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LIFE AND ART
New Fringe Show
by Precious Chong

Life and Art

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PRECIOUS CHONGLIFE AND ART
by Precious Chong

Ah the Fringe! Here we go….I’m doing my show in two weeks at the Toronto Fringe. It’s called Zdenka Now! And it’s at the Royal St. George in the Annex. So if you’re reading this and within driving distance of Toronto I expect you to be there or be square, okay.

That being said, I based the main character Zdenka, on a woman I met doing a commercial also named Zdenka. What I do is not a literal depiction of this lady, but something about her struck me and I started from there. I was nervous about doing it in Toronto without telling her she was my inspiration and asking for her blessing to use her name. So I finally wrote her an email. I tried to emphasize that my character is clown based but that her essence inspired me and I hope I portray those qualities in the show. Then she replied.

First of all just getting an email from Zdenka is jarring since her name has become the title of the show and I say it a lot. Then she writes me this amazing and gracious email, saying that I have her blessing whether she likes the piece or not, since that is my wish, then she says. I have to quote it because it’s just too good;

“Of course, if someone see me as kind of caricature - although that have never happened - that is someone's right. But, again, I think that even then it shouldn't be insulting. Nevertheless, if it is insulting - than I think that it is telling more about the author rather then about the inspiration itself, and an audience know it very well, and I am in peace with it.”

Bam! She got me! Did I write a caricature? It’s a character that’s for sure. But I hope I’m not mocking…Am I? I think I already talked about the time my mom saw the last version of Porcelain Penelope and hated it. I play a version of her in the show and the funny thing is she’d seen the show over the two years I did it. But this last time was the show about my dad going to jail and all that drama. There was one sentence I have her say that she took objection to. I took it out. I think she

felt I was portraying her as shallow and glib about my dad being incarcerated. It was a pretty dramatic awful fight. But it was perfect for the show. What she said to me that night. I put it in the show the next week. Is that horrible? Some people who saw that show thought I was exploiting my families’ hardship. Using my dad’s name or something. I can see their point. At the time though, I couldn’t help it. I had to do it. It kept me sane, when everything around me was falling apart. So here I am again.

I did a radio show yesterday to promote “Zdenka Now!” and ran into Kathryn Haggis, the woman I did Amelia with. “Thank you so much for the interview you did for CBC”, she tells me, “I had people stopping me in the street telling me about how they heard it”. “Sure” I said. “Did you listen to it?” I asked. “No, but people said that basically it was all about me” she replied. I had been nervous about that. It was something I did for Definitely Not the Opera. I had wondered if she would get mad because I told the whole story. I guess not.

My dad based Sgt. Stadenko on a real cop in Vancouver. Used his name. The guy basically had to retire after Cheech and Chong became famous.

Maybe it would be better if I didn’t use my real life so much in my work. I try. I’d say it’s 60/40 of real life to imagination in my writing. I’m sure that the people close to me would argue that point. But truth is always stranger than fiction. A clichČ yes, but you know what they say about clichČs.

I always think about that scene in All That Jazz when he’s recovering in the hospital from a heart attack and his girlfriend, Anne Reinking (who was playing a character based on herself), says “ I just wish you weren’t so generous with your c..ck”. And you see his face change…”That’s good”, he says. And you know he’s going to use it. And in fact you are already watching him use it, by watching the movie. Man I love Bob Fosse. Love, love love him. I so got that. That feeling of being in your life and hearing something and even though you are living it there’s this other part that goes…”I need to remember that…that’s a good line.” I guess it can be mercenary but for me it gives it meaning. I want to somehow make it all for something. I don’t know. I’m rambling. Come see my show.

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