I am a director, playwright, and theatre critic with a Masters in Writing for Performance. You can check out my my portfolio and musings at www.samsaradunston.blogspot.com.au
Not every American voted for Trump
Repatriation is a huge question for Americans living abroad at the moment. The election of Donald Trump to the office of President has not only rocked the world, but has caused identity dilemmas for dual citizens with split allegiances. Grace Agnew is one such dual citizen who has been living in Australia but is about to head back to reside in the USA.
In I'm Quitting The Pageant at The Butterfly Club, Agnew takes us on a very personal journey to process what being American means.
Agnew was born in Ballarat but grew up in Minnesota, where she spent her early years training in musical theatre. Seven years ago she moved to Australia, but in just three weeks she will be heading back to the USA permanently. I know this time frame because at one of the most poignant moments in the show, Agnew talks about how devastating the separation from her little sister has been. Agnew left the USA when her sister was 8 and will be returning as she turns 15 and she mourns the lost time and the strangers they have unwittingly become.
I'm Quitting The Pageant is not stand up comedy. It is not one of those a-laugh-a-minute stand up/cabaret routines we see all too often. The show is funny at times, it is sad at times, it is poignant, outrageous, and honest. So, so honest.
The honesty is what makes this fifty minutes of theatre so engrossing and engaging. In many ways what Agnew and director Shannen Alyce Quan have created in I'm Quitting The Pageant is one of the truest experiences of story-telling I have seen.
Agnew is disquieted about the timing of her move back to the USA and her gift to Australia before she goes is to remind us that Americans are just people too. She begins by pointing out that it was only just over 61 million people who voted for Trump out of a population of 314 million. Those numbers are huge and the issue is so large, Agnew decides to help bring us back down to Earth by introducing us to the people she grew up with one by one - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Agnew's childhood was like all of ours. She had a friend who lost her virginity in somebody's car. One of her teachers was abused in school by one of his teachers to 'teach' him not to stutter. A group of students did an on-line quiz where Agnew discovered that some people would prefer to have their leg chewed off by a shark than be fat. One of the funniest stories of the night is the tale of her first orgasm.
Interspersed throughout the tales are American standards such as 'The Battle Hym of The Republic' and 'America, I Love You', but the song which really brought the house down was the follow up to the orgasm story, 'She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain'. This was rolling on the floor hilarious and even more fun when we got to join in the refrain.
Agnew is proficient on the piano and accompanies most of her songs, but one of the most beautiful moments was the stillness and grace of her acapella rendition of 'A Bird In A Gilded Cage'. Agnew's voice is a warm mezzo-soprano with a light vibrato and is perfectly suited to these older tunes with a slight folk feeling reminiscent of Joan Baez.
The simple beauty of I'm Quitting The Pageant left the audience speechless at times, yet had the room booming with cheers and applause at the end. Agnew has given us one last precious gift before she returns to her sorely missed sister. Head to The Butterfly Club as soon as you can to accept what she is offering.