By Gurman Sahota, January 17 2017 —
After stepping into a last-minute role on The Newsroom left by a departing male actor, Karen Hines experienced a cultural shift in gendered characters, notably within their dialogue.
When Hines’ character was brought back for the next season, the part was revised for her. Suddenly, the character could only talk about boyfriend, her PMS and topics related to being female.
“I was really struck by the difference and how common that is and how liberating it was not to be talking about being female,” Hines says. “So when I saw this Bechdel Test, it really
struck a chord with me and I wanted to create a piece that would pass.”
And with that, Hines wrote All The Little Animals I Have Eaten, a dark comedy that follows a sleep-deprived grad student who serves at a bistro. The play unfolds as she overhears the surrounding patrons of the bistro as she studies the Bechdel Test.
Originating from a cartoon by Alison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test observes the role of female characters in the media and follows a set of criteria. It dictates that there must be at least two named women who speak to each other about something other than a man. In All The Little Animals I Have Eaten, Hines is adamant that they must also not speak about family.
“I think it exposes a lack of female representation and a lack of range in female roles,” says Hines. “I just wanted to go and make something that would have range and create a number of nuances to female characters.”
Though the play took nearly three years to write and find suitable performers, Hines says the play is always changing and she isn’t afraid to continue to alter the piece. With its first run in
Calgary, Hines hopes the play can expand to other locations in Canada and abroad. She has high hopes for its projected run during this year’s High Performance Rodeo.
“We’ve had three audiences so far, so I have a sense to how they’re reacting — they’re laughing,” says Hines. “I think it’s an odd piece — it’s not exactly linear. It’s engaging audiences in ways that they’re not used to being engaged.”
With a strong response from audiences and three sold-out shows so far, All The Little Animals I Have Eaten follows trends of successful experimental theatre. However, Hines hopes to stray from convention and normalize female characters as multifaceted with the ability to make sharp comments and jokes that go beyond a man or family.
All The Little Animals I Have Eaten shows at 8:00 p.m. at Big Secret Theatre. Dates and ticket prices vary.
For more information, visit hprodeo.ca