DRAGONS OF PRIDE with Mae Martin, Carolyn Taylor, Elvira Kurt, Susan Fischer, Katie Crown, Kathleen Phillips and hosts Dawn Whitwell and Deborah Etta Robinson. Tuesday (July 1) at 8 pm. Pwyc. Bread & Circus (193½ Baldwin). 416-336-3399, breadandcircus.ca. Rating: NNNNN
Whenever Susan Fischer performs as her brash and ballsy alter ego, Evelyn Reese, she strikes a chord in audiences. The chord’s a little off-key and kinda wobbly, but it’s familiar all the same.
“People say Evelyn’s like their aunt, their neighbour, their mother or somebody at work,” says Fischer. “There’s obviously something about her they relate to.”
Fischer, you’ll be relieved to know, looks nothing like Reese. Or rather, she looks like Reese but without the smeared lipstick, hitched-up skirt and oversized pink glasses, which are her persona’s gaudy signature.
She first came up with the character at the queer outing group Out And Out’s summer costume party.
“It was the glasses that really gave me the character,” she laughs. “I’d been doing a bit of stand-up before then, mostly anecdotal stuff – coming out and being gay – but after that show I started writing material for Evelyn.”
Reese emerged from Fischer’s memories of eavesdropping on her mother, who ran a bookstore at the University of Waterloo, and her mother’s best friend back in the 1960s and 70s.
“I listened to their stories about the ‘gals at the office,’” says Fischer. They were probably the only two women I knew from that generation who, if they worked, weren’t secretaries.”Not that Evelyn’s a stand-in for her mom.
“Evelyn’s a man-crazy drunk, and my mom’s more refined. She barely drinks,” says Fischer. “But they both have a down-to-earth approach to life, and a homespun wisdom. Neither of them has time for complainers.”
Having fleshed out Reese’s story in several Fringe shows – she’s bypassing Toronto this summer for Winnipeg and San Francisco – Fischer has proved her affection for her creation.
But she also relishes the opportunity to say the unsayable, especially about the gay community. As out-of-touch as ever, Evelyn calls her best friend, Reynold, a “poofter.”
“Evelyn thinks she’s super-liberal, but she’s not very enlightened,” says Fischer. “I think everybody, even the most politically correct person around, has this voice inside them that’s dying to rebel. I can do that through Evelyn, but it wouldn’t be as funny if I, Susan, said it.”
So far, there are no other characters in Fischer’s repertoire.
“My girlfriend sometimes asks me to do this suburban dad character I sometimes do,” she says. “He’s the kind of guy who jingles coins in his pocket, loves his wife and family but still makes ‘stupid wife’ jokes.”
And what will Evelyn be doing during Pride Weekend?
“I’m going away from town,” says Fischer, in Reese’s distinctive voice. “My friend Dorothy has offered me her trailer, near Huntsville or some godawful place. I couldn’t say no. Reynold has a boyfriend this week, so he won’t miss me much. Usually I stay around for him – and for the beer garden.”
On where she finds Evelyn's costumes: