An interview with Annette Roman.
Describe your show in five words.
Moving, funny, poignant, uplifting, surprising.
Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?
My promotional description is simply this: Annette prefers people to animals. After many failures, she finds the perfect companions in an unusual pair of pets! But now her family needs her… An uplifting tale of loyalty, loss, and love.
As you might imagine, it’s a challenge doing a theater piece about death and dying that is vulnerable and true, yet doesn’t leave the audience feeling depressed. It’s a project I took on after I cared for a dying family member in hospice because I realized how many people share this experience yet rarely speak of it in our culture. It was such a comfort to me to find people who understood what I was going through, and sometimes it was strangers, not the people closest to me who just didn’t get it. My hope is that Animal Love helps people feel like someone else out there “gets it,” reflects and understands one of the most intense experiences they have been or will ever go through.
Your main character prefers animals to people – why did you give your character that trait?
My show is a memoir, so it wasn’t really a choice. My mother already had three kids when I was born, so she let the dog raise me…
Animal Love is about death and dying, but doesn’t leave the audience feeling miserable. How do you keep that balance in the show?
What is it they say…? Tragedy + Time = Comedy. Humor is how I—and many people—cope with pain. Losing a loved one is never funny. But trying to get love through pets like a goldfish is funny. The bumbling mistakes I made when trying to give my loved one the best possible care are funny. The things a person says when they can’t speak properly anymore are funny because…if you take them too seriously it would be too damn tragic. Even the dynamics of a family in a crisis can be funny…if it’s somebody else’s family…
You say that Animal Love is funny not because loss is funny, but because death is absurd. Can you explain what you mean, that death is absurd?
It’s so impossible to imagine that someone you love will no longer exist. That you only have a limited time left with them. Yet they are right there with you, and still alive. And then you realize that you too will someday not exist. It’s impossible to wrap your mind around, really.
Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?
There is plenty of funny, silly, lighter stuff in the Fringe to enjoy. Shows like mine will never be top sellers because of the topics. But people who have seen it have told me they were glad to see something that to them had more of a “message.” (Their words, not mine.) I would also add that although there are wonderful solo shows and storytelling by men out there, I have often found solo shows by women touch my heart more deeply. Women solo artists aren’t always able to tour the fringes as regularly or as early in their lives as men due to childcare and other issues, so they can’t build their fringe reputations as strongly from year to year. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as good and don’t have unique things to say that might speak to you.
The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Tickets go on sale August 3 at noon and will be available at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.