Seattle-based performer TATIANA PAVELA is bringing her intimate and brutal one-woman show BRANDI ALEXANDER to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This is a primal scream of a show about rape: Howlingly funny and agonisingly uncomfortable. She talks Female First through what motivated her to write about sexual assault, so uncompromisingly.
My show is about anger.
It is also a funny show. Funny in the way that you just have to laugh about how awful misogyny, sexual assault and self-loathing can be, because sometimes it’s the only way to release yourself from the pain. In performing this show over the past year, I’ve found it is women who laugh the most. Or that laugh at all. They laugh (I assume) because they recognize what’s happening on stage: they too have been there, they too have been so hurt and so angry, that we laugh because all of the other emotional reactions have been exhausted.
At some point the show stops being funny. I’m fine with that. At some point, we run out of laughter.
Men tend to be silent. I’m fine with that, too. However, I welcome any conversations about the show. I am not demanding silence.
Brandi Alexander—a solo show about a stand-up comic who is sexually assaulted by her colleague and ends up as his opening act— started forming in 2016. That summer, a friend of mine called and told me that she had been assaulted by an acquaintance of ours. That same summer I remember being inundated with news stories of Donald Trump (who has been accused by 23 women of sexual assault), Brock Turner (a college student who served only 3 months of a 6-month sentence for raping an unconscious woman at a party), Bill Cosby (accused by 58 women of sexual assault). Those were public stories, while many other friends opened up to me with their own experiences. That summer rape felt normalized—like it was a part of our everyday culture. It shouldn’t be normal.
I started to think about the men I work with, went to school with and rode the bus next to. How they can claim something (space, time, another person) as theirs. Men took up space, but I was taught to be as small as possible. Men spoke freely, and I continued to raise my hand until called upon. I was curious about creating a woman who operated like the men surrounding me. Who claimed space, and had zero fucks left to give. There’s a line in the show when Brandi is asked about her artistic inspiration and she says, "I find that holding all of your rage and anger in and being silent for years, then letting it out when you are beyond crazy—that's really been the process for me." And that was where I was too.
Ultimately, I aimed to create a show that makes people uncomfortable with what they are watching, so that they can be uncomfortable with rape again (instead of not blinking an eye). I wanted to create a show that makes us laugh, then asks us to examine why we’re all laughing about this. And I wanted to create space for those who have felt that their emotions, reactions, healing, trauma, mess, whole being has been too much, not enough, too ugly, too humiliating. Too angry.
Tatiana Pavela performs in ‘Brandi Alexander’ which is at Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 31st July – 25th August (not 12th or 19th). Tickets and more information: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/brandi-alexander