe before and I’ve seen you on Facebook and Twitter having very much liked the experience. Why is that?

ENGLISH: I love the Montreal Fringe for a bunch of reasons; primarily because it kicks off my summer on a super fun note. Montreal is such a beautiful city; the food is good, the beer is plentiful, and everyone at the festival is kicking off their summer too. It's a giant party with theatre, music, art and late night bagels. How could that not be a great time?? Even last year when we were doing "Love in the Time of Time Machines" and weird stuff kept happening (drag queen stole my dress,) it didn't mean I wasn't having a blast. The people are what really make this festival one of my favourites. The daily wrap- up at 13th Hour also provides a great party atmosphere, and fosters the artistic community that comes with a Fringe festival. I can't say enough good things about it.

CHARPO: Now tell us about the show specifically and what the audiences here can expect.

ENGLISH: My show is about the refusal to admit that I was wrong. Four years ago my relationship fell apart after years of me desperately holding it together through sheer force of will. I hadn't wanted to be in that relationship anymore for ages, but we were engaged, and I refused to admit that I had made a mistake. And in that refusal, I was willing to sacrifice who I was as a person if that meant that everyone still thought we were the perfect couple. My story is about how I got to that point, and  how I finally realized that it's ok to admit you made a mistake. Go ahead, cancel your wedding, let your parents go on your honeymoon, it's for the best. Really.

Also, it's about how a drag queen stole my dress. She also refused to admit that she had made a mistake, but that's her lesson to learn.

CHARPO: I have heard you did not win any other lotteries. So what will happen with the piece after this run?

ENGLISH: After this run, I'm doing an independent run at The Storefront Theatre in Toronto from August 5-10. I'm on a double bill with the very funny Jessica Fitzpatrick and her show "Cupidity". After that, I'll probably line up a few nights in Halifax depending on when I go home to visit my family. Beyond that, I'm not sure; the dress is already starting to get a little janky; wedding gowns weren't built for black box theatre stages, but as long as it still looks kind of white, I could consider taking it on the road again next year. But I'm working on a new show called "Get Around Me" about my experience playing Australian Rules Football. The costume for that show will be much more portable. So that's the plan, this year y'all get my romantic comedy, and next year we'll have the sports movie, but as a play, obviously. 

June 13 - 21

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