IN CONVERSATION: Alicia Grant and Alex Napier

Alicia Grant (Stay Here, Don’t Go) talks to Alex Napier (Guns) about all kinds of violence and what it feels like to carry a little red suitcase full of guns.

Alicia Grant: Have you ever held a gun?

Alex Napier: Yes. But I’ve never shot one. There’s been a lot of talk about going to the shooting range, but it’s expensive, and I suppose I have some fear feelings.

AG: Who are your collaborators and how are you working with them?

AN: I am working with Philip McKee, Hannah Cheesman and Liz Peterson. I wrote some text and Philip is directing Liz and Hannah are performing it. Every day we wheel a little red suitcase filled with guns into a hot upstairs room in a church. And then we all play with guns for a while, getting to know what they can do. Often we’re pretty worried that someone is going to walk in on us and be like “guns!?!?”. It hasn’t happened yet. Hannah and Liz are both wonderful at making a revolver look like a weird sculpture from the ancient past.

AG: What do you think the relationship is between women, violence and partying?

AN: This is a difficult question, and I do not have the answer to it, but it certainly brings up some pretty strong associations for me so I’ll talk through those. Partying typically involves some degree of letting go, becoming vulnerable, and in this world there are few spaces where it is wholly safe for people — especially women, queer people — to do that. It is more vulnerable to be dancing, laughing, closed eyed than to be still, alert. I wonder what kind of experiences you had in your January dance-a-thon? I have done most of my life’s partying thus far in queer spaces, and have felt mostly pretty safe. Once I went to a Richmond Street club (because, what’s it like?) and literally men try to touch your vagina on the dance floor! Which to me is a violence, but to a lot of the women there it was just a Saturday. And to be sure, intoxication increases propensity towards violence, and decreases the ability to discern it.

I think a lot of violence against women is the threat that’s in the air – the understanding that women aren’t safe. Do you know the TTC’s Request Stop Program? Women traveling alone after 9pm can request to exit a bus between regular stops. They announce it constantly on the subway. I think it’s terrible; the gender specification makes the statement that only women are subject to night violence (so not true), while reifying the danger itself. Like, yelling “AT NIGHT THE MEN WILL RAPE YOU, WE WANT TO HELP!”, doesn’t help. Just increases fear, which increases vulnerability. And that kind of reminds me of the partying contract, a bit.
 AG: How do you think we arm ourselves in everyday life?

AN: Prejudices and quick judgments. A downward gaze, a quick pace. Jokes. Being well slept and well fed. Self-medication. Packing a book. A warm coat and hat.

AG: Where does science fiction come in?

AN: Well, I’ll admit I was having a bit of fun with that description. And by fun I mean I’d written about five completely different versions of the show and was pretty confused about what we were doing. But now I’m CLEAR, and I can say that the world of our show is just a little bit different from the one we live in, in a way that could be perceived as a future or alternate reality.

AG: How do you work this genre into the confines of the theatre?

AN: Oh I think science fiction is perfectly suited to theatre. What it does is ask and allow people to imagine change, so all it requires is imagination. And, after all, a playwright invented the word robot. But I guess robots aren’t sci fi anymore, so many old science fiction tropes are just reality now. Have you ever been inside a Victoria’s Secret? It’s really weird.

Alex Napier’s Guns runs Wed-Sat in week 2 of the festival; Alicia Grant’s Stay Here, Don’t Go starts in just a few days as part of week 1. Click the links for full programming info.