by Sarah J. Lau
The Rogue Festival hits Fresno again from February 28 – March 9, and you can expect a lot of coverage before & during Rogue from KRL this year–maybe even some videos this time! Here is another article about one of this year’s festival performers. You can learn more on the Festival website! You can find all our other Rogue articles in our A & E section.
My journey to the Rogue Festival began over a decade ago when I started a short story code-named “Crazy Grandma” that eventually became The Secret Adventures of Fat Woman & Remedial Girl, a literary novel dealing with issues of life, death, and madness narrated by a not-so-bright eleven-year old with the vocabulary of a second-grader. It also contained a lot of poop jokes. By the time I hit the eighth year and the fourth draft, I realized my book might never be published. (Note: Not a lot of ungrammatical books with defecatory humor being short-listed for Pulitzers.) So in 2010, I started performing 10-minute bits at open mics in the Bay Area. I wasn’t an actor, just a writer with a good memory and a need to share this story. Even with audiences who thought it was autobiographical and not a work of fiction (“Did she just make a joke about her grandmother getting hit by a car?!”).
Writing a novel is hard. Anybody can write 70,000 words. The tricky part is putting them in a particular order! If I’d known it would take me ten years, I don’t know that I would have begun, let alone persevered. It was the narrator–Louise a.k.a. “Remedial Girl”–who made it all possible. I could hear her voice so clearly: “The year I turned nine, my grandma tried to kill my grandfather.” How could I ignore that voice and the horribly funny, horribly sad, and sometimes just horribly horrible story she had to tell?
By 2011, I had strung together scenes from the beginning, middle, and end of my book into a full show. Only I had no idea how to convince a theatre to mount a production of a 2-hour scatological one-woman show by someone who’d never been on a stage before. Then I got lucky–literally–in the San Francisco Fringe Festival lottery, and that September, I debuted myself and my 90-minute solo performance at Exit Theatre (although I did almost miss my own first show when the Occupy protest shut down a BART station, but that’s a story for another day…).
I can’t describe how magical being on stage and finally sharing Louise’s story with a live audience was. Even though I never had more than 20 people in the audience for my shows, I felt a powerful sense of connection with everyone in that darkened room. And it moved me when folks would come up afterwards or sometimes days later to share their own stories with me and to express how much it had meant to them to experience Louise’s journey.
And then–as if that were not enough–to top it all off, my show was awarded a “Best of Fringe.” I know, I know–it all sounds a bit unbelievable: a writer toiling away in obscurity for years accidentally becoming an actor and winning an award practically overnight. Hey, my audiences typically average in the high single digits and I’ve only sold two dozen copies of my e-book, so I still lay claim to my obscurity! What I also maintain throughout all of the adventures I’ve had with this book and show is my gratitude at the opportunity to get up on a stage to share this story with you.
So I thank everyone at the Rogue Festival for all of their hard work, and look forward to introducing you to Louise, her best friend Brenda (the fattest girl in school), Louise’s crazy family, and, of course, the ever-notorious Grandma Pang (that’s her in the photo–no special effects, sometimes my face just looks like that!).
(One final note: the 60-minute version I’m performing at the 2013 Rogue Festival has 8 of the original 9 scenes of the 90-minute show. In technical terms, I got less “blabby” and more “acty,” so it truly is new and improved and mostly intact. And at times untactful. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Come see for yourself! You won’t regret it. Unless, of course, you really are scared of zombies….)
Check out this video clip of Sara’s show:
Performance dates, times and place:
Saturday, March 2nd – 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 3rd – 1 p.m.
Sunday, March 3rd – 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 6th – 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 7th – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 9th – 5:30 p.m.
The Tower Lounge @ Painted Table
1211 North Wishon Avenue, Fresno, CA