EDINBURGH 2019: BRANDI ALEXANDER Q&A
Seattle-based performer TATIANA PAVELA is bringing her intimate and brutal one-woman show BRANDI ALEXANDER to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This is a primal scream of a show about rape: Howlingly funny and agonisingly uncomfortable.
Tell us a bit about Brandi Alexander
Brandi Alexander is a story about a comedian who is performing the first night of her 1987 comeback tour - and is the opening act for the comedian who assaulted her 5 years before. I describe the show as "stand up gone radically wrong" because while Brandi tries her hardest to comeback with a killer set and confront her rapist at the same time, she is derailed pretty quickly whilst trying to stick to her jokes.
And regardless of where she goes, it's a comeback tour. Brandi goes to these dark places onstage but gives validity to all of it. She needs space for the anger, the brutality and all of the questions that are swirling around. It's a show that tells us not to run away, play nice, shut up and look pretty or put a smile on it... because how is anyone going to release the negative impact of trauma by trying to pretend it doesn't exist? It's a show that urges survivors to truly be wherever they are during their healing process, so that they can rise higher than before. It's her comeback. And oh man, Brandi is back!
Why is this story so important to tell?
This story is important because when Tarana Burke's Me Too movement went viral on social media in 2017, my Facebook feed was filled with #metoo. It's important because Trump has been accused by 23 women of sexual harassment and is still President of the USA. It's important because Dr. Christine Ford gave a powerful, brave testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, and he was still voted onto the Supreme Court. It's important because when I wrote actual comments men have made to me throughout my life in the script, that was the part my husband didn't believe. He couldn't believe that someone would actually say that to anyone else, but women have seen the show and know that those parts are so awful that they must be true. The show is so important because men still don't seem to understand how much bullshit the rest of us have to deal with on an everyday basis.
And in a different way, it's important because it's really tiring as an actress to have to be likeable, beautiful, easygoing, blah blah blah on stage or screen all the time. My god, the worst we are allowed to be is quirky. Can we get the full range of humanity please - the ugly, the humiliating, the parts that make us squirm? If we allow more space for this onstage, we allow more space for humanity in life.
What was the inspiration behind the show?
I started writing Brandi Alexander in 2016 when a friend told me that she was assaulted by a mutual acquaintance of ours. I was struck by the thought that this man could just take whatever he wanted, anything and began to imagine a woman with the same daring. What if a woman operated as this man? What if a woman raped her rapist in retaliation? What if we could take whatever we wanted, with no remorse? Those where the main questions driving the show.
And another inspiration was a motivation to de-normalize rape. As more and more of my friends opened up to me, it started to feel like it didn't mean anything anymore. This was happening to so many people I knew, as well as those in the public eye, and with no repercussion. We hear about it and don't blink an eye. No. That's not normal. I want the audience to experience the show, and hope they never have to deal with rape or any type of sexual harassment again (and not because they turn a blind eye to it; but because we no longer have to experience it every day).
Who would you recommend comes to see it?
Well, it's a children's show, so the whole family really. No that's a joke. Don't bring the kids. The show is 18+ but other than that I want an audience that is open. An audience that is ready to celebrate Brandi's return to comedy. I want an audience ready to engage and think and talk about the show after. Those who are ready to engage, not sit back and tune out. Oh, and those with a dark sense of humor.
What's next for Brandi Alexander after the festival?
Some things are in the works, but nothing I can mention officially. I'd love to develop the show into a web or TV series and have been writing down some outlines and thoughts on that with a favorite fellow writer of mine. I just want to keep bringing this show wherever I can. I performed at NYC's Julliard school and think it would be very good to tour at universities. Skies are the limit!
Tatiana Pavela performs in 'Brandi Alexander' which is at Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 31st July - 25th August (not 12th or 19th). Tickets and more information: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/brandi-alexander