#fringebuzz with Sarah Segal-Lazar of Don’t Read the Comments

by Caleigh Crow

“My hope is that in a few years we can look at this piece and think it’s very dated.”

It’s a unexpected desire for a creator to see her creation labelled so harshly, but Sarah Segal-Lazar knows how to embrace harshness. She is the creator of Don’t Read the Comments, her third FRINGE festival offering after Talk, Mackerel and In Memoriam. All three are immersive theatre pieces, but that’s where the similarities end. This go around, Sarah is including a new weapon in her already stacked theatre arsenal: Bouffon clown, perhaps the harshest form of clown.

Theatre-goers will be transformed into a live-studio audience for a talk show – think old-school Oprah – featuring a host and panel of grotesque clowns. “Bouffon is a form of clown that holds up a very warped mirror to society,” Sarah says.

In Don’t Read the Comments, the mirror will reflect our discussions around the gray areas of sexual encounters and consent. Sarah explains, I think Bouffon is the best way to do this because no one is being played as the right person in this. There are archetypes of these people that we encounter in these debates where they are the right-wing Trump-esque character or it’s a 4th wave feminist. No one is being put on a pedestal in this piece and they’re all going to have to converse with each other.”

The driving motivator for Sarah is to encourage audience members to really take a hard look at the conversations they’re having – or not having – about this issue. “I’m a huge fan of theatre as a political tool,” says Sarah. “The point is not to agree or disagree, the point is to be accountable for what are your opinions are. Know that there are, on all sides of the spectrum, repercussions. There are rewards but there are also repercussions for your opinions and how you implement them in society.”

While the show opens with the talk show, the piece shifts to a non-fiction storytelling format towards the end. The purpose of this, according to Sarah, is to remind people that the themes are not abstract – they are painfully real to a lot of people. “It uses nonfiction storytelling to remind the audience that yes, the characters are big and grotesque, but at the end of the day were talking about real people and real stories, that’s why I wanted to incorporate both facets,” Sarah says. “ I’m going to see what pushing the extremes does and then I’m going to pull it all the way back and just have stripped down stories.”

While the themes addressed affect a major portion of the population, Sarah’s inspiration to create the piece was much more personal. “There were so many people in my life who were wanting to have conversations and couldn’t or were having very problematic discussions round the subject matter,” she says. “I was getting confused, I would read articles and agree with that article, then I’d read another article and agree with that one. I thought it would be the best way for me and the people around me to unpack everything. I wanted to help the healing by helping the discourse.”

You can see Don’t Read the Comments from June 6 -17 at Studio MMP as part of OFF FRINGE programming at the St Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival. To purchase tickets, click here. For all our QDF #FRINGEBUZZ articles, click here.