As an official media partner of the 30th annual St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, Montreal Theatre Hub brings the #FringeBuzz in 2021 with an all-new interview series with artists from this year’s edition of the fest! In this Snapshot, we feature the playwright-performers of Mad Paradox’s IT’S ME INSIDE – a double bill docudrama presenting Pheno by JEROEN LINDEMAN and RUN by MARISSA BLAIR. Watch the world premiere of the digital show on FringeTV until June 30th and read below our joint Q&A interview with its creators.
MONTREAL THEATRE HUB: What is It’s Me Inside about?
JEROEN & MARISSA: It’s Me Inside is a two-in-one documentary drama piece. First is RUN, created and performed by Marissa Blair and the second is Pheno, created and performed by Jeroen Lindeman. RUN is a nightmarish sprint through a neighbourhood. Pheno is an experiment in Plastic Physiognomy, a man changes his facial features to change his character. Both shows focus on an overall theme of mental health, a large focus of Mad Paradox.
MTH: What can audiences expect from the experience of seeing it?
MARISSA: In RUN, the audience can expect to go on a layered experience which incorporates a slowed-down pop song, a bloody jog through Mile Ex, and a real recording of someone saving a woman from the Lachine Canal. It’s about coming to terms with a great sense of loss and desperation, and trying to remain together through the hard times, treading water, keep running, wondering if someone can save us, if we are to save ourselves.
JEROEN: In Pheno, the audience can expect to be confronted with what they already know but we don’t easily talk about it. We all more or less deal with mental health issues, mostly temporarily, sometimes for a lifetime, some issues are manageable others not. The majority of people feel ashamed talking about it or to seek help and will try to hide it, we all have masks.
MTH: What was the idea and inspiration behind the piece?
MARISSA: RUN was thought of in a few minutes and first executed and presented under the platform of The Opportunity Theatre Company during the first pandemic summer. I was inspired to create no matter what, as creation is directly linked to my mental health. I was also inspired by my creative partner, Jeroen.
JEROEN: For Pheno, physiognomy is the practice of judging someone’s character based on their facial features. As a man I live with that common notion that we need to be strong and not cry and the changing of the face is my attempt to hide the turmoil within. With this piece I want to try and bring a change to the paradigm around men’s mental health and show others that they’re not alone and it’s okay to voice their problems.
MTH: Why did you choose the Fringe as the place to premiere this work?
JEROEN & MARISSA: Fringe is a great platform for bringing experimental and boundary pushing works. It has an amazing and broad fan base and is open to art presenting confrontational themes.
Photos: Jeroen Lindeman (left) and Marissa Blair (right) in It’s Me Inside (images courtesy of the artists)
MTH: What has it been like trying to create a show during a pandemic?
JEROEN: I wish I had trusted in my company partner Marissa and had taken her optimism that in-person theatre would be possible this Fringe. Making art on a digital platform requires a different approach to get people engaged with the work. I miss in-person theatre and having direct feedback from the audience and working with them in making memorable experiences.
MARISSA: We really didn’t know if Fringe was going to end up being live and in-person, because it was possible theaters were going to shut down and then we would have been left with a live-streamed show option. But, that was really not an option for the Fringe show that we wanted to present – it would not have worked as a live-stream – both Jeroen and I agreed on that. This experience did bring us closer to the mission of Mad Paradox – to create critical performative responses to conventional theatre practices – as well as using documentary drama as a platform for social change. In the end, we made the right decision to bring Pheno and RUN together as they do compliment each other nicely.
MTH: How does this show/story speak to our present times?
JEROEN & MARISSA: Mental health is an extremely important subject now, and the knowledge that creating is directly linked to our mental health is what’s kept us driven to keep creating during this past year.
MTH: Which other event(s) on the 2021 lineup are you most stoked to check out?
MARISSA & JEROEN: The Celebrity Obsession, Wretch, Where Is Anton?, GlenMary KateMoss, This Show Is Broken, The Silent Sign.
MARISSA BLAIR is a Theatre-maker from Mont Clare, PA. She worked as a performance artist for many years in New York City earning a bachelor’s from The New School and an MA in Performance Studies from NYU. A director, playwright, and producer in Montreal, Marissa is also an administrator at Espace Freestanding Room, an organizer of Freefalling Monthly, and Artistic Director and co-founder of Mad Paradox.
JEROEN LINDEMAN is a theatre performer from the Netherlands who found a passion for acting through improv. After performing in two short plays, Variations on the Death of Trotsky and The infinite monkey theorem, Jeroen was noticed for his remarkable character work, which led him to special performance projects in the former penal colony of Veenhuizen. It is here he worked closely with convicts to play convicts in Uitschot (Scum) and Tussen 4 muren (Between 4 walls).
After moving to Montreal, Jeroen appeared in 2019 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival performance of Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood by Marissa Blair, which signified a shift in artistic influence. To deliver a heightened reality to his practice he often exploits his own life experiences, pushing physical and emotional boundaries. Jeroen has written and performed in Pento during Festival de la Bete Noire’s 2021 Virtual Theatre Festival. He has also appeared in Lesbian Speed Date From Hell (Christina Saliba), The Pillowman (Snowglobe), Personal Space (Little Black Rain Cloud Theatre). Jeroen is also contributing artist of Freefalling Monthly at Espace Freestanding Room with Moeder (2019) and Pheno (2021).
IT’S ME INSIDE presented by Mad Paradox plays from June 1-30 on FringeTV. Tickets ($13) can be purchased online at www.montrealfringe.ca
Read here all of the interviews in the Fringe Artist Snapshots series: