Review Fix chats with EV Fitzgerald, who discusses her production at this year’s Trans Theatre Festival in New York City, detailing the creative process and letting us know what to expect.
About the Production:
July 13, 2018
Written and Directed By: EV Fitzgerald Starring: EV, Illyana, Julee, Janee, and Egg
The late-night show featuring a mermaid, a ballerina, a very rambunctious 12-year-old, and a bird. We will talk about dreams, desires, and good old fashion community love. It’s the show that’s sweeping the nation! (at least in the host’s mind).
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
EV Fitzgerald: During the Spring of 2017, I found myself in a Dantean dark wood. Overwhelmed by the hall of mirrors that my autobiographical master’s thesis project had created, numbed and frozen by the horrors that were being played out on the global stage, and utterly helpless in a city of fast-moving, short-spoken madness. When I wasn’t walking around with my headphones firmly planted on my head playing Destroyer’s “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” or Unwoman’s “The Heroine”, I was sat in front of my computer escaping into other worlds. At this point in my life, I refused to dream or rather endeavored to forget all of my dreams. Dreams, I thought, had been nothing but trouble for me. Led to nothing but stress and panic and fear. A dark wood…
I found myself utterly and completely lost. I moved to a hot apartment in Bay Ridge for the summer and tried to heal at the encouragement of my family and loved ones.
I think it was overwhelming loneliness that eventually drove me to New York City costumes, or perhaps the display of a Greek Goddess costume that was the spitting image of a costume I had longed to wear in public in the 3rd grade, but couldn’t due to my fear or being mocked for being femme.
I didn’t buy the costume, but I did buy a small little mermaid puppet who I quickly named Julee, with two e’s. I have been told by family and friends that I loved puppets when I was younger. I recall vaguely playing with a bat puppet and flapping her wings open and closed, but I can’t recall the obsession that they referred to. I could feel it, however, when Julee and I went to Union Square.
That day, I spent hours doing something that had terrified me since I had come out as trans the last year. Talking to strangers. Speaking through and with Julee, I asked people about what they were doing at the park and about their dreams. I saw children and adults alike light up as they saw me with the silly little mermaid who talked like a Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
I continued to do this throughout the summer, talking to strangers and telling stories on the side of busy streets. It was then I started to develop a show for my puppets based on some dreams that I had.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Fitzgerald: A lot of people like to work in public. I am fairly similar, to the extreme. Writing to me is a performance itself. Sometimes this means the only way I can come up with material is by literally placing myself in a public space with a script and a puppet, recording what I do and later writing it down. Sometimes this means playing music loudly as I imagine the roaring crowd adoringly view my typing each and every word. In short, my creative process is extremely personal and simultaneously public to the nth degree.
Like my work, my process plays with the ideas about what we hold in private for the sake of practical interaction and what we perform for others to demonstrate the multitudes contained within our minds. My performance on the street, therefore, ranges from conversations mediated through puppets to simply walking around Union Square loudly proclaiming my thoughts as if transforming the park itself into an Inception-like dreamscape of my own mind. I find these reversals (talking to a multiple like a puppet/human or turning the inside into the outside) stimulates humor as well as insights about my own relationship to the world.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Fitzgerald: Many artists remark that their early work is an attempt to work through internalized, personal traumas and obsessions. Guillermo Del Toro recently remarked that “Shape of Water” was one of his first works to break from his habit of playing out childhood fears. Dan Harmon’s “Community” when compared with the personal journey of the creator can be seen as an exploration of the multiple aspects of Harmon’s ever-changing, often self-contradictory worldview. Thus the autobiographical work is not unique in and of itself. I do believe, however, the way in which I invite the general public both in my creative process as well as in my performances to engage with my development is unique and refreshing.
I believe instead of just presenting these childhood notions, regrets, and conundrums, I invite my audiences to participate in (re)constructing them to the benefit of both of us. It is as if I revert to that mindset of a young human who is begging to be instructed while also bursting at the seam with their own thoughts. It is disarmingly engaging, and even without interactive moments invites the viewer like an episode of Sesame Street to grapple with complex, social issues. Some of which may not be presented on a children’s show in a manner like my work. In short, my work invites adults to visit my childhood, not through a singular lens, but rather through the lens they choose to bring. My use of the dual individual (puppet/individual) does not allow the audience to project a single lens onto the autobiographical work.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Fitzgerald: I am literally incapable of seeing anything as a finished product. For a long time, I saw this as a sort of laziness. I would plan and write papers in high school in a single setting and then banish the paper from my thoughts. I realize now this was due to my utter fear that I would like at anything I had written and seen only how far my arrows had fallen from my intended target. As I’ve grown, I’ve obsessively kept and re-edited old work from as far back as 6th grade. This grew into an unhealthy sense that I couldn’t create anything. If I never felt as if something I had done was truly complete, if I couldn’t have my “final night” performance, I wanted no part in it.
I have grown more and more comfortable with the imperfect state in which we leave our artistic detritus through working on this project. Street performance has taught me that I have complete control over whether or not I repeat a series of steps. I am not beholden to the TECH-DRESS-PERFORM pipeline in which I had been reared. This realization, ironically, has made me far more comfortable with the idea of performances as prototypes, or ‘scratches’ as my dramaturge friend calls them.
If I see everything as a scratch, it takes on this final and yet un-final superposition state. Like the one described by Kleist in “On the Marionette Theater”, somewhere in between complete control and total lack of control, otherwise known as the realm of human experience.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Fitzgerald: To be honest, I really want to make a variety show that I’ve described as an “adult Sesame Street with compassion and diversity as a central theme.” Since first viewing Nickelodeon’s “All That” that teen issues were presented in a comical and yet self-serious manner. The early work of Kenan Thompson and Amanda Bynes allowed me to puzzle through the Kafka-esque relationship that children have with adults, especially Queer children. When I was younger, adults always came off as if they were playing this game that I couldn’t understand, but All That let me examine these performances by adults as roles that they took on in order to slice the world into smaller bits sometimes to a comical effect. I hope that I could use my own template of blending over-the-top puppets with human beings for tackling the complicated world of intersectional Queer politics all while making a diverse audience laugh. I would also love to use the show as a platform for other Queer performers to show their own work and exercises their own traumas and conundrums.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Fitzgerald: I will continue to work obsessively on projects that cross my mind. In addition to street performance and acting on stage, I also design video games, draw, and write short stories. I am hoping to fuse all of these disparate fields into a single gesamtwerk like an interactive adventure book with a corresponding transmedia cluster of products. Something like a Telltale Game with a set of online forums, comic books, virtual reality experiences, and other materials. I have a story in mind that’s pretty massive for this project and am slowly building up the material. I am always looking for folks to collaborate with as given my love of large-scale RPGs and fantasy novels, I have the urge to create massive worlds for many people to build things in and also play around with. In the meantime, I will be teaching High School Computer Science to inspire the next generation of techno-witches.