Interview with Tatiana Pavela, writer and performer in Brandi Alexander

"I remember drawing a swiggly line, looking at it, then thinking “I’ve never seen that before. I have invented that.”  A short time later I was in a car, staring up at a billboard with a picture of a heart rate on it, saw the zig-zag line on that and thought that they had stolen my artistic idea."

Interview with Tatiana Pavela, writer and performer in Brandi Alexander

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hey there! I’m Tatiana Pavela, an actress and theatre artist from America, who gravitates towards experimental theatre, devised work and heightened language.

How would you describe your show?

Brandi Alexander is a gut-punch of a show. It’s a look at misogyny, self-loathing and sexual assault through the eyes of a 1980’s stand-up comedian – who is the opening act to the comic who assaulted her five years before.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

There is nowhere else in the world with a more diverse and enthusiastic audience. A typical audience member will take in 5-7 shows a day, and are looking to engage with the artists, grab a beer next to them after and discuss what they are excited about seeing. The artistic hunger at the festival is an energy unlike anything else. If you are an artist trying to broaden your reach, what better place to start? 

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

When I was 6 I told my mother I wanted to be an actress. She laughed at me and replied, “No, but what do you really want to be?”  She wasn’t the first person to dissuade me (probably because no one could see a chubby, pale kid with an awful hair cut really making it, you know?) and what is better motivation than rejection? 

I went to school to study experimental theatre in New York, and my biggest inspirations were Kate Valk (of the Wooster Group) and Tina Shepard (of Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre and Talking Band). Both of these performers are such stalwarts of NYC downtown/experimental theatre and I just thought the way they built their careers was so authentic, so punk rock – no headshots, no agents – just making bizarre, specific work with these companies. And then getting onstage and demanding everyone’s attention. It was thrilling to see them in shows.

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

Something involving travel and food. Theatre, travel and food – that’s all there is to life. Love and family is good too, but it’s really about those first three.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

Anytime I get to travel with theatre, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. But other than the typical artsy stuff, I’m really good at getting stories out of people I’ve just met, getting people to open up to me. So, I’d be a killer talk show host. Going back to travel, I would also love to be the person who scouts new hotels and restaurants etc. for a boutique travel company, or magazine. That would actually be a dream. Traveling talk show host, who interviews people all over the world? Basically, what Anthony Bourdain was doing. 

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

Oh god – at three years old I thought I invented the zig-zag line. That’s very specific, isn’t it? I remember drawing a swiggly line, looking at it, then thinking “I’ve never seen that before. I have invented that.”  A short time later I was in a car, staring up at a billboard with a picture of a heart rate on it, saw the zig-zag line on that and thought that they had stolen my artistic idea.

Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?

I think it happens naturally, but I don’t feel any pressure. The events that are occurring in the world are affecting me, and that is going to play into what I stress, what I hold on to and what I focus on in my work – even if I’m not writing a specific joke about it.  Brandi Alexander also takes place in 1987, so it’s finding ways to put in themes of today without mentioning events that occurred after ’87. 

Equally, do you think there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?

Totally. Women are completely fed up. Our lids have blown off and we just cannot hold back anymore. People are screaming their stories because the world needs to hear. People are ready for the work. They understand the extreme nature of it, because it matches the levels of their personal frustration. 

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Focused. Slow and steady.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

Rachel Chavkin. Her productions always blow me away in their complexity and scope. Mission Drift will forever be one of my favourite shows. In terms of writers, Enda Walsh and Lucas Hnath, because their language is so exciting to me. When reading their plays, I’m constantly saying the words out loud, repeating the same passages a few time, and screaming at my husband to read the play asap so I can discuss it with him. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Take the time to develop a show that you can believe in 300%. Not something that you think is almost there, or pretty good. It needs to be something that you are heads over heels in love with, obsessed with – you can’t find a flaw in it. Your obsession with the show needs to be at an unhealthy level because at the end of the day, it’s going to be you promoting it every minute you can. If you don’t love it that much, it’s going to get tiring. Make sure you have the faith you need in it. 

Where can people find, follow and like you online?

www.tatianapavela.com

Instagram: @tatianapavela

Twitter: @tpavela

When and where can people see your show?

Brandi Alexander is at the at Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 31st July – 25th August (not 12th or 19th) in Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre at 21.45. Tickets and more information: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/brandi-alexander

Header Image Credit: Provided

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe..

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