Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Venue 16: Greenside @ Riddles Court - Clover Studio
Aug 19-20, 22-27, Times Vary / Tickets
Aug 18, 2022
Texas, July 2021. Stacie Burrows tries to save her kids from her dysfunctional family, a murderous drunk brother, radical Christians and far too many dead dogs in this one-hour solo dark comedy based on true events.
Hi Stacie, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping?
I’m well, thank you! At the start of the Fringe, I told myself to “just keep swimming.” So that’s how I’d describe my current state: I’m swimming, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly, but I will not stop pushing forward.
What has the experience been like so far with your Edinburgh Fringe debut at Greenside?
Tara and Darren at Greenside have been so supportive on my journey to the Fringe. They answered every tiny question I had in about 24 hours’ time. That’s impressive considering they have so many shows in production, yet they remain a boutique venue. The front of house and box office teams have been my rocks during the entire festival. I’m comforted by their sweet faces as they see me hustle for audiences and schlep my entire kit up a winding, spiral staircase each day. They lend a hand and their hearts. As a company of one, that means so much to me.
Had there been any nerves ahead of your first show at the festival?
Oh yes, for sure! I kept editing the script to get it down to the essential bits only. It was my mission to keep it around 50 minutes, so I had to take a lot of the story and truncate it. The first night, I was barely memorised. Thankfully, the only audience I pulled was my husband and kids. I needed a day or two of intense focus to commit the script to memory. My tech person, Matthew was an absolute sweetheart and I felt comforted by his presence when I stumbled at first.
You have had some really wonderful audience reaction did you imagine you would get this type of response to Bulletproof Unicorn?
Honestly, I wasn’t too sure what people would think of my show. The material can teeter on the edge of complete darkness, but I wrote it in such a way that I don’t leave people down for too long. My goodness, the material could be upsetting, but I’m making balloon animals and striking chimes when I deliver the bad news which serves as a delightful distraction of sorts. In the show, I let the audience know that distraction is one of my special skills. I had to learn it early on as a child and I’ve carried it with me my whole life. It’s an incredibly powerful tool in stressful situations.
I have been blown away from the positive responses I’ve received. I’m just so grateful that people are willing to get tickets for this type of rollercoaster ride. After all, it’s thrilling. I invite them to laugh with me at the absurdity of it all and they do. My background is stand-up comedy, so a storytelling show, such as this one, is a slight departure from my norm, but I made the choice to have a show that had substance, instead of just delivering jokes. I love stand-up, my gosh, it is the highest form of art. I wanted to see if I could keep someone’s attention while delivering the truth, heavily peppered with humour. And it seems that I can.
As a writer/performer what have you taken from the comments you’ve gotten so far?
One audience member reminded me that it’s ok if I let the heavy things sit for a moment before I relieve the pressure valve. I’m always concerned for my audience because I’m taking them on a path that they might not have any experience with. I am overly invested in their well-being. I often try to rush to the comedic relief, but I now realise that sometimes they need to feel their feels and then we can all move on together and have a laugh.
I’ve also been so happy with people who “get it.” They may have overlapping themes in their own life, and I can always tell by their reaction in certain parts of the show. I have taken strength and validation from people who mention that my kids and I have been through an almost unbelievable trauma, yet they recognise how I’m choosing to process it and claim ownership of the narrative. My boys are teenagers. I want them to know that, through art, we can transform ugly things into beautiful things. We don’t have to hide from them. We can place them centre stage and shine a huge, bright light on them. And shout them from the top of our lungs. And in doing so, we heal.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Bulletproof Unicorn came about, did you have any apprehensions about creating a show that draws from you own family life and experiences?
Yes, I absolutely have apprehensions of creating this type of show. Initially, I was concerned that my family may misinterpret what I’m doing. I do not want to embarrass or bring shame on any members of my family. I love them with my whole heart. But as the youngest member of my big, blended family, I have witnessed so much hurt, loss, dysfunction, and pain. I want to fix it all, but I can’t go back in time. I can only love my family. But I can press on and try as hard as I can to break the cycles of abuse, addiction, and pain in the next generation of my own family.
I worry constantly that my brother will find out about the show and come after me and my children again. I worry that he will misinterpret the intention behind it. I want my brother to get help, to repair his wounds. I don’t have the tools to help him. But I absolutely cannot put my children in the crossfire ever again.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing Bulletproof Unicorn?
The most challenging part was bringing up the dark past of my family. It seems like there were so many secrets that were swept under a rug. It’s been nagging at me for years. Once I laid it all out in a timeline, I noticed patterns that would be passed down from generation to generation. It was literally history repeating itself over and over again. I noticed the people left behind in the trauma. When someone takes their own life, it creates a hole, a deep pain that stretches out into infinity. The “survivors” try to move on, but it’s like they’re stuck in time. If they do not receive proper counselling, then they’re just static beings.
Once I started writing, though, I had a hard time stopping. Everything poured out of me. I felt the ghosts tapping my shoulder saying, “Oh, I hope you write about this. It’s something I always wanted to say but couldn’t.” So, I listened to all of them. They would wake me from my sleep. I could hardly turn off their voices.
Was it somewhat cathartic for you having this opportunity to look back at this period in your life in such a unique way?
Absolutely. When I do the show and I see the audiences with their jaws on the floor, shaking their heads, or wrinkling their brows in confusion, I receive the validation I crave. “It’s nuts, right??!!” And they assure me, “YES!” At the start of the show, I invite them to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
What has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself after writing and now performing Bulletproof Unicorn?
I have discovered that I’m still the same little girl in the middle of a tornado trying to control the wind. I’m weird. No matter the situation, I will still try to lighten the mood and control the outcome. One day, I might mature enough to realise that it’s a futile effort to try to control things, but I’m not wise enough yet. I’ve also discovered that I can see humour in every situation, even the bleakest ones.
"My intrepid mother-in-law would tell me: “You can’t control the wind, darling, but you can control the sails"."
Whilst doing a Fringe run how important has it been for you to allow yourself some flexibility with your show and the material once it’s running?
The reason I wanted to shave the show down to 50 minutes is so that I will have the freedom to customise it to each audience. I want to play if someone lobs a ball across the net. I am relaxing into the delivery, which gives me the opportunity for bespoke moments.
Have you always had a passion for theatre?
Yes, theatre saved my life. Theatre taught me everything I needed to know about life: Work well with others. It’s not all about you. Find your light. Give joy and receive gratitude.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church that frowned on homosexuality. But through theatre, I met so many wonderful humans of the LBGTQ community and they welcomed boring, little ol’ hetero me to their cool clubhouse that had music, laughter, creativity, colour, acceptance, celebration, and zero judgement. I liked that a lot.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
The best piece of advice that I’ve been given is something I’m still struggling to incorporate in my life. My intrepid mother-in-law would tell me, “You can’t control the wind, darling, but you can control the sails.”
Of course, I’m so stubborn, I’m still trying to control both, but I’m easing my reins on the wind, or at least, I’m trying.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation to yourself?
Sure. Find a great therapist who can listen and walk you through the mess.
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Bulletproof Unicorn?
Well, I hope they will take away a new appreciation for Balloon Animal Artists. Ha Ha! (You need to see the show to get the reference.)
But, seriously, I hope they take away an understanding of the culture in America and how hard it is to change the tide of traditional God-fearing, gun-worshipping, truth-burying that happens every day. We must do better as a society and it’s going to take a lot of effort to change gun laws, protect women and children, and help the mentally-ill.