It’s about laughter – and about tears. It’s about the surrealistic process of becoming a parent and all the emotions – good or bad – that that can trigger. It’s also about the realities – in the 21st century – of making a baby “the gay way.”
All in all, Lizzie Allan’s one-woman show (Un) Expecting – which comes to White Rock’s The Playhouse, 1532 Johnston Rd., on Aug 9 and 10 for performances at 7:30 p.m. – promises to be a theatrical event unlike any other.
Video, multi-media, music, and monologues will be part of the show, directed by Jennifer Perrin, as will Allan’s trademark dry humour and forthright, edgy stand-up comedy style.
But so, too, Allan said, will be moments that are very serious – deeply rooted in her own emotional journey toward becoming a parent.
She and partner – in life and business – Elaine Cheung have been trying to have a child for the last two years, and are continuing to try as the show approaches.
The ups and downs of the process have not only raised external issues, Allan confessed, but have also brought her face-to-face with inner turmoil, personal demons, and a legacy of familial issues.
But, being creator of the White Rock-based Addictive Comedy program – which uses courses in stand-up comedy, and working toward a show as a therapeutic tool to help people address, not only addictions, but emotional trauma of all kinds – she knows the best way for her to deal with such inner turmoil is by practising what she preaches.
“There is no small upset – you could be upset because you spilt the milk,” she said of the people who have found help through the program. “And there isn’t anybody who wouldn’t be eligible, unless they’re so much in denial.”
“It’s also not belittling experience by talking about it with humour. It’s all about changing things and educating people about something.”
“The biggest healing I’ve experienced myself is when I’ve shown up, vulnerably, in areas where I didn’t think I would be acccepted – it gives me so much strength,” she said.
The British-born writer, comedian, rapper and musician – a White Rock resident for the last four years and lately qualified as a registered therapeutic counsellor – has had her own struggles with mental health and substance addiction.
These began at age 12 when she started using marijuana, and, later, “party drugs” to achieve a sense of connection with other people, and reached a turning point when she had a breakdown at age 19, which led to her being “sectioned” – detained in hospital – under the UK Mental Health Act.
Resistant to any idea of using medication to deal with her problems, she ultimately found her way out through abstinence-based recovery and is currently celebrating a decade of sobriety – and the knowledge that she has been able to make positive contributions to others’ recovery through her lifelong love of comedy and performing.
And while Addictive Comedy’s open mic nights are currently on hiatus, she said she is excited about new developments waiting in the wings for the program, which she hopes to be able to announce later this year.
But first comes (Un) Expecting, she said.
“This has been my way of having to use the therapeutic help I needed on myself,” she said, noting that while she had been “out” for a long time, there was some lingering baggage about coming to terms with her sexuality she hadn’t dealt with.
“About a year ago I realized that I had internalized homophobia,” she admitted.
“It wasn’t until I started the process of having a baby with my partner that it brought into focus that I still had a lot of anxiety and shame about being gay,” she said.
“I thought that what I should do is face my biggest fear and do a show that exposes that fear around being gay and having a baby.”
Not that there isn’t enough material in that situation alone for a one-woman show, she said, including the absurdities of dealing with the medical system and with societal attitudes about the “two-mom thing.”
“The whole process of going to get pregnant through a clinic is comedy gold,” she said.
“If you’re straight, you can get pregnant thoughtlessly, but being gay, there’s so much more involved.”
To talk about the issues raised might be difficult enough, but to talk about them on such an honest personal level – while still trying to get pregnant – is a huge challenge, she acknowledged.
“I’ve had to sit in the studio and say to myself, ‘I don’t know if I can say this stuff out loud,’” she said.
“I’m under no illusions this is for my ego – but my partner and a lot of other people have put a lot of work into it, so I’m doing it, although there are always these ‘it’s funny – it’s not funny’ doubts, and I’m not sure, even now, how all the elements will work together.”
Some of those elements include complex technical work (“fortunately, I have an awesome technical team”), pre-recorded video, rapping, stand-up, storytelling, character monologues, acting, singing, playing the ukulele, revisiting homophobic rhetoric, and “some heart-to-heart chats about coming out,” she said.
And inevitably, she agreed, working in front of a live audience will play a part in shaping the show – even though it’s quite structured.
“I like to be in the moment – but I need to know my material if I’m going to deviate from it,” she said.
“(Un) Expecting is really about coming up against myself and trying to turn myself into my biggest cheerleader,” she said.
To reserve tickets ($40, with part proceeds to the Addictive Comedy bursary program), visit the website www.whiterockplayers.ca