Teasing out Taboos

Guest Post by Morro and Jasp do Puberty creators/performers Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis

“I was just going to the bathroom and my whole life changed forever – now every month I am basically dead for a week” – Morro

Why would two clowns put on a show about periods? Well, let’s look at a few situations to answer that:

We are talking to a friend on the street about flow and she says “Eww too much info”; buying tampons at the grocery store, the teenage boy at the checkout counter gives us uncomfortable looks; when we need it the most, there is no sign on the subway that says “Priority seating for those having severe menstrual cramps who may vomit from the pain.”

morro_and_jasp_do_puberty-web-650x650So many people deal with periods. Like half of them (actually 49.5% according to the World Bank estimate in 2015). So what gives?! Get over it. We have blood that comes out of our vaginas every 28 days or so – give or take depending on multiple factors like hormonal imbalances and/or stress or how regular one’s flow is (one time one of us skipped for three months because she was really not sleeping well and another time the other menstruated for a month straight). Basically it’s a pretty sensitive ecosystem and even what you eat can affect it – and it’s biological! Sometimes it sucks and it is a bodily secretion which needs maintenance and care and sometimes it’s freaking painful but that doesn’t mean we should feel ashamed or like it’s something we can’t talk about openly. A history of cultural shifts, perspectives and practices have led us to feeling grossed out by periods and as though it should be a big dirty secret, but it’s time to work on changing that and celebrating the shared experience that really affects the entire global population (in one way or another).

What is theatre for if not to reach into the deep dark corners of our minds and beings and shine a light on the cobwebs that reside there? … Well not cobwebs exactly, but uneasy, queasy, not-so-comfortable feelings.

morro_and_jasp_productionJimMoore

Photo credit: Jim Moore

When we first debuted this show at the Winnipeg Fringe in 2008, we were nervous beyond belief. After years of doing kids’ shows featuring our clown alter egos, we were having crisis after crisis about doing something so yucky and intimate. But we were blown away by the response. Of course, there was the odd person who was rather grossed out by it all, but for the most part, the feedback we got was about how relatable it was. This slowly started to peel back the layer of taboo that wrapped the subject of menstruation like an under-ripe banana peel. Then when we performed the show in Toronto in 2009, we still had fear about bringing periods into the spotlight, but were buoyed by the response we’d had in Winnipeg. After that run, an 85-year-old woman thanked us for doing the show and said, “In my day, we couldn’t talk about those things. This was liberating.”

Though it seems strange that talking about such a commonplace experience should be liberating, our experience at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer reminded us that it is still a risque topic for a lot of people. People’s reactions varied: from being so grossed out by the poster that they didn’t even want to see the show; to seeing the show and admitting (sometimes publicly in reviews) that they were still uncomfortable with the subject of the body; to being excited to celebrate periods with us. But the complicated reactions to the subject matter just reminded us how important it is to keep doing this show. And to keep making theatre that confronts all the things we, as artists and members of society, may find yucky or difficult or “off-limits”, because that’s where the juiciest material lives (no pun intended… maybe a little intended).

We are excited to see how Winnipeg reacts to the show today in 2016. Hopefully lots of people come out to celebrate the body with us because it’ll make for a fun party. We also hope, however, that people who feel uncomfortable with menstruation come out and are able to laugh and feel all the feelings surrounding the topic with us – after all, we did write the show out of those conflicting feelings of celebration and unease, grappling with them in ourselves as creators and writers.

“It’s a beautiful time for a woman where womanness is blooming and reaching its fullest womanly potential” – Jasp

Catch this hilarious look at the best period of your life, Morro and Jasp do Puberty at FemFest 2016, September 17 – 24, 2016 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For tickets visit femfest.ca or call 205-586-2336.

Great Theatre – Fringe and FemFest

Great Theatre Begins at the Fringe But Certainly Does Not End There!

Next week the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival begins! It’s been a while since Sarasvàti Productions was able to produce at the Fringe but FemFest in September makes our summer a little crazy. On the plus side it means our team get to enjoy the Fringe and see a large number of great shows. Our Artistic Director, Hope McIntyre, is excited to see work by some of her former students as well as the many talented Winnipeggers she has worked with before. Our volunteers will be out in full force distributing surveys and buttons in order to start the FemFest buzz. Look for the survey boxes at Urban Forest and the Winnipeg Free Press Café.

survey box photo2

There is also a large number of FemFest artists who are in the Fringe.

  • Megan Andres is directing our short piece The Exchange at FemFest and is involved with 3 Fringe shows (Offices by Ethan Coen, Kissing Sweet & Other Silliness by John Guare and Raising Roger an original play by local writer C. Jones for which she served as dramaturg)
  • Nan Fewchuk will be acting in our short-list reading series and can be seen in Dog Act at the Fringe produced by her own Nancan Boogie Productions
  • Talia Pura’s new play Perfect Love will be read at FemFest and she is performing in Rope at the Fringe.
  • Brittany Thiessen will be performing a new devised piece at our opening cabaret plus performing in Harold and Vivian Entertain Guests, see her Fringe in Quickies with Chekhov
  • Speaking of Harold and Vivian, playwright Jessy Ardern’s company The Struts and Frets Players is Fringing with The Hounds of Ulster
  • David Fox is also in Harold and Vivian and will be playing Tommy in The Who’s Tommy produced by Winnipeg Broadway Theatre
  • Melanie Dahling is doing stand-up for one of our cabarets and can be seen in her own Fringe show Dirty and True
  • Our production assistant, Jonathan Kindzierski is stage managing both Quilters and The Collectors
  • In fact almost all of our production team is also doing Fringe shows or venue tech work
  • Plus we are still confirming other actors and artists!
  • Plus dozens of past FemFest artists we can’t wait to see again!
  • Plus some of our friends will have FemFest ads in their programs including fellow WIT (Winnipeg Independent Theatre) member Theatre by the River who are producing 7 Stories!

So check out the Fringe and then save the dates of September 14-21 for FemFest!

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