Harris portrays the strong and intelligent Judy Holliday.
courtesy Victor Dolhai

This blonde has all the fun and all the brains too

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The bubbly blonde wears many hats. She is sometimes the unattainable sex symbol, the comedic relief, the butt of jokes or the one who just gets tolerated. Rarely, however, does she get the recognition as the one with wit or charm. Laura Harris’ Pitch Blond explores Judy Holliday’s fight against a government investigation into her Communist ties in the 1950s. The actress was well-known for her intelligence, wit and ability to portray a ditzy character on-screen. The production is the recent University of British Columbia grad’s first foray into the one-woman show, pushing her to take a different tact with conveying the story’s conflict. “I think it started with finding the archives of the testimony,” she says. “I knew that I wanted a voice-over for the prosecutor and I felt that would be a really strong image and strong way to do a one-woman show. It’s kind of like the voice of God: he’s holding her fate in his hands.” Harris was inspired to base her work on Holliday after theatre staple Charles Marowitz commented on her likeness to the starlet. Not only does the production chronicle Holliday’s struggles with the government’s accusations but also acts as a commentary on preconceptions that, while prevalent in the ’50s, still remain today. “Usually [being ditzy] has negative connotations,” she says. “It’s a woman trying to get what they want and the only way they can do that is by making themselves look weak. In this instance, it’s using that stereotype of the weak woman and throwing the prejudice back at the interrogators.” Harris has taken her performance through the Fringe circuit this year to test the waters with a work that pushes her comfort zone as a playwright. She says the atmosphere is unlike any other for a burgeoning artist. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to workshop your show or just see what grabs people as well as see what works over the course of time at many festivals,” she says. “You can showcase yourself and let professional theatre companies see your work.” Through her travels, Harris sees Calgary as a shining light on the Fringe circuit, though only in its third year and an excitement surrounding the festival’s young nature. “Michele [Gallant, festival director] has gone out of her way to help me,” she says. “I think they have a strong administration and that’s the core of any festival. I’m a part of the beginning. If you think back to the beginning of the Edmonton Fringe, that was a different experience, so I’m at the beginning of something really great here.”