Kirsten Vangsness – Cleo, Theo & Wu – The List
Powerhouse storyteller Kirsten Vangsness (the unforgettable Penelope Garcia for those who are fans of CBS’ Criminal Minds) is bringing two very different yet equally barmy shows of female empowerment in rep and under the umbrella of FEMPIRE to this year’s Edinburgh fringe Festival. CLEO, THEO & WU sees Lucy in a race to save the universe, aided by a cast of creatively reimagined superheroes from ancient history. MESS covers topics as seemingly incongruous as visible quantum objects, kitten hating fathers, linoleum patterned mothers, hypocritical Jesus freak teenyboppers named Tiffany, imaginary monsters and Christian rock, in its celebration of the disorder in our lives.
Questions for Cleo, Theo & Wu
Can you tell me a little about the historical personalities that you are working with, and why they you took them on?
Cleo, Theo and Wu features Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty, Theodora of the Byzantine Empire and Cleopatra of ancient Egypt. I took these three on after listening to an Audible Great Lectures course about women in history, as in this nine hour lecture, those were three of the most notable stories. The sound of the three names together kept going through my head. They all had some of the same issues with how they were painted – power hungry, bloodthirsty, sex starved – and they made a lot of the same big wonderful game-changing power moves in history.
In terms of making work from a feminist perspective, are there any particular challenges or problems that are caused by the way that theatre is structured, either organisationally or in the very format of performance?
I don’t think there are any challenges, at least not anything that I don’t put upon myself. I’m a theatre girl through and through, and I think the nature of creating theatre is community building. Each community or village you create differs show by show and project by project. Unless I do a project where the director is only looking at the women in the room like they’re just pretty faces or not as capable. It does not happen as much in theatre as it does in other mediums.
QUESTIONS FOR MESS:
Mess seems to be up for a bit of formal experimentation: what was the inspiration for a show that weaves chaos and disorder into the fabric of the show?
MESS was inspired by a TED Talk I saw from Aaron O’Connell called Making Sense of a Visual Quantum Object. What was so interesting to me about it was the part about how the tiniest bits of nature can be in two places at the same time. Since we are all made up of quantum bits, at least our tiniest bits can be in two places, which made me think of myself being in two places at once. I then weaved it together with the general hard time I have with keeping things orderly, both in and outside of my brain.
Can you tell me a little more about the inspiration for the show in Making Sense of a Visible Quantum Object?
Aside from the TED Talk, I was inspired by stuff that happened in my childhood and the way I feel on a day-to-day basis. I wrote this show, and do this show, to practice how I make my dreams come true and how I do things I want to do when there is a very reasonable noise telling me I shouldn’t or don’t have a right to do those things.
What encourages you to continue working in the monologue form?
Well, MESS came about because I wanted to make something that I didn’t have to bother anyone else about or rely on anyone’s schedule to create. With filming Criminal Minds, this format was a brilliant way to make sure I could still perform and also deal with my crazy schedule because I would just be rehearsing with myself. I think that monologue is compelling when you can exchange energy back and forth with the audience and you’re in control of the whole thing – speed, emotional weather of the room, etc. I was also drawn to this format because I’m a big journal writer, and through that, I have developed in myself a way of processing information and sort of dialoguing with my own demons, thoughts and memories. Since that’s how it presented itself to me, it just seemed like a natural way to present it to the audience.
Kirsten Vangsness performs in ‘Cleo, Theo & Wu’ and ‘Mess’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1st – 26th (in rep). Tickets and more information for Cleo, Theo & Wu: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/fempire-cleo-theo-wu-by-kirsten-vangsness and Mess: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/fempire-mess-by-kirsten-vangsness