Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

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Shattered
Diana
Varco
C ARTS | C venues | C place & C digital on-demand
In person from Aug 25-28, 16:10 /  Tickets
C digital on-demand (1hr00) / Tickets

July 24, 2022

In third grade, Diana kicked her crush in the crotch and her love life didn’t improve from there. What starts as an innocent look into her relationship past, turns into a comedic and heartbreakingly raw exploration of dating, dysfunction and sexual devastation told through the voices of 35 characters. Using comedy to take us through tragedy, Shattered ultimately tells of one individual picking up the broken pieces of herself and learning to live again.

 

Hi Diana, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping?

 

Thank you so much for reaching out! I’m good. I just got back from The Reykjavik Fringe Festival and I’m looking forward to The Edinburgh Fringe, which feels great after not being able to attend in-person for the past couple years.

 

How does it feel to be bringing Shattered back to C Venues, C digital as well as a limited in person run at C place?

 

I’m excited to bring Shattered back to Edinburgh Fringe, especially in this hybrid format (on-line and in-person.) It’s interesting for me to see how I can use both versions of the performance to compliment each other and engage audiences. Shattered is a fast-paced show filled with lots of information, so often audience members like to attend the show a few times. It’s cool that people who have seen Shattered virtually have the opportunity to see an in-person performance and vice versa at the same festival.

 

I still love performing Shattered live, though. I believe that’s the best way to see the show; so, the limited engagement performance dates allow me to provide that experience and showcase Shattered, without taking on the responsibility (and cost!) of a full in-person run.

 

What was the experience for you when you premiered Shattered at the Fringe?

 

Performing a 25 show run at The Edinburgh Fringe 2019 was challenging and awesome at the same time.

 

I had a 5 star review one day and an unfavourable review the next. I went through a lot of the ups and downs that many performers go through at the Fringe; but, I also met amazing advocates and made meaningful connections with organisations working to de-stigmatize mental health and raise awareness about intimate partner violence. I spent quiet time in the meadows, sipping on flat whites and regrouping after my performances. I saw brilliant shows, made great friends and grew leaps and bounds as an artist and as a human.

 

It was a life changing experience. The lessons I learned still stay with me and the value I found in performing (almost) every day in August still continues. I hope to participate year over year at Edinburgh Fringe, whether it’s as a performer, spectator, artist resource or advocate.

The reaction and response to Shattered has been incredible, what has it meant to you to know that your production has been so well received and understood?

 

The response to Shattered keeps me returning to the stage. It’s a very personal story and difficult to perform; but, when I see how deeply it impacts people, I’m reminded of how important it is to talk about the topics explored in Shattered. I’m also reminded of how far I’ve come too - from being silent and feeling so scared, confused and alone, to now being able to have a platform and hold space for tough conversations.

 

Recently, at The Reykjavik Fringe, I won the ‘Punch in the Face’ award for the most impactful show, that meant so much to me. This award and the conversations I had during my show’s run, really made my Fringe.

 

What makes the Fringe so special?

 

I love the energy of the Fringe - the shows everywhere, the artists, the venues that pop up out of nowhere! I even love the cold summer rain and broken umbrellas. It’s a special time.

 

For me, specifically, Edinburgh Fringe holds an extremely special place in my heart. My run in 2019, was the 10th year since the assault I talk about in Shattered happened. Anniversaries are very hard for survivors of trauma - that’s something people might not know - and performing in August at Edinburgh Fringe has helped me to “take back” that month.

 

I used to dread August and completely short-circuit. As the years went on, approaching August got easier; but, since I made the decision to perform at Edinburgh Fringe in 2019, now I look forward to August. I can’t wait to perform Shattered in August, to speak my Truth - powerfully and unapologetically - to honour the version of myself that lived the story and survived it.

What are the biggest differences between producing a digital and live version of Shattered?

 

Although I love being at the Fringe and performing in person, I’ve really enjoyed hosting Shattered digitally this past year. I’ve been able to participate in festivals all around the world in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK (Brighton and Manchester), that I never would have been able to due to Covid, but also due to cost. Although digital shows have benefits and drawbacks, I find that producing a digital show is much more cost-effective to produce, which is a major asset for an artist.

 

I’ve found my marketing approach for digital shows is broader location-wise. For instance, when I did Brighton Fringe virtually, I reached out to Brighton specific organisations, but also to London-based organisation's and people in my network at home in America. When I did the New Zealand Fringes, I marketed country-wide. Whereas, with an in-person run, my marketing is selective to the city, if not to the festival.

 

I do prefer to perform in person, because I think watching Shattered in community is the best way to see the show. I still think that there is nothing like being in the theatre together, going through a collective human experience - especially with such an intense show.

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Can you tell me how Shattered came about, what was the inspiration behind this show?

 

Yes, interestingly Shattered was not a story I ever wanted or intended to tell. I actually actively avoided writing the show for years; but, I was in the comedy world where rape was a common punchline, rarely told from the perspectives of survivors or victims. I wrote Shattered because I finally ran out of excuses to remain silent. I wanted to use my comedy background to write a response.

 

I knew I wanted to write content that focused on the psychological impact of trauma, but I had no idea how I was going to tell the story. I set a date - which was about 2 months out to premiere - and I just kept writing and writing and revising. It was in a moment of frustration and panic during a writing session, that the character of "Shame" entered my mind and the story started to unfold. Other characters popped up in response and soon I had a show!

 

Did you have any apprehensions about writing and directing a show that is so personal?

 

Yes, I still do! In retrospect, I suppose I could have written Shattered under a pen name, but I think part of the power of Shattered is that it’s my lived experience, told authentically by me.

 

These are hard topics to talk about and, though I use comedic elements in many parts, the story is one of great vulnerability. I have apprehensions that people will judge me or that they will be offended; but also, it’s the truth of what happened. It’s important that I stand behind that and not apologize, edit myself or dilute the story out of fear of people’s reactions.

 

Has it been cathartic in a way?

 

Absolutely, very much so. Some of the scenes in the show, I didn’t have language to explain the experience, but through creativity and applying my improv brain to create fantastical elements, I was able to convey my message, find expression and release myself from the pain of silence.

 

In a recent blog I wrote for the Trauma Research Foundation I said that ‘The night of premiering my show will go down as one of the best nights of my life. For the first time, I told my Truth – on stage for friends, family and total strangers. I finally felt whole.”

 

I’ve also changed and healed so much as a result of writing and performing Shattered. So, although the story is still very personal; it feels like a piece I perform, more so than an extremely traumatic event I lived.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face when creating a show like this?

 

Although Shattered is a story of hope and resilience, it’s not a ‘pretty’ show. It’s unapologetic in the Truth of my experience and not everybody wants to venture down this journey; so, marketing and getting the message out has its challenges.

 

Also, Shattered is physically and emotionally intense to perform. My goal in 2019 was to survive the 25 show run! So self-care and recuperation is something I prioritise before, after and during the show. I’ve also had to learn to put up boundaries around my energy, work and material.

 

Lastly, being a solo artist is a lot of work with press, performance, production, fundraising, marketing, outreach, etc. I’ve learned a lot producing Shattered over the years, but I look forward to bringing on a bigger team someday, so I can focus on performing and writing the next chapters of Shattered.

 

Do you allow yourself much flexibility with your material when a show is running or do you prefer to stick to what you’ve planned?

 

Shattered is physical and fast-paced, I rehearse and perform it almost as if it’s a fixed dance. During performance, my variations show up in my emotions or playing with timing, but I don’t stray from the text, poses, or stage positions - or I’ll lose my place!

 

In rehearsal, I allow myself to improv and play. I invite mistakes and improvise on my reaction to them. Allowing myself to be silly and imperfect reminds me that despite the topics explored in Shattered, performing the show is artistically challenging, rewarding…and, dare I say, fun.

"Growing up in the theatre and especially my improv training as an adult, kept alive my sense of play."

What have been the most valuable lessons you have taken away from writing Shattered and what have you discovered about yourself and the theatre you want to create throughout this whole process?

 

So many valuable lessons. I have mostly discovered that the parts of me I was most ashamed of, the stories I thought I never could speak about or share, are actually a source of power and strength. I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my struggles - even when people’s stories are different from mine, the ways in which our minds react to try to protect us are similar. I’ve learned that life is messy and hard and wonderful and terrible and beautiful and everything in between - and that all of it is worthy of being shared.

 

Now, after writing Shattered, I realize that yes, I say things that are not always popular and I talk about really unpopular topics that far too many people experience - but that’s my purpose; and I’ve been lucky enough to receive the training and support to bring these stories to light. I want to do more of that with the work I create.

Have you always had a passion for theatre?

 

I’ve always loved performing! As a young girl, I used to act out infomercials in the bathroom mirror and I created a soap opera in my room about my very interesting life, as a 9 year old. There was something so magical about make-believe as a child and performing, whether it was just for me in my room or for an audience on stage.

 

Growing up in the theatre and especially my improv training as an adult, kept alive my sense of play. Like any artist, I have my moments of self-doubt and frustrations, but I always come back to my passion for creating because it brings me joy.

 

How much has your style and the approach to your work changed much since you started out?

 

Although the text of Shattered has mostly remained the same, my performance style and character definition has become more specific over the years. I’ve recently been attuned to playing with timing and pauses in my performances, even using breath to help me with the physicality or to highlight emphasis in certain parts.

 

My approach to the work has changed in that I’m branching out to use Shattered as a platform for public speaking, workshops and community outreach. I found that during Edinburgh Fringe 2019 and all the festivals since, the most valuable moments come from the connections I make with charities, organisations and fellow artists working to create social change.

 

During Covid, I’ve been writing the next chapters of Shattered, and I’m excited to see how this new material further influences my approach to the work.

 

As a creative coach do you have any tips, advice or suggestions you might offer anyone heading up to the Fringe this summer?

 

Yes, I could write a book! I mostly learned to accept that things don’t always go perfectly. Be adaptable and embrace the unknown. Isn’t that part of the magic of the theatre? The mentality that the show must go on? I performed some shows sopping wet from the rain; yet, those were some of my favourite performances.

 

Mostly, I learned not to compare myself to other artists and their experiences. Instead, find your places of solitude, hold onto your ‘why’ and look for value beyond audience numbers and ticket sales.

 

I mentioned earlier that I went to Edinburgh Fringe 2019 to rewrite the anniversary of the assault and “take back August.” I remember after my last performance, I was cataloging all the ways I could have worked harder or done better. I was in a cycle of ‘compare and despair.’ Then, my knees buckled and I had to sit down to catch my breath. I realized that I had accomplished what I had set out to do - I took back August.  That was a priceless and profound moment for me, everything else melted away.

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Shattered?

 

I want fringe audiences to know that whatever we go through, we can and will get through it. Trauma can lead us to become an enemy unto ourselves. Shattered demonstrates that by accepting support to face some really hard truths, I started the journey to become my own best ally. With each step I take to heal - each performance I do, each piece of myself I make peace with - that inner alliance, that self-love, grows stronger. Everybody deserves that.