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Devin Kawaoka is currently starring as Dustin in Broadway’s hit Slave Play by Jeromy O. Harris, which has transferred to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Devin's character brings an LGBTQ perspective to the show, which is the most Tony Award®-nominated play in history.
Devin grew up in Rochester, New York, a keen downhill ski racer with dreams of competing in the Olympics. He attended New York University as an undergraduate and then in the Graduate Acting Program on a full merit scholarship. Soon after graduating, Devin won the Rosemarie Tichler Award for his performance in Unnatural Acts at the Classic Stage Company. Since then he has appeared on multiple television shows including Lucifier, Marvel’s The Runaways, and Criminal Minds. We caught up with Devin to grab his thoughts about his role in Slave Play.
'Slave Play' Coming Soon | Mark Taper Forum youtu.be
Have you noticed any difference in the types of audiences and their reactions in LA vs. NYC?
Devin: It's hard to generalize, but in Los Angeles we are so much closer to the audience as we are working on a thrust stage as opposed to a proscenium. The audience is a literal character in the Los Angeles production. We address them directly whereas on Broadway the audience was behind the fourth wall. So because of that, I think the audience feels much more implicated. They feel more challenged by the material and tend to feel more freedom to be vocal because of that implication, even sometimes talking amongst themselves as the play unfolds.
Going back to when you first read the play: What was your initial gut response?
Devin: I wanted to tell this story. To be a part of this moment in theatre history. I knew what Jeremy had written was important. Is important. We as a country need to grapple and wrestle with the ideas in this play, with our inability to directly and aggressively address the intersection of sex and race. It is not meant to please—although there are some pretty good jokes in it. It is meant to incite and ignite. Incite feelings and ideas, and hopefully ignite change.
What is your most favorite scene; and your most difficult scene?
Devin: I don't think I have a favorite! The material is so rife with complex psychological, emotional, political, racial etc. conflict that getting to say these words out loud every night is a real blessing for any actor. The end of Dustin's journey is when he is the most revealing, as his partner reads him for being unable to see anything outside of himself. And despite any erasure he may be experiencing as a white-passing Asian man, the repercussions for his relationship in his myopia to not see beyond his own experience are devastating. Having to go through this explosive racial reckoning and ultimate breaking of his decade long relationship is difficult to say the least. And to live it every night takes its toll.
Out actor Devin Kawaoka is starring in Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris outvoices.us
During the pandemic we have seen a horrific spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Have you experienced this in any form? And how does the play get to the root cause of this racism — including inter-racial racism.
Devin: My experience is one of fear and sadness. When I have watched these horrific videos, I can't help but imagine my father, aunt, grandmother, etc. being beaten unexpectedly as they walk down the street to get their weekly groceries. How do we live in a world where we can look at another human and see our hatred but not their humanity? How do we see our disgust, but not their grandchildren, their hobbies, their kind acts, their life and community that is just like ours? In the production, I'm aware of the impact of my Asian body on stage. Would it be seen as sexy? Would it fit the mold? Especially in a gay community that not so long ago blatantly posted "No Femmes, No Asians" on the hook up apps. I decided that that would be my act of defiance and solidarity in the face of all this hate. Asian-ness, feminine and masculine, that would be unapologetically displayed for the world to consider, to see, to be desired and or despised.
Get your tickets to Slave Play here.
Arizona Musicfest is almost here and as the non-profit concert presenter gears up for its 31st year, we were delighted to catch up with one of the star attractions of the season: Ann Hampton Callaway.
An Arizonan transplant, Ann will be joining her sister Liz Callaway and presenting their 1995 cult-classic hit, Sibling Revelry on March 7 in Scottsdale. Those in the showbiz 'know' have for some time appreciated the harmonic wonders of The Callaway Sisters — but if you are new to the party, welcome. I caught up with Ann ahead of the show to find out how her fabulous musical career came to be, what she really thinks of sister Liz, how she's adjusting to life in Arizona, and what marriage has taught her.
AZMF 2021-22 Concert Season Preview youtu.be
Ann Hampton Callaway, I am such a huge fan of yours. You have the perfect career and dare I say, the perfect life, which includes a happy ending with a beautiful wife.
Ann: I remember when I finally was in love and it was actually mutual and it was all going to work out despite certain challenges, and I thought, Am I still going to write good songs? Am I allowed to be happy? Am I actually allowed to have this feeling?
I like to think as gay women, we get to graduate at some point. So let me go back to the beginning because my understanding is you grew up in the Midwest with talented parents, but I'm not sure they were on the showbiz map yet somehow you discovered you were musical. Tell me a little bit about that discovery and when it happened.
Ann: Well, you know, I sensed there was music deep into the DNA of at least my mother's side of the family. I think the way when in the olden days, in the 1800s, there were opera singers in Austria and my mom was a wonderful singer, pianist, and voice teacher, and she sang with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and was quite talented. But she had a challenging mother and parents who didn't really have any intention of her doing anything but getting married and teaching and having a family. And so there were moments in my life where I thought I was living my mother's unrealized dreams. I wanted my own dreams. My father was truly a brilliant journalist, but when the great Sammy Cahn heard him sing at a luncheon when he was introducing Sammy and he sang one of Sammy's hits, Sammy went up to him and said, 'You knocked it out of the park, John' and my dad said it was better than all his Emmy awards and Peabody Awards, having Sammy Cahn tell him that he sounded good as a singer. So my dad was a scat singer and he was a jazz fan, and I fell in love with jazz from my father. But my mom was more show tunes / classical music. And so my sister and I grew up in this very interesting family where there was just the right amount of neurosis, the right amount of difficulty, and the right amount of love.
Find Out Why Everyone Loves the Callaway Sisters' "Sibling Revelry" youtu.be
Let's talk a little bit about sisters. What is your relationship with Liz like?
Ann: We had a normal amount of rivalry and revelry. We had a normal amount of having fun and being kids. And then there was a while where I was like, Why are you my sister? We have nothing in common. But then when I went off to college and my parents had gotten divorced, we finally realized that we could be allies and she was starting to get into her own light and not in the shadow of her sister. In high school — we had a beautiful performing arts department — and she started to find her [musical] family. And that was the birth of Liz Callaway as a singer when she really found her people and got to star in some shows in high school. And then she went to college at University of Cincinnati for a quarter. And I like to say I served two years as an acting major at the University of Illinois because the people there had a very negative, hostile way of teaching. And that was not the kind of environment that I or most people thrive in. So we I decided to move to New York and Liz decided at the last minute to join me. Once we moved to New York we became allies in a big city where there were a lot of challenges. I got off the Amtrak train and they lost my reservation at the Martha Washington Hotel for Women where my sister and I were going to stay and I had no place to go and my little sister's coming, and so I'm crying on the corner and this guy says, 'Oh, go two blocks down and you can go to this hotel and they'll take care of you' — not knowing that that's where prostitutes and homeless people lived. And Liz got groped by the taxi driver on the way from the airport. So that was our welcome to New York! That kind of stuff makes you bond. I always say that she is the sunlit voice and I am the moonlit voice and together we make twilight.
And speaking of New York and how shitty New York City can be, what what made you move out to Arizona where you now live?
Ann: My wife, Kari, who is from Tucson, Arizona, was in deep need of returning to be with her mom and her family and her incredible friends. And I happened to be bewitched by the desert. I'm a person who thrives in New York and its excitement, and I love the glorious spiritual beauty of this part of the world. It's something indescribable, but when people come to our home, they just feel like, Oh wow, you get to live here and you get to experience this. And I tell people we moved to heaven and God is our neighbor. It's just spectacular, inspirational beauty with the skies and mountains and the stars and the sunsets and the beautiful birds. As a songwriter, and as a highly sensitive person, it's an environment to really replenish. It's a sanctuary, a place to to rebuild my energy. And it turned out to be a great place to spend the pandemic.
And many great performers pass through Tucson, Phoenix, and Scottsdale.
Ann: [Tucson] is actually a surprisingly vital and vibrant, funky artistic town. It's really a hip community. And the more time I spend here, the more talented people I meet, and I get to see our friends come through. And so it's a really lovely place to have the best of it all.
You work extensively in the genre of jazz and the American Songbook, what do you love about this genre?
Ann: I do feel very passionate about the genre because to me, it's just great artistry and it's great artistry that becomes more beautiful and more significant, with time, with challenges. There are very few love songs that can provide the level of depth and resonance to a human heart than the ones that were written during this golden age of theater and film writing. And so, yes, I feel very passionate about it, and most of the songs are songs from that era are timeless. And on the other hand, though, I listen to a lot of other music and I'm as seriously busy songwriter...
People may not know you wrote and sang the theme song to the TV sitcom The Nanny, and you wrote Barbra Streisand's wedding song. Tell me a little about your approach to songwriting.
Ann: I was born a songwriter. The way I think things and feel things. I like to distill the moment. When a phrase has a ring of truth it's like a gong that goes off in me and it wants to be realized. It asks me to to pursue it and follow through and make something of it. And so it's just a natural part of my creative life. Over the last two years, with the exception of this year, I wrote a poem every single day. It was an extremely creative exercise, and many of these poems turned into songs. And this year I want to take many more poems that are meant to be songs and actually spend the time to write them into songs. But I do have a very passionate way of looking at life, and as a person who primarily is a lover and cares about people and our world and being a conduit for loving change and compassionate exploration of new ways of living and experiencing life — being a songwriter is one of the most powerful ways to address many of the challenges that we see in front of us . And also to embrace the gorgeousness of life and to honor and celebrate it in the midst of extremely challenging times.
You know, when the pandemic came, I think we suddenly realized even more strongly how we don't know how long we have. And so I don't want to leave this Earth without giving a lot more from my heart as a songwriter. It's a beautiful way of trying to meet the creative power. And I'm very spiritual person, so when I say the creative power I mean I don't think that anybody writes a song alone, you can call it whatever you want to call it, but I feel that I have a bossy muse and she needs to be obeyed (laughs).
How do you know it's a love song when you write a love song?
Ann: I don't worry about what something is. I just try to tell the truth of something. And if it's written with love, it's a love song.... It may be me seeing the world having just kissed someone. There are so many different ways of experiencing love; seeing the world through loving eyes having found love; and learning more about love and getting to share it with someone significantly through the years is a profound gift. So every song is a love song if you are a loving human being.
A WEDDING CELEBRATION Ann Hampton Callaway & Kari Strand - Stephen Sorokoff youtu.be
You're in your seventh year of marriage? Has it transformed you?
Ann: We've been together for 15 years by the way. I proposed to Kari not much later, after meeting her — I just knew she was the one — and she said yes. So, the world's longest engagement, and we always said we didn't need a piece of paper. But then I started to realize that we were part of history, and there were a lot of people who fought to give us the right to marry. And we thought about the legal protections of marriage, and we also thought about it as an inspiration to up the ante of a true relationship. And so we wanted to celebrate our marriage. First, we got legally married at our house, on November 7th, seven years ago. And then we had a huge party at Birdland the following year in June on Pride Week with the greatest singers and pianists and musicians do two and a half hours of great love songs, and it was a love benediction and people all over the world came to celebrate our marriage and we had one of the greatest singers of our time officiate our wedding, Marilyn Maye. That kind of positive, loving energy blessed our relationship and made me feel like, I want to work even harder to be a better partner. This is so precious. I don't want anything to get in the way of us growing every day as a couple. So I think marriage helped me feel the higher stakes of thinking that this is like an art, and I want to get better at it.
The Prom had its world premiere at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2016, before its hit run on Broadway. The show centers on some big Broadway stars on a mission to change the world, as they work to make it possible for a girl to bring her girlfriend to … The Prom, of course. Critics and audiences alike have loved the show and its compassionate message of inclusion. Variety raved, “It’s so full of happiness that you think your heart is about to burst” while The Hollywood Reporter called it “comic gold!”
The joyous Broadway musical comedy, The Prom, will make its Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) debut in Jackson Hall, when the National Tour of the show visits Nashville on February 22 - 27, 2022.
In advance of the show’s Nashville run, one of the leads, Patrick Wetzel, who plays the role of “Barry” in the show, sat down with me to talk about his own history with The Prom and how it brought him back to the stage for the first time in eight years, and much more. We still live in a country where, for far too many LGBTQ+ youth, the idea of taking an authentic date to the prom is a dream deferred. This show thus has an important message that needs to be seen and heard—and internalized—by audiences across the country.
James Grady: If somebody asked you, as a cast member, to describe The Prom, how would you describe it?
Patrick Wetzel: You know, it's funny. I think if you asked every different principal in the show, you'd get different answers. But my character, Barry, has an objective in the show, and it changes about halfway through. He realizes he's there to learn something and not necessarily to teach, and so I think it's really about growing! It's also about friendship, it's about loyalty, and it's about teaching and learning. And, so importantly, it's about inclusivity and acceptance!
James Grady: When did you first become aware of, or involved in, The Prom?
Patrick Wetzel: That's very interesting! I was an actor for most of my adult career, and then about eight years ago, I needed to take a break. I shifted gears and moved into the management side of things. So I was a stage manager on a very early incarnation of The Prom, a workshop before it came to Broadway. We did that workshop for a month.
From there, my journey with The Prom has been sort of varied. When Ryan Murphy saw the Broadway musical, he decided to make the movie for Netflix. Casey Nicholaw, who was the original director and choreographer of the Broadway musical, went out to work on the choreography for the movie. I was a part of his choreography team working with him on the movie. I worked with James Corden and Meryl [Streep] and Nicole [Kidman] and the rest of the cast to assist Casey with the choreography.
Then I heard that the national tour of The Prom was going out. I had been thinking ... it had been eight years and in the middle of the pandemic Broadway theater was shut down for 18 months. During that time, I thought, "Well, gosh, I don't think I'm done performing yet." So I put the word out that I wanted to go back onto the stage! Then this opportunity presented itself!
Now I find myself, eight years later, back on the stage—and with a show that I initially had worked on as a stage manager when it was still being workshopped! So ... life is funny. You never really know where things are going to lead you, but my journey with The Prom, in particular, has been so strangely varied!
James Grady: Has performing in The Prom revitalized your love of acting? I know you said you felt the need to step back eight years ago.
Patrick Wetzel: It has completely revitalized my love of being on the stage, James. I love this role. I love this part. I love that this is where I have ended up working on the show. It's a beautiful part, and I love playing Barry. It's so incredibly satisfying to get to play him eight times a week, and I'm loving it!
I don't know why, but eight years ago, I began to feel anxious about auditioning. When I first moved to New York City, I was fearless in an audition setting. I was not scared of performing or auditioning in front of everyone, anyone. I loved getting in the room to audition. But as I got older, something started to shift, and my anxiety... I would get the phone call from my agent, I would see that they were calling, and that would send me into a tailspin. And I was scared to to get into the room and audition. I was turning down more auditions than I was going in for, and that's no way to be an actor!
So I knew that I needed to make some sort of shift eight years ago and at the very least take a break.
James Grady: Was it a difficult mental shift to come back to the stage?
Patrick Wetzel: A few years ago, though, I started thinking, "Gosh, I have this itch that I need to scratch to get back on the stage." But I didn't say anything for a couple years because my decision to stop performing had been so definitive! I felt surely this feeling of wanting to be back on the stage was just fleeting, that it would go away.
It was kind of like coming out. You think, "No, I'm not gay. I'm not gay. It'll go away. It'll pass." But that that voice insists. This was sort of similar to coming out. It got louder and louder, until I finally had to acknowledge, "I think I want to be on the stage again." So I finally "came out" and told the people that needed to know, and it felt like such a relief. I'm realizing the parallels now between that and coming out of the closet.
As soon as I said it, I felt free. I felt excited to audition again. And I'm so excited to be back on the stage. For whatever reason I needed to take that break and step away for a moment. And it gave me clarity on where my true passion is. And my original passion for theater and performing and musical comedy--I still just love it so much. It's in me, it's in the center of my being. I have to be a part of it. I love it. I love, love, love, love it!
James Grady: What are some roles you would love to play in the future?
Patrick Wetzel: Off the top of my head, Harold Hill in The Music Man! It's a part I've never played. I've seen the show many, many times, and I love it so much. I just love that part! Harold Hill and how he's this con man who finally comes clean. He gives himself permission to be his true authentic self, and in his own way, comes out of the closet to be honest with himself about his life. I love the music. I love the story. And that's a dream role for me!
James Grady: It occurred to me that, when the show was written, a lot of us thought we were getting near the end of this era, near the end of this fight. And now we find ourselves, years later, finding it so very timely, unfortunately.
Patrick Wetzel: There are places where the story needs to be told, as we journey around to different cities. This message does need to be heard by some parts of the country more than others. Living in New York City, being gay is very accepted, but a lot of the places we are traveling things aren't so clear. But I think the message will be heard loud and clear!
Things are evolving and changing all the time! I moved to New York City in 1989. And thinking about where things were there, then, and where we are now. I mean, we've come so far, and we're evolving. The trans community is, in the LGBTQ community, at the forefront, forging ahead and blazing the trails for our community as a whole. We're continuing to push forward and forge ahead and normalize our community.
Courtney Balan, Patrick Wetzel, Bud Weber and Emily Borromeo in The National Tour of THE PROM.Photo by Deen van Meer
Bringing it back to The Prom and speaking of normalizing things--there's nothing more normal than wanting to go to a high school dance and dance with the person that you love. And that's really all this story is, in the end. It's about a teenager, who wants to go to a dance with her girlfriend. There's nothing more normal than that. That's no different than any other person of any other gender or identity. They just want to dance with their loved one. It's fascinating telling the story.
James Grady: What's the reception been like from audiences around the country?
Patrick Wetzel: Well, it has been surprisingly good! There's a couple of politically charged moments in the show. It's not with a heavy hand, but they are there those moments! So we didn't know how this was going to be. The show played very well in New York. But we had wondered what it would be like when took the show to cities in the Midwest or the South.
What it has shown me is that The Prom is just a really well-constructed and well-written and very funny musical comedy. So it's played very well! It has surprised us all. We sort of walk into every new city that we play, holding our breath a little bit, thinking, "Well, how is it gonna play here?" But we have learned to trust that the material is really good. It's really funny. They did such a beautiful job writing the show. That wins audiences over.
The Prom will knock you over the head with the comedy because it's so funny, but then it will surprise you and catch you off guard with its emotional moments and messages. So I always tell people, come to our show ready to laugh but bring a tissue!
James Grady: What has been the response from the older crowd, people who didn’t grow up with a concern for things like this necessarily?
Patrick Wetzel: Well, it's interesting because I was just talking with a person who saw the show in St. Louis after the show. We were chatting, and she's an older person, late 60s, early 70s, and her response was, "I didn't realize how important this story was to tell people. It's a really good message."
Again, it is not with a heavy hand. They're just telling this story about a young girl who wants to go to a dance. And it's as simple as that. But surprisingly, people do need to see that it's important that we let our young people be who they are. They're going to shape our country and our world.
James Grady: What would you say to your LGBT audience who may be thinking of coming to see your show?
Patrick Wetzel: Yeah, well, you know what's interesting, James? We see so many young kids with their parents coming, and we get so many notes and letters from young LGBTQ community members who say, "I was scared to tell my parents that I was gay. I was scared to come out to my parents, and you have helped me. Now I have the courage!" I mean heartbreaking letters from kids all around. And we say, "Come and be accepted. Come and don't be scared. Come ready to laugh. But bravely enter our theater and be ready to let your freak flag fly.
For more information, please visit www.theprommusical.com or find the show on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The Prom will run nightly at TPAC’s Jackson Hall from February 22-27, 2022. Tickets for the TPAC shows can be purchased at TPAC.org or by calling 615-782-4040.
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When Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix Special, Nanette, debuted in June of 2018, her unique, confessional, and deeply personal brand of comedy took audiences on a journey through what it means to be a lesbian in a profession – and, frankly – in a world dominated by straight white men.
You joked last year in your Netflix special Nanette that “No one in this room is leaving the room a better person.” And I remember when I watched for the first time, it changed me and I’ve cried every single time I’ve watched it since. I’m a fairly cis-gendered white gay man and having somebody who’s candid about their experience means the world. You mix being a comedian and a raconteur. It’s more than getting a laugh, it’s finding pathos. How would you define your brand of comedy?
GADSBY: What I think I was driving at in writing Nanette was that the sad clown is this idea that we have, that it’s just how it should be. And I kind of wanted to reject that, you know, I felt like that just meant I had to stay stuck in a certain kind of trauma in order to have the voice that I did. And looking around the gay community, I did see that space between pride and shame. You know, being in the closet and out of the closet, and nobody really talked, or I hadn’t really felt connected to any story where people go, “You know, the shame sticks.” The shame sticks and we have to pretend it doesn’t, even to each other. Because if we don’t look proud the world will attack.
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix youtu.be
It was kind of a very vulnerable space that I felt like I was opening up. You know, sort of in no man’s land, so to speak, because I didn’t want to alienate people. And I certainly don’t want to suggest that self-deprecation has no place. I think I could not have gotten where I was without the armor that I built with using self-deprecation. And I certainly couldn’t have found an audience with the people who would have preferred to be hostile with me if I didn’t have the armor of self-deprecation.
But, I think there is an evolution point that I think I want to push. And I’m just delighted that it resonated with such a large part of the queer community. To be part of the community is really important.
I know growing up as an overweight kid, who, if I’m going to be pigeonholed as anything, I’m a bear… I have always been the big guy who had to turn to that self-deprecating humor to find a place to fit in to make other people comfortable. So I understand that intimately.
GADSBY: I think it’s a point of power to be able to do that. When you get to a certain level of maturity, that practice of caring how other people feel, even though it’s at your own expense. I prefer to know how to care what and how other people feel. You don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, but also, the body image stuff. I don’t mention it directly in Nanette, but when I say that I no longer want to do self-deprecating, it has every bit as much to do with my body image as it does with my gender and sexuality. Because that is the point where people will sort of move to silence me. You know, it’s like, “Well, you don’t get to have a voice. You’re fat and ugly.” Which is a weird idea.
From your descriptions of where you grew up, it sounds like Tasmania is a lot like Western Pennsylvania, where I grew up. Western Pennsylvania is the rust belt, it’s “God and guns” country. Does that still identify and inform your life and work? Or is it sort of trying to exorcise that and move past it?
GADSBY: It does, but I think what I really want to do is humanize those people that I grew up believing were my enemies. Because they’re not. They’re as much victims of the toxic politics that play out over our heads. You know, I honestly think that if we want to change the conversation, we do need to appeal to the better part of people. I grew up when these debates were had among people who had to live with each other. And as painful as it was, it’s more human than the debate now. People don’t have to live with the people they disagree with. And I think that makes it even more dangerous, because people don’t get to see the effects of their behavior.
In the midst of Nanette, you questioned very directly a few times whether you needed to quit comedy. What factors helped you decide to carry on and create this new tour, Douglas?
GADSBY: Well, there’s two parts to that. The first is that quitting comedy in the show was a theatrical conceit. Basically, in the running of the show, I knew that people would disqualify what I had to say by way of how I was saying it. So my theory was, if I quit comedy, then they can’t say, “Well, this is not comedy.” It’s like, “Yeah, dude, I quit.” Making a critic redundant before they had a chance to even be relevant.
But as I toured the show – it’s kind of a tough tour, as you might imagine, doing that material over and over again – I believed it when I said it, because it’s like, yeah, I can’t keep doing it.
But it’s also the only thing I can do. I don’t have a strong resume, a strong CV, as they say, but I have quit doing comedy in the sense that what I do, you know, the punch line isn’t King. I refused to bend the knee for that one. And so what I’m doing now is sort of really mucking about with the with the form. I think comedy could be so much more than just set up, punch line, set up, punch line.
One of my favorite lines that comes out of Nanette is, “I cook dinner way more than I ‘Lesbian’. But no one introduces me as the ‘chef’ comedian.” That one kills me.
GADSBY: It’s true. I think you get to a certain age when you just go, “I don’t think my sexuality really should be front and center of my identity.”
Do you feel like you get pigeonholed as that, or as a female comedian in general?
GADSBY: Yeah, look, I think it’s a shame what we do with identity politics. I honestly think identity should be something people get to explore and have fun with when they’re younger and when you’re older, just get on with it. I think writing that show was like, I just want to get on with it. You know, I just want to do good stuff in the world without having to explain myself. Can I just be? And you can’t.
Absolutely. This world wants to, as you talk about, put a pink or blue color on a child as soon as they’re born, and enforce all these rules and regulations. It’s interesting watching the shift over time towards trying to find that neutral space to allow a child not to be the football player, the cheerleader, or any of those very typical American tropes.
GADSBY: Yeah, I mean, the next few generations seem to be all over it. I think they have a much more flexible idea of gender, but they’re not the ones writing the laws at this point. So, I think we’re still in a kind of dangerous place. And I think it’s important that older people step up and try and make it easier for the next generation. I feel like it’s the responsibility of people to not give a care about themselves, once they’ve reached a certain age, and just think more about what’s the focus for the future.
In a similar vein, I don’t know what the timeline was in relation to the Nanette tour, but you were diagnosed with ADHD and autism. Being able to talk about that in your work now, has that changed your perspective on your own life and what you want your work to be?
GADSBY: The diagnosis process, or, as I like to call it confirmation, which gives it less pathology, that has been quite a long process and predated Nanette. But talking about it publicly is something I feel like I can do now. It’s part of that I’m less vulnerable than I was. I wanted people to listen to what I had to say with Nanette without going, “Yeah, but you’re a bit special needs, aren’t you?”
I think just like gender, just like sexuality, I think neurodiversity is something that is a positive for our population. I believe that people who think differently should be seen not as a burden, or, people – particularly children – who fail to hit these markers of what growing up means. You know, you learn something by a certain stage, if you don’t, then you’re behind. I’m quite passionate about sort of breaking that open and widening our understanding of what developmental progress means. That people have a different perspective and valuable perspective, not the wrong perspective.
Hannah Gadsby: Douglas | Official Trailer | Netflix youtu.be
If there’s one thing that I can honestly tell you I admired most in Nanette it was when when you circled back at the end to correct the joke, and correct the record on what happened with the man who beat you. And on the history of the assaults you endured. That’s drawing a real line in the sand and saying, “You know, we all got to chuckle about this earlier. But here’s what really happened now that now that you’ve spent an hour getting to know me.” But beyond that, Nanette ends with a message about taking care of each other, reaching out and really looking after our brothers, sisters, and non-binary friends, too. Is there an overarching message to Douglas?
GADSBY: Yeah, there is, but like Nanette there’s several competing messages. It is about challenging our habits of thought in a lot of ways. I am really tackling this common idea that difference should be ranked and looking at ableism more directly. Douglas is still evolving, which is exciting. And you know, this tour that I’m doing, it won’t be the show that lands on Netflix. It’s my favorite thing to do is share my mind, with audiences, and then the show grows from that.
And there is a beauty to that organicism, that it can grow and change and develop as, as you learn from the audience and the audience learns from you.
GADSBY: Yeah, I think comedy, it really is a conversation. A bit one-sided, but it is a conversation.
HANNAH GADSBY TOURS "BODY OF WORK" STARTING MARCH 2022. DATES HERE.