Tonight we had what’d I’d like to call our “final dress.”
It was an “invited open rehearsal.” It is such because we are performing in a glass enclosed storefront space on 37th Street near 8th Avenue in Manhattan. And I am amazed at our audience – a truly diverse crowd. It’s the crowd that one doesn’t normally reach in a subterranean black box somewhere in the city.
In this piece, we are presenting women performing hysteria – may I remind you it’s thrashing, seizure-like, eyes rolling back, pained –and I am hearing things from our audience like:
“yeah this is totally turning me on”
“I’d like to see her in bed”
“thats one crazy bitch”
My performers are being fetishized and sexualized at their most vulnerable state–they are behind glass and they are rolling in bedsheets. The voyeuristic gaze couldn’t be more apparent.
Am I perpetuating this fetishization by presenting this? It is meant to partly be a historical study on the founding of female hysteria and the sexualization of the female hysterics by the doctors who studied them. Funny thing – there is literally a storefront around the corner on 8th Avenue advertising “PEEP SHOW” in bright flashing lights.
Does our audience feel guilty for watching our piece? Is it okay because its art? Can we unabashedly gaze at the female form in action because it is behind glass, framed in a window? The women do not speak after all. They are objects of action.
I would like to think that we are re-creating and thereby re-claiming knowing full well the images and performance we are presenting. I want to be emboldened by this performance – my performers are strong, beautiful, powerful, profound women. So, let’s pay tribute to Hysteria.
Let’s break down and cry our hearts out.
Let’s stuff ourselves with chocolate cake and love it.
Have a tantrum.
Let them look.
Hey, they are watching. This unlikely audience is absorbing experimental performance art movement object physical theatre or whatever you’d like to call it. And they are entranced. They can’t stop watching.
Who’s in control here?
Come see it next week.
266 E 37th Street (between 7th and 8th Ave)
February 13, 14, 15, 17 @ 6pm & 7pm
February 18, 19 @ 4pm, 5pm & 7pm
Featuring: Jeanne Lauren Smith, Melanie Siegel, Stephanie Patent
Presented by chashama