When’s the last time you learned a new sport? Moved to a new country? Wrote your own solo show?
This week, I’m speaking with Erin Hunter. Although Erin has acted her entire life, she wrote her first solo show after 35 (in a new country, while learning to surf). And I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be producing her show for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.
In this episode, Erin and I talk about ageing as a female actor, her brilliantly funny show, which she wrote and performs in, Surfing the Holyland, and she even puts me in the hot seat to talk about my work producing female-led shows for Slackline Productions.
For more on Erin and Hunt the Vigan:
Hunt the Vigan, creators of award-winning comedy webseries A Quick Fortune, is the world’s funniest comedy duo!* *according to their mothers
Hunt The Vigan’s viral sketch -https://www.facebook.com/Upworthy/videos/1238552546185601/
For more on Surfing the Holyland:
Watch the Trailer
And on all Slackline Productions socials!
*”Platty Joobs” was coined by Kiell Smith-Bynoe. My apologies for calling him “Kiell Whatever His Name Is”. He’s a comedy genius. I probably owe him at least £50.
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- Twitter: @slacklineprodu2,
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
Yeah. It's goes way back.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:nd saw that there was a surf [:
I didn't know if there was surfing and I'd always wanted to learn- I'm from Los Angeles and never learned how to surf. And I thought, you know what, I'm going to give it a go. And just the wild times that we had in Tel Aviv, plus the, just the sort of odd and interesting, almost a conflicting experience of surfing, which is the most sort of laid-back community there is, but in a conflict zone just felt ripe for
turning into a one woman show plus inspired a little bit. Cause I very much felt likea fish out of water, no pun intended.[:[:
Or like going to, you know, a wild bar mitzvah in the desert in near Masada, which is right on the Dead Sea. And there were a lot of wild experiences, so yeah, lots of material.[:[:
Cause I've been living the show so much that I almost start to forget what the original inspiration for some of it was.[:[:
And it also is about how while she gets sucked into surfing her husband, who on arriving in Tel Aviv is a pretty secular Jew, ends up being drawn further and further into religion. I like to say that he finds the wailing wall and she finds a wall of water.
And as the play continues, it becomes more and more about they find themselves, but will they lose each other? Oh, and it's... each lesson, it's all in the water. So each scene is structured as a surf lesson. So there are lessons in, and then out of the water and it jumps around a lot in time and place and memory.
And as you said, there are four ukulele anthems. I won't say too much about them because they do give away plot, but one t hat doesn't that will give you a good sense of it is, "An Orthodox Party at Ikea". This is one of the songs which is based very much in an experience.
I actually had going to Ikea at nine o'clock on a Thursday and 9:00 PM. That is on a Thursday. And...[:
I think that's going to be one of our things through this.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
And of course, it's also about the immigrant experience. I think that is why I think it's resonated a lot, not just with audiences who are Jewish or have been to Israel. But I think even if you've moved away from your home town, you'll have some sort of experience that that any immigrant might have of feeling new, feeling marginalized and the loneliness that comes along with that.
And even though it is set in Israel, I, it really could be set in any city in any country. Because it is truly a classic fish out of water story. Not as prominent as female empowerment in the immigrant experience, but it also draws on questions of devotion, because there are parallel devotional aspects to religion and to surfing. The surfers I know, it is their religion and they worship at the altar of the sea. And they are married to the sea, almost like a convent nun. They everything is Revolves around that for those sort of hardcore surfers.
I really like that parallel aspect.[:[:
Tel Aviv is an electric city. The energy you get just walking down the streets, it almost hits you like a punch. It is just such a vibrant city. And I do think that is because of the fact that they are living in a conflict zone. But having said that. A lot of the time, I totally forgot about it.
Because it is a beautiful place, the weather is incredible. It's sunny all the time. You have the gorgeous Mediterranean on your doorstep. The food, oh my God. The food Israeli food is there's been a real Renaissance, I think in the last. I dunno, 20 plus years and Israeli food is amazing.
There's actually quite a few Israeli restaurants in London. Ottolenghi...[:[:
It is, yeah, I think really just, it's just such a vibrant city. Like you never get bored in Tel Aviv.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
and then this wholeBoobies in a Box... How, you know, tell me about that.[:
That was fun. So fast forward a year and Lola enters the world and we had said wouldn't it be great if we could make a sketch with Lola while she's still a baby.
And that was just how it started. Because I've always been one of those moms who just wanted to include Lola and everything. I didn't want to stop my life in order to accommodate a child, I thought she can just be part of it. And so I always had her strapped on my front.
So she also, that meant that she was part of Hunt the Vigan and I breastfed. I ended up breastfeeding Lola for three years, which I know not many mothers do. And Lola was one when we made that. And I had a lot of experiences where I'd take her out and I'd be breastfeeding in a public place.
And, you get a lot of... you get looks and you get different differing opinions on what's appropriate. And if it were up to me, I would just whip my boob out and feed her because it's her food and it's her mealtime, too. Anyway, it just kept drifting up into my consciousness, this idea of public breastfeeding and that there actually was a debate about what's appropriate and whether it's appropriate. And so, we wrote that sketch in the space of a few hours and little did we know that it would touch such a nerve and sparked this sort of global . A lot of support, but a lot of people, it did really provoke debate about what's appropriate these days. But I think that's something that I really enjoy about making my own work is being provocative and you're sparking debate and conversation about stuff that, and using humor, I think is the best way.
Like there's been so many, essays and novels and, panel discussions about these kinds of topics. But I think a sketch through humor and entertainment, you're going to, I think, reach a lot more people without hammering them over the head with it and actually ended up having a bigger impact in the end.[:
She wanted to get across an environmental message. There was a lot of female empowerment in it, but to sit and just tell people like, oh, it's bad to not recycle. On the smallest possible terms, you shouldn't drive your car. That's not the way to do it. Watching your video, I was cracking up laughing, but it did make me think, somebody is going to watch this. There's a lot of debate around it, it could change opinions. It could. All the things that you said and because they're laughing, it's not a blow to the head.
You must do this. It's just a funny way of thinking about things a little differently and the same with Surfing the Holyland, actually.[:
but then also think about it afterwards. And that's why I love comedy because it's such a powerful tool to get people thinking and talking and, potentially changing their outlook or their behavior. That's what I love about comedy and theater and entertainment that it has that - it is such a powerful tool.[:
Do you find that happening to you? Do you think that's a thing?[:[:
And I would say, Yeah, it's more difficult entering at the most difficult or one of the more difficult times. And your window is so short. I mean, If you go to drama school, you graduate like mid twenties and you've got what, five years, and then you're competing against everybody else who's just come out of drama school.[:
And it's a girls school. I don't have to hide my feminist agenda and each drama lesson is about an amazing woman who changed the world from Cleopatra to Amelia Earhart, to Ada Lovelace and Wangari Maathai. And I hope that the work that is being done now, What I'm trying to do, sort of planting the seeds that you can reach higher, you have, there are role models out there, women doing amazing things that hopefully in a generation's time, we might be a bit closer to gender parity.
But in the meantime, that's I think why my advice to, I call myself an actor. I don't use the term actress, but for the female actors out there who are feeling the pinch and not getting the work that they hope they would, because of the lack of opportunity. My advice is always don't sit by, don't stand by. Make your own work, make your own opportunities. Cause they're not gonna come to you. You have to do it yourself.[:
You have to be there and making yourself present, which I think, it takes a lot of confidence. And I do think that's one thing that I'd like to think as a benefit of getting older is that the confidence level is, sometimes it is more difficult, but there is something inside of you.
That's I'm not going to stand for this bullshit anymore.[:
Yeah. I definitely feel a lot more confident and willing to knock on those doors than I would have done when I was fresh out of drama school[:[:[:[:[:
So I think there's a nice sort of integration or connector there between surfing and the ukulele. I think of Hawaii, when I think of both. On a more basic, nuts and bolts level, it's the only instrument I know how to play. And when I decided to write a one woman show I thought, well, I want to play a bunch of characters.[:
And I had really enjoyed that. I kind of found my comedy voice through song much quicker than I thought I would. So it just seems natural for me to tie it into, to my one woman show... cause I love it.[:
I'm trying to get better at it. But as I said pop-ups, it's one of these things, maybe I should write a comedy song about not being able to pop up on a surfboard.[:[:
one. So you got anything for me?[:[:
dude, World. Now we're in a dream sequence. And it's your turn to interview me.[:[:[:
both of them, that I didn't actually get much time to chat to you about how Slackline came into being. So tell me.[:
and it was amazing, which is how we ended up now Surfing the Holyland together. But Slack line is sort of a happy-sad story, really, because it really was like my divorce baby. I was, as I mentioned earlier, someone who had gone to drama school as a second cha- my own second or third or whatever chapter, and just felt like I wasn't getting the work that I wanted.
And when things were ticking along happily with my marriage and life was good, it bothered me.
and I was trying- you know- fairly aggressively to get more acting work. But when there was like a surprise divorce and life, wasn't so happy. And on top of it, I was like, what am I going to do now? Not just from a, what am I going to do with myself?
I need more fulfillment, but also what am I going to do with myself financially? And what am I going to do with myself? So how am I going to stay in this country? All of these different things came about and. I actually have to give credit to a friend because I was like, I'm thinking about, going into business instead, or I'm thinking about trying to start something else, or I don't know what to do.
And she said, why don't you do a theatre company? It was the stupidest thing for somebody to have to say to me. Now, financially, probably not the wisest choice. I will say that right away. And I will say also that I've really tried to make it more about not just theatre. I love events and I love production in general.
So I see myself growing and growing way beyond just saying I'm a theatre company, but yeah, it was a bit of frustration about what I really saw happening with women in the industry. And what I saw happening in my own life. And yeah, like I was getting divorced. I was looking for something and Slackline was born and as it turns out, I love it.
I love being able to empower women s voices a bit. And then the podcast was something I'd been considering a long time as well. And And it's just more ways to, again, amplify women's voices, especially after a certain age.
So here I am.[:[:nk officially I registered in:
kind of written to be performed, virally, because we knew that it wasn't going to be getting together in person. Virtually. Virally virtually, but we didn't go viral necessarily. But[:[:
I think that's been one of the biggest things as well. And of course I treated myself to getting to act in a couple of those .
Those are still up on YouTube. If anyone's interested, youtube.com/slacklineproductions,[:[:[:
We've already touched on it, but in terms of your focus on women over 35 and giving female playwrights a voice, although it may be difficult to discern, what impact have you felt or what have you seen since you've started Slackline?
Have you seen any victories that you can talk about?[:
whether or not, that leads to something that everybody's heard of and become some big, famous thing. I do think that is what my kind of knock-on biggest effect has been. One of the playwrights that actually the show you were in[:[:
the shows that she just wrote in less than 11- yeah, she had 11 hours to write it and it also had ukulele songs and it was a really hilarious sketch. And
she went on to adapt it as a TV script and it's been getting a lot of attention, was a finalist in a big international screenwriting competition. I've kept a big connection with her and I think, she's definitely going places and this is not her first career.
And I think so many of the people that I've spoken to and worked with through Slackline are so relevant to The Second Chapter because it's not their first careers. And I think even just the practice that they've gotten writing and directing and working with Slackline is something that's built their confidence to be able to go on to the next level.
So I'm really proud of that. And I think that's one of the things that probably would be what I hope to continue most.[:
I can totally see that being the trajectory.[:[:
From your perspective[:
And it really does have this female empowerment message. I was like, oh, you need a producer. Yes. Really it's saying what I want to say. It's saying it with a sense of humor and I really love the show.
So it's my company and I'll do what I want with it.[:[:
everyone, but I do think, I it really does have a broad appeal because as we talked about earlier, it's such a relatable story. So mission is really that we stop saying, that it's a woman's story or that it's female led or female written at the moment
that's what I'm focusing on, because I do feel like it's an issue that we don't have, like you said, statistically, there is an issue with this being a thing. I also just recently read something about novels and I posted this actually on The Second Chapter Instagram page, but the percentage of men that will read novels written by women is staggeringly low compared to women who read novels by men.[:[:[:[:
I think. Heather in the, in the play, I don't know, again, it might be only 50% fiction... I'm not sure. yeah, so I think there's an interesting, there's an interesting dynamic, like you said about living in Tel Aviv, what's that like? Knew nothing pretty much about Tel-Aviv before seeing the show.
And I thought it was really interesting the 12 characters and the different personalities that you came across. And so I do think it has a really broad appeal. Obviously it also has the appeal of, the same people that I expect are listening to this podcast to be honest with you. Women who really want to hear a strong woman's story who want to laugh, who, you know, appreciate and embrace change.[:[:[:[:[:[:
So yeah, I'm excited to learn more about producing for the fringe. I'm excited to expand on what I'm doing. Hopefully make some great connections for the show up there. And so far it's been great. You are way too on top of things, because I feel like I can't impress you with my organisational prowess, but it's good.
Cause I really do feel like, I mean, I made the whole like where two women over 35 and powerhouses in the industry. But I feel like we've both got this really strong over the top work ethic and it's just been really interesting to, spend a few weeks really figuring out how we're going to make the show rock, very exciting.[:[:[:
I know we missed an opportunity there.
That's the spin off.[:[:
And the show is about hope and I think this is, it's a very hopeful point of view.[:[:
Yeah, because you knows what happens at the end? But in the meantime, it also I just, I think of my daughter, Lola, who is seven and who does live that way. And I think it is almost about finding that Innocence and childlike Everything is new and fresh before you learn boundaries and to censor yourself and to edit and all sorts of the society norms.
I think it's like we were probably all were once that way. Dancing, like no one's watching, singing like no one hears you.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
It's such a fun show. And yeah, we look forward to welcoming amazing audiences[:[:[: