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All Over The Planet

Arlington celebrates its cosmopolitan culture with its Planet Arlington Festival.

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Vicki Juditz

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The Planet Arlington Festival is coming to Arlington later this month.

<b>THE PLANET ARLINGTON</b> Festival is about more than just music.

<p>Every year it features internationally renowned musicians from all across the globe. But this year, the weekend-long festival is branching out into comedy for the first time.

<p>This year’s Planet Arlington Festival will feature Vicki Juditz, a self-described environmental satirists who will give her humorous take on all things green.

<p>In an interview with the Arlington Connection, Juditz talked about her act and how she came to develop her environmental concerns.

<p><b>What is an environmental comedian?</b>

<p>I’d been performing for a long time telling stories that I’ve written. It’s just in the last few years that absolute terror has made me write primarily about environmental issues. But that doesn’t mean that it’s like a lecture or something. Hopefully I find humor in the ways that we try to go green.

<p><b>So it’s come out of your fear for the environment?</b>

<p>Yes. Did you read that big article in the New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert? It’s called “Climate of Man” and it’s absolutely terrifying. Before that, I thought, “Well, this is a problem but it doesn’t concern me and it’s not that urgent.” She went to different parts of the world and saw first-hand what’s already happening.

<p>What she did say is that a lot of what we purchase, a lot of our daily choices can really help. It’s all the consumption that has led us to this problem. It’s all the using up of natural resources. If you choose a lifestyle or if you choose certain products that are more environmentally friendly that can be a big help.

<p>That’s what I write about; what the average person is desperately trying to do and how they can be confused and neurotic. You know that coffee is terrible for the rain forest but you can’t give it up. It’s the kind of slice of life aspects that people can relate to. But people like me are so self-righteous and annoying. We’re like born-again Christian environmentalists. So I try to admit that too. When I think I’ve seen God because I’m taking out my lawn, other people just don’t understand. They don’t get it. I also involve a lot of dialogue with my neighbors who think I’m completely crazy. Hopefully, you’ll come away from it saying “Well I’m not as crazy as she is but maybe I can do a couple things.”

<p><b>Have you encountered anyone who politically disagreed with you?</b>

<p>I don’t usually seek out places where people will hate me. (Laughs) Some years ago I performed at the National Storytelling Festival, which is in Jonesborough, Tenn. And it’s pretty conservative. At that point I wasn’t writing about the environment. But I did write some humorous pieces about learning to shoot a gun and I rejected it and there were a lot of very pro-gun people there. I also wrote a story about converting to Judaism and I don’t really think there were many Jews there in Jonesborough, Tenn. But this man came up to me. He had a cowboy hat and he said, “You know, I don’t agree with you but I really enjoyed it.” I said, “Ok, that’s fine.” I think it would be very difficult to go to the heartland of the GOP and perform this. But they probably wouldn’t invite me anyway.

<p><b>How did you get your start in performing?</b>

<p>In high school I was desperately shy. I couldn’t talk to anyone. So what could be better than having a whole script of what to say? It was wonderful. It got me a boyfriend. It was fantastic. I think that a lot more actors are like that than you would think, people who aren’t comfortable in real life and gravitate towards places where they’re comfortable. I performed in high school and I performed in college and then I moved to New York City. Of course, I wanted to be on Broadway but I never got there. I ended up doing a lot of television commercials, which was probably far more lucrative than the acting I wanted to do … When I came out to Los Angeles, I thought I could keep on doing the commercials. I did that for a while but I wasn’t working as much as in New York City. Then somebody introduced me to storytelling. That probably sounds like it’s for kids, but there’s a whole network of festivals and workshops for storytelling for adults. Often times they just use personal monologues. More times than not I’m a part of this storytelling community.

<p><b>What’s your best memory of performing?</b>

<p>Why is it that all the ones that pop into my head are the worst ones? <i>(Laughs)</i> I remember performing on this public beach in the wind and I was supposed to be doing ghost stories but I didn’t have any. It was so awful. And one time I was performing for this reunion but they didn’t tell me there was an open bar and everyone was drunk.

<p>[The best] was probably the National Storytelling Festival because you have up to 10,000 people coming to Jonesborough, Tenn. to hear stories. Even if they don’t agree with you they are there to listen. That was really special.

<p><b>What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about a story you did? Have you ever gotten a compliment from someone that really knocked you off your feet?</b>

<p>No. <i>(Laughs)</i> I don’t remember specifically, but probably people responded the most to my one-woman show about converting to Judaism. It’s a very personal story and people that come up to you afterwards are the ones who are considering converting, sometimes for marriage or sometimes because they found out that someone in their family are Jewish. And they want to share with you.

<p>I also did another one-woman show about my daughter’s birth via surrogacy. Our daughter is genetically ours but another woman carried her. There’d be women who would come up to me in tears and say “We’re trying to have a child.” It’s a very positive story because surrogacy can be very scary and they don’t know how you’d go about it and what your commitment needs to be with this woman in your life. People come up sometimes and they want to tell me what’s happening with them because I’m talking about scary personal decisions, but exciting ones that have turned out in positive ways.

<p>Also, I once performed for Carol Channing but she wasn’t feeling well and she fell asleep.

<p><b>Who are your biggest influences? Who inspires you in your work?</b>

<p>Spalding Grey. I used to live in New York City so I could walk to the theater where he performed before he was famous. I saw “Swimming To Cambodia” on a little tiny stage with fifty people. I thought he was incredible that he could, without props or a set, hold everyone spellbound. He talks directly to the audience. He talks about very personal things and he is so incredibly funny. Except for “Swimming to Cambodia,” I don’t think that any of his pieces were particularly political but you could certainly learn a lot from his life experiences. But that’s not why you went. You went to be entertained because he was such a charismatic person.

<p><b>What should people who are going to go to your show in Arlington look forward to?</b>

<p>Hopefully it will be entertaining and funny. Hopefully, they’ll go away and talk about me and about what they’ve heard. They won’t be lectured at. It will be fun and in a funny way it will be about dealing with the challenges of the environment.

<p><b>What are your plans for the future? What’s next for you?</b>

<p>I write for an online magazine called Mad As Hell Club. I write short, funny pieces on environmental issues. I’m trying to expand on those and put together a book on these pieces. Also I want to keep performing. My daughter is going to be performing with me so that’s going to be interesting. She won’t be doing stories about the environment, though. She often rejects everything I have to say because she’s my daughter and that’s her job.