Step into the spotlight with Grumms, a queer, transgender artist, as we traverse the stages of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and navigate the world of theatre and performance. Join us on a journey that’s as captivating as it is insightful. Grums pulls back the curtain on their award-winning season at the festival and shares the emotional roller coaster that is the month-long experience. They illuminate the mental toll and the comparative nature of the festival, offering a glimpse into a performer’s psyche during what’s considered the most competitive of the Fringe Circuits.
We then pivot our spotlight to the importance of queer stories and how comedy can be an influential tool for expressing significant themes and messages. Grums expounds on their play, ‘Scum & Manifesto’, and how it strives to challenge the gender binary and empower its audience. As we delve deeper into the conversation, we also touch on the rise of anti-trans and anti-queer rhetoric, emphasizing the crucial need for representation and understanding in our current socio-political climate.
Our compelling chat doesn’t stop there. Grums opens up about their personal journey, from understanding their gender identity to coming out as trans. They share intimate details about their ‘found family’ from the fringe tour and the solace they found within these relationships. We also discuss the necessity to educate children on gender diversity, challenging traditional ‘sex ed’ narratives. So, get ready for an engaging conversation that explores theatre, queer stories, and the power of self-identity. All the world’s a stage, and we invite you to share ours in this episode.
Grumms (they/them) is a queer, transgender theatre artist from Treaty 6 Territory. Over the past decade, Grumms has created a body of original queer work and toured it around the world, including across Canada, US, UK, Europe, and Australia. They are the co-creator of SCUM: a manifesto, Girl in the Box, Pack Animals, and Creepy Boys. With Something in the Water, Grumms has toured around the world performing to queer audiences young and old. Grumms is the recipient of the 2022 RBC Outstanding Award in recognition for their contribution to the queer and trans community across Saskatchewan. Outside of self-creation, Grumms also works as a director, puppeteer, and video artist. Next up, Grumms is writing a new TYA puppet musical in collaboration with indie music icon, Rae Spoon, premiering and touring across the prairies in early 2024.
Something in the Water at Next Stage: https://fringetoronto.com/next-stage/show/something-water
Transcript auto generated.
0:00:04 – Phil Rickaby
I’m Phil Rickaby and I’ve been a writer and performer for almost 30 years, but I’ve realized that I don’t really know as much as I should about the theatre scene outside of my particular Toronto bubble. Now I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can about the theatre scene across Canada, so join me as I talk with mainstream theatre creators you may have heard of and indie artists you really should know, as we find out just what it takes to be Stageworthy. If you value the work that I do on Stageworthy, please consider leaving a donation, either as a one-time thing or on a recurring monthly basis. Stageworthy is created entirely by me and I give it to you free of charge, with no advertising or other sponsored messages. Your continuing support helps me to cover the cost of producing and distributing the show. Just four people donating $5 a month would help me cover the cost of podcast hosting alone. Help me continue to bring you this podcast. You can find a link to donate in the show notes, which you can find in your podcast app or at the website at Stageworthy.ca.
Now onto the show. S. E. Grummett, or Grums, is a queer, transgender artist originally from the Prairies. They recently returned from an award-winning season at the Edinburgh Fringe with their duo comedy show, creepy Boys. Their solo show, something in the Water, heads to the next stage festival just this week. In this episode we talk about presenting the show at the Edinburgh Fringe, the genesis of Something in the Water, the importance of queer stories and much more. Here’s our conversation. You actually mentioned going to Edinburgh and coming back from Edinburgh. Were you there for the full month?
0:02:16 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, we were there for the full month Again. When I say we, I mean my partner and I. This was our second Edinburgh. We did it for the first time last year with Something in the Water and his solo show Full Moon Coming Be Big, Wonderful, High Five, True Love, Spanx, Spanx, the Fun Great Times. That’s the full title. Well done, Well done, by the way, Thank you, Thank you. And then this year we were back with our duo show Creepy Boys.
0:02:44 – Phil Rickaby
So I think a lot of people maybe who haven’t been to Edinburgh are curious about that experience. What if you, if somebody has only done okay, first off, somebody’s only done the Toronto Fringe. They probably don’t know what other fringes are like, but if you’ve been to Edmonton you see how big that is. What is Edinburgh like?
0:03:07 – S. E. Grummett
So Edinburgh is the first, the OG Fringe, I think it just celebrated its 75th this year and yeah, like you said, edmonton is about 200, 250 shows, give or take. Winnipeg is the second biggest. It’s around the same size, a little smaller, I think. Toronto Fringe is about 100 shows. Ish, ish, I think, yeah, and depending on pre-year post, covid Edinburgh is at its biggest was about 4,000 and some shows and even since the pandemic it’s still around 3,500 shows and that runs for a month right.
It’s the yeah, it’s a month long. The whole month of August, the population of Edinburgh triples over the festival season and there’s also Edinburgh Book Festival and Edinburgh International Festival, and so there’s all these other festivals on. It’s the height of tourism season, and so it is wild. It is a wild time it is. You will feel every emotion that you could possibly ever feel in Edinburgh the highs, the lows, the everything in between. Yeah, it’s amazing and horrible all at once.
0:04:31 – Phil Rickaby
I was doing a smaller Fringe tour of one of my shows a while back and I had the thought like if at some point during your tour you don’t feel like you’re an absolute failure, are you really on a fringe tour Because you know the highs, the lows, the like, oh, this show does really well. And then all of a sudden everybody hates this, like it, just the changes. And over a month in a festival like Edinburgh it must be like a yo-yo.
0:04:56 – S. E. Grummett
Absolutely, and it’s it’s so much more competitive than the Canadian Fringe Circuit, like I’ve done three tours of the Canadian Fringe Circuit and it’s wonderful and it’s lovely, and you have this support system of other touring artists there. The volunteers are amazing and they they’ll come and show you their spreadsheet of all the shows they’re going to go to and there are people like passionate and trying to go see everything at the festival. They also billet you so your accommodation is covered. Whereas Edinburgh is like living inside of Instagram for a full month, where you’re just like comparing yourself to all the other shows and everybody winning awards and everybody getting great reviews. Somebody I know put it this way of imagine writing an exam with everybody else in your entire industry and at the end of the day, all of your results get posted and you do that for an entire month straight. So it is not.
I really I’ve done the Australian Circuit, which is still about Adelaide’s, the second biggest fringe, and it’s about 1200 shows, and so I was a little bit prepped for Edinburgh Like I wasn’t going from. Okay, I’ve done the Saskatoon fringe with our 30 shows. I throw them under the bus because that’s my hometown fringe and I’ve worked with them and going to Edinburgh, like I was. I was a little bit prepped and I saw how much marketing resources you need and how much you need to try and sell your show and how competitive it can be. But even then I really underestimated the like toll on mental health, that on my mental health that Edinburgh can have and the wildly different versions of a run that you can have. Like I did something in the water.
The show did pretty well but not amazing. Sam struggled. He was in this weird venue. We found out during his tech rehearsal that he was in a shipping container. Yeah, and then this year with creepy boys we had an amazing run. It felt like everybody was talking about the show. It was kind of that little buzz that you get on the Canadian circuit and that was really special.
0:07:18 – Phil Rickaby
So it can be wildly different and it feels like entirely out of your control and yeah, so you went last year and you had that first experience where the show did okay, yeah, and then you decided to go back a year later. Why so soon? Like what made you want to go back?
0:07:42 – S. E. Grummett
We did creepy boys in Australia and we had. We originally made the show from Melbourne Fringe in 2020 when my partner and I were stuck in Australia, and we then performed it a little bit live here and there and we were starting to realize that it really didn’t work. The show in that current iteration really didn’t work for live audiences. There was no room for the audience, and so we were like, let’s make just like a couple changes, let’s make a few rewrites. And we hired the director of my solo show, something in the Water, deanna Flesher, who is famous for her interactive clown show, buck Kopinski. She does a lot of work with comedians and clowns and so we worked with her and we’re like, okay, we’re just going to make a few small changes. And then we basically flamed throughout the whole old show. We kept one joke and we got really excited about making this show. That sort of looked at millennial nostalgia and we did it in Australia this past January, february, march. We did a tour and we were there and we were like, oh, maybe the show is not just like the cute little side project that we’ve had for a couple years. Maybe this is like our next work and the programmer for Summer Hall, which is one of the sort of like the biggest theatre venue in Edinburgh. So they program a lot of sort of cutting edge theatre and performance and a lot of the stuff they program will go on to awards and things like that, so reviewers will go there. That’s where something in the water was last year. So we had a good relationship with the venue. But their programmer came to see us in Adelaide and he offered us a spot and we had basically written off doing the festival.
But I think both of us got this offer and we were like, oh, do we want to go back? And we were really on the fence and then we decided, yes, screw it, let’s just go. Let’s just go. Maybe it’ll be terrible. We didn’t have as much grant support as we had the year before. We had almost no grant support. We were like, let’s do this. We were going to Europe with a new show that was going to the Prague Quadrilineal in June. So we’re like, okay, if we can just stay alive in Europe for a month, ride it out, then we’ll go to Edinburgh. The flights are covered from that other project, let’s just go. And we did. And I’m really glad we did because it was amazing.
0:10:23 – Phil Rickaby
Awesome, awesome. And I will say Butt Capinsky. I saw Butt Capinsky at the Montreal Fringe as part of the Fringe Tour. I was on at the time in 2012, and it’s still one of my favorite shows.
0:10:37 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, Absolutely. I saw it at Toronto Fringe 2017 and I saw it and I went you can do that. And then I went away this little baby, clear, baby clown and emailed Deanna and I was like, would you want to make a show? And that’s how something in the water was born Nice.
0:10:58 – Phil Rickaby
Great segue, by the way, something in the water. You’re doing that at the Next Age Festival. It’s the first second year in not in the dead of winter. So tell me about something in the water.
0:11:13 – S. E. Grummett
So Something in the Water is my solo show. It’s a querying of a monster transformation story where I turn into a giant squid monster with tentacle penises as a metaphor for my coming out and transition as transgender. So Deanna and I set out. I at first was like I want to make a bouffant show about gender and for those of you that don’t know bouffant, it’s like I’m going to explain it poorly and people will argue with me, but the most simple way I can put it is like clown butt mean. So bouffant is like trying to expose society’s problems and it can be very in your face and it will always have a point of attack. And I was like, yeah, I want to make this show. And Deanna said to me like hey, the querido weirdos that are going to come to a show like this don’t really need to be yelled at like what’s your gender? Because they’re living that. They’re living being marginalized and being not perceived the gender that they are and they’re living the transphobia. You don’t need to like tell them that transphobia exists, they know.
And so we instead made this weird little show and then I did a work in progress version at the Saskatoon fringe in 2019, before the pandemic. And then the pandemic happened and I was stuck in Australia and so I went back to work on it a little bit more and I brought Deanna back on to work with me again and I also worked with the queer shadow puppet duo mind of a snail and they helped me, like, really rework the live feed video in the show. So it is all immersive and DIY with these little paper puppets that really make it feel kind of ripped out of the pages of a comic book. Yeah, and then the show has it premiered at the Adelaide fringe in 2021. And we’ve just been touring it around the world kind of ever since.
0:13:19 – Phil Rickaby
Awesome. So the you know I get not wanting to do bouffant with this sort of with this, with this topic, so I will ask, I will ask the question why comedy?
0:13:33 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, I am really drawn to comedy as a sort of Trojan horse for political messages my queer propaganda, if you will, my queer agenda but I think comedy is a really great way of making work accessible. And, coming from the prairies, sometimes I’m the first trans person that, to quote my friend, a standup comedian, annapiper Scott, I’m maybe one of the first trans people you’ll meet in the wild. So people are coming in with these notions of like what trans looks like or what trans stories are, and I find that with comedy I can really disarm and disrupt that. Like we can all laugh at how ridiculous it is that my squid monster has to put on a dress and high heels and get into the women’s bathroom and try and pass. So I find that comedy can. I’ve really been able to reach an audience in a very different way than if I hadn’t done that. If I had, if I would have made maybe a bouffant show or another show. My first show, scum and Manifesto, was. Can I swear on this podcast?
0:14:57 – Phil Rickaby
Oh fuck yes.
0:14:59 – S. E. Grummett
Oh, oh, fucking grapes, what I lovingly call a fuck you play. It was a very. It was a very yelling play. It was a very. These are my thoughts and feelings and I have a lot of anger. And I was fresh out of school. My co-writer Caitlin and I were fresh out of school.
It was like right when me too was happening and we made a very like angry play and I love that show. It was a great. I’m really proud of that show. But I also found that it didn’t reach an audience in the same way and I think it’s always I’m always conscious of, like, what do I want this play to do? What do I want my work to do? And that’s not to say that, like I’ll never make a fuck, you play again. I’m really excited about making that. I’m really excited about a play that lets an audience feel their anger, but with something in the water. I wanted to make something that Querdo Guiro’s in the audience, felt really empowered by and folks who’ve maybe never met a trans person can also understand like how the gender binary is ridiculous.
0:16:10 – Phil Rickaby
Comedy is very powerful. In the way that you mentioned, you can plant a seed through laughter, in the way that hitting somebody over the head with a sledgehammer, with an idea, will not.
0:16:20 – S. E. Grummett
Sometimes a sledgehammer is nice, but, yes, you put this so much more eloquently than I did.
0:16:25 – Phil Rickaby
I just find I mean, yes, there’s a time and a place for the sledgehammer, but when you use the sledgehammer you get people the idea there are people who resist the idea. With comedy you kind of trick them into accepting the idea. Because they laugh at it, they’re more accepting. People are more accepting when they’re laughing, so that’s a very powerful tool.
0:16:49 – S. E. Grummett
And I think that Deanna and I worked along a really fine line of you’re never laughing at me being trans. You’re laughing at how ridiculous it is that society would ask this squid monster to not be a squid monster, and so I think that that was a really fine line of it’s not self-deprecating, and so I think all of the queer and trans people I’ve had in the audience have felt really empowered and they go. Yeah, that is ridiculous that I’d be expected to perform gender in a way that doesn’t feel right.
0:17:24 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, but then in a lot of ways I mean, society has asked everybody to perform gender in its own way, right, yeah, a fact of we are expected to fit inside a gender binary that also tells us that this is what it means to be a man and this is what it means to be a woman, and do not break outside of those things, right, exactly?
I’m gonna tell you a story. Years ago, you know what I will admit, I am not the most masculine of males. That is just a fact, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know it’s shocking, but years ago I was at a cottage and we needed to chop some wood. And so we’re chopping some wood out in the back of the cottage and somebody takes a picture and I put the ax over my shoulder and what I think at the time is like a really like a rugged stance. But then, when the picture comes out, it’s like I’m holding a parasol and I was like well, there we go. That’s, I guess my natural expression is a little bit not as masculine as I thought.
0:18:35 – S. E. Grummett
I have that experience all the time where I go. Yeah, I’m a tough, I am such a tough big guy, and then I very quickly, very quickly, that balloon is pops, yeah.
0:18:47 – Phil Rickaby
Absolutely, absolutely. Of course, one of the questions that we need to talk about is why queer stories are important right now, in this moment.
0:19:01 – S. E. Grummett
Oh yeah, I don’t know if you saw, but there was a big anti-trans protest less than a month ago and there’s another one I am aware of next week. I am aware of those sons of bitches, yeah. So I think that that’s exactly why there’s a lot. I continue to be amazed at the amount of anti-trans, anti-queer rhetoric. I made this show what four years ago, and I was. I’m really hoping it would be obsolete and I would stop touring it, because people would go like, yeah, yeah, you’re trans, who cares? But it feels like it’s only gotten more important.
There’s a lot of anti-trans hate right now, a lot of anti-queer hate right now and a lot of in subtle ways, and I find that like there’s a lot of misinformation going around, and so I think the best way to combat that is to meet and listen to queer and trans people and just meet us and have me go. Hi, I’m a person, I exist in the world. My gender does not affect you at all. I have a kids version of something in the water that I’ve done. I usually tour it in tandem with the adult show, but I did a run of it at Persephone theatre in Saskatoon and I found that that show is even more important for the parents than it is for the kids, because kids know who they are and I think it’s just like letting them tell you who they are and let you in is a really wonderful thing, and we need to like let kids do that.
0:20:47 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, there is a ton of misinformation out there and it’s deliberate misinformation by bad actors who are pushing an agenda, because there are people who have kept quiet for 10 years or so whoever long. Since gay marriage became legal in Canada and gay rights became a thing in the Toronto Pride and other Pride festivals became mainstream, they’ve been keeping themselves quiet, but they never bought into it and they always believed it was wrong. And they are using this as an opportunity to twist their narrative to convince other people of what they believe, and it is disgusting.
0:21:30 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, there’s, and I get it’s. I get the fears that they’re preying upon, and it’s these fears that parents have that your child is gonna end up different from you, and that’s a scary thing of what if my kid is so different from me that I can’t talk to them anymore? And I think that that’s a natural fear for parents. I don’t have kids. I probably never will, but I think that that’s the thing that sort of fuels. This is this fear of what if my kid is different and I also think it’s something that we talked about maybe a decade ago about gay and lesbian identities was I don’t want my kid to have a hard life and it’s going well. Your kid being trans doesn’t mean they’re gonna have a hard life. It’s the people out there that don’t believe transness exists that hate trans people. That’s who’s gonna make them have a hard life. It’s not. Being inherently trans is difficult. It’s really not. It’s really not. It can be, absolutely, but the transness itself is not.
0:22:47 – Phil Rickaby
No, just like with the whole, with gay, lesbians, bisexuals it’s other people who make it difficult. It’s not the thing itself. There’s also the fact that I mean, if you look at some groups, they don’t hide it the idea the attack on trans and queer people is a gateway to undoing gay marriage, to undoing the acceptance of gay and lesbian. It is a gateway to more hate, like immediately. So it’s something that needs to be stopped, like now, and I was so happy to see that when those minority of people tried to make a lot of noise, there were other people who came and made more noise and more people.
0:23:29 – S. E. Grummett
So yeah, yeah.
0:23:32 – Phil Rickaby
You mentioned doing the more kids friendly version of the show. How did you come to that as a decision to do that?
0:23:43 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, you heard tentacle penises and you’re like, but kids actually did that when I was touring something in the water, kind of. For the first time I do a lot of outreach to queer organizations. We’ve started running an accessible ticketing campaign so that all of the sales from our merch go towards buying tickets for queer and trans people who maybe couldn’t afford a ticket. So I reach out to a lot of organizations and go like, hey, I’m coming to town, I have the show. It’s about being trans. You want to come see it? Do your groups want to come see it? And I would hear back from a lot of these going great, we have a youth group that’s age 12 to 17 and they’d like to come and they couldn’t come this day and I go whoa, no, sorry, it’s 18 plus. And so I was seeing this real need and desire for queer programming for young people and so I adapted something in the water with three collaborators Charlie Peters, alyssa Billingsley and Ken MacLeod, who are all clowns from the Prairies and they’ve worked a lot in TYA, and so I worked with the three of them to sort of adapt the show to be kid friendly. It was surprisingly easy. It was really surprisingly easy.
We just changed all the sexual content. The squid is on my butt so I have butt tentacles because kids love butts, and the sort of spirit of the show is all the same. It all just translates very well. I find it’s perfect for sort of that age group where their bodies are changing and everything’s really scary. There’s a part in the show where I have Barbie and Ken dolls and I puppeteer them under the live feed and when Barbie and Ken kiss, I had a theatre full of 300 great sevens lose their minds. They laughed and screamed for a full two minutes. I had to like pause the show and just like hold. It translates really well for young people. So we’ve done it for schools. We’ve done it in like theatre for young audiences programming. We developed a study guide. My, I think you interviewed Holly, who’s my creative partner from Pac Animals. She’s a teacher and so she helped me develop the study guide for teachers that teach kids about gender diversity and queer issues and so, yeah, we have this. We have a kids version.
0:26:16 – Phil Rickaby
Nice, nice. When kids are properly engaged in a show, when they really engage, they’re fucking awesome.
0:26:24 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, yeah, I’ve done a lot of touring with a TWA puppet shows and I found that, like puppets really captivate them in a way that that that just Normal talky theatre does not. Um, and kids will let you know if they’re bored. They will let you know right away.
So, you have to forgive unforgiving they are very unforgiving them and drunk people and I performed to a lot of drunk people, so it’s kind of prepped me for both. I’m currently developing T-way musical with Ray Spoon, who’s like indie music icon, and it’s a puppet musical about gender diversity. So we’re kind of starting from starting with making it a kids show rather than adapting this thing for adults, and so we start the puppet build in a couple months and we go to production next In the spring and we’re doing a premiere in Edmonton. I’m really excited. So you have me at puppets.
0:27:24 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, you have me at puppets as somebody who was raised on Jim Henson’s. Jim had the Jim Henson years on Sesame Street and the Muppet show and all that stuff. There we go.
0:27:35 – S. E. Grummett
0:27:35 – Phil Rickaby
see my Muppet tattoo. I can see your Muppet tattoo. I could see your Muppet tattoo, and that is I mean. That is that’s the janitor, isn’t it?
0:27:42 – S. E. Grummett
No, it’s um, it’s. This is statler like the holds.
0:27:46 – Phil Rickaby
I couldn’t see.
0:27:47 – S. E. Grummett
I couldn’t see the whole thing, because he has that similar hairline to one of the old janitors at the oh yeah, yeah, a friend of mine has Waldorf and have their like old gay men that sit in the balcony and go boo boo.
0:28:00 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, absolutely yeah. So you know I, I will, I think I will always love puppets. That’s just just a fact. What was your, what was your gateway to puppets and how have you kept that? Love a lot.
0:28:16 – S. E. Grummett
Oh, absolutely, henson. My dad used to put Sesame Street on when I was old enough to sit up, basically. So I was raised with Sesame Street. We would also take out a lot of VHS’s from the library that were these compilations of Saturday morning TV from the 70s and they were all these like weird puppet shows like HR puff and stuff and segment in the sea monsters and all these like you watch them now and you’re like people are on drugs. They were really on drugs.
0:28:55 – Phil Rickaby
There’s never been a question that those shows that many of the children’s shows from the 70s and early 80s were Definitely created by people and drugs, hr puff and stuff, and that the whole Marty Croft universe Completely drugs.
0:29:11 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, yeah, yeah, and I think that that’s sort of like really influenced my aesthetic. Um, yeah, I’m also. I I love puppets because they were, weirdly, they were a big part of my gender journey. I was, I was touring with this theatre for young audiences puppet show and I I went through acting school and I was like trying to audition as a new actor and being like, oh, just, I’m really bad as an actor because I can’t, I can’t seem to be feminine enough for all these parts, like maybe I’m just a bad actor.
And then I got to do this puppet show and we were you. I got to play every gender, every sort of animal. I could be a toaster gender didn’t matter because kids didn’t see that and didn’t care. And I, when I stopped having to present female on stage, it sort of unlocked something in me where I was like, maybe this isn’t who I am and and it sort of set me in a little spiral down into my gendery thoughts and and I discovered kind of who I was and and that I was trans. All, all thanks to puppet.
0:30:28 – Phil Rickaby
You don’t have to answer this, but how long was that spiral? How long did it take for you to get Through to the other end where you could say that you are trans?
0:30:35 – S. E. Grummett
it is a thing of you know I, I never knew and I always knew like you. Look back on your childhood and go, oh, right around the time I was hitting puberty, I cut off all my hair and I looked like Hugh Jackman, as Wolverine. Huh, wonder why it’s always. I’ve always sort of felt at odds with femininity and it always felt wrong. I always kind of felt like I’d always jokingly be like well, I’m just just sasquatch in a dress, and so that Spiral of having the thought of like what if I’m not a woman, to voicing that and coming out to someone was probably about Six months to a year, yeah, yeah.
And you and you come out I think a lot of queer people will have this experience of you sort of gently dip a toe and come out to maybe one person and see how that goes, and then, and slowly, bit by bit, you come out to more people and more people, and more people. And I Came out, I think, to Holly first and we were on fringe tour, and so then I was able to come out to sort of my fringe family and they are a found family and they held me in that and they saw me as that, and Then you come out to more and more and more people and now I’m like hi, I’m trans, like in the first moment you hit me.
0:32:08 – Phil Rickaby
Just on the topic of the of the fringe family, I think that it nobody people who haven’t done a fringe to do not understand the intensity of that family that I Went on. I want my fringe tour my last tour, it was in 2012 and I would. I would go to war for every single one of the people that I met on that tour, like, literally, I would. I would go to the wall for each and every one of them, because that, you know, we went through it, we went through it, you know, and that is the intensity of the fringe family, I think yeah, and they come from all over and that has been, that has been the nice part about touring all over.
0:32:45 – S. E. Grummett
He’s getting up to be able to see people that I met my first year and I haven’t seen in in years like my dear friend, shane Adams act, who lives in like Perth, australia. I got to see him and and he was like one of the first people I met on fringe tour. I was I this is my first time back in Toronto since doing Toronto fringe in 2019 and I had a hard Toronto fringe. I like not because the show did bad or anything particularly bad happened, but it was just sort of like that halfway point of tour. I was kind of in a slump and feeling a bit like homesick and I remember being really sad and this my fringe family bought me a bee pinata to cheer me up and Then I got everybody to whisper their secrets into the top of it and Then we went outside of the fringe bar and we smashed it with baseball bats. So they just they hold you when you need it.
0:33:47 – Phil Rickaby
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah, shane’s a great guy. Again, 2012, he was on the fringe tour. That was the year that he went across Canada and then became the artist in residence at the, the Mainline theatre of Montreal, and just sort of stuck around for, I don’t know, a year, two years, the. The one thing that I want to talk about is something that you mentioned about you know, knowing and not knowing. We’re sort of like veering away from theatre, but we’ll come back to it. We’ll come back to it. And I wonder do you think that if the gender binary had not been imposed on that, if you felt like it was possible to be not a girl, that you wouldn’t have been confused? Because I think the kids Let you mention kids no oh yeah, I?
0:34:38 – S. E. Grummett
I think not. I would say not even if the gender binary hadn’t been imposed on me. I think if I just had known that non binary people existed, because I met my first non binary person on fringe tour my very first year touring um. I had met other trans people, but Trans people who identified on the gender binary, and I was like, well, that’s not me, I’m not a trans man. And so I met my first non binary person on the circuit and I was like me, that’s something you can be, and it was, like a friend of mine Says, like some of these realizations are feathers and some are anvils, and this was an anvil moment of oh oh, that’s what I am, and so I think as simply of like letting kids know the wealth of gender diversity out there and what is possible in terms of how people identify, how people talk about their gender.
Then that just gives them the tools to describe themselves better. That’s the thing that annoys me so much about this myth that queer people and trans people are trying to indoctrinate kids. We’re not trying to do that. We’re trying to give kids all the information. Indoctrination is when you restrict what they can see. Yes, absolutely. And that being said, people are often worried about kids seeing sexual content before they’re ready. That’s not when anybody’s advocating for at all, I think people.
0:36:23 – Phil Rickaby
Part of the problem is that we call parts of the education curriculum sex education, even though it is largely. It really isn’t about sex. It’s about bodies, it’s about gender, it’s about so many things, but because it’s referred to as sex ed, I think a lot of parents are resistant to it. When I was in school, my family grew up very fundamentalist, so my parents were against that curriculum, not because they didn’t want us to know about puberty and stuff, but they heard sex ed and they didn’t want us to be a part of it. So it’s one of those things that I think. Because we use bad and poor naming for these things, people get the wrong idea. On the other hand, though, the curriculum is there and anybody can look it up. So if you were really concerned, you can always look it up and it will tell you exactly what they’re being taught, and you would be surprised at how little actual sex is in there.
0:37:27 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, there’s like right now my home province of Saskatchewan is going through it because our premier has put used the I can’t remember the word but the court basically. So he wanted to put this bill in that restricted, that would out kids to their parents if they wanted to use new pronouns or names at school, and he put this bill forward and it went through the courts and the courts went you can’t do this, it infringes on the Charter of Human Rights. And he decided to use the notwithstanding clause.
That’s what it’s called the notwithstanding clause to push it forward, which means he also can push forward other bills without them having to go to court. So this is what is going on in my home province right now, and this is why I think queer stories and queer stories for kids are so important right now.
0:38:24 – Phil Rickaby
Absolutely, absolutely. I want to come back to theatre now, and one of the questions that I always ask on this show, because I’m fascinated by these stories, is the story that that brought you into the theatre. What was your, what’s your theatre origin story? What is the thing that you saw or the experience that you had that made you want to make theatre?
0:38:47 – S. E. Grummett
I had a crush on a boy I. I went to weird little theatre camps as a kid. The first one was the Off-Broadway theatre Camp in Saskatoon when I was in grade three and I got cast as the Pied Piper, which again is one of those. How did I not know I was trans? So I got to wear this weird little hat and take all the rats and all the children to go drum them and I got to be the lead. It’s like maybe one of the only times I’ve been a lead other than in, you know, a solo show. And then I, you know, became a teen.
I grew up and became a young adult and I was like I’m not going to go to, I’m not going to do theatre, I’m going to be a filmmaker, I’m going to be like Spielberg, I’m going to go to film school and I’m going to be a famous filmmaker. And then I didn’t get into any film schools and my parents went well, you should just go to the University of Saskatchewan for your first year and like, see, see, like they kind of were like you have to go to school. So I went to school and while I was there I was part of a class where we made a film called Paper Airplanes. And while we’re making it I remember just meeting all the acting students from the drama department and I was like they’re all so cool, they’re all so cool, I want to be like them and I had a crush on one of them and then I, and then I like started taking acting classes in the theatre department and then you just kind of fall down that rabbit hole into making theatre. And the thing I liked about theatre over film was I got to do all of it myself.
And I think this is probably also why I self create and why I tour in the fringes is because, like, I want to do the sound design, I want to design the poster, I want to be involved in all aspects of that, and and and that’s the thing I love about theatre, where film felt like I could only be a part of one tiny little piece of it and then you don’t get to see it again.
theatre, I got to sort of be a part of the whole storytelling process and now that I’ve sort of moved into directing a lot more, I find that I do get to be a part of the storytelling process and and I try and not micromanage and just do the sound design myself because it sounds like you’re like oh, it sounds like you kind of are like that. But I get to sort of bring on artists that I like their voice and I like their, what they offer, and I love to collaborate. I love to be sort of what my friend Charlie Peters would call being an instigator of asking big questions in the room and coming in and going we’re going to make a show about this, let’s explore it. And having a group of divisors, I like to sort of assemble the Avengers of a project and go like, who are all the cool artists I want to work with? Like that’s, my favorite part is just putting those teams together.
0:41:58 – Phil Rickaby
One of the things that you mentioned, you mentioned doing theatre camps when you were young. What was the catalyst for starting you going to the theatre camps? What made that happen?
0:42:09 – S. E. Grummett
I don’t know. I was probably just like very loud and annoying and my parents were like they can probably burn off some energy here. I did a lot of like plays and like American Idol style competitions with my Beanie Babies.
0:42:28 – Phil Rickaby
So probably that that makes sense, that makes sense.
0:42:33 – S. E. Grummett
My parents are not theatre goers Like let me fully throw them under the bus. I remember telling my dad I was going to like major in theatre and university. He was like really theatre. I hate theatre because I think my mom had maybe one time brought him to a dinner theatre thing. That was bad and he felt trapped there. It’s like theatre. And now he comes to everything I make. So take that, dad.
0:42:59 – Phil Rickaby
The funny thing about theatre and this is one of the things that drives me crazy is it is seems to be the one art form that people are like. I saw play once. I didn’t like it. theatre is not for me. I’m done with it. To me, it’s always like did you stop watching television when you watched a bad TV show where you decided we’re going to see movies? When you saw a bad movie Like come on.
0:43:22 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, but I think, like because of that I think it’s so many different factors, like one is you had to like there’s more effort to go to the theatre, sure.
0:43:30 – Phil Rickaby
0:43:30 – S. E. Grummett
Right, like you have to, like, leave the house, put on pants, buy a ticket that costs way more than a movie. And and not only that is like your trap there.
0:43:40 – Phil Rickaby
0:43:41 – S. E. Grummett
You are trapped there for up to three hours, yeah, which is why it’s like I would love for those people to like go to a fringe show, because it’s an hour and if it’s, and the thing with fringe is like if you see a good show, you’ll talk about it for a few days, and if you see a bad show, you’ll never stop talking. Oh my God, that is such a fact.
0:44:04 – Phil Rickaby
That is such a fact and you know I mean this is the thing is is is fringe is such a low risk thing because it’s only an hour and maybe not even an hour, maybe like 50 minutes. You know you’re in, your out If the show is bad. What have you lost? You lost, like what? $12 and a and 45 to 50 minutes of your time that’s nothing. But, man, you’re so right about when you see a bad show, because there are shows I will still talk about, like 30 years later.
0:44:33 – S. E. Grummett
And everybody thinks like, because Edinburgh is this big festival and it costs so much to go and it’s hard to get into the big venues, that everything there must be incredible. No, no, it’s about the same ratio as Canadian French circuit.
0:44:50 – Phil Rickaby
It wouldn’t be possible for everything to be to be incredible. It wouldn’t be possible. There’s 4,000 shows. There are 4,000 amazing shows anywhere. But I think that you know everybody who goes there has a certain amount of confidence in the show that they’re doing, whether it is misplaced or not. Just to go back to Edinburgh for a second, does flyering work there, or do you have to be more creative?
0:45:19 – S. E. Grummett
Oh, that’s a. That’s an interesting question. I think flyering does work there. It’s just a lot more punishing than the Canadian circuit. Like you will get people that tell you to fuck off. It works there, but not not to the same extent as the Canadian circuit. So flyer and you have to do so much else. You have to be flexible in so many other ways. I’d spend probably an hour a day on online just like looking at Facebook groups and going like here’s my show, please. You have to be really creative and the like Cost of Edinburgh is so much higher. There’s that there’s that.
Accommodation is a huge problem there right now. Next year this is so dystopian. They have a cruise ship that is going to be parked in the port of Leith that people can stay on during the festival, the whole festival.
0:46:24 – Phil Rickaby
Is it just like? It’s like like barracks accommodation for the festival.
0:46:29 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, it’s, it’s Accommodation for, like the cost is so high like stuff will triple or quadruple during the festival. Like, yeah, we paid almost what we pay in a whole year’s rent to stay in Edinburgh our first year and think that was only because we had funding. That’s only because we had funding. We never would have been able to go without funding. This year we were able to stay with a friend of a friend. Like when people ask me like hey, how do you do Edinburgh, like get funding?
Yeah, that’s for sure because I and this is this is the weird reality of People talk about this on a Canadian circuit, but it’s it’s so much More extreme at these big festivals of, like the people who come from money and who can go to Edinburgh a year after year after year after year because they don’t have to worry about oh, if I don’t do well, I’m not financially ruined Right like they. I think festivals like that, really people that are succeeding there, have come from a certain tax bracket that I can’t say Sam and I come from. I.
0:47:45 – Phil Rickaby
Mean they’re obviously, I mean they’re in the minority. Now On the topic of firing um, I don’t know what, how is your a firing game outside of Edinburgh?
0:47:59 – S. E. Grummett
Outside of Edinburgh. I feel like you’re about to ask me for a to flyer for you.
0:48:03 – Phil Rickaby
I would. I would never do that. It’s a thing that I have to get over my own shit about doing it as a as an introvert. Yeah, so it’s a thing that I work on every, every fringe I do. But I’m just, I’m always curious Are you, are you gemrolls level, or are you, are you like somewhere below that?
0:48:22 – S. E. Grummett
is general. It’s good because I feel like when I’ve toured he hasn’t needed.
0:48:27 – Phil Rickaby
Really cuz. I’ve never seen him not flyer oh.
0:48:31 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, I think the year I toured he was like selling out and so I didn’t need to baby.
0:48:35 – Phil Rickaby
I’ve never, I think, festivals that have been at where he’s selling out he’s still. I’ve seen him still out there. Maybe he was like, just like tired that year, but like he’s usually like, like, like you know, the like platinum level.
0:48:51 – S. E. Grummett
I. I haven’t done it in a while on the Canadian circuit. I haven’t done it since before the pandemic, so this could all be Bullshit, because I’m sure I have. I know I have a plethora of new mental illnesses coming off the pandemic, so my anxiety might be way too high. I’ve done it a little bit in Edinburgh but, um, it’s much scarier. I feel like I could get into a good groove Flyering yeah, but I have to be in the right mood. Definitely have to be in the right road, and it’s a lot easier when your show is doing well. When your show is doing poorly and you have nobody there and the shows are hard to get through and then you have to go out and like Try and sell people on them. That’s really hard.
0:49:39 – Phil Rickaby
Yeah, yeah, and it’s also. I mean, I think a lot of people who only done a couple of festivals don’t know that. You know there are festivals where firing is just not a thing. You know, I remember being in Montreal being like, alright, let’s go flyer. And and you couldn’t? You couldn’t, like sell a flyer to anybody the year that we were there, and there’s other festivals they’re like that. That as well. It’s so different everywhere you go. I guess the advantage to next stage is you don’t really need to go flyering.
0:50:07 – S. E. Grummett
I’m probably so good I’m the only out of town show. Oh and so I don’t have a network of people that I know that will come. So I’ll probably still go flyer the other shows and be like I’m new in town, want to come see my puppet show, because yeah that should be your pitch right there.
0:50:29 – Phil Rickaby
That’s the page.
0:50:30 – S. E. Grummett
It probably will be.
0:50:34 – Phil Rickaby
I love it. I love it. So something in the water at the next stage festival. We’re starting, I think, next week, isn’t it?
0:50:41 – S. E. Grummett
Yeah, next next Thursday, october 19th.
0:50:45 – Phil Rickaby
So when this episode comes out on Tuesday just a couple of days It’ll be that Thursday when you can go see the show Grumps. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate you, thank you.
0:50:55 – S. E. Grummett
Thank you for chatting with me.
0:51:01 – Phil Rickaby
This has been an episode of Stageworthy. Stageworthy is produced, hosted and edited by Phil Rickaby that’s me. If you enjoyed this podcast and you listen on Apple podcasts or Spotify, you can leave a five-star rating, and if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review. Those reviews and ratings help new people find the show. If you want to keep up with what’s going on with Stage Rally and my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to Philrickaby.com/subscribe and remember. If you want to leave a tip, you’ll find a link to the virtual tip jar in the show notes or on the website. You can find Stageworthy on Twitter and Instagram at StageworthyPod, and you can find the website with the complete archive of all Episodes at StageWorthy.ca. If you want to find me, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram at Philrickaby and, as I mentioned, my website is Philrickaby.com. See you next week for another episode of Stageworthy.