by Ottawa Fringe
June 21, 2008
We have a very short window to talk with Amy Salloway, whose performance of Does this Monologue Make Me Look Fat? at last year’s fringe yielded an excellent response.
“I live in Minneapolis, I was born in Boston, I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and then moved to Columbus Ohio, and then Seattle for seven years. Then in a fit of bad decision-making, I moved back to Minneapolis. The entire time I’ve lived there I’ve sworn I would move away any minute, but I’ve been there for nine years. Any minute now. I like the bustle of New York city, or the edgy busy-ness of Seattle. Minneapolis is warm and cozy, and the parks are so pretty, and that’s great and lovely. Theatrically I feel like I’m getting away with too much. I want someone to kick my ass and force me to create in different modes and styles and with different tools than I am, and those people don’t seem to be in Minneapolis.”
Amy tells us about her latest show, Circumference. “This is the third show I’ve created. All of my shows have had, to a greater or lesser degree, themes of being a misfit, body image, fat and size acceptance… the way that our external selves shape the rest of our lives. Circumference is the most direct take on that, that I’ve written so far. It’s the story of the year that I spent trying to get approved for gastro-bypass surgery. And I didn’t get approved. It’s the story of everything that happened over the course of that process, of having gotten to the last-ditch place of having to change my appearance… of “I cannot live with this body any more.” The show includes flashbacks to seventh-grade gym class, so it’s really about how body image was shaped, what happens to it in the future, and what happens when you reach that point of no return and needing things to change.”
“I worry that people think a couple things: that they think that it’s this horrible self-indulgence festival, where we all will take out our violins and cry for me. And it’s not, I swear it’s not, even though in describing it, it might sound that way. And two, I worry that they’ll think “oh, it’s a woman’s show.” It’s so not a woman’s show. There are no high-heels, there is no lipstick, there is nothing pink, there are no songs – Bonnie Tyler (oh, wait, there is) – no Indigo girls, no “I’ve been to paradise,” no “Sex and the City,”…. So men, be not afraid.”
In college, Amy realized her love for issue-oriented theatre, for shows about things that were happening right now. “I had a much greater desire to be part of a grassroots company that would tour from one coast to the other doing shows in communities along the way, rather than on Broadway in a pretty costume. I did a lot of improv and educational theatre. I played a lot of forest animals… a salmon, a dying mosquito…”
How do you prepare for the role of a dying mosquito?
“The show was about mosquitoes, and we all made our own proboscises. We had a little workshop session and we practiced flying, it was fun. I’m still not sure I’d call a mosquito my friend, but they do have a whole culture, that’s for sure. In this play the elder mosquitoes raised the younger mosquitoes; they trained them in etiquette and decorum.”
Amy’s experience in one-woman performance pieces began in Seattle. “When I moved to Seattle I found wonderful amazing people that were doing the kind of work I loved so much, and a lot of them were multi-talented and started doing solo performances. They were using their own lives as theatre material. They blew me away, their ability to share their own lives on stage. I thought, “God, it would be so amazing to do that, and I should never do that.” I thought it would be torture for the audience to look at me for an hour. I thought I could mount a tv on me so if they got bored, they could watch the tv. I thought that for a really long time. When I moved back to Minneapolis, I didn’t have those same inspiring people around me, I didn’t have those people to look up to. The apex of incredible talent was taken away, so I didn’t feel it looming like an anvil. Instead there was this void in which I could create without the same degree of comparison and judgment. I started writing short pieces to perform, and I finally tried out a piece; the first performance had to be the greatest terror I have ever felt. I’m going to walk out there all alone, and no one is going to save me, no one else knows these lines. But it was incredible.”
As most fringe festivals are run with the lottery system, Amy unfortunately didn’t get in to the fringe festival in her hometown, the Minnesota Fringe Festival. “It was like I got divorced or something. My friends were saying “Amy, why aren’t you in the fringe? It looks like you’re not in the fringe? What’s wrong?” … “Well, the fringe and I have been having some problems for a while, and we thought it was better to try a separation…” but no, I did apply. I didn’t get drawn. I knew it was going to happen eventually.”