EDELE WINNIE never considered herself a playwright. It's just something she slipped into, and it's definitely more comfortable than being a Woman In The Crazy House. Windsor Feminist Theatre produced her play Nurdles and Waves and Post Productions presented Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands, and this October, The Purple Theatre will produce her play The Rinsing Witch. So maybe it's more than just a passing fancy? Edele is also very proud, stunned and humbled by Post Productions' monologue contest using her book Big Mouth: 100 Unusual Monologues for Women. "For a person who had no voice for so long to see people on stage saying my words - I'm speechless."
In March 2022, Post Productions managing director Michael K. Potter sat down with the elusive Windsor-based playwright Edele Winnie for a rare and wonderful interview about her new plays: The Rhinoceros Woman and Squirrel Party - scheduled to premier at The Shadowbox Theatre on April 22. Here is the interview, in full...
POTTER: Edele, thank you very much for meeting with us. I know you don't like to show yourself in public that much. Tell me about that. Tell me about your mysterious persona in the world of theatre here. People have seen your works, they know of you, but very few people have met you.
WINNIE: That's kind of a romantic way of thinking about it. Really, I'm just a private person -- I have sometimes limited mobility, due to some physical issues, I’m shy, I'm not a good socializer, there's some Asperger’s in there. I like the work to stand on its own. I'm flattered that people see it and want to know more about me, but I think they'd probably find me boring.
POTTER: Well, I doubt they’d find you boring, but I understand your perspective. So, let's dive right into talking about The Rhinoceros Woman first. How did that play come to be?
WINNIE: Well, I have always loved the Elephant Man. But if you look at the Elephant Man, it's all about men, really. And you know, the movie is great. I actually found journals of the doctor who treated him and they’re extensive and they go into a bunch of stuff that's not covered in the movie, which blew my mind. They hired a train for him where he could be in the train all by himself and went out to the country and he stayed -- he had a summer vacation in the country where he made friends with these dogs, which he talked about a lot. He was uncertain how the dogs would react to him but they didn't care how he looked. So he had all these rich experiences in the country and then they bundled him back in the train and came back. And that was so much more than the movie was. And I really, really liked that. The movie is more about the doctor.
I wanted to explore what a person like that felt. So, for me, the Rhinoceros Woman was -- I wanted to tell her entire story. And the doctor, similar to the movie, is trying to categorize it, is trying to quantify it, is trying to make it into something when she doesn't really know her and her stories is so much bigger than that. When we put labels on things it just becomes that one thing. And I really appreciated and wanted to show the rich life that she had. I mean, I can't be giving spoilers, of course, but… The Elephant Man was suffering physically from all of his tumors and things. The Rhinoceros Woman doesn't have that level of suffering. Instead, she has a kind of -- social issues. So that was what was behind it. I really wanted to explore that while looking at slipping in all kinds of things about gender and how women are treated and how women are supposed to be seen and how women are expected to behave and what is expected of women -- a lot of it's based on appearance. What if you looked like a rhinoceros? It would certainly upend a lot of those ideas.
POTTER: You touch on this idea that you brought up in regard to the Elephant Man where when he was with the dogs in the countryside he didn't feel like a freak, it was being around other people that made him feel like a freak.
WINNIE: Yes. Apparently it was true he carried a picture of his mother. So that was an abandonment that he could never get past. So other people always made him feel like a freak. He was abused. He was in all these sideshows, they cheated him out of money, they abandoned him. His life -- his relationship with other people was completely defined by his appearance.
POTTER: In a way Doctor Foster, in your play -- the medical doctor who’s taken a couple of psychology courses -- she comes to the Rhinoceros Woman with a lot of preconceptions about what the Rhinoceros Woman, Ivanka’s, life must be like. And a lot of the play is sort of based around her inability to see past those preconceptions she's brought with her.
WINNIE: Yes. And if you compare that to the position of women in the world -- when they go to the mall, for example, and she's saying, “Look at all these women, they’re free and they’re learning things!” And Ivanka says, “They all look the same. They have the same hair. They all –" So, really, just being a woman and trying to be a woman by your own – by who you really are. Your own definition. Your own self is being constricted as much as if you look like a rhinoceros.
POTTER: Yeah. And you know, it makes me think of disability too. Where there are some people who would probably be disabled in any context, right? But then there are other people who are disabled only because other people refuse to adapt to them, or have made the world around them for them, instead of for people who might need certain accommodations and so forth, right?
WINNIE: Yeah, I think there's two points of view, really. There's people who live -- and they can be nice people, but the world’s about them and what they do and what they accomplished and what they intend to do. And they can be generous and kind and loving and all kinds of things. And there are other people who put everything else first and themselves last. And it doesn't mean that they’re miserable -- they get great reward emotionally from the things that they do. So this is really a meeting of those two types. I mean, Doctor Foster is really about what she can do. And she means well. She's genuinely trying to help, but it's through the screen of what she thinks and what she's able to do and give. Where Ivanka is more experiential in how she feels and what her life is about. She had to redefine herself once her visage transformed into a rhinoceros, but she's found a place and, in a way, she's found herself completely. Whereas Doctor Foster seems to have gotten further and further away from her own self.
POTTER: Yeah, she doesn't seem as comfortable in herself as Ivanka in many ways. I find Doctor Foster a really fascinating character because, as you point out, she’s a very sincere, well-intentioned person. She's a kind person. She wants to do good. She wants to help but doesn't realize how much her own perspective limits her ability to understand other people.
POTTER: And that's something that we all struggle with.
WINNIE: Oh yeah, for sure.
POTTER: It’s human, right? But some more than others. What we see in this play, I think, is a really interesting situation in which there’s a convergence of that strong, sincere desire to help with perceptual limitations that make that desire harmful. Do you think that's common?
WINNIE: Yeah. I mean, as a person in the world who interacts with other people – interacts with the medical community – you know from your own experiences, they don’t know you. They may care, they may not care, but they won’t know what’s going on. And they almost seem to be incompetent to such a great extent that they can’t help you at all. They only make things worse.
POTTER: Yeah. Without realizing it. And maybe to some extent without the ability to realize it. Sometimes I wonder if it’s even possible for some people to realize they’re doing harm unwillingly or unconsciously.
WINNIE: I think in the whole medical system they push that – if we think of that idea of people who it’s about them first, and the people who it’s not about them first – I think in our medical system in North America – in Canada anyway – it gets pushed, it really focuses on those people, and it pushes doctors sort of to an extreme and they have to be a person who has to trust themself and do their thing to go forward. And that's the negative side effect of it, is they're trying to do what they know and solve things and help out, but it limits their perspective so much. Whereas other doctors –
I remember as a child seeing – my parents would leave me alone for long periods of time – it was a Chinese production about Dr. Bethune in China. It was in black and white and was all just in Chinese. But I remember him, he was always there, he was always helping. He was a Western man who went there, and he got blood poisoning because they didn’t have sterile things, and he was going to die. I remember weeping because they showed a line of like a thousand people lining up to give blood for him. And they were all the poor people from the countryside who he had helped. And for me that was really… wow.
I remember there was Dr. Christopher Giannou -- I think he was Canadian too – he wrote a book. He went to the refugee camps in Lebanon and he worked there with the people. I don't remember if he got killed or not, but his thing was “let’s get these people through this, let’s help them”. And that’s what I wanted the doctor to be. But you can’t have doctors that are going to train for ten years and then live for 5 years, you know?
POTTER: Yeah. What you just said reminds me that -- and I think you see this in a lot of your work -- it's often very dark, and there's a certain perspective that comes from a place, it seems, of being able to see what's darker or what’s twisted under the surface of things. But tied into that throughout your work is this very, very strong sense of empathy for different kinds of people and people who are in some way othered by society. Would you agree with that? That that’s something that you care passionately about?
WINNIE: I think I could see that in there for sure, yeah. I would say that my approach to life is, I'm Ivanka. I wait and see what people bring forward and I say, “This is awesome! We can work with us. We can do things with this. This is what I can bring forward.” And it’s like a picnic then. We’re both bringing things.
My parents had some issues, for sure, so I guess perhaps I had to step back as a child and just be prepared to accept what was going to happen and not -- if I would have forced myself forward as they were doing, we just would have clashed, which I would have lost. And since my father liked to beat things that would not have worked out well for me. So just stepping back and accepting, I guess influenced the way I look at things in life. And of course the trick is not to get caught in that and repeat the same relationships over and over again with abusive people, but to find people who are nice all the time, even if they’re pushing forward, or who do step back and just say, “Hey, who are you? I’m me” and we can go forward gently together.
POTTER: So your experience as the child made you into an observer but also somebody who’s open to seeing what other people are bringing with them.
WINNIE: Yeah, for sure.
POTTER: The character Bob is really interesting to me because from the very beginning when we first meet him in the play he comes across as a typical carnival Barker, right? There's a certain type, and Bob seems to embody that. But we really quickly learn that he's a very caring person. He might run a traveling freakshow, but he's somebody who values the relationships he created with the people in that freakshow and they’re friends or even like family to him. That's an interesting twist on that type of character. Was there a particular inspiration for that?
WINNIE: He started out being who he needed to be. I mean, it needed a Barker -- it need a charismatic Barker -- and I wanted him to be likable too. We already had Doctor Foster who is likeable/not likeable, and so I wanted him at least to start the other way, to be not likable/likable, just for variety’s sake. And she did need to have a family. And as his wife came into it he became I guess what people think of as a “fixer” – a person who gets everything done. He's holding this circus sideshow together, he’s doing the insurance, he's dealing with the contracts, there's all these laws, he's gotta make sure everyone’s fed, and does everyone have a trailer, does their trailer have heat, his wife’s giving birth – he has to do all of these things. He holds it all together and, you know, that's a difficult job for sure. But he's a super caring person. He’s able to put himself out there and sell it too, because what choice does he have? I don’t know.
POTTER: Yeah, and we learn a lot about Doctor Foster through her interactions with Bob, as much as we do through her interactions with Ivanka. The contrast of their very different perspectives on life tell us a lot about each of these characters. But we also learn a lot about Doctor Foster, I think, through two encounters that she has with a character who isn’t named, who is “Man in Bar”. Tell me about those scenes and why you put those scenes in and what they enabled you to do with the story.
WINNIE: Oddly enough, it seemed like a time when her guard would be down the most and was a place of truth where she could go there and talk about things she couldn’t talk about with anybody else. Because they were a stranger, right? They say we often talk truth with strangers. And so she was able to reach out – well, maybe she had some awareness that she was limited where she was, so she tried to reach out of where she was then to this man in the bar she didn’t know and tried to get some input from him to understand what she was doing, where she was going wrong, where she needed to go. But, you know, she still had no idea who he was or what he was going to say.
POTTER: Yeah, and he turns out to be pivotal because he gets her to really change her perspective on what's been going on between her and Ivanka.
WINNIE: Yeah, I guess that's true. Yeah.
POTTER: Without giving anything away, the play includes a fair amount of audience involvement. Where did that come from? Was that something you intended to bring into it from the beginning? Was it something that popped into your mind later because it filled a certain need or did something that you think wasn’t being done already in the play?
WINNIE: I think it fulfilling a certain need. There were characters who were already there, but the characters weren’t really of that much interest. I mean, as you can see from the way it is now, they don’t really supply a whole lot, and Doctor Foster doesn’t really listen to anybody anyway. So in the interest of humour, because this is a wild comedy, we ask for some audience involved to maximize – it not only maximizes the humour, but it also really shows Doctor Foster for who she really is too, when she’s put up in that situation.
POTTER: Let’s talk about casting in these two plays. I mean, you haven’t been able to come to the rehearsals, but you’ve seen several of these cast members in other things before. Three of them were in Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands. What do you think these particular actors bring to the roles in these two plays?
WINNIE: I adore Rebecca. I think she can be pretty much anything. I saw the film of Negatunity and I think one of my favorite things that I saw her do in there, this may seem weird, was the bartender.
POTTER: Me too.
WINNIE: Yeah, I thought that was really – had all kinds of things in it. So many things. And it was such a rich, rich thing. In Pry It was got to see her change. I mean, she was really tightly wound and as her character went through these situations, she started to loosen up a bit, and she started to breathe a little bit. So I think that we empathize a lot with her and she works with the hearts of the audience, so I think she was the perfect choice to be the Rhinoceros Woman, who we care about.
I find Stephanie has excellent timing and that’s one of the things, when I saw her in Pry It, and she works really well with Rebecca. I guess it’s just a really different perspective. In my head, like it was in Pry It they’re like two of the same people. And if I go back to what I said before, in the play – I mean, I haven’t met Stephanie, so I’m sure she’s not like her character is –
WINNIE: In both the plays – in Pry It and in Rhinoceros Woman – she’s that character who’s pushing out from her own point of view. Rebecca is the one who is taking things as they come, more relaxed. So this is almost like another version of that, kind of, because we’re taking the same sort of character dynamic between the two of them. It’s changed situations a lot, I mean it’s not really recognizable. But if you look at it – you boil it a bit – it’s kind of the same. They’re trying to work together, they’re trying to accomplish things, they both have the best intentions in mind, and they’re clashing heads and fighting and it’s not going to work.
POTTER: You get a lot of sincerity from Stephanie.
WINNIE: Yeah, that’s a really good way of putting it. Because, she really does – and Doctor Foster, I would imagine that she's going to be fantastic, because she's trying so hard, she’s so honest, and she’s trying to make things work, and it doesn’t. In Pry It one of the sad parts was when she started to get left behind as Rebecca began to grow and leave the house. And Stephanie, who had kind of been the boss before, in a way, lost her power and was feeling abandoned. Anyway, I thought that – in the performance – was a really sad part. And I really felt for her and those very honest, strong feelings that came through that she portrayed of being left behind and abandoned. So I guess she’s a very… sincere? I don’t know if that’s the right word. I guess like Rebecca in a way, you really feel for her too but in a different way than you feel for Rebecca.
POTTER: Yeah. Yeah, they’re both sympathetic people.
POTTER: By the end, anyway.
WINNIE: Yeah, and they’re sympathetic all the way through in that we emphasize with them. They don’t come across as anything other than people who are trying.
POTTER: The other cast member who was in Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands was Greg Girty. And I guess maybe the connection between his characters in that play and this play is he’s playing an authority figure again.
WINNIE: I guess. His police officer was incredibly funny. When he played the boss lady with such dignity and grace, that was a whole other thing. It was a beautiful thing to see. And in this show he's got lots of things to do. Bob does a lot of things. I don’t know, I’d hate to just say that it’s kind of like he’s doing the same kind of thing – he’s an authority figure, but he’s caring a lot, he’s trying a lot. It seems – like what I said with the other two. What I like about him is his physicality is crisp. He moves really well in his own body in a way that no other actor does. Even his annunciation in Pry It, the way he said things was so specific that it enriched the character. Every time he did something, said something - when the boss lady came out the first time and the way she spoke in that quiet little voice and everything, but with full authority, I mean, it was a full character right there because his choices are always so specific.
POTTER: Two of the cast members in Squirrel Party you haven't worked with to my knowledge. Emma and Alex.
POTTER: Have you ever worked with Joey Ouellette? Has he ever been in one of your shows?
WINNIE: I don’t think so.
WINNIE: No. I know him from creative writing classes. I know that he’s in the theatre. Way back when I worked on my first play, which was performed by Windsor Feminist, he sort of dramaturged it a bit for me. I think we butt heads a bit. So, I haven't worked with him. I’m interested to see what he does.
POTTER: I think you’ll be happy with what Joey and Alex and Emma are all doing in Squirrel Party. So let’s move to Squirrel Party. That’s a very different kind of play from you, at least in my experience, in that you can kind of believe that the situation Jackie is in is a pretty representative situation of that of many women in the world.
POTTER: It’s not as twisted or wacky - on the surface anyway - as a lot of your other work. Where did that come from – Squirrel Party?
WINNIE: Well first off I’ll say that it was an earlier play that I wrote. So, if you think of this as a tree growing, it was when the tree was smaller. I guess Jackie’s main thing is she’s trying to find out who she is and she’s depending on other people to help define her. Because that’s a lot of times how – especially as women – we’re trained. It’s not who we are, it’s filling into that slot that has been allowed for us and fulfilling those things that we do. For Jackie, she feels like she only has certain things that she can do – certain avenues that she can do that are approved, that are recommended, and she doesn’t know what to do beyond that. Because there’s no one to talk to her. There's no way she can get information about that. So she's like Ivanka in The Rhinoceros Woman, if Ivanka had never become a rhinoceros. She's just trapped in who she is and it’s a very limiting little thing and she doesn't know how to break out of it. She doesn’t know how to incorporate experience into herself. She's trying to hit the goals. “Do this, do that, do this, do that – these lead to happiness!” Which is what happened to Doctor Foster, right? She’s following the map of the order of things because that is what you do. So Jackie is trapped in that. And really the story is about her realizing that she’s constricted thus, and her breaking out of that.
POTTER: Yeah, and that point is made immediately, I think, in the play - that she's trying to follow the prescribed path and it’s not working. And her boyfriend is critical of her even for trying to follow the prescribed path as she knows it, because he thinks there’s no real success that way anyway. But he comes from a very different perspective, right? He hasn’t been trapped in the same box that she has.
POTTER: His options haven’t been as narrowed.
WINNIE: And perhaps his motivation is always contrarian because it's a way of trying to get power over her.
POTTER: Yeah. So that's something else – the power dynamics are interesting in that, for a little while in Squirrel Party it seems like Jackie is at the mercy of one or the other; of Philip, her boyfriend, who is a little controlling – well, domineering – very sure of himself, and Nemo, who is also domineering, controlling, and sure of himself. But philosophically they’re very different people. And it seems as though Jackie isn't really given the room at the beginning to make any choices on her own. It’s a matter of whose dictates she chooses to follow. Is that something that you observe a lot in life?
WINNIE: It’s the story of my life. For me growing up being a person who saw and experienced things differently with some restrictive, opinionated parents in a Catholic school system - my path was all laid out for me. I wasn't that person, and they couldn’t deal with that. So I'm the one who had to suffer through that and find my own way through that somehow to get to the point where I allow myself to spread a bit. Like Rebecca does in Pry It. But I had to go through all that constriction first. And especially when you’re young, you don’t know any different. You don’t know.
I remember with my brother and sister watching Leave It To Beaver, and we thought it was hilarious. And we thought that the comedy was that the father was so nice to his kids. And he spoke to them and asked them things, and this was outrageous to us. We knew it was a comedy and we thought that’s what the funny part was.
So that's where this comes from is having grown up in such and environment where you didn’t really have a choice. I'm not trying to paint my family as awful people. My father grew up in great poverty and he didn’t really have a lot of choices, you know? He had to do what he could to survive. A lot like Doctor Foster, right? My mother, not so much. But she had very little choice as well. So they did their best as people and, you know, I guess I would say my brother and my sister kind of followed along in that, but I’m not that person.
POTTER: And that’s a difficult position to be in, especially when you think you're the only one who either won’t or can’t follow the prescribed paths.
POTTER: Now with Jackie, in her case she’s still pretty young in this play. So there's an opportunity maybe for her to take control of her own life before she’s spent too much of it trying to do what other people want her to do. Was that the case for you? Did you feel like you had spent a lot of time trying to be the person other people wanted you to be before you were able to define yourself and make your own choices?
WINNIE: Oh yeah. Yeah. I went to university to study things that I hated and spend money that I worked really hard to earn. I hated every second of it and I guess essentially I’d say I had an emotional breakdown because it was just so wrong. I mean, at some point if you don’t pay attention to who you really are it kills you. I was suffering a great deal and I had to get out of that. Because I wasn’t giving myself any choice. It wasn’t even a conscious decision like, “I’m gonna screw off!” No. I was ill. I was making myself ill.
POTTER: It can be difficult to pinpoint who we really are, right? Even to ourselves. And I think it’s also a matter process. We’re not fixed as one person, it’s sort of an ongoing process of discovering who we are.
POTTER: At this moment, how would you answer the question: Who is Edele Winnie?
WINNIE: Well my first impulse is to say “I am me”. I imagine you want a more detailed answer than that. So, I guess a person on a journey. I've been lots of places, maybe been through the hard parts. The future - well, I have physical challenges that are getting bigger all the time, but mentally there's nothing to hold me back. I can imagine and go anywhere that you can imagine, really. And that's really freeing and wonderful. I feel I guess there's no point in thinking about what was in the past, but only what you can do right now and in the future, right? So I guess I'm excited to continue and fearful that I might not have a whole lot of time before physically I become too trapped to have any kind of, well – that I’ll have to change so much of what I’m doing and what I can do. But I’m happy to have this limited awareness now of who I am, what’s in the world, and appreciated the freedom of that. Even just in the simplicity of enjoying the birds coming back in the spring and the birds singing in a nice day and the rain drops and music that you’re able to see as a free person, which have great value.
POTTER: You mentioned, you know, sort of very simple and natural things that you take some pleasure in. Aside from that, what brings Edele Winnie joy?
WINNIE: Getting excited about a new project and starting on it. Finishing it. There’s a middle part which is not fun. It’s a really horrible part. Going to the grocery store, having a good day, getting some things that look really delicious and cooking them and having them turn out. Sharing them with people. A day that’s not too hot and not too cold, where you can just be yourself – you can sit out on the step and hear the sounds without getting cold or getting sunburned or anyone throwing something at you. Simple things.
POTTER: Does that happen a lot? Do people throw things at you?
WINNIE: Well, my parents were poor. I came from poverty and that was a rough start for sure. There was lots of neighbourhood drama. And, you know, as a perceived weakling, because I wasn’t like everyone else, I was a target. When you get older hopefully you’re not a target anymore and you can just walk without worry.
POTTER: You don’t see a lot of Catholic themes in your work. Have you sort of jettisoned that part of yourself?
WINNIE: Well, it was never my choice so I never really assumed it. I never really got into it. It was a – I don’t want to say, but I will say – bizarre story. It started off with a couple teachers who were nuns who were not nice.
POTTER: What? Nuns?
WINNIE: Oh! I shouldn’t say her name, but Sister Mary Diane, she said, “My sister’s name was Diane and she died so I took her name and became a nun!” Oh god, she was a horror movie person. She was short and angry. She was so angry. And oh she hated me. I couldn’t do anything right for her. The whole Catholic thing didn’t really work for me at all. I mean, there’s no big farting guy up in the sky, I think, who’s gonna save us. What did I see? A meme, recently, that said, “God created billions of planets, but what he’s focuses on is your vibrator and how long that is”.
POTTER: I have nothing to say to that.
I want to sort of step away from these two players for a second and talk about the Edele Winnie Monologue Competition which we just had, and which was a big success and we’re going to make it an annual event now. Were you able to attend either of the performances?
WINNIE: I was not. No. I found it just a little too overwhelming, I think. Because with theatre productions I feel like you can hide somehow and it's not directly about you. Somehow the monologues, though it isn't entirely true, but it is true at the same time, it’s kind of me. And to see me up there is a little discombobulating. And also there was the risk of what if people hated me? What if me failed? And I don’t think I could – it was just too nerve wracking to do that. It's like we were talking about, being an outsider. It's like, here is a version of me and I was watching and I have no control over what's happening to that person. A lot of the monologues, a lot of things happen to the people, somewhat unpleasant, that involve suffering on some level. As creators you guys know that when you're writing, when you're acting, some of that happens for real. And I just, I don't think I could sit there and watch it and not come through it unscathed. I couldn't smile through it.
POTTER: I wish that we had recorded them though, because I think you would have really enjoyed the performances.
WINNIE: I’ve seen one of them. Christina Orlando - she's the one who came first - her family came and taped it and she posted it on her Facebook page.
POTTER: Oh, wonderful!
WINNIE: So I was able to see that. And that was very good. She was… she was me.
POTTER: Oh, I’m so glad. I’m so glad for that. That’s wonderful to hear. That’s very cool.
Before we go back to the plays, just one other question. You wrote and published this collection of monologues, Big Mouth in, what, a year? About a year?
POTTER: That's a lot of different stories to tell in a year’s time. How did you manage to get so many stories out so quickly? I'm baffled by that.
WINNIE: Well, I think what you said is true, is that they are stories, and they are complete. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. As long as you have the starting point – the beginning – you can find your way through that little story and then it's done and you can just move on to another one. And to be honest there was so many of them, and I was trying to write them while living, that I don't even remember a lot of them. I can go back and look and go, “oh, I remember this now!” but I think if I was to say that I used a specific technique that was to forget that I was writing them. Forget that I had written one already. Forget what all of them were about. Encounter a new thing - just like I'm going out on my step to watch the neighbours go by and feel the sun and everything and find the story there - another story – a new story there, and put it down. I will say as the book continued, I really started to feel the pressure of – I would start and go, “I've already done this one in other words.” And it became more difficult as I went on to find something that I hadn't already done.
POTTER: You wanted them to be distinct and unique.
WINNIE: I mean, you could write 100 monologues that were the same just in different words, but I wanted different stories all the way through. And as they began to become more in number that became more difficult for sure.
POTTER: No doubt. Okay, let’s go back to Squirrel Party for a minute. There's clearly a lot of you in Jackie. Where do Philip and Nemo come from?
WINNIE: Well, I guess they are a collection of all of the voices and good intentions and manipulators and users that surround a person - that surround me, if you want to call me Jackie – saying, “You should do this, you should do that.” Looking for whatever it is. I mean, sometimes it’s good intentions, sometimes they’re trying to use you, sometimes they’re just trying to find their way in the way that they know too. Sometimes they get off – if you want to use that rough phrase – on having power over you or trying to control you. Some people are so insecure that only by trying to control others can they feel any amount of security on their own. So here she is and there’s this whirlwind of people – here it’s divided and packaged into two individuals – around her all the time. And she can’t figure out what to say. They’re saying contradictory things. They’re giving contradictory emotions to her. I mean, at one point they’re saying they love her, and then they’re proposing to her, and then there’s violence sometimes, and they’re trying to kill her, and what is the truth of this? She can’t even tell. And if you listen to their words, it's not clear what they’re saying, I don’t think. What their advice is to her is not really followable. I mean, they’re advising her on their own delusions, but they also have ulterior motives and I don’t think they’re really paying attention to her.
POTTER: There’s a point in the play I think, for me, where Jackie reaches this point in her life – in this story – where it doesn't matter anymore whether what Philip tells her and what Nemo tells her are true. What matters is that they aren’t coming from her, right? That those are directions – those are choices being forced upon her instead of choices being made by, or that come from her. So whether or not what they’re saying at that point is true doesn’t really matter as much as the fact that she needs to make a choice that’s hers. Is that fair?
WINNIE: Yeah, that’s fair. I mean, I think ultimately, she kind of fails. She becomes like them. She now has her own story and her own line, but the chance she had earlier on to escape that, to become like Rebecca was in Pry It From My Cold Dead Hands and break away from that and escape and become her own person. She lost that. She’s become kind of her own person by their rules.
POTTER: Would you say that most of the endings to your stories are downbeat?
WINNIE: What? I don’t know. That's… I mean, it's like you're holding a painting up and you're holding it one way and I'm saying, “What if it goes the other way?” You know? I mean, are they downbeat? I mean, okay, I just said Jackie failed, but she succeeds too, in a way. And she is now calling her own shots. An in Rhinoceros Woman there's great success happens there, too.
POTTER: So perhaps that’s the wrong was to look at it. Perhaps what I’m seeing in your plays in terms of where they tend to end up is at a place of ambivalence? Where there’s a positive and a negative aspect to how you can interpret what’s happened.
WINNIE: That’s sort of all life, right?
POTTER: I think so, but I don’t know if everyone does.
WINNIE: We need those people who are so unhappy, and we need those people who are ridiculously happy. But there is a choice in there and every part of life has the good and the bad, right? Sometimes it's really hard to find the good.
POTTER: You strike me as someone who, in her heart, is a critic. And I mean that in the best sense in that a critic is fundamentally an optimist because a critic believes things can be better.
WINNIE: Yeah. Yeah, I would agree with that. You know, a lot of people, and this always blows my mind, say to me, “Edele, you’re so negative about everything.” And that really shocks me, because I don’t feel that way. Yeah, I will agree with that definition of critic. Things can be better and if you could just figure out the way there – if you can strip away the things that are in your way, the blocks, the blinds, the drapes, whatever you want to call them, then you can go there. I don't think that's being negative. It's moving towards positive. That's optimistic. I get sad and depressed just like everybody, but sometimes it's really for short periods of time, like two hours. I’ll be really down for two hours, but then I’ll climb out of it again.
In life everyone has been through a lot. I can’t say that I’m exceptional in that way. But I’m excited to be alive. I’m excited to wake up tomorrow. And I know how it’s going to end, ultimately, but there’s positive and there’s negative and you gotta take the positive when it’s there.
POTTER: And if the things that bring you joy in life are simple things as you’ve described – things that we all have access to it in some way – then the opportunities for joy seem fairly boundless.
WINNIE: Yeah, I think so. I mean, we’re all surrounded by all these things and we just have to open our eyes to see them. Because they’re already there. So many of us think we have nothing. Sometimes it takes a big trauma, or a big shiny knife, to shock you and realize that you do have a lot of things that you just took for granted, that you just ignored. And you can appreciate that and enjoy it because it is live. So many people now are focused on the things we’re told to focus on. You know, it involves a lot of electronic devices and existing online and all those things, which always seems to be trying to keep up or achieve some goal that someone else has set. But, you know, that’s not me. That didn’t come from me. That’s artificial. If I never knew about that I’d be fine. So if I can keep that separate from the part of me that can feel irrational joy just at stepping in a puddle then obviously that’s the way I need to go. Otherwise I'm going to be miserable.
POTTER: Good advice. Thank you very much, Edele.
WINNIE: It was my pleasure. Thank you guys so much.
11/10/2021 - DEAD BEAR - Meet the Cast
11/05/2021 - DEAD BEAR: interview with playwright John Gavey
9/12/2021 - BLASTED: Meet the Cast
7/2/2021 - CRIMINAL GENIUS: Meet the Cast
3/10/2021 - NEGATUNITY: interview with playwright Matthew St. Amand
3/10/2021 - NEGATUNITY: Meet the Cast
11/16/2020 - THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE: Meet the Cast
10/5/2020 - FATBOY: interview with playwright John Clancy
7/16/2020 - Winner: 2020 Playwriting Contest
6/23/2020 - Announcement: Nikolas Prsa joins Post as Outreach Director
3/15/2020 - BETRAYAL - Meet the Cast
1/18/2020 - PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS: interview with playwright Edele Winnie
1/15/2020 - PRY IT FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS: Meet the Cast/Crew
11/4/2019 - THE PILLOWMAN: Meet the Cast/Crew
9/18/2019 - AUTOPSY & A HAUNTING IN E FLAT: interview with playwrights Alex Monk & Joey Ouellette
8/29/2019 - AUTOPSY: Meet the Cast
8/29/2019 - A HAUNTING IN E FLAT: Meet the Cast
5/31/2019 - AMERICAN BUFFALO: Meet the Cast
3/31/2019 - NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH: Meet the Cast
3/19/2019 - NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH: interview with playwright Eve Lederman
2/25/2019 - So You're Writing a Play...
1/17/2019 - NO EXIT: Meet the Cast
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