Hoo haa, it’s opening day of the 2018 OTTAWA FRINGE FESTIVAL! I’ve got my tickets booked for tonight, and I think I’m ready for the marathon ahead. I’m totally not, but I THINK I am, so that’s half the battle, right? Last night was the jam-packed Preview Night, where some 42 of the whopping 56 or so shows in this year’s fest got 2 minutes to pitch to their hearts content. I was a great evening, even if I did have to squat literally on the stage to manage to see the festivities. Best seat in the house, really!
One of the shows that sadly missed having a preview last night was DRUNK GIRL from TMI Productions, created by and starring Thea Fitz-James. Fitz-james is a theatre creator and academic who holds a BA in Theatre from McGill, a Masters in Theatre from York, and is currently finishing up a run at Montreal Fringe before hitting our wee Fest. Drunk Girl has already rocked Adelaide, Edmonton (where it was held over) and Winnipeg Fringes, but it had much humbler and very intriguing origins.
“The show came from a performance art piece where I read statistics on female drinking in Canada, and sexual assault, and took a shot every time I read a different entry,” Thea explained, which sounds both amazing and horrifying at the same time, and actually landed her in the emergency room one night. She took a couple of years away from the project then, before revamping the idea into the script for DRUNK GIRL during a month at an artist residency. “I fictionalized the characters. But everything that happens to them happened to me.” And no, she doesn’t drink during the show anymore, although it sounds like we in the audience may want a shot when its over.
The shoe follows two characters, both played by Thea. The first is the titular Drunk Girl, based on herself in high school and university. “She is smart, funny, feminist, and prides herself on be able to drink most people under the table,” Thea describes, “…but, she doesn’t see the blindspots in her arguments. She doesn’t notice the contradictions that she walks like a tightrope.
Contrasting Drunk Girl is ‘The Academic’, a character inspired by the women in her life that Thea looked up to, and described by her as “a professor on women and drinking. She thinks she’s above it. She judges the younger generation, and her students. She shares her knowledge about women and drinking as if she isn’t a part of it all. And yet, she finds her wine will disappear while she discusses Kafka. “ From a strictly Ottawa Fringe perspective, it sounds like the Academic would get along just fine with Rachel & Zoe (Friend plug!)
The show follows these two drinkers along on their respective nights, letting us decide for ourselves which one, as Thea puts it, “…is really the contemporary crisis and who is the feminist.”
And Drunk Girl is, in Thea’s view, an unabashedly feminist play, no bones about it. “I mean, my definition of feminist is simply criticizing patriarchal structures that hurt both men and women. So I don’t really understand how any play can not be feminist these days,” she says, noting that this show “…zeros in on why women drink and drinking related sexual assault. It’s funny, but it’s also heartbreaking. Some might leave thinking it’s not feminist at all. Some might argue with me that the drunk girl is the opposite of feminism. I don’t want to take one side or the other, but I’m interested in having a conversation. If there are people still afraid of the ‘f’ word, so be it. But I think talking about the unbalanced way we structure our world is essential in any political piece.”
The show sounds smart, funny, scary, engaging and fearless, and I can’t wait to see it, and I expect a lot of Ottawa Fringegoers will be right there with me at a play that seems guaranteed to give its audiences a strong reaction, one way or another. As long as there’s a reaction, that seems fine with Thea.
“I hope to make people laugh,” she told me, “…to make them sing, and then to make them really think about the reasons we drink. I don’t have the answers, and I hope that people feel moved enough to start that conversation with me. I hope they see themselves in the drunk girl, as I do. “
DRUNK GIRL plays at La Nouvelle Scene Studio A at the Ottawa Fringe, and premieres this Sunday the 17th. Full schedule and ticket info can be found HERE. Can’t wait to see it, and I’ll see you around the Fringe! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin R (and Baby G)