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An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”

July 1, 2020

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 23.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Nineteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: July 1, 2020

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2020

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 2,935

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Karen Hines is the writer and director of All the Little Animals I Have Eaten. She discusses: background; All The Little Animals I Have Eaten; pieces brought together in this individual narrative to pass the Bechdel Test; a conversation between Margaret Atwood and Michelle Goldberg; one of the nightmares from the restaurant serving time; a second nightmare; and something to hope people not take away as a message from this play.

Keywords: All the Little Animals I Have Eaten, Bechdel Test, director, Karen Hines, Margaret Atwood, Michelle Goldberg, writer.

An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”[1],[2]*

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Of course, your background is more public as you are a reasonably prominent playwright. But for those who would like this in your own words, what is some background leading into being a playwright around more critical social commentary issues?

Karen Hines: I started off as a child actor. My first performing job was a pay that my great step-grandfather and “common law,” [Laughing] as he called himself, produced with his then independent theatre company. So, I got a taste for this. It was an adaptation of [did not get this]. I got a taste for independent theatre and left-leaning work. Then I began doing sketch comedy, improv, when I was in my late teens. Then in my early 20s, I became a member of the Second City comedy company. They present satire and parodies. They’re doing critiques of contemporary culture. I would say that I really got a sense of possibilities in that kind of work. I sculpted my studies around that kind of work. So, I studied clown and bouffon, but only so that I could further define what I was doing as a satirist, as a baby satirist. I studied lots of different things. I was originally a performer, then a performer-writer, then performer-writer-director as time went on. I got a taste for it. My parents are scientists and atheists. I suppose that I was brought up in a family that questioned. I have this grandmother who was an author. My great step-grandfather and common law was very experimental in the world of theatre. All of those influenced.

2. Jacobsen: With regards to the current production, All The Little Animals I Have Eaten, what was the starting point when some of the ideas were coming to the front of mind for you?

Hines: It began as something quite different than what it has become. It began as a exercise. I was interested in the Bechdel Test or the Bechdel-Wallace Test. I was interested in this kind of experiment in writing a bunch of disparate scenes that pass the test and what kind of feeling that might create in a room, having scenes that all pass the test. The play really began to evolve almost as soon as I started doing readings of it, or presenting pieces for grant applications or whatever, because the world began to change quickly. I guess, the earliest pieces that I wrote were in 2014. At that time, the Bechdel Test was  pretty unknown to a lot of people. It was a new territory and needed to explain this to people. Very soon after that, we had the MeToo movement and Donald Trump was elected into office. The world changed, and changed, and changed again. The Bechdel-Wallace Test seemed quaint by comparison. It was no longer weighty enough to hold the centre of a full-length play. Then I just began improvising. As a writer, you are trying to respond instinctively to what I was seeing in the world and not necessarily writing about those things. I do not write about the MeToo movement or abut Donald Trump. But as a writer, I was writing in a way that was responding to the world that we were in. The scenes are mostly about professionals and all-female, which makes sense when you remember this started as a playful examination or meditation including the Bechdel Test. But the world surrounding this condominium seemed much darker, much more inclusive of the changes. Everything feels a lot scarier since I began to write this play 6 years ago.

3. Jacobsen: When we look at some of the political contexts, it is quite a startling thing to see. It could be Hungary with Orban to Xi Jinping getting rid of term limits. There is a large contingent of political examples of strongmanism akin to Trump and almost to who Trump has almost given an excuse for and emboldened. There seems to be a trend in some feminist literature and writing in Canada to not necessarily write directly about those political and social occurrences. Rather, it is more portraying this more in a fictional setting, so Margaret Atwood is very famous for this, as we both know. Taking puzzle pieces of the real world in history, misogyny and so on, and then making a big puzzle out of it, then calling this The Handmaid’s Tale, and so on, were there pieces brought together in this individual narrative to pass the Bechdel Test, and then further weaved together?

Hines: Yes, initially, I had no idea how they were going to knit together. As I was working, I realized most of the scenes were set in a restaurant or a café, or a bistro. The ones that were not were very easy to change. That was probably partly because I was talking about conversations between women and overhearing conversations between people. Of course, there is no greater way to overhear conversations than to be a server.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Hines: I had been a server in my late teens and early twenties. I thought, “I don’t know what it is like to be 20-something now. I know 20-year-olds. I do not know what it is like to be a server.” That server character is sort of what ties things together now. Then I realized that I had to focus this further [Laughing] because people’s ideas around feminism are so fractured.

Jacobsen: Sure.

Hines: There’s no way to write a play set in a condominium and pretend to cover all version of females.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Hines: I decided that I would really focus it on an all-female condo with real estate being sold. I decided to really focus down on aspects of consumer culture, market driven feminism, capitalism, neo-liberalism, etc., and through a very distinctively female lens.

4. Jacobsen: I recall a conversation between Margaret Atwood and Michelle Goldberg off-the-top. Michelle Goldberg mentioned “feminism.” Margaret Atwood retorted, ‘We have to be careful about that term because it means about 50 different things now.’

Hines: Yes.

Jacobsen: When you mention the ‘fracturing’ of it, that’s what comes to mind. It is the idea that there are these various branches that fall under that rubric of feminism, but they are, as you note, “market driven feminism.” There’s a whole bunch of others. They are more or less allied, but they have different areas of emphasis. So, when you’re coming to this play presenting mostly or all women voices, but not the complete of women’s voices, of course, what is the idea of feminism that you’re bringing to mind here or hoping to bring to mind in the audience?

Hines: I am, certainly, going to piss some people off.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Hines: [Laughing] a lot of the women depicted in this play are not “good” women. They are women for whom individual gain is very important and getting ahead. They talk about accelerated feminism. What that means is very different from person to person, it is the tender server who walks among them and must decide whether she will accept or resist what she is seeing around her. Although, she wants her own place. She wants to succeed. She is confronted with people who are ostensibly succeeding. But [Laughing] the type of feminism that they are exuding is the all-for-me feminism [Laughing]. They are very much into the trappings of contemporary market driven feminism. They might want the leisure and things often marketed to women. These are often what they talk about. They are not lacking in poetry or intelligence. They just want what they want. I would say, “They are market driven feminists” [Laughing].

Jacobsen: When I hear that, the ideas that come to mind are a more comprehensive view or range of feminisms, or believing in different forms of feminism that are more or less allied with one another, but behaving in ways that are not necessarily feminist or reasonably accurate to that standard that many would accept – and what that shows is humanizing of women in that manner. I think Chris Rock had a saying. When black people in the United States can fail the way white people can fail, and bounce back the white people can, if they are hardworking enough and persistent enough, then that’s the more robust sign of equality.

Hines: Right.

Jacobsen: I think this instance of portraying women as human beings, as all sorts of the nobilities, the foibles, and the forgetfulness, the aging, the bad eyesight, the Machiavellianism to get ahead. All of these things. I think what you’re portraying is not the idea of feminism, but, maybe, a more honest representation of what feminism means as humanizing women as complete beings.

Hines: Yes and no, I go pretty hard on them. It is this server’s story, but it is a server’s nightmare. I don’t know if you have ever worked in a restaurant.

Jacobsen: I am working in one right now [Laughing] [Ed. This is before the SARS-CoV-2/Coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic, as declared by the World Health Organisation, leading to the shutting down of the restaurant, hopefully temporarily, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at the moment, which comes from the national emergency declarations of the Federal Liberal Government of the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau.]

Hines: I still have nightmares from my server years. I do recall nights as a server that were among the most stressful nights of my life. It is really tough when you are young and, obviously, if you are working in a decent restaurant; then, it is the best money. What it can take out of you is a lot, I focused on the darker aspects of that, the harder aspects of that. So, that it is, first of all, comedic, because if everyone is super nice to each other, then it is not funny. I instinctively went for the jugular on a type of woman or feminist. But it is a focus on a type of woman that is very human. But you should know that these are sort of surreal characters. They are not meant to represent all women or the darker side of women, but women in a place where the real estate is over $1,000 a square foot. They had to get there sometimes by not being the nicest people in the world. It is focused on this place. This place is imaginary. We talked about Margaret Atwood. It is not quite as extreme as The Handmaid’s Tale. It is its own strange place. Meanwhile, the condo that it is set in is called La Ferme. It is French for “The Farm.” It features live animals and living plants that ostensibly being raised and grown to eat. So, it has a beautiful aspect to it. The vegetation is gorgeous. Also, set against these problematic women are two women who share conversations with each other, which go back to the Bechdel Test, they are really beautiful conversations and fun conversations. Also, they are not about feminism or about men. In the case of this play, they are not about babies and families. They are about the world. I would say that those women are, if anything, the women people, hopefully, focus on the foreground against the background of these heinous women [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Hines: Because these women are kind of counterculture. They are finding their way through this job. They are going to school. All of that. They are resisting. So, we have two extremes of women. The ones there are more of; they are the heinous variety with self-serving, greedy, money focused, materialistic, and so on, at the expense of others type women. Then there are these two women who really are interested in the world, in their future, in the future of what is outside of the confines of La Ferme.

5. Jacobsen: If I may ask, was one of the nightmares from the restaurant serving time in your 20s incorporated into the play? And if so, what?

Hines: Yes! [Laughing] even when I was still serving, and after, I used to have a dream that my section as in 4 different locations. For a while, that dream was in some restaurant building that I was actually working in, but the dream morphed. Sometimes, it was in a forest. My section was in a forest. I couldn’t see the tables, I think, maybe, that is how subconsciously the vegetation has become part of the scenography of the play. I also used to dream that my section was on several different subway platforms. I would have to jump on the subway to check on my other three sections. So, this server has, on this night, a section spread out over 4 distinct areas. Her fellow server has not shown up. She is on her own. She is dealing with tables all over the place. And she can’t see them all.

6. Jacobsen: Is there a second nightmare?

Hines: I would say that that nightmare of not being able to see my tables because of trees and, sometimes, subway platforms was the nightmare that kept happening over the years. I am trying to think. I think the nightmares, too, include, usually, the stress coming from the tables. The pressured situation with customers who are not necessarily all that kind, which is very common. I think that a lot of servers will tell you that they might get jobs in better restaurants, but, often, the clientele becomes more demanding and more unpleasant as you move to finer dining.

7. Jacobsen: So, my last question, then, would be: I can’t ask you, ‘What is the meaning of the title?’ That’s for people to figure out themselves. I am not going to ask you, ‘What should people take away from the story?’ Because that could be a million things. What I am going to ask you is the reverse of the last question, what do you hope people not take away as a message from this play?

Hines: Oh! I hope that they don’t think that I am telling them to be vegan.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Hines: [Laughing] I mean, one, I think it is a great thing to be. But it is not about that. It is not about Me Too or about Trump, as I said. It is about the word. Yes, it has, to me, a relationship to animals. But it is not as simple or straightforward as, “You should stop eating meat.”

8. Jacobsen: Thank you for the lovely conversation today, Karen.

Hines: Thank you very much, I really enjoyed the questions.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Writer and Director.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 1, 2020: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2020: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten” [Online].July 2020; 23(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, July 1). An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 23.A, July. 2020. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2020. “An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 23.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 23.A (July 2020). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 23.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 23.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten”.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 23.A (2020):July. 2020. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Karen Hines on “All the Little Animals I Have Eaten” [Internet]. (2020, June 23(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/hines.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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