Interview: Lizzie Violet & her Stay the Fuck Home blog series

Lizzie Violet. Photo by Zoltan Hawryluk.

 

Everyone has their own way of dealing with today’s new normal of staying home and following physical distancing guidelines—and we’re all finding the need to develop new routines and methods of navigating everyday tasks and errands in a pseudo war-time environment, with standard items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, flour and yeast becoming hot commodities. And all this while dealing with the emotional, financial and social impacts of living in a world with the invisible enemy that is COVID-19.

Writer, horror afficionado, zombiephile and avid bat watcher (and good friend) Lizzie Violet started a blog series called Stay the Fuck Home; offering practical and inspirational how-to and entertainment info and resources as we all hunker down at home. I asked her about the genesis of the blog series, and her thoughts on DIY and remote personal connection going forward.

Hey, Lizzie. Thanks for taking the time to talk about your Stay the Fuck Home blog series! What inspired you to start this series?

Thank you for interviewing me!

There were a few things that inspired me, to be honest. I was seeing a lot of people struggling with what was happening and the fact that necessities had vanished from our lives. When I say necessities, I don’t just mean food. Many of us, myself included, depend on many different types of resources, activities and interaction. Plus, blogging daily gave me something else to focus on. I also wanted to do something positive, and hopefully give others something else to focus on aside from the bombardment of news and negativity.

What post(s) was/were the most fun to write?

Definitely the bats post, Stay the Fuck Home Bats, Bats, Bats Edition. Because BATS! And the Stay the Fuck Home the Dried Beans Edition was fun to write. I got a little silly with that one.

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a new wave of DIYers; and folks who didn’t previously make things themselves or bake, etc. have started doing so. (Necessity being the mother of invention and all.) What kinds of projects have you heard people undertaking for the first time? And do you think this experience will inspire rookie DIYers to continue DIYing after physical distancing measures have been lifted?

I hope people who either started DIYing out necessity and are new to it, or those who pulled out their sewing machine or baking tools after not using them for ages, continue to do so. I am fortunate that I was taught all of the skills I have at a very young age and have always used them. I have always said that you should know the basics of how to sew, knit, bake bread, can food and grow your own food. In the state of the world right now, these are necessities. Heck, I’ve even shared my sourdough starter with a few people. I truly hope people keep this going.

The main things I’ve seen being undertaken is sewing (mostly for masks) and bread making. It makes my heart happy, especially the baking of bread. Homemade bread is much healthier for you and really not that hard to do.

Needing to find new ways to conduct professional meetings and stay in touch with loved ones, a lot of folks (myself included) have also been introduced to, and become new users of, various video chat platforms like Facebook and Zoom, as well as performing arts live streams. How do you feel the use of this kind of technology has impacted our sense of personal connection during these unprecedented, uncertain times—and do you see this kind of remote connection as something that organizations, arts companies and folks in general will keep employing as we move past COVID-19 restrictions?

I’m actually really glad we have these resources available to us. Had this happened 10 years ago, this may have not been as possible. I do enjoy being able to see music and other forms of art through video platforms, but I personally would rather see all of it in person. What I am hoping for is once we are able to go out again, I really and truly hope that audiences start going out to live indie events again. I hope that they support artists and also smaller businesses, so they can get back on their feet. It was already hard enough as an artist to survive before the pandemic and they will need all the help they can get.

Anything you want to mention to folks about the blog series?

When I can, I am shouting out performers and artists I know and love. Please go support them! I’ve put links to them when possible. It was also a huge part of why I started doing the Stay the Fuck Home series.

Anything else you want to shout out?

I really want to shout out small businesses. They are doing everything they can to stay alive. They are being creative and innovative and deserve our love! Especially restaurants. They are trying their best, go order some take out from them!

Now, for the fun part. I’d like to finish up with James Lipton’s Pivot questionnaire:

What’s your favourite word? FUCK!

What’s your least favourite word? I have a couple. Umami and bespoke. Because no one uses them correctly!

What turns you on? Kindness.

What turns you off? Any kind of disrespect and that horking noise. Don’t do that.

What sound or noise do you love? Cawing of crows and ravens.

What sound or noise do you hate? The scraping noise the subway or street cars make.

What’s your favourite curse word? FUCK!

What profession other than your own would you like to pursue? It changes every once in a while. Currently, Forensic Anthropology.

What profession would you not like to do? Veterinarian. At one point I did want to become one, until I found out you had to euthanize animals.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Oh no! Not this one!

Thanks, Lizzie!

You can find Lizzie Violet on Facebook, and on Twitter and Instagram (@lizzieviolet13). She also curates and hosts Killer B Cinema with her partner Zoltan Hawryluk, offering monthly screenings of B movies. Normally hosted upstairs at See Scape in Toronto, they’re working on posting screenings on YouTube as we continue to practise physical distancing—and hope to be back at See Scape soon.

Lizzie posted this piece after we did this interview; it’s one of the most important ones yet: Stay the Fuck Home It’s Okay to Be Kind to Yourself.

 

 

Happy holidays 2018!

Hey all!

Holy cow, it’s that time of year again! Time to get the holiday activities into high gear, with shopping and social events taking over the calendar.

This also means it’s time for the cowbell blog’s annual December hiatus. This gives me a chance for some R&R after a very busy Fall theatre season, and to take some time with friends and family.

As usual, I’ll be covering some holiday shows: two next week and one during the last week of December. Also keep an eye out for my Top 10 Theatre of 2018 list at the end of December.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours love and joy this holiday season—and all good things for 2019!

Cowbell on hiatus in June

20150606_164326Hi all. Hope you’re enjoying the spring weather (especially now that we’re out of the stinkin’ heat of last Friday/weekend).

As is my custom, I’m taking a break and will be on hiatus for the month of June. I’ll still be out and about, tweeting and Facebooking stuff, just not posting on the blog.

I’ll also be sorting out my schedule for Toronto Fringe Festival (June 29 – July 10). Stay tuned.

SummerWorks: The beginnings of a beautiful ode to the North in To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0

evalyn-620x500For my final SummerWorks production, I returned to Studio C of the Pia Bouman School for Creative Movement to see the closing night performance of Evalyn Parry’s To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0. You can read the post about my visit to the installation here.

The table of objects and remembrances of visitors’ experiences of the North has been moved to the side of the space to accommodate chairs for an audience. The stage is set against the back wall, designed to look like a wall of ice.

Frank, the studio cat, lounges upstage right and eventually wanders about during the course of Parry’s performance. This is his space, after all, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he inserted himself into the show.

Weaving history, songs, personal anecdotes and images of her trip to Greenland with Students on Ice, along with some visitor interview excerpts recorded during the installation’s residency at SummerWorks, Parry takes us from the Franklin expedition to the present day, winding through exploration, a brief history of the Dominion’s early and shameful relationship with the Inuit, to her own personal thoughts and experiences of the North. The performance has a kitchen party quality to it, especially when we are invited to turn our chairs around to face the map, with Parry’s soundscaping and singing continuing throughout, in a crystal clear and soothing, mantra-like celtic folk style. Parry’s father David, who was a folk singer and member of The Friends of Fiddlers Green, also features prominently in the performance – and To Live in the Age of Melting may be as much an homage to him as it is to the landscape.

History, geography, ecology, politics, art and culture merge in this moving and enlightening performance. And although the SummerWorks installation and performance is now over, this is just the beginning of Parry’s exploration. She plans to continue honing this work, and will go on to conduct a similar examination of Northern views of the South.

Evalyn Parry’s To Live in an Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0 is the beginnings of a beautiful ode to the North.

Keep an eye out for Evalyn Parry and To Live in an Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0 – and its continuing evolution and addition of Northerners’ perspectives.

Installation kitty
Frank, the Pia Bouman studio cat, lounges on Parry’s t-shirt on the exhibit table

 

SummerWorks: Installation & audience contribution leading up to performance of To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0

evalyn-620x500It was a chillier than usual August night in Toronto last night – and I found myself purchasing hot chocolate and wishing I’d brought a jacket, which felt odd – but it was what it was. To be honest, I’ve really been enjoying this cooler summer. I had some time before my next show, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop by Studio C of the Pia Bouman School for Creative Movement to check out Evalyn Parry’s work in progress – with fellow creators/performers Elysha Poirier and Laakkaluk Bathory Williams – for OutSpoke Productions’ To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0, part of this year’s SummerWorks Live Art Series.

The first phase of To Live in the Age of Melting is part installation, part viewer participation, as Parry collects objects and images from patrons of their experiences of the North, and asks people if they’d like to be interviewed about their thoughts and perceptions of the North.

Featured prominently when you first enter the space is a giant map of Canada. Visitors are invited to share how far north they’ve been – and Parry’s assistants (in my case last night, SummerWorks volunteer Pauline and Aidan) will plot your destination on the map, from start to finish, using pins and colour-coded string/thread. In my case, it’s the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), Ontario to North Bay, Ontario; my thread is black, as I took the trip by car (with my family when I was around 10-12 years old, when my mother’s sister and her family lived in Callendar, ON).

I also took the opportunity to be interviewed. Since I’m not down with spoilers, I won’t mention the specific questions Parry asked me, but I will say they were extremely thought-provoking and interesting. A reminder of relative perspective – when I think of “North,” in terms of perceived geography, I think of it as starting around North Bay – but that’s the farthest I’ve been, so that will be different for someone who’s been to NWT, Yukon, Nunavut or Iqaluit. It was a pleasure chatting with Parry, and I look forward to seeing the work come together in the performance this weekend.

The assembled personal artifacts and interviews will contribute to the final performance piece, which will also be a work in progress (as the installation and viewer contributions continue daily from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.) – with performances running Aug 15-17 at 9 p.m.

Here are some snaps I took of this work in progress last night:

 

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In the meantime, check out NOW Magazine’s piece by Glenn Sumi, where he speaks with Parry about, among other things, her two SummerWorks projects: directing Shaista Latif’s Graceful Rebellions and the genesis of her work on To Live in the Age of Melting.

Niagara on the Lake – some places I like

So here’s a brief photo tour of some of my favourite spots in Niagara on the Lake – besides the Shaw Festival, of course. I also ate at The Stagecoach (http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/242/1690746/restaurant/Ontario/Stagecoach-Family-Restaurant-Niagara-on-the-Lake), The Irish Harp pub (http://theirishharppub.com/) and Corks (http://corksniagara.com/), had breakfast at the Charles Inn (http://www.niagarasfinest.com/properties/charlesrestaurant/) and stopped by Cows (http://www.cows.ca/) for ice cream.

The Charles Inn – with details of the painting & bouquet in my room (the Sunflower Room) & the 2nd floor veranda (see thumbnails).
Viking Shop – one of my favourites because of all the awesome wind chimes & shiny/stained glass hanging things.
Irish Design & Irish Tea Room – shop in the front with tea room & patio in the back (tea room is licensed!).
Husbands, boyfriends & others not into/tired of shopping can take advantage of the many “husband benches.”
The Shaw Cafe – nice & a bit fancy, but relaxed. Make sure you visit the George Bernard Shaw statue just outside (see thumbnail).
No trip to NotL would be complete without getting some fudge – I always go to Maple Leaf Fudge.
Fan of movies & movie memorabilia? Check out The Silver Screen.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride. You’ll find them waiting by the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Also not far from the Prince of Wales Hotel, the town Cenytaph.

Arizona dreamin’ – the last two days

Here’s what I got up to during the last two days of my Arizona adventure…

One thing my parents hadn’t done yet is visit the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix  (there’s also a location in Scottsdale: Heard North Scottsdale). And part of the fun was getting to and from, which we did on the light rail, part of the Valley Metro system in Phoenix. The light rail line goes between Mesa and downtown Phoenix, through Tempe and the Arizona State University (ASU) campus, with a stop across the street from the Heard. For those of you who live in Toronto, picture the dedicated track of the St. Clair streetcar but instead of a streetcar, the vehicle looks more like a train. I was very impressed by how economical the day pass was too: $3.50 for adults, with a reduced rate for the folks, who are seniors.  Seriously, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his transit folks should check this out if they haven’t already.

The Heard Museum houses exhibits on American Indian art and history. We decided to take two tours while we were there, then wander about ourselves. The first tour, which we took with a young  tour guide named Isaiah (who turns out was Navaj0), was of the museum’s Signature Exhibit – Home: Native People in the Southwest. This exhibit features pottery, jewelry, textiles, Hopi katsina dolls and a Navajo hogan, as well as video/multi-media – and Isaiah’s tour was especially good as he was able to provide personal anecdotes of being present at celebrations and ceremonies.

The overview tour gave us a look at the museum’s art collection, an exhibit of American Indian dolls and even one on the history of the bolo tie – and ongoing exhibits on the history of boarding schools (which we call residential schools in Canada) and one on the 21 tribes in Arizona, which included a presentation of student art (12- to 18-year-olds). The student art has been reproduced in greeting card for and the proceeds go to support grants for art supplies for teachers of American Indian children and the American Indian Student Scholarship Fund of the Heard Museum Guild. Perhaps one of the most interesting things we learned during our visit came up during a chat with the overview tour guide (whose name I can’t recall) when we bumped into him in the courtyard afterwards: Arizona’s native peoples prefer the term “American Indian” to “native American” – to differentiate themselves from other native-born Americans.

My full last day there (a Friday), we spent the morning at the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet.   And, man is that a gianormous swap meet! It’s actually not a swap meet, but a bunch of vendors in a covered aluminum building. A lot of vendors. It was here that I picked up a couple more things: my Dirt Shirt (which sports a Navajo design), and a silver and turquoise bracelet (of Zuni design). My folks got ASU hoodies for the grandsons and my dad found his sister a birthday present (which I won’t identify in case she reads this).

This is an honest-to-God sign I saw as we were driving into the parking lot of the swap meet.

With the afternoon free – and loads of time left before meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner – we drove out to Saguaro Lake marina, in the Tonto National Forest, not far from Mesa (there’s also a paddle boat tour you can get there). We had lunch there, with a beautiful view of the lake. Who knew there was so much water to be found? Seeing saguaro growing by a lake seemed a contradiction, in a way.

That night (my last night in Mesa), we went to Rosa’s Mexican Grill (in Mesa) for an authentic Mexican meal. I had the Flying Saucer, which – after eating their amazing appetizer of tortilla chips and salsa – I was only able to eat about three-quarters of. So good! Nice, homey atmosphere and a family-run place. Highly recommended – thanks to my uncle Gerry for suggesting it.

And that is it for my Arizona adventures. It was a great time, over so quickly – and I’d be happy to visit again.