Artist Profile: Tanya Rintoul Talks Creation, Collaboration & the Rules of Being a “Good Girl”
Interview by Shaina Silver-Baird
SSB: Tell me about your upcoming show Good Girl at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
TR: I started writing last summer, after I did a 10 minute Alley Play in the Fringe called Change Room. I had watched a documentary about a serial killer named Aileen Wuornos. If you’ve ever seen the movie Monster with Charlize Theron, that’s her. And I was so interested in how little care there was in actually finding justice. Did justice mean someone being punished and that was it? I felt like no one actually took the time to figure out why she did what she did. So we’ll never know and no one will ever understand her point of view. She was put in dangerous situations and she responded by killing. And I don’t think that that’s someone who necessarily is a “killer.” But I don’t know that for sure. I still have a lot of questions and I’ve watched it over and over and over again.
I was also fascinated by the fact that she was imprisoned for years, and yet every time someone came to interview her, she would fix her hair the second she saw the camera. And she was a wreck; she didn’t have any sort of glamour left. But she’d smile as though she were a movie star, just because there was a camera in the room. Even when she was on death row, she still cared about how she was perceived. So, those two things: the concepts of justice and of perception, really triggered a lot for me and I started writing about it. The play itself is about a woman who’s committed a crime and she wants to figure out why she did it, because she didn’t plan to.
SSB: Where did the title come from?
TR: It came out of one of the stories the character tells in the play, about being told as a child that she’s a “good girl.” We tell children: “Good job! You’re a good boy” or “You’re a good girl.” As a society we’ve come up with rules for what it means to be good – what good people do; what bad people do – but sometimes good people do bad things and sometimes bad people do good things. So what does that even mean?
SSB: Why did you choose to do this piece in a site specific location? Can you talk a bit about your venue?
TR: When I did the first, 10 minute version in the Fringe last year, it was in a small shed. I could fit 12 people and they were closer to me than you and I are right now. It was really terrifying. But I loved that I could talk right to them. I could connect with different people at different times based on who they seemed to be or what they seemed to connect with. I also wanted her to have a world of her own. I thought of warehouses, garages, basements, anywhere really contained where you would go to hide. And I wanted the audience to come into that world. In a theatre the audience is coming into a familiar place. There’s a safety, a contract, an understanding of what’s going to happen and I wanted the audience to feel like they were coming into her space in a really visceral way.
My creative partner (director Elsbeth McCall) and I, were wandering around the Annex one morning around 9 am, and we came across this shop. We didn’t even pay attention to what the shop was selling. We were interested in the sketchy stairs that went down to a basement apartment that looked abandoned. So we started snooping around and this man came to the door and said: “Can I help you?” We told him we were looking for a space for a show in the summer. He seemed really interested in helping us but didn’t know how he was going to do that. We gave him my card and he called 5 minutes later and said “I think I might have something.” So we go back to this pawn shop that he was opening – he’d literally been there a week, he takes us to the back of the store, which is all industrial shelving and storage for his products: 20 stereos, an old coke machine and a robot, really weird things, and it was perfect. Ever since then, he has had everything we needed. I’ve worked in theatres where I haven’t been able to access things that he has. He had lights, chairs; he’s providing us with all the means. He was up on the ladder running cables and chords for us during tech. And he’s a lovely, generous man. He’s so excited.
SSB: Why did you decide to do this piece as part of the Fringe?
TR: I feel like it works because there’s a context for people – a festival is accessible. The Fringe does a lot for you. They set up a structure and ask you the right questions at the right times and that’s really great. It’s our second time doing the Fringe.
SSB: Tell me a little bit about barking birds theatre. Why did you start the company and what has it become for you?
TR: We (Elsbeth McCall and Tanya Rintoul) started the company because we really loved working together. I’ve never met someone who I just connect with on every level. I get really emotional talking about this. We literally say half a sentence and that’s the conversation. We are both on the same page. We met in theatre school and we continued to work together more and more as time went on. We see theatre through the same lens and we tell stories in a similar way.
We’ve always been really interested in people and character-driven story telling. We work in a very multi-disciplinary way as well – although this particular show is a little different. We like to take realism and deconstruct it. Use memory, image and storytelling the way the human mind works: in fragments and flashes.
Good Girl by Tanya Rintoul
SSB: How was it balancing the roles of writer and performer? Is it hard to relinquish to your director’s vision?
TR: I found it easier than I thought I would. I try to treat them as if they’re two roles. There are things I do in the show that, as an actor, I feel very uncomfortable doing, but as a writer it is really important to me that they be done. So, in a way, I really do have to separate those things. On the other hand I’ll get distracted by the wording of something while I’m in the middle of working on a scene and I’ll have to stop and think about it and say: “Can I cut this?” It’s a weird feeling that I’ve never experienced: the level of distraction that I go through. I literally slow down as I’m speaking to try to process it. But they’re really patient with me, my director and stage manager. They let me figure things out as I need to.
SSB: If you could assemble your dream team for your next project – including any celebrated artist you can think of – who would be in it?
TR: I really want to work with Graham McLaren, because the Hamlet that he did with Necessary Angelchanged the way that I saw theatre. I don’t know if I even understand how my work has changed since I saw that show. The experience I had in that audience definitely changed the way I approached this piece.
SSB: I noticed in the trailer for your show you have some suggested nudity. How do you feel about women showing their bodies in film and theatre?
TR: I think that as a society we’ve forgotten how powerful nudity can actually be because it’s everywhere. I remember when certain words and certain things weren’t shown on TV before a certain time and that’s completely over. And I think it’s too bad, because it has the potential communicate this vulnerability and television has ruined that. In theatre it can be uncomfortable because the people are real and they’re right there, naked in front of you. If an actor is self-conscious you know it, and if they’re not, you start thinking about why, because it’s not “ok” to be naked in front of a room of people. It’s one of those things we just don’t do. I’m certainly interested in the power of it and examining how we use it. It adds to the belief that we’re watching someone in a private moment.
SSB: What’s your favourite thing to do in your time off?
TR: Surprisingly enough, I love seeing my friends. I feel like I should want to be by myself and do something really glamourous. But the thing I miss most when I’m too busy to do anything but work, rehearse and sleep, is calling up someone last minute and making plans. I love spending time with people that I care about… or being here in my house. This interview is the longest I’ve been here, awake, in forever.
SSB: What are you most afraid of?
TR: I have definitely have a fear of being the only person left, which is a very real thing in my family: I’m an only child, I have my parents and that’s it. My extended family is very small. And I have this knowledge and understanding that eventually I will be the only one. And that is something I think about a lot and am afraid of. And I’m afraid of windows at night.
SSB: What is your character most afraid of?
TR: Everything that’s happening to her in the play. Specifically, her biggest fear is being wrong and doing the wrong thing.
SSB: What inspires you, as a person and as an artist?
TR: People. I love learning about people and watching people. I watch documentaries endlessly because I find different points of view so incredible. I’m especially fascinated by people who aren’t anything like me. I grew up in a theatre family. I’m really interested in people who know nothing about theatre. I work at a restaurant and I talk to all these people who come there after their 9 to 5 job and I realize I will never know what that life is like. And I want to know, I want to look in other people’s houses. When I walk down the street at night I’m always looking into people’s windows. Someone said to me once: “You’re afraid of windows? It’s like you’re afraid of being seen.” And that’s terrifying. There could be someone over there and you can’t see them. That’s what the fear is based on. Because I’m always seeing and watching, I feel like someone could be seeing and watching me. It’s a weird cycle. What do we present versus what is actually there? That is a huge part of this play as well. The character really tries to figure out how she’s supposed to be. I’ve been told my whole life I should change things about myself because it’ll be easier. But if I do that, then what will I lose because of who I actually am?
CRASH COURSE on Tanya
Favourite book: Fall on Your Knees and The Time Travellers Wife. I hate that they made that awful movie out it.
Favourite playwright: I have a really hard time with this question, because I have seen so many good productions of bad plays and really bad productions of good plays. Theatre is supposed to be seen so it’s hard to judge a piece without all the other elements. It isn’t simply the words that define it for me.
Favourite vice: I’m not going to say the first thing that comes to mind. But, beer.
If I was to pick up your Ipod right now what artist would be playing: Nina Simone
Stage Managed by: Jade Lattanzi
Sound Design by: Hallie Seline Runs: July 3rd-July 14th
Wednesday July 3rd – 8:30pm
Thursday July 4th- 8:30pm
Friday July 5th- 8:30pm
Saturday July 6th- 8:30pm
Sunday July 7th- 8:30pm
Monday July 8th- 8:30pm
Wednesday July 10th- 8:30pm
Thursday July 11th- 8:30pm
Friday July 12th- 8:30pm
Saturday July 13th- 8:30pm
Sunday July 14th- 8:30pm Where: 1044 Bathurst Street (Annex Pawn) Enter through back ally off of Vermont Ave. Tickets: $10 at the door/ $11 in advance at https://www.fringetix.ca/scripts/max/2000/maxweb.exe?ACTION=ORDER For more info on Barking Bird Theatre: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barking-Birds-Theatre/187191241329340 Or check out their facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/147961018727546/?fref=ts