Naked Ladies by Thea Fitz-James
Telus Phone Museum (10437 83 avenue) August 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23
More information: theafitzjames.wordpress.com
An interview with Thea Fitz-James.
Describe your show in five words.
Naked. Feminist. Intimate. Secrets. Secrete.
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
Basically, Naked Ladies is a cultural history of naked women in performance. When we begin to ask why women get naked on stage—as the show does—we are faced the with the limits of that question. But rather than give up, Naked Ladies asks this again and again, searching for the answer in paintings, in our cultural understanding of ‘femininity’, and in my own life. I like to think of it as that moment when you’re a kid, and you’re not allowed to run around naked any more: how come? Probably because you’re a sexual being object some how… so how/where does that sexualization come from? This is what Naked Ladies attempts to explore.
Since a few people may see that Naked Ladies is a “feminist solo show” – can you talk a bit about what feminism means to you?
Sure can. I’m hoping that gone are the days where ‘feminism’ is a trigger word for people… but none the less: I think feminism is a way of address systems of power that negatively affect the way we live. Systems of power are based on gender or sexuality. We often call this system of power the patriarchy. I don’t really care what the fuck we call it… I think, however, it is pretty clear that there is a system of inequality that negatively effects women and men. I think feminism is a way to address that. I’m a third wave feminist for the kids reading at home. I feel like third wave feminist are kind of the hipsters of the feminist crowd—we are really into using images ironically, in reclaiming the domesticity, and images that the 2nd-wavers hoped to distance themselves from. There’s a lot of energy in it… it’s like we’re dumpster divers for dead ideas, asking: well, what’s so wrong with nudity. Why can’t nudity be feminist?
I’m also a pro-sex feminist…. I think, clearly if I’m doing a show that questions nudity while being naked, and employing images of nudity, there’s some feminist thoughts at play. But I do want to harvest a space for conversation—part of my show questions concepts of agency in pro-sex feminism… what I call the Miley Cyrus conumdrum.
I also secretly love the idea of people coming, literally thinking they are going to see a strip show, and getting this kind of feminist tease. I mean, I think my show probably has more naked ladies than your average strip club, so the idea of someone coming, and not expecting the body to have some kind of agentic presence, if at times questioned and contested… that idea really tickles me.
Naked Ladies asks why women get naked on stage and off. What post-show conversations do you hope the show incites people to have?
I think the show asks more questions than it answers. Which is tough, sometimes… it’s a hard show to unpack. So I guess I hope people will just come and talk to me about it, and talk among themselves. I mean, it’s a facetious question, at the heart of it. There’s no one reason why women do anything, let alone something as provocative as take off their clothes. So I suppose I hope people will start to think about how complex the conversation can be. It’s not as simple as damage, daddy issues, a need to be seen, to be loved, to be fucked. It’s also not as simple as, because it’s feminist, because they’re agents of their own bodies… there’s too much history that makes that positive reading of nudity too tricky! There’s too much porn! So after we unpack the complexity… what do we do with it? I hope post-show convos will attempt that question.
In your press release, you compare Naked Ladies to “a TED Talk that falls apart”. What about the TED Talks comparator resonates with the show?
I think describing it as an ‘academic’ show scares people—people often don’t describe themselves as intellectual, even though they are… And yet we strive for engagements with big ideas, packed in a way that is both accessible and instigating. This is the success of the TED model. So the TED talk makes sense to me, because it does have a certain punchy energy, and lost of thoughts/information, but it’s digestible. In this way, they can be inspirational. Something resonates, or we see something fresh. This is happening, too, with Naked Ladies.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
I do a bunch of theatre, and I made this show because I was curious about the way that female bodies are on stage. I was fascinated with how certain artists seemed to take back their bodies from these weird archaic concepts of what a body should be on stage. These are not new ideas, but I’ve never seen a show that delves into them quite like Naked Ladies does. So, I hope people will come out, and we can talk about art, love, life, the body, and laugh about it too! It’s a serious show, but it’s earnest and funny too. It’s about me, but it’s also about you, and your body. It’s all true, and all made up. It’s feminist and objectifying… it’s rocking the complexity across my body! Which is wild and exciting.
Bonus question: Any names you want to drop who have been involved in your show (Edmonton arts people or otherwise)?
Zoë Erwin-Longstaff is my tireless director. She’s glorious and makes me a better actor and writer and thinker. It’s been exciting to spend time with her on this.
My sister, Megan Fitz-James, is an inspiration to me always, and especially for this show.
So many people to thank along the way… but I’ll leave it there. 🙂
The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.