Fringe 2009 – FFA 2 – GRRL!


“Not a toy! Not a toy!”

Heidi Arneson


Ms. Heidi’s one-woman kaleidoscope of characters reveal the secrets of girlhood, fires of female sexuality, and future of life on a plastic planet.

Heidi Arneson is an unrepentant freak, and I admire that in a Fringe performer, or a performer any time of the year for that matter.

I also admire Robin Gillette for sensing Heidi’s relentless approach during the introductory speech and not being completely creeped out but forging on until her role as emcee was complete.

It was, frankly, a little unnerving to watch. Though the character is a bit of wide-eyed innocent, Arneson’s voluminous dress, constructed entirely of discarded plastic bags, and raccoon-eyed makeup were ominous in appearance.

All of which, of course, is part of the point.

Heidi’s onstage companion, a baby also made up of plastic garbage, was equally freaky.

She played right up to the red light but got all her points across. Then, like all good performers, mindful of those following after her, made sure to collect all her plastic junk and get it off stage with her. Even when the plastic junk was being fairly uncooperative. That’s a pro in action. (Take notes, people. She’s at a point in her career where she could get away with just wandering off and leaving someone else to clean up her mess. She does it herself. Another little thing I like about the lady.)

This preview snippet had but one of the characters Arneson will be creating as part of her Fringe show this year.

Having been personally weirded out by Heidi’s performance art in the past, I was happy to have the opportunity, while serving on an arts grant panel one year, to get the chance to read and study a few of her scripts. This immediately turned me into a fan. She has a wonderful gift of crafting language, and unlocking the details of everyday experiences to mine both their absurdity, and their deep emotional content. It’s often breathtaking. The weirdness is a tool. A way of breaking down standard expectations of theater. And a way of getting away with a sentimental streak that runs so very deep that if presented plainly might be accused of being maudlin. Instead, her blend of writing and performing digs out important underlying truths.

All of which, if you view these clips, might seem completely off-base.

But trust me.

Close your eyes.

And listen to the words.

It’s there.

And if you see her show, you’ll hear it there, too.

Her bedrock concerns dealing with female sexuality as her primary subject matter seem to be expanding to include the environmental – hence the plastic lady.

Personally, I think I’d be willing to follow her anywhere.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has her preview clip up now. I’ve attached that and her own preview video at the end of this post. Some other online resources…

Her website

Her show page

And her own freaky little preview…

And the almost as freaky Fringe-For-All preview…