Dark Parody, From A Dark Background

Local playwright Kristine Nutting enlivens the creative scene with her nuclear level satire

Kristine Nutting smiles when told she’s been picked for a favourite Edmontonian nod, wheels already turning. She shows up for the photo with a surprise entourage, dressed in white, instructed to look dour/subjugated as she celebrates in her gleaming gymnastics outfit.

You might point out — “But that’s just calculated! I could’ve done that!” And indeed it was. And indeed you didn’t. Or should I say, you most assuredly wouldn’t. Which is exactly what’s so terrific about the girl — she takes simple concepts like, say, a musical, a metal band, a drama class, or even a photo shoot in SEE, and tortures them into a new and thought-provokingly shocking form.

She’s also one of those Edmontonians who leaves but doesn’t. She put on an amazing production of Black Rider — which Tom Waits rarely lets happen — with her Camrose drama students. She toured her gore-creepy musical  Pig! across Canada, including a Winnipeg strip bar and our own Chez Pierre. She did a dance workshop in Brussels with Peaches’ choreographer Jeremy Wade, and this summer, is studying at Berlin’s Transart. “I am both terrified and excited by this prospect,” she notes. “Right now I really feel like I need to put back into my work — I need inspiration!”

No wonder. Nutting’s story is long and weird, having been kicked out of her home at 16 in Saskatoon. “As a kid I would live with my broke mom — sometimes out of her car — selling jewelry out of a suitcase from town to town. After living a summer in low track neighborhoods with my mother who seemed to have great compassion for everyone but had no money or means and my dad who had power money and means but no mercy, politicized my outlook very early in life.”

Nutting’s mom would sell shine to strippers and prostitutes, and when Kristine moved to the poorest ’hood in Winnipeg, she would see her University of Winnipeg profs turn down the dead-end, cruising for flesh in the form of 11-year-old native girls. “That was an eye-opener, men with kid’s car seats in the back of their minivans. Everyone including my psych prof thought I was a working girl, even though I would be in some horrible grunge outfit — it was that era of pajama bottoms and waffle long underwear, god help us. Some of these dudes would get so excited like they hit the jackpot finding a white girl in low track. Once a guy spit on me because I kept saying, ‘I am not working!’ He didn’t believe me, thought is was just that I didn’t like him, and saliva bombs away.”

These influences from the darkest sides of showmanship, literally preening for money, influenced Nutting to her core. You find it in the meat-grinder fates of the prostitutes of Pig! or as she terrifyingly rips a turkey to pieces in the theatre-metal BrontoScorpio, where she also wears a flamethrower bra. Nutting tantalizes, then disgusts. It’s all part of the plan.

At an academic conference presentation in 1998, Nutting started off straight, but began taking off her clothes, putting a grad cap with fake feces on her head, handing out citations to the horrified audience, spouting French philosophy: nuclear-level parody of the hallowed halls of the University of Alberta. “By this point I really thought that university was not about learning, but rather about wielding your power and dominance within any given department or field. I thought the men at the conference would freak out, but it was the feminists they couldn’t get over my 27-year-old tits. In a way they objectified me and dismissed me more than the men did. Which I thought was interesting given my personal politics at the time was strongly aligned with feminist perspectives. I realized that the ‘feminists’ at that conference were ladies, who were older and had a lot of power, and I was literally crapping all over their pretense. And they did not like that.”

A natural leader, her story is just begun, I think. Having been nominated for a mayor’s innovation award and been rewarded by the Edmonton Arts Council, Nutting is in the interesting position of breaching the establishment. I doubt she’ll take any prisoners here, either. Look at that photo again, after all, parodying the pageantry of even this humble nod.




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