by Kathleen Denny
The Rogue Festival will be here soon-it opens on March 1! Here is another Rogue Performer Preview article, with more going up today as well, and more coming this weekend, and all the way up to Rogue!-you will be able to find them all in our Arts & Entertainment section. We also have a Rogue Festival event page with many of their press releases, and an article about this year’s Muse.
Every single time Kat looks up from her machine, she sees that pinup calendar with a gal who is NOT demonstrating ANY kind of mechanical technique! And it is just the start of her eight hour shift. But is it really worth the trouble? Kat is the first woman machinist that an airline hired since the 1970s. It’s years before Anita Hill tells the world about Clarence Thomas and Long John Silver, and most people have never even heard the term “sexual harassment.” What happens when Rosie the Riveter meets #MeToo?
Meet Kat. Meet the Old Latvian Guy, The Boss, union stewards, and Van, the first Black machinist hired since the 1970s. In Tolerance?!, Kat draws a line, then takes on a fight for space, with surprising resistance and allies. Welcoming, childish, funny, exasperating, but also dangerous, the characters and situations of the airline machine shop might feel familiar, even if you have never seen the inside of a machine shop.
Tolerance?! is about respect and recognition, with humor laced throughout. No matter what kind of work women do, we have our stories. Most of the time, we make our way around casual sexism and backwardness, and only sometimes do we even bother to mention it. Some stories really are so outrageous that they become funny!
Last winter as the #MeToo revelations kept coming, they opened a deep vein of outrage. I listened as that discussion unfolded. What was the same? What was different?
Before and during the years that I worked as a union machinist and air transport mechanic, I always wrote. I lived all kinds of stories, but there were a few that I sat down and wrote up as they were happening. And then, most of the time, I put them away. The outpouring of #MeToo inspired me to revisit one particular story, to see whether I could make something that spoke to people today, to people who do different kinds of work. That exploration became my latest one-woman show, Tolerance?!.
Within the discussion that surrounded #MeToo, the word “tolerance” kept coming up. Broadmindedness. How much women can and do tolerate. What people do and don’t tolerate from us. HR departments proclaimed Zero Tolerance for sexual harassment and discrimination.
But, as a machinist, I worked with engineering tolerance: the acceptable limits of variation so that something will still perform its function. Some things have a wide open tolerance; that makes easy work. For some things, the tolerance is narrow, a fraction of a hair. One misjudgment and everything you’ve done might become scrap. My own work was always within a narrow tolerance, and tolerance becomes a metaphor for the double standards for women and men, in work and in life. I weave the various meanings of “tolerance” throughout the story.
What is women’s work? And who decides? Who doesn’t love the spirit of the poster woman in a polka dot bandana who proclaims, “We Can Do It!”
I volunteer at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center in Richmond. It’s a beautiful spot on “San Francisco Bay, where the Kaiser shipyards and the Ford plant that assembled Jeeps for World War II used to be. Living Rosies, women in their 90s, have regular shifts at the Center and share their stories. They were welders, electricians, painters, draftspeople. Their stories combine with those of Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest National Park Ranger in the country, who also worked in World War II production, but in a segregated Oakland workshop. In that boom of war production, they tell of racism, as well as backwards ideas about women, of the doors they pushed open, of the work that they did, and did well. It’s an easy link from their experience to the battles that still need to be won today.
Tolerance?! is for anyone who wants to open boundaries. The show premiered at 2018 San Francisco Fringe to full houses and enthusiastic critics. “Authentic, amusing, and on target!” The road from page to stage could not have happened without the support of Alexa Almira at The Marsh and Mary Alice Fry, of Footloose Productions, who provided stage time in the early days, so I could try out material before live audiences.
The Rogue Festival and Fresno have a special spot for me, as Rogue was my very first festival. I am very happy to bring Tolerance?! to Fresno audiences and the Rogue.
Tolerance?! performs as The Revue, 620 E Olive Ave., Fresno on March 1 @ 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm, March 2 @ 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm, March 3 @ 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm, March 8 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and March 9 @ 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased n the Rogue Festival website.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 12 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.