In Conversation with Janelle Hanna on Bad Baby, Big Risks & the Camaraderie of The Fringe
Interview by Brittany Kay
Janelle Hanna is bringing the only clown to wear rubber boots at the Toronto Fringe Festival this year and Bad Baby was born to fill that role! Presenting her first solo show, Janelle is a Fringe veteran appearing in past shows such as Eternal Friendship with a Spotless Smile and Virginia Aldridge, BSc. Janelle Hanna’s Bad Baby appears in Rules Control the Fun, a hilarious new Canadian play about love, relationships, vulnerability, and shame at the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Brittany Kay: Who is Bad Baby?
Janelle Hanna: Bad Baby is a very talented and attractive actor. You’ve probably seen her around the city at auditions. She goes to a lot of auditions. A lot. She might not be in Toronto for very much longer though. She’s probably going to go to L.A. so when she comes back to Toronto she can say, “Yeah…just got back from L.A.”
BK: Where did she come from? How was she first discovered and created?
JH: Bad Baby has been with me for about 10 years, coming into my life initially in clown and mask class during my 3rd year of the Theatre and Drama Studies program at UTM. She started as a very mischievous kid who loved feeding her dog treats but has since grown up and developed some sweet dance moves, wicked acting chops, and masterful balloon arch skills. And while Bad Baby has popped up around the city a few times, her last appearance in a full show was during my MFA in Acting at York University when I presented my thesis research on vulnerability. She was 1 of 3 featured characters I presented in a 15-minute solo piece. I’m experimenting with a similar concept for Rules Control the Fun but Bad Baby gets top billing this time.
BK: Tell me a little bit about your show and why Bad Baby “knows all the rules”?
JH: Bad Baby knows all the rules because she’s seen a lot of solo shows. A lot. AND a lot of Fringe shows. A lot, a lot. And she knows all the things you’re supposed to have in a great show, and she’s going to do all those things like dance, sing, special skills, flirt, kissing, balloons, and nudity… maybe.
BK: Why is a show like Bad Baby perfect for the Fringe?
JH: In my experience, the shows that work best in a Fringe environment are those with a lot of laughs, and a lot of heart. This show is big on both of those things but audiences will discover this show delves deeper into issues I’m passionate about exploring as a writer and performer: vulnerability, shame, love and connection. I’m taking some big risks with this show, and I think that’s what Fringe is (or should be) all about – taking a huge leap and seeing if you land, or totally wipe out. Let’s hope for the former.
BK: This is your first solo show. What are the fears/excitements around that?
JH: Well it’s the first solo show I’ve written, and yes there are many fears that come along with that (Will the show resonate with people? Will I piss everyone off? Am I doing it all wrong? How do I use square brackets? How do I even type square brackets?) Even to be called a “writer” is still a bit odd if I’m being honest because I really feel like a performer first and foremost. But it’s also really exciting because as an artist I tend to infuse a lot of myself into the work I create (which I’m sure isn’t a unique or particularly mind-blowing statement as I’m sure to a certain extent this is what all artists do), and as the writer I’ve had the opportunity to craft exactly what I need to say, something you don’t always get to do when you’re playing with someone else’s words. When it comes to performing solo many people have told me how terrified they are of it. I’ve never really feared performing solo though. Perhaps it suits my… somewhat… at times… controlling personality? NEXT QUESTION!
BK: Tell me about the balloon arch? Will we see it in the tent?
JH: *BREAKING NEWS* The balloon arch WILL make an appearance at the tent. We can guarantee that. Bad Baby can even show you how to make an arch. It’s pretty simple! Fishing line, weights, helium, balloons BUT the tricky part is attaching it to the line – that takes years to perfect. And by years I mean minutes.
BK: If Bad Baby was here, what else would she want us to know about?
JH: She would want you to know about a petition she has started to bring back Melrose Place to Netflix. You can go to www.bringbackmptonetflix.com to sign it. She would also want you to know that if you come to her show, there is a surprise. But she’s not going to tell you what it is. Because it’s a surprise.
BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?
JH: I hope I can make someone’s day a little better. Either because Bad Baby gave them some good belly laughs, or because she flirted with them and made them smile, or because maybe they’re feeling a bit weighed down by the world like a certain writer/performer/producer girl I know, and after seeing the show they feel a little less so.
BK: Are there other shows you are planning to see in the Fringe?
JH: SO MANY. Fitting them all in is going to be a challenge but I’m going to try to pull a Derrick Chua and do a few marathon days of fringing. All of the shows we’re teaming up with for #FringeFriends are definitely on my list. I also want to support other one-woman solo shows, or shows with bad-ass women at the helm like #FringeFemmeTO so awesomely highlighted a few weeks ago. I also want to support International artists and make sure they know how welcome they are to the festival and to the 6ix. So in closing, I’m planning on seeing all 159 other shows.
BK: What are your favourite parts about the festival?
JH: I love the camaraderie. I love all the artists coming together in one place. I love being on the subway and the initial fear of a stranger standing over me – but then realizing it’s because they just wanted to say how much they loved the show I was in. I love seeing old friends, meeting new ones and all the attractive people at the tent. All of them. I love the feeling 15 seconds before the show begins, you know, the nervous gas part.
Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun
Written and performed by Janelle Hanna
Directed by Briana Brown.
Production Team: Gabriel Cropley (Lighting Design), Erin Vandenberg (Stage Manager) and is produced by Chris Baker and Janelle Hanna.
Bad Baby is a very talented and attractive actor. She wanted to be an actor so she could sleep in and kiss boys. This is her first Fringe show. She’s seen a lot of Fringe shows though. A lot. And she knows all the rules. All of them. With a total of 13 Toronto Fringe tent romances under their collective belts, the teams that brought you Almost, Again (Best of Fringe) and Eternal Friendship with a Spotless Smile (Patron’s Pick) are back with an all new Fringe adventure. Come see Bad Baby’s first Fringe festival hit!
Where: The Annex Theatre, 736 Bathurst Street
Friday July 7th – 1:15pm
Saturday July 8th – 9:15pm
Monday July 10th – 4:30pm
Wednesday July 12th – 7:30pm
Thursday July 13th – 12:00pm
Friday July 14th – 11:00pm
Sunday July 16th – 4:00pm
Tickets are available to purchase in person at the festival box office for $12 ($10 plus $2 fee). At-the-door tickets will be sold at the show’s venue starting one hour prior to show time for cash sales only, limit of 4 per person, subject to availability. Visit fringetoronto.com for more information on tickets and festival passes.