Emilia Di Luca
"There is no Rhett Butler," confesses Elizabeth McEachern, comedic actress who declares Gone with the Wind's main man to be no more than a fairytale. At this year's Hamilton Fringe Festival, McEachern continues to distinguish the real from the ideal in her autobiographical solo-show Bless Her Heart.
From writing to acting, this Canadian talent translates her experiences into a performance about a want-to-be-southern-belle caged by mundane country life. When she reflects on her not-so-ideal life, a southern belle appears to guide her. The country girl of Bless Her Heart finds her roots in McEachern: “[The play is] about…wanting my life to be more exciting and wanting to be a movie star and wanting to fall in love…and wanting to see the world….It’s about what I wanted and what has actually become of my life.”
McEachern has become a remarkable talent on stage and screen. Equipped with an education from Humber, to Second City, to even Phillip Gaulier, a prestigious clown school abroad, Elizabeth says her improv experience sharpens her acting. She even admits “…a lot of clown comes out in what [she does].” In fact, the Humber grad still looks to artists like Tracy Erin Smith, founder of SoulOTheatre, for inspiration, especially when it comes to one-woman shows. McEachern is, however, no stranger to the one-person show. Her experience with How Sweet It Is, her first solo performance, informs Bless Her Heart.
McEachern’s first show, How Sweet It Is, combines the personal and the funny. Diabetic since birth, McEachern faces challenges that test her health and her happiness, but she converts challenges into comedy, comedy into performance, and performance into applause. Since How Sweet It Is, McEachern abandons the anxiety attached to playing people from her life and the stress of engaging with the audience for her Fringe show.
In Bless Her Heart, the comedian must “…[reveal herself] on stage without completely breaking down.” As McEachern clarifies, “[it] can’t be therapy, but it’s got to be revealing.” The trick to balancing her heavy material: humour.
Known for her deadpan, McEachern explains the source of her comedy is “finding the ridiculous.” ”The humour with me,” she says, “is that sometimes I just take things so seriously that it is too serious.” Before she made a career out of comedy, McEachern went for the serious roles.
"I was never the ingénue—ever. I wanted to be the ingénue, but…it just never happened. I was always funny."
Just because McEachern is funny, doesn’t mean her work lacks seriousness.How Sweet It Is, for example, deals with diabetes affecting her eye sight, andBless Her Heart touches on several issues affecting women particularly.
In Bless Her Heart, Elizabeth dreams of becoming a beautiful movie star, opposite her Rhett Butler: ”In Gone with the Wind, they describe Scarlett as not conventionally beautiful. I’m not conventionally beautiful. [I wanted] to be a movie star, but how do you become a movie star when you’re not conventionally beautiful? [It’s about] accepting that I’m funny, instead of being the ingénue.”
At Hamilton Fringe, McEachern proves she doesn’t need ingénue status or a Rhett Butler to be successful. She needs the courage to be vulnerable and a killer sense of humour.
Bless Her Heart runs at Hamilton Theatre Inc. on select dates from Thursday, July 17th to Sunday July 27th. For more information and tickets, visit: http://hamiltonfringe.ca/shows/bless-her-heart/