Churn @ Edfringe 2019

Churn is a theater piece that witnesses Shane’s inability and unwillingness to process the death of his younger sister by a school shooter. Using her toys and an imaginary friend he tries to hold on to what was. 

It’s an imaginative show with stuffed animals, toys, and masks. Inspired by the 7 stages of grief Churn is a composition of emotion and imagery that  connects human to th the universal experience of grief and death.

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CHURN (Whimsycube)

Greenside Nicolson Square

2pm Aug 2-24 (not 4th 11th or 18th)

So usually, the blog features interviews with generic questions, or occasionally questions based on press releases and my massive intellect. However, I am currently following a particular obsession, and these questions reflect that. I apologise in advance for what might appear as a sort of mania in my questions – oh, and I publish every word (including this)…

I am a week into the Fringe and the paranoia is not just starting, it is running the show. What on earth made you come to the Fringe, and do you want to go home yet?
In our sister publication, the edinburgische dramaturgy, I published an intelligent article that picked up on the poor representation of BAME artists at the Fringe. I published it, and totally love it, but I didn’t write it. And the designer made a beautiful headline that said ‘No More Excuses, the Fringe is Racist.’ Part of me hates getting into this conversation, because my natural reticence wants to avoid conflict (and there are also issues around me being the big shouty critic, again). But what can we do to address this problem? 
Here’s part of the problem: me. I am asking you to make a statement about this, but why can’t I respect your right not to have be a representative of something? 
The subject matter of Churn is pretty serious: guns and grief. What kind of approach did you take to the material, and is that reflected in the dramaturgy of the work?
And do you feel that theatre is a good place for provoking conversation? What do you want the audience to feel, experience and do afterwards?
I am really sorry about this. The last two get back to my generic questions a bit more…
I will do my best to answer the questions that you have forth. But I’ll start with the biggest thing first.
 Do I think the Fringe is racist?
I haven’t read the article that you referenced so I can only speak from my experience here. It’s my first time at the Fringe and I’m an international performer. A black male from the United States. I haven’t experienced any overt racism here. But the Fringe is very white. Extremely white. And at times overwhelming white. Compounded with the fact that the festival’s  location is an predominantly white city, doesn’t make it any easier for a person of color to not feel like a tiny dark speck in a city of white. While out flyering I’ve had tourists, who were people of color, engage with because there was no one else on the Royal Mile who like them and  they were shocked from the lack of diversity.
There is something disappointing about coming to LARGEST live arts festival in the world and it feels like business as usually. White faces in all the queues, poster after poster of white performers plastered every where.  And yes I find the occasional brown face staring back at me from poster, but not often. Being the only person of color in the audience or looking out into my audience and seeing no people of color. Its hard not feel self-conscious.
Is it racism?  Or my own paranoia? Although the individuals working in Fringe organization are very lovely people, The festival has grown into a massive machine that’s apart of political and commercial ecology that never really benefits BAME artist. Or women, or LGBTQ if you really want to be honest. I think the common misconception about racism is that  its some bigoted person saying mean or nasty things or being overtly discriminatory. But racism in modern times is extremely complex, its money, power, economics, and social class. And lets be clear BAME aren’t the major in those catergories either. Sorry if that’s a bit long winded.
To address the problem Fringe has to take an honest look at its festival and see where its heading and make changes. That may require them as an organize to have a serious look about how the festival is programmed. If they are okay with the poor representation of BAME artist then they will do nothing.
But you know, no one wants to talk about race. Its too messy.
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 What on earth made you come to the Fringe, and do you want to go home yet?
I came to the fringe, because its a place where I’ve always wanted to performed. For me this festival has represented the height of creativity and boundary pushing on stage. And in a way it marks a milestone for me artistically and professionally because I’ve wanted to perform here since being a teenager. Finally I have arrived.
 
I’m not quite ready to go home yet. I will admit some days have been trying. This is festival a lot work and not always fun.
The subject matter of Churn is pretty serious: guns and grief. What kind of approach did you take to the material, and is that reflected in the dramaturgy of the work?

Are guns serious? We watched hundreds of movies and tv shows with guns  and they seem to be as common as the air we breathe, particularly in the USA. Grief is serious but society treats it as  a taboo. The dark little secret that we all have, but we shouldn’t talk about. I’d honestly say that the story is an exploration of grief and the death by guns is small commentary on the gun control issue plaguing the USA.

I did not want to write  a sad gloomy piece. Instead I wanted to write a show about the effects of grief on a person.  Which are not always sad! What does grief do to the body, mind and spirit. So I composed the show around the seven stages of grief. Each stage affects the character’s mind, body and spirit differently. The play has 7 scenes and each represent one of the seven stages of griefs.  Individually they feel separate like pieces, put them together they create a composition of this human experience.
And do you feel that theatre is a good place for provoking conversation? 
Theater is a great place for provoking conversation. It’s an aspect of humanity that technology can’t replace. It keeps us connected to our humanity.
What do you want the audience to feel, experience and do afterwards?
When my audience watch Churn, I want  them to feel Shane’s pain. I want them to recognize it in themselves. I want them to speak of their own loss not as some taboo secret to be ashamed of but a small cost that we pay for being alive and connecting with each other. I want them to know that its okay and getting through isnt the same for everyone.

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