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SHAWN HITCHINS

writer/performer/ginger

Shawn Hitchins has toured North America and the UK, from Puerto Vallarta to Provincetown to Edinburgh. His solo shows play to sold-out audiences and garner rave reviews at various theatre and comedy festivals including: We’re Funny That Way and The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Hitchins has shared the screen with Rebbeca Romijn, Russell Peters, Loretta Devine and Donald Sutherland, and he was a panelist on MTV’s 1Girl5Gays. Hitchins hosts events for The Luminato Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Sing-a-Long-a UK. His hosting opportunities have brought collaborations with Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie, cabaret superstar Sharron Matthews and Emmy winning musical director Lance Horne. Hitchins is an alumnus of the International Cabaret Conference at Yale University, The Second City Conservatory Toronto and he is currently an artist in residence at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

select recent highlights: 2013 ArtAttack, Host - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Ginger Nation, Production - Edinburgh Festival Fringe Ginger Pride Walk, Organizer - Edinburgh, Scotland UK Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music/Grease, Host - Various (Ontario & Manitoba) 2012 Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music, Host - Toronto International Film Festival ArtAttack, Host – Buddies in Bad Times Theatre 2011 Singing in the Dark, Host - Toronto International Film Festival Survival of the Fiercest, Production – Edinburgh Festival Fringe Broadway’s Big Night Out, Co-Host with Sharron Matthews – Luminato Festival 2010 Queer Divas, Co-Host with Michael Urie – Luminato Festival Luminato Hub, Event Writer - Luminato Festival Single White Douche, Production – Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Singing in the Dark, Host – Toronto International Film Festival MTV’s 1Girl5Gays, Panelist - MTV Canada 2009 The International Cabaret Conference At Yale, Participant – Yale University The Con Artist, Supporting - Alcina Picture, Dir. Risa Bramon Garcia

url: shawnhitchins.com

tw: @shawnhitchins

fb: facebook.com/shawn.hitchins

“…one of T.O.’s best cabaret performers, with great dramatic and comic instincts.” - GLENN SUMI

“A one-man flash mob.” - TORONTO STAR

“Hitchins is a funny and gifted performer who could easily host a late-night talk show.” - NOW MAGAZINE

”Hitchins rescues cabaret with a heavy dose of twenty-first century sass and sardonic wit.” - TORONTOIST

“He was snappy. He was snarky. He was funny.” - MOONEY ON THEATRE

“Hitchins is not only funny and talented, but very easy on the eyes.” - JUSTIN VIVIAN BOND

“Extremely entertaining, hysterically hip and proudly provocative material delivered with surgically precise comedic timing!” - OUTLOOKS MAGAZINE

in: ca.linkedin.com/in/shawnhitchins


The Guardian - August 17, 2013

LIFE & STYLE

Experience: I was a sperm donor for my friends The first time I saw my baby daughter, my initial reaction was surprise. It was as if someone had taken a knitted version of me and shrunk it in the dryer. Despite the family resemblance, I didn't feel a paternal connection; instead, I was happy I had been able to help my close friends start a family. On the day my friends, a lesbian couple, asked if I would donate sperm, I was delighted. I didn't think about the reality of what that would entail; I just impulsively said yes. In fact, I was grateful to be asked. Incredibly, my friend became pregnant on that first attempt. I was overjoyed. As a gay man, I had been programmed to believe that this wasn't part of my narrative. Now, though, this pregnancy was exploding the myth that I could never be a father, and it was wonderful. But five months later, my friend miscarried and I felt responsible, as if it was my fault. We sat down and had a lovely talk where they reassured me and we decided to wait before trying again. It took me three or four months to allow myself to say I had lost a baby. As the donor, I didn't know if I had permission to grieve: they had been watching their baby grow, while I was peripheral. It was a growingup moment: life had been all fun and games up till then, and now I realised there were consequences to my actions. A few months later, we all felt ready to try again. It took longer for my friend to become pregnant this time, and I worried that it wouldn't happen; that I'd lost my powers. We settled into a monthly routine and I became less embarrassed about the process. I'd go round to my friends' house, we'd have some tea and a chat, which we called our pillow talk, and then they'd go for a walk and leave me to it. But I did grow tired of having to dash round as soon as I received a text saying my friend was fertile, so after a while she'd come to my home instead to pick up the donation, wrapped in a brown paper bag. It felt like a drug deal. To keep the sperm at the right temperature, she'd store it in her bra for the journey home. I used to try to hide what I was doing from my partner, Matt: the text would arrive and I'd slope off to the bathroom, saying I was just brushing my teeth. He'd always guess, though. I'd met Matt just when we began the process, and meeting someone when you're starting a family with someone else is complicated. It took a while before we could talk about what was going on. Finally, my friend conceived and the pregnancy progressed well. Just before the birth, my friends held a baby shower, which I found unexpectedly painful. Despite the efforts of the mums to include me, and despite being thanked by the grandparents, I found myself sobbing on the floor afterwards. I was still an outsider; it wasn't about me. I was physically having a baby, but I wasn't part of it. On the day of the birth, last October, I was like a father from the 1950s, but instead of pacing the corridor, I was walking on the treadmill at the gym. After the baby was born, I couldn't tell people without welling up. I never thought I would be announcing to everyone, "I have a child." It was also time to tell my parents, because they hadn't known they were going to be grandparents. They had written off having grandchildren, so they were over the moon.


The Guardian - August 17, 2013 I think they also felt relieved. As parents of a gay child, they had worried I would struggle, but now that I am a father, I must be OK. We also have a new topic of conversation, one I never thought I'd be party to. It has been a rollercoaster two years, but writing a comedy show about it has been good therapy. I'd be willing to do it again if my friends wanted another child. The baby is now 10 months old, and although I see her regularly, I'm certainly not "Dad". I'm Shawn. But we will always be open about my connection to her. I don't want a "Darth Vader moment" when she's older. It's important for her to know that she was born in a special way, and that her arrival helped to change ideas of what a family can be. [as told to Emily Cunningham]


CNN - August 19, 2013

CNN: SOCIAL MEDIA

Apprently This Matters: Gingers take to the streets To call myself a true ginger is rather an insult to all the legitimate redheads of the world. You know, the super shiny ones you carefully hide from your children. "Mommy, what is that?" "Nothing, dear. Just a horrible genetic mutation." "Can we keep it?" But, alas, I am one of them. I am a ginger. To be fair, my hair (what's left of it) is really more of a light brown with gentle hints of crimson. However, in a pinch, my beard can definitely be used as a warning beacon for low-flying aircraft. "Jim, shouldn't that bright red light be wearing pants?" Thus, while they'll never elect me King Ginger of the Pale, I'm definitely one among the people. Which is why I felt a certain amount of solidarity as I kept reading about the more than 100 redheads who recently marched in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the city's annual Fringe Festival. The UK's first Ginger Pride Walk was actually orchestrated by a Canadian comedian named Shawn Hitchins, who said, "Although it isn't a real word, 'gingerism' exists, and bullying exists. ... Kids are being subjected to taunts or being bullied in schools just for having red hair." So they marched through the streets of Scotland's capital, stretching out like a soulless, human laser pointer. Despite the serious tone set by Hitchins, the event was, of course, organized to be fun. After all, if anyone knows how to have a good time, it's someone who can't go out in direct sunlight. "Woo! Party over here! In the gazebo! C'mon, guys! Woo! Wear long sleeves! Woo!" As the red-haired masses marched down the street, some held positive signs saying "IT GETS REDDER" and "GINGER AND PROUD." Though, one little girl warned, "DON'T MAKE ME MAD OR I WILL GINGER SNAP." I see what she did there. Of course, Edinburgh was the perfect place to hold such an event. While the worldwide percentage of natural redheads is only about 1% to 2%, in Scotland, it's somewhere closer to 13%. Which is still pretty low. And some people think those numbers may get even lower. In 2007, National Geographic suggested that, eventually, gingers might actually become extinct. Perhaps as soon as 2060.


CNN - August 19, 2013 While many disagreed with this prediction, it certainly didn't help that, in 2011, the world's largest sperm bank stopped accepting donations from gingers for lack of demand. Aaaaaaand there goes my retirement plan. Nevertheless, Hitchins has been encouraged by all the support he's received in his efforts to raise ginger awareness. Especially online. Naturally, then, I was curious what kind of resources were out there on the Web for my people. So, I did a little researching ... and mostly came up with links for fetish porn. Though, in retrospect, perhaps I shouldn't have Googled "dirty redheads." But two hours later I finally got back on track and discovered a couple legitimate support sites such as Redhead-World.net and RedheadandProud.com. I even found several dating options like HotForGinger.com. "I really like your profile. What's your SPF?" So there's plenty of love and support out there for us pale-skinned, red-headed folks who need a little extra encouragement. Still, it's kind of a bummer that some kids get teased just for being ginger. I was never THAT red, so I really don't know what it's like. But I'm sure it sucks, and hopefully these bullies will grow out of it and come to realize that freckles are awesome! But, until then, if any gingers in the world need an extra boost of confidence, just remember this: Axl Rose is a redhead. And so are Conan O'Brien and Bonnie Raitt, and Willie Nelson and, apparently, Genghis Khan. (But Carrot Top doesn't count. Because I said so.) I applaud Hitchins and his Ginger Pride Walk. And maybe next year I'll be there in person to cheer them on. From a shaded, safe distance. I'll be in the gazebo. [Jarrett Bellini]


GayTimes UK - August 2013

THEATRE: FRINGE SPECIAL

Red Funny Shawn Hitchins, you might notice, is ginger. Ginger, proud and on a mission to repopulate earth with fellow fiery redheads. Funny ones. He’s already started by inseminating a lesbian friend, producing a gingery little girl and enough material for a hilarious (and surprisingly emotional) 55 minute solo Edinburgh show. We catch up with him in this Toronto flat before he makes his voyage up to Scotland, to find out just how gay this Ginger Nation plan is. It’s very gay, and so is gold star gay Shawn. The obvious place to start is swapping stories about Edinburgh (“the harshest performance environment I’ve ever experienced”) and the inevitable flyering chores that take place. We suggest he’ll be able to harass ginger people on the streets… “Well that’s how this show kinda started,” Shawn tells us, “I was trying to get people into the [2011] show, so I started targeting gingers. ‘You can get into my show for free ‘cos you’re ginger. Your friends get £5 tickets because they’re friends with a ginger’. Then I would actually have redheads come to the show. Then some people got offended because they thought it was unfair. I was like ‘this is affirmative action people, this is how it works’.” Of course there is a bit more to his show Ginger Nation than simply collecting redheads like Pokemon. “I was trying to parallel gay identity and ginger identity. The whole process of donation sperm was tapping into what my identity as a gay man lead me to believe were my options. At the same time the Danish sperm bank started blocking redheaded sperm donors. So because of who I am there are so many groups or institutions telling me what I can or can’t do. “So that’s where I really started going deeper into ginger identity – what is this and how can I make it funny? Make this really odd, raw 55 minute story funny. I’m going to repopulate the world with gingers.” Which is actually happening, albeit very slowly. He does have a daughter, if only as the biological father (“I now joke that I have a baby time share, a vacation baby”) which gives Ginger Nation a whole spermspilling narrative. “It’s so funny the first time that I did it,” Shawn says about masturbating into a plastic beaker, “it was like I had never done it before. I was all thumbs. I had no idea what I was doing, I’d forgotten lubricant, it was high pressure – it was not as easy as you’d think it would be and it wasn’t as enjoyable as you’d think it would be. It was like a work drum beat and you’re masturbating to it. While trying to have to weave a basket.” You generally don’t consider the act of creating a new life when whacking one out. “Yeah! I was confronting the whole thing that I was going to inject my semen into another woman. Usually you would just wipe off and give each other a high five.” We did wonder if the whole experience could turn Mr Hitchins into a rampant heterosexual have been a turkey baster away from losing his gold star. “It didn’t open my mind to my sexuality, it more confirmed my sexuality.” Though there are two exceptions. “Christine Baranski or Bebe Neuwirth. Maybe if they asked me, yes, I would. Basically I’m into 60-yearold-women. And with that Shawn has us laughing again. Which is as good sign, given he’s taking on the whole beinga-comedian thing. He’s great at taking an idea and really running with it, such as jokingly concocting a


GayTimes UK - August 2013 plan to stalk Tilda Swinton, but he explains, “I’m never very serious. I also use the term, ‘person of primary colour’ – these things I find hilarious.” We don’t spend that much time talking about hair, Tin Tin aside, but we do manage to explain to him who Nicola Roberts is and why she’s basically a ginger activist. “I would love to become a huge ginger activist, but I don’t know if that works in Canada. We bully people, but we bully all different types of people, we’re diverse bulliers.” Well there is one step he’s taking on his route to ginger activism/world domination. A Ginger Pride Walk, taking place on 10 August in Edinburgh. “Part stunt, part I actually want to see how many gingers would come out for a mass photoshoot. I hope there are no haters, no one whipping Scotch eggs at me as I was down alone…” [Bob Henderson]


Now Magazine - June 21, 2012

THEATRE PREVIEW

Shawn of the red head Proud ginger says goodbye to cabaret with Fire(Crotch) Sale Not many theatre artists have led 700 people to sing about greased lightning, their favourite things and the wind beneath their wings. But Shawn Hitchins isn’t just any performer. You’ve seen the energetic actor, comic and cabaret performer if you’ve attended one of the popular singalong screenings of Grease or The Sound Of Music at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, or one of his 12-hour Nuit Blanche Lightbox marathons. Last year’s all-night blowout was devoted to movies from the 80s and got the whole crowd crooning Bette Midler’s Beaches anthem. “There was one point when I told somebody to start flapping their arms, and then suddenly everyone started doing it,” he says about the experience. “It looked like a flock of seagulls coming at me. It was ridiculous – one of those moments when you think, ‘Oh my god, what a life.’” Hitchins has had quite a few of them, actually. When he was a member of the drag musical comedy group the BGirlz, they were invited to Kitchener’s Pridetoberfest – a gay event during Oktoberfest. “They hired us to come out and sing two numbers and then ride an oversized sausage – a mechanical bull converted into a giant wiener. It was the most fun I’ve ever had.” Hitchins, with his easy grin and likeable demeanour, is a natural host – good with a snappy comeback, ready to draw shy people out. He’s also a fine cabaret artist, which he’s proven in shows like Single White Douche and Survival Of The Fiercest. Tonight’s Fire(Crotch) Sale marks his final cabaret show before he embarks on a new career focusing more on comedy and personal stories, with a bit of music acting as a bridge. “It’s all the best material I have, a mishmash of things from previous shows,” he says, sipping an energy drink in the mezzanine of the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws, one of his favourite places in the city. “It’s mostly songs from the 90s,” he explains. “We [music director Mim Adams and I] have re-harmonized versions of Alanis Morissette, we’ve just built a beautiful Our Lady Peace song, and there’s a mashup of Neil Young and Madonna.” His favourite item, however, is something he calls a “seven-minute new wave megamix about climate change,” a medley that includes bits from songs like Here Comes The Rain Again, Some Like It Hot and Here In My Car. And then there’s the condensed version of the movie Steel Magnolias, which he, Chris Tsujiuchi and Matthew James Hines are performing.


Now Magazine - June 21, 2012 “It’s six minutes and goes from beginning to end with credits, using all Dolly Parton music,” he says. “It’s very gay.” And expect a story or two about being a proud ginger. “I think South Park’s to blame,” he says about anti-ginger sentiment and the subsequent backlash in the media. “Eventually I want to form a ginger pride parade, in Edinburgh. It might just be me and a sign, and people throwing Scotch eggs at me.” In Fire(Crotch) Sale, he’ll probably also tell a recent story about his dermatologist. “I go for six-month mole checks, where the dermatologist has half-nude photos of me that he compares – really sexy,” he laughs. “He checks everything. And recently he was writing on my chart, took his pen, lifted up my left testicle, looked underneath, lifted the other one, and then he….” Hitchins illustrates what happened next by chewing the tip of his own pen, deep in thought. “I’m staring down the whole time, thinking, ‘I just teabagged my doctor!’” [Glenn Sumi]


The Toronto Star - February 19, 2011

ENTERTAINMENT

Shawn Hitchins: A ‘one-man flash mob’ Young Toronto cabaret performer leads free family movie singalongs Anyone who can host 10 live shows in 28 hours deserves a nickname like Animal. That’s what the family of Toronto actor, comedian and cabaret performer Shawn Hitchins named him when he was growing up. Sitting over coffee, the red-haired, bright-blue-eyed 30year-old radiates positive energy as he recalls his own childhood in Egypt, Ont., just south of Lake Simcoe. It’s not that far from Toronto, but it’s a world away in other respects. He certainly would never have imagined that he would, one day, be leading 10 free, family-friendly singalongs to clips of famous movie musicals at the Tiff Lightbox Feb. 20 and 21. Hitchins earned his nickname from the crazed puppet percussionist on The Muppet Show. “I was that kid who would go up to a vase and my mother would say ‘Shawn James, don’t touch that,’ and I would smash it,” he recalls with a wicked smile. Young Shawn was such a handful that his parents had to resort to extreme measures to keep him from getting into trouble in his preschool days. “Instead of letting me run around, they would tie me to a tree with a harness,” Hitchins says. There were no visits from family services—and none were necessary. The Hitchins sitting across from me is uncommonly polite, articulate and realistic. He has also learned to channel his active imagination and surplus energy into performing. It’s a slow and happy evolution that began at the local comprehensive high school, which brought together 1,700 students from around Georgina. “There was an auto shop at one end of the building and a nursery at the other, where the kids could bring their kids to school,” the performer remembers. “You were either into sports, into music, into Ski-Doos, or you were into drugs,” he says of his adolescent years. He thanks his lucky stars that, in the 1990s, there was a dedicated group of arts teachers at his school who devoted a lot of extra time to extracurricular activities. “I had all these teachers, drama teachers and vocal teachers, who just put everything into the school. So we had full-scale musical productions, we had choirs, we had bands.” There was even a jazz choir and improv classes. Hitchins, too independent-minded to put up with the strictures of university life, learned his craft by performing, as well as attending practical courses, such as those offered by Second City.


The Toronto Star - February 19, 2011 Over the past couple of years, Hitchins has begun to emerge as one of the city’s more engaging cabaret performers. His most recent show, Single White Douche, presented at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre last September, was a heady mash of pop-culture jabs, personal history and song. “I like a nice, healthy mix,” he says, shying away from the temptation of making the stage into a personal confessional. “I like when people don’t know if it’s real or not.” Hitchins says he felt particularly gratified when several of his old teachers showed up to see him perform. “I wouldn’t have been on that stage without them,” he says simply. Hitchins’ two-day, 10-show stint at the Tiff Lightbox grew out of a one-off gig that the film presenter organized for Nuit Blanche last fall. The programmers compiled a bunch of favourite movie-musical clips and hired Hitchins to wind up the crowd and get them to sing along. “You know how hard it is to get people in Toronto to sing along,” Hitchins says, making a wry face. He has been asked back. Hitchins is also getting Single White Douche polished for another run at this year’s Pride celebrations, and is hoping to be able to snag a gig in New York City. Part of the rehearsal process is repeating the lines from his show while walking around his neighbourhood. “I’m this crazy ginger walking through Forest Hill talking to himself,” he laughs, assuring me that he does it after most people have gone to bed. The walking literally helps him improve the pacing of each delivery. “I say that I’m a one-man flash mob, that I’m rehearsed to seem spontaneous,” he quips. How else could anyone keep 10 singalong shows in a row feeling fresh? [John Terauds]


Xtra! Toronto - September 8, 2010

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Shawn Hitchins is a Single White Douche Performer's solo show kicks off Sept 9 at Buddies Toronto’s favourite feisty and fiery redhead is back, and this time he’s twisting his humour into a brand new solo show that promises to raise brows — and maybe inspire some impromptu sing-alongs. Shawn Hitchins brings a six-show run of Single White Douche to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in September. Those watching closely will see evidence of Hitchins’ evolution as a performer and comedian — in the superior writing and more polished delivery. “I’m not really stepping out with this show but settling into a practice,” Hitchins explains. This out and proud ginger seems to be unstoppable, having already toured North America and enjoyed rave reviews for his first solo show, Homogenius, while appearing as a regular panelist on MTV’s 1 Girl, 5 Gays. Hitchins has also loaned his funny and poignant voice to fab magazine and the hugely popular B-Girlz Gone Wild! The freshly 30-year-old Hitchins woke up one day, looked down at his toenails and pondered whether he should spend money on a pedicure or cut his nails himself. He says that experience inspired the show — and it’s hard to tell if he’s joking or serious. “The conclusion was that I was a douchebag. I started looking at all the trendy and fashionable things that help me to survive. I ended up getting the pedicure, but I trimmed them first so I didn’t feel so guilty.” Combining his affinity for both cabaret and standup, Single White Douche pokes fun at all the neurotic things we do to make ourselves feel good. “It’s a show that reflects our city and our lifestyle and our insane pop-culture-obsessed world,” Hitchins says. Deploying his boyish good looks and his natural talent as a performer, Hitchins connects easily with his audience. He wants his work not only to be funny, but also to confront people’s flaws. This production marks the performer’s first full run in Toronto outside of a comedy or theatre festival, and Hitchins couldn’t be happier about the venue — Buddies is the only professional space in the city where cabaret artists like him are always embraced. “Comedy is different than theatre; you need an audience for it to grow,” he says. So when Buddies presented him the opportunity for an extended run, it seemed too good to pass up — he signed on enthusiastically. Single White Douche features new musical arrangements of songs by Madonna, Heart, the Spice Girls and Marilyn Manson. The musical workings have been whipped together by his friend and frequent collaborator Mim Adams.


Xtra! Toronto - September 8, 2010 “Her contribution is the greatest asset to the show because the music is the backbone. It supports my comedy.” The debut of Single White Douche marks exactly one year that these two have been working together, and Hitchins has nothing but praise for Adams’ talent as a composer. He says that no matter how farfetched the ideas he presented, Adams never shied away from the challenge of making a song suit the show as a whole. In describing his style of humour, Hitchins says that he avoids making fun of people and instead finds value in being kind. Unlike many comedians, he claims to have no interest in using negativity in his performances. He says his hope is simple: “I invite people to laugh at and laugh with me.” [Parul Pandya]


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