BWW Interview: Paige Vanzo of WOMAN V. INTERNET at CMAP Says It's Piece of Theatre Unlike Any Other in Detroit!
Woman V. Internet, the 2016 Audience Favorite Detroit Fringe Forward Festival winner, opens this weekend at Carrie Morris Arts Productions (CMAP) for a limited engagement is a poignant and somehow hilarious look into our cultural mirror. The show explores what it means to be a female in online and public spaces. "It's just sort of a ridiculous look of the things that happen to women when they get behind the screen," said Paige Vanzo, playwright and director. "I honestly just got tired of being angry hearing and seeing the comments so I just started writing." Inspired by the Gamergate controversy, and using real text from chat rooms and forums, the show follows one woman who travels down the rabbit hole looking for answers only to find it changes her life in absurd, hilarious and painful ways.
Vanzo has been working on Woman V. Internet for about two years. "The aftermath of Gamergate was just starting to become mainstream media and every time I heard the news, I was just like that's something I just wrote about. The fact that you see it everywhere and every woman you talk to has had an experience like something in show. Just like the hashtag me too, I never would have imagined that would be out there, but we all knew about it beforehand, just nobody made it mainstream culture as it now," she said. "As I started hearing the interviews on the aftermath of Gamergate, and I didn't even know this was something that happened this way - but I have experienced this myself and every woman I know who has ever been in an online space has - every time you comment on the internet, even sometimes just the topic of a work that you wrote, something that you put out there, it's just opening it up for critique and for targeting form outsides sources. The thing that you hear all the time is, 'oh it's just some loser behind a screen, someone who wouldn't say this to you in person,' but then you also have those instances where you have someone who is doing things online and they show up some place in public and they do become violent, which is the really scary thing."
From the beginning, Vanzo knew she was purposely writing a show that was going to be larger than life and cartoony in order to help the drive the importance of it across to her audience. Inspired by The Complete History of America Abridged, she wanted her show to take a really serious topic such as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and blow it up to a place where it is really cartoony and funny, but it makes the point stick with the audience even more because it is different than reading it out of history books. "The first scene I wrote was actually the one where the computer comes to life and chases the woman around the room," she said. "It set the tone and the rest followed."
Woman V. Internet won Audience Favorite at the Detroit Fringe Forward Festival in 2016 and the prize was a full production at CMAP. "There was a cash prize the year before, but the only thing more valuable to a producer, director, or playwright that is more valuable than cash is space and the resources to be able to do a show, so it's fantastic," said Vanzo. "What they are doing with the Fringe Festival and what they are doing to support artists in Detroit is really special." With her win, Vanzo's show was given the space and budget to remount her show for a limited engagement at CMAP. The 2016 Detroit Fringe Forward Festival Jury's Choice play winner Good Morning, Miriam by Jacquelyn Priskorn was also given the same award by CMAP. Priskorn's show ran for a limited run in November under the direction of Casey HIbbert at CMAP called Lost Memories (a compilation of Good Morning, Miriam and some of her other short plays) because it touched on memory loss, Alzheimer's and dementia.
Woman V. Internet is a limited engagement in Detroit, but on an important topic. A group of talented actors are tackling the amusing, yet difficult subject matter. "The cast is outstanding," said Vanzo. "An amazing cast of improvisers who are really great professional actors that nail every single scene." The full cast includes Mitchell Haba, Alexis Barrera, Ann Macheson, Jeff Priskorn, and Josh Noori. "Plus, if you come see this show, you are going to see a piece of theatre not like anything else in Detroit for a while," she said. "There is use of multimedia. There is a lot of stuff to laugh at even though the subject matter makes you want to cry. Hopefully you can come, loosen up, and really get a new perspective on something by sort of laughing and breathing through it."
Woman V. Internet is currently running until December 17th at Carrie Morris Arts Production (CMAP), 2221 Carpenter Ave, Detroit, MI 48212. For tickets, visit https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3182915 or at the door; $15 suggested donation. Presale is encouraged. Only 20 seats available per performance.