by Evelyn Jean Pine
It is almost time for Rogue Festival again–it will be taking place March 6-14 in the Tower District of Fresno. This week we are posting the last of the Performer Preview articles. This year we have added a special category where you will be able to find all of our Rogue Festival articles. During Rogue we will be reviewing shows as usual, and we also have a Rogue Festival event page with more information!
A languid tear rolls down the young man’s rugged face.
“My daughter loves these videos,” says my friend, holding her phone in front of my eyes. “She’s transfixed by the feeling.”
That was the teardrop of an idea that became my one-woman play, Freeloader in the House of Love, which opens on Friday, March 6 at 6:45 at Goldstein’s at the Fresno Rogue Festival. The show won the SOLD OUT Award at the San Francisco Fringe and BEST STORY Award at the Boulder Fringe.
In Freeloader in the House of Love, a desperate housecleaner—down-and- out, but rich in swagger and recklessness—takes over the mansion of a porn magnate. Her goal: to make a buck by exploiting the way women get excited when men share their feelings.
It’s a weird story for me to tell.
I’m Evelyn Jean Pine, playwright, performer, and professor of performance studies. As a solo performer, I have told all the personal stories I am willing to share with strangers.
Most of my plays are historical: 19-year old Bill Gates declares war on hackers who share his software; Queen Isabella, forever changed by meeting the Indians Columbus kidnapped; the patrons at Grand Café in Paris in 1895 screaming as they witness the first movie, a locomotive appearing—to them—on track to run them down. Or Sci-Fi, like The Invisible Project, which I wrote with Katja Rivera, about two women scientists who discover the secret of invisibility.
I teach children’s literature at San Francisco State University, and as I thought about those young women watching videos of men crying, a line from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid floated into my head: “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”
I decided to create a story about a women who wants to exploit female fascination with men’s emotion, because she herself, like the plucky Little Mermaid, can’t express any feeling of her own.
And even though I didn’t know if it was a novel, a comic book, an opera, or a play, I started writing, not on paper but in performance at San Francisco premiere solo venues, such as The Marsh and Solo Sundays at StageWerx. For all you writers reading this, performing is a killer tactic for generating more writing, and making the words you already have, deeper and more delicious.
Nevertheless, for me, creating Freeloader in the House of Love was an “Everything You Know Is Wrong” kind of a journey.
I committed a writer’s cardinal sin, creating an unsympathetic protagonist, a cold fish who can’t feel, yet is hungry for the heat of others’ emotions. From the very beginning, she loves to touch other people’s things. Her job cleaning houses gets her excited. The person to whom she is most connected is a little girl—in a painting.
The action in this story takes me places I’ve never been. Once there, nobody is quite who they seem. There’s a painter whose true passion is designing “fitness wearables,” fitbits, step counters, you know, the bling. And the porn czar (inspired by a San Francisco porn producer who closed up shop because he was clobbered by the competition from on-line amateurs) is so caught up in proving he’s laid back and cool, he can never say what he wants, and so struggles to evict the freeloading housecleaner all cozy in his den. There’s a gorgeous porn star who so lusts after spiritual truth, she burns her clothes. And there are the guys who weep for women’s pleasure: Kyle, the computer game maven; Lang, the defrocked priest; and Danson the delivery guy, who gets teary-eyed when he hears the lyrics of Tupac Shakur.
Okay, I admit it. It’s a crazy piece.
The narrator may not be lovable, but after having had the pleasure of performing her in three very different cities— San Francisco, Tucson, and Boulder—I love her. And I can’t wait for you to meet her, Fresno.
Feminist readers may note that the show title, “Freeloader in the House of Love,” is a tip of the hat to the great feminist diarist Anaïs Nin’s book “A Spy in the House of Love.” Although the show began with a meditation on a mermaid’s lack of feelings and a tear on a young man’s cheek, it’s moved way beyond that.
Ironically, every time I perform her, someone asks me: “Did that really happen to you?”
Most solo performance is autobiographical so, perhaps, audiences expect to see the real “me” on stage. but in this case I think people ask me because, although the story is surreal and outrageous, it feels true. As true as those tears sliding down your cheeks—tears of heartbreak, tears of laughter.
Freeloader in the House of Love moves into Goldstein’s -1279 North Wishon
Avenue in Fresno:
Friday, March 6 – 6:45 P.M.
Saturday, March 7 – 3:00 PM
Thursday, March 12 – 6:00 PM
Saturday, March 14 – 8:00 PM
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean.
Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.