Ingenue meets Pochsy

By Karoline Czerski

She’s the embodiment of North America’s media culture–an obsessive, hyper-human consumer. She’s the gross product of dangerous ignorance, peering at the world through large, school-girl eyes. She’s Citizen Pochsy, star of Head Movements of a Long-Haired Girl.

Karen Hines, creator and director of, not to mention actor in, Citizen Pochsy quickly admits the long-haired girl retains aspects of her own worst self (which she won’t mention), a character Hines formed as she became more conscious of media manipulation in all its endearing forms.

"I made her more of a symbolic character than real," Hines recalls. "She’s a microcosm of a North American consumer culture."

Pochsy is a worker at a mercury-packing plant, an unpopular, lonely girl who fills her life with the gross accumulation of commodities. While she is very human, she’s an allegorical figure described as a more evolved product of our evil-centric society. In this regard, Hines stresses she’s unlike the vitriolic Pochsy character.

"I’m very popular, on the other hand," she notes facetiously.

Hines’ thoughtful, critical and conscious persona does not conform to Pochsy’s character, either. Her accumulation of wealth shows in a diversified bio, starting with the horror clown duo Mump and Smoot, as well as a regular spot on CBC’s The Newsroom and a part in the indie-film production Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Most recently, she is the creator of what has become a Pochsy trilogy.

The idea for Pochsy came early in the 1990s when Hines realized she didn’t fit the standard roles of a young and naïve woman. At this time, there were loads of girls doing one-woman shows and Hines figured there were enough of them.

"I was terrified of people being bored," she recalls.

What Hines finally created was unlike any other one-woman show. Citizen Pochsy is the third piece in the widely acclaimed, hilarious Pochsy series, preceded by Oh, Baby and Pochsy’s Lips. This play is a deconstruction of the modern ingenue prototype, endlessly buying into the status quo but offering a kind of release, a sense of existential hope in the wake of modern all-consuming doom.

"I put in lots of laughs," stresses Hines. "They come not from a nasty place, but an almost affectionate one."

While grotesque modern consumerism is gloomy foreshadowing in most respects, a grain of salt and humour lightens the load, and even sheds light on varying depths and angles of the problem. Pochsy is a sort of contradiction in terms, a witty accumulation of opposites to produce a complicated phenomenon of our society.

"We live in a horribly beautiful world," Hines explains. "The human capacity to love is incredibly destructive, incredibly beautiful."

Hines is particularly interested in contradictions and tries to balance them with satirical humour and intelligent reflection. Her acute sense of perception allows her to not only criticize manipulation, but to engage in it. She can darken or lighten the mood of her audience with an extra joke or toned-down delivery.

Hines prefers the humour, though.

"I don’t want to shove anything down peoples’ throats," she explains. "I don’t like that myself, I prefer to keep it effervescent."

Hines is also aware of the danger of becoming too consumed with thoughts of humanity’s self-destruction. It’s almost impossible to go back to the normalcy of a regular lifestyle, regular acting, after having deconstructed the very industry in which she works.

Fortunately, she has a back-up plan.

"Sometimes I think of leaving it all and farming," she concludes.

If we can’t find hope in Hines’ Citizen Pochsy, there’s consolation in the fact we can at least follow her to the wheat fields.

Citizen Pochsy, Head Movements of a Long-Haired Girl, runs until Sat., Apr. 24 at One Yellow Rabbit’s Big Secret Theatre. Pay-what-you-can Sun., April 18.

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