PF-21 ARTIST INTERVIEW – Christine Marshall (of Tekannis Productions)

A Moment with Christine Marshall (Company: Tekannis Productions) of IT GOT SO SMALL – A TEENY LITTLE MOVIE

Why did you choose PortFringe this year? Because it’s PortFringe. You don’t say no to PortFringe. Jesus.

How was your PortFringe show born? For the past 20 + years, I have longed for a dollhouse, based on an early memory of visiting a friend of my parents’ whose father had built a 4-sided, electrified dollhouse for his granddaughters. I was astonished to learn, as we left, that we would not be taking it with us. I thought I’d made my desires perfectly clear.

And so, a near-lifetime later, I still thought about that house, but as a real house, in a place. I could see which direction the sun entered the various rooms throughout the day. It would be the location of the recording of some aging rocker’s comeback album, and it is nestled in the woods of the English countryside. Gloucestershire, specifically.

Then, when I decided to commit to buying a specific model that fit the bill, trying to convince myself it was somehow an artistic investment, I found the model I’d coveted – THE THORNHILL – had been discontinued by the manufacturer.

Since then, I’ve made a casual habit of scrolling marketplace sites for dollhouses, and one day, last August, I spotted the profile of a house in a blurry photo. I knew it was THE THORNHILL. I drove, my only trip of this pandemic*, to Beverly Mass, where, masked, I met a woman who passed it off to me, along with two slightly mildewed cardboard boxes of accessories.

*Note: This is not entirely true. My husband and I took one other road trip to visit a friend in Berwick, where we all stared awkwardly at each other from a distance, because hugging is our default, and not hugging was creepy, and where I told an actress visiting from LA that a particular movie was pretty much just AWFUL – and then found out she’d been in it. On our ride home, my husband told me it was possibly one of the greatest nights of our marriage – watching that moment play out.)

The doll house seller told me she’d had it for over 30 years. That an old boyfriend had bought it for her by way of an apology for doing something that made her angry. When I got home and began to pull things out of the boxes to wipe them down, this fact became apparent to me: Whatever this guy did, it was BAD.

I have spent many quiet hours during the past year peering at tiny objects, cutting things with exacto blades, and watching The Crown for wall sconces and table lamps. I mean, it’s a great show – but the wainscoting is spectacular.

I love this small world. Every choice is mine. Except for what the house itself tells me to do.

This film came out of photographing my progress, and the feeling that this was a real construction site. Never finished, chaotic. Already full of cats.

What about the world *right now* makes your show important?
Important in general? I don’t kid myself that my show is important. It is something to muse on, but not a profound statement. I’m not qualified for that.

Important to me? I control this world. Except when I don’t.

What have you learned as an artist during the last year of pandemic times? I was deeply grateful that, only a few weeks before the shutdown, I wrapped an incredibly satisfying performance experience, both technically and spiritually – APPROPRIATE, by Brandon Jacobs Jenkins, with Mad Horse. I fed off that for several months, while knowing that other friends and fellow artists had not been so lucky. So many artists had been about to open shows that were suddenly shut down, and were never, will never be, seen. I have hated that.

I was honestly grateful, too, for the time away from the speed that one maintains when one cobbles together all the compartmentalized pieces of a Life In Maine that includes the arts. I have loved being at home. I just put up a student show, though, at CEHS, the first for the public since last March, and I pretty much sobbed through the whole thing. I guess what I mean is that I feel more for young artists for whom time is of the essence, or who were thwarted in an effort to create something that we may never see.

I mostly was just inspired throughout the year by all the beautiful, innovative art people made despite all the obstacles.

I also tried not to wallow in non-specific shame. Turns out that constant, shark-like movement keeps shame a bit at bay. But when you sit still for a moment . . .

Why is FRINGE important? I like, love, being told to not care so much what I’m doing something for, but rather, to just do it. To try something new. It feels subversive and real. It feels louche and transformative. It feels like a secret grin.

It’s PortFringe’s 10th Birthday! What do you remember or miss about being ten years old? I didn’t like 10, in a social sense. I was just beginning to find out how weird I evidently was, in terms of the Public School System. So 10 was awesome and magical, and seriously Kodachrome, at home with my family.

But at school, it was utterly bewildering and unnerving.

I do remember at that age having one close friend, Sally, and we played strange, witchy games in the marsh behind her house, wore Bonne Bell Orange Crush Lip Gloss, read Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and tried to write as tiny as we could.

Our teacher gave both of us many check minuses for our tiny handwriting, read us Old Yeller, and marked her page with a rubber band, and was, I found out years later, addicted to pills. Which explains the shaking hand stretching the rubber band around the spine of the book.

Nobody should read a child Old Yeller.

I continued to write smaller.

Have you checked out the other PF21 show listings? Pick one you’re excited to see or learn more about, and tell us why!  You can’t ask me that. Come ON. One of the best things about Fringe is being so happy for everybody who is taking part, and also finding out that virtually no project is exactly what you expected it to be. I am excited to see Erica Murphy’s SELKIE. THE YIP OF CTHULHU, by Maximum Verbosity, begs to be seen. AMERICAN ALTARS, by Dana Fadel. ALL OF THEM.

My partners on our bill, of course, STORY GAUNTLET, by Chimera Theatre Collective, and THE BICHON FRISE AND SHETLAND VARIETY HOUR, by Memoriam Development.

Hooray for everyone, I say!

Write a haiku about your show!

Oriented South

Freddie and his cats are home

I’d sleep in that room