UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW
23, 24, 25, 26/05 - 20:30
This performance contains explicit nudity!
An American of Korean origin, Young Jean Lee develops theatre that destabilises cultural representations of identity and refers us back to our own stereotypes. After challenging the dominant images of African-American identity in the hilarious The Shipment, which was performed at the festival in 2009, this time the New York-based director tackles the politics of gender. Her starting model is the feminist movement. Featuring six charismatic female theoreticians and performers who come from different worlds, from cultural studies to queer activism by way of the neo-burlesque, UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW humorously and irreverently undermines the social constructs of the masculine and the feminine. This show - somewhere between a militant happening, a liberating choreography and a cabaret - lays bare (literally) the gap between what we think we are and what we could become outside the norms. An experience beyond gender.
Young Jean Lee, in collaboration with Faye Driscoll and Morgan Gould and the performers
Becca Blackwell, World Famous *BOB*, Amelia Zirin-Brown (aka Lady Rizo), Hilary Clark, Katy Pyle, and Regina Rocke
David Evans Morris
Chris Giarmo and Jamie McElhinney
Kate Gagnon and Rachel Karp
Blake Zidell & Associates
Maia Robbins - Zust
Associate lighting designer
Associate video designer
Assistant set designer
the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis)
Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company (New York City)
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, steirischer herbst festival (Graz), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Spalding Gray Award (Performance Space 122 New York, Warhol Museum Pittsburgh, On the Boards Seattle)
Originally developed in association with
Funding support provided by
the MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, the Fox/ Samuels Foundation, the MAP/Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Creative Explorations Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency
Residency support from
The Park Avenue Armory, New Museum, Mount Tremper Arts, and the Baryshnikov Arts Center
Philip Bither, Michele Steinwald, Pearl Rea & the staff at Walker Art Center, Vallejo Gantner, Jess Edkins Georgiana Pickett, Pamela Rapp, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Eleanor Wallace, Steven Battaglia & the staffs of the Performance Space 122 & Baryshnikov Arts Center, Christophe Slagmuylder, Artemis Vakianis, Annemie Vanackere, Kristy Edmunds, Michael Lonergan, Jamie Boyle & Isabel Martin of The Park Avenue Armory, Matt Pokoik & Aynsley Vandebrouke of Mount Tremper Arts, Eungie Joo & Travis Chamberlain of The New Museum, Caleb Hammons, Shen Wei Dance Company, Abrons Art Center, Prelude NYC, Mari Howells, Chris Barlow, David Gersen, Ien Denio, Brandon Zelman, Emily Auciello, Emily Rubin, Will Garrett, HERE Arts Center, Eva Pinney and Tribeca Lighting, Jack Young and New City Video & all the people who e-mailed Young Jean workshop feedback & responded to her Facebook questions throughout this process
Created in Minneapolis (Walker Art Center) in January 2012Back to top
UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW
I cast my shows before I write them, and then write them based on conversations with my cast. For UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW, I put together a group of stars of the downtown theater, dance, burlesque, and cabaret worlds. I knew early on that I wanted to make a feminist show that was fun, inspiring, and uplifting, so we decided to present a world in which people with female bodies weren’t constrained into particular roles and felt free to embody whatever identities they wanted at any given moment. Rather than trying to define feminism, say something new about it, or make a feminist argument, we wanted to create a utopian feminist experience.
We discovered early on that uninterrupted nudity – far from being shocking or titillating – made the audience less likely to impose limiting identities on the cast members. Not all of our cast members identify as female, and it was important to us to show that one’s body doesn’t have to determine one’s identity.
We also found that the performers communicated so much through their movement and expressions that words felt extraneous. Faye Driscoll, Morgan Gould, and I made the choreography in collaboration with the cast. However, we don’t think of UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW as a dance piece. Like the performers themselves, the show is meant to resist categorization.
Young Jean Lee
Young Jean Lee’s UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW is an exquisitely exaggerated performance about the performance of gender which we all negotiate every moment of every day. We live in a world where one rarely has the opportunity to become legible or understood outside of the conscriptions of one’s gender identity. Thus, we always and inevitably perform ourselves as gendered beings in the ways that we move, behave, speak, and relate to the world. Gendered norms intrinsically shape our experiences of “self” and “other” and operate in a way that privileges some expressions of gender while subjugating and silencing others. UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW works to both acknowledge and disrupt these compulsory gender identifications.
The FEMINIST show is a visceral, in-your-face clash of varying feminist paradigms. It is a 75 minute, non-stop, kinesthetic adventure where every archetype, stereotype, caricature, and construction of “woman” is performed in a chaotic First-, Second-, and Third-Wave Feminist Mash-Up. All of the tensions and conflicts embedded in feminist discourses are present and embodied by six fearlessly naked performers (Becca Blackwell, Amelia Zirin-Brown (Lady Rizo), Hilary Clark, Katy Pyle, Regina Rocke, and World Famous *BOB*). The show is ostensibly about “women,” made by “women” who simultaneously create and undo “woman” in the making of this piece.
In each of the show’s vignettes, these performers temporarily position themselves in a context that feels familiar and predictable. They exist in familiar narratives and power arrangements that momentarily render them as feminized caricatures in a way that allows audience members to locate themselves and feel safe. After all, identity is a relational exchange. I am this to your that. But as each vignette progresses, the performers become unwieldy, unpredictable, boundless versions of themselves, seeping out into the margins and sliding outside the lines of normative gender expectations. The age-old currents of sexism, misogyny, able-ism, size-ism and transphobia are revealed in this dramatic vacillation and our collective versions of “womanhood” and “feminism” are shattered, leaving us with nothing to hold on to. In this way, the show recognizes and reconstructs traditional “female” gender roles before thrashing them into a million pieces. In one vignette, the performers are in a thumping, pulsating dance club. They dance provocatively as if in a typical MTV music video. As the scene unfolds, the dancers begin to incorporate pantomimes of mundane, traditionally feminized tasks, like rocking an infant or cooking dinner. This humorous physicalized juxtaposition forces us to engage the dominant – and often conflicting – narratives and expectations perpetually imposed on women. Later in the show, Lady Rizo pantomimes sex acts with an invisible phallus. It starts in a familiar way and reads like the clichéd opening shot of any porn. We know this. But she quickly takes us to another place, laced with an aggression and rage that manifests as violence against the phallus. Her message is: I am pleasuring you and destroying you. This is what this show does, time and time again.
UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW unapologetically challenges and subverts the limits imposed by the traditional, dominant (and always male) gaze and fiercely explores and celebrates the complex, dissonant realities of female and gender-variant bodies and experiences. Young Jean Lee has cast a diverse array of bodies that confront us with our conditioned – and compulsory – impulse to impose essentialized gender assignments onto bodies in space. This show interrogates our constructions of woman, female, femininity, and works to destabilize fixed notions of what a woman “is” and what a woman should be. What is a woman? What is a woman's body? How are women’s bodies exploited? How are they emboldened? What is agency and how do we see it? What is coercion and where is this line? These are bodies that follow the rules. These are bodies that break the rules. These are bodies that know no rules. In this way, the female body is both a site of oppression and a site of critical resistance. UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW is a high energy meditation on this dialectic.
So the ultimate inquiry becomes: Is this a feminist piece? And the answer is yes. This show is willing to explore the multifarious representations and possibilities of gender and feminism. Young Jean Lee and Company resist the temptation to represent one, monolithic, prescriptive version of Feminism. Rather, this show is an invitation to undo our compulsive need to rely on binary gender identifications or to elevate one version of “Feminism.” There are endless ways to be gendered. There are countless ways to embody feminism(s). It is as if Young Jean Lee has written the word “WOMAN” across the stage and then struck a line through it. It is there. We can see it. But we are also asked to take it apart and examine it. What, if anything, could be a more feminist exploration than that? And yes, these deeply political explorations do not answer to patriarchal demands for reaching some kind of ultimate knowing or singular understanding. Can you handle it?
Cassie PetersonBack to top
Young Jean Lee (artistic director of Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company) is an OBIE award-winning playwright and director who has been called “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by the New York Times and “one of the best experimental playwrights in America” by Time Out New York. She has written and directed nine shows in New York with Young Jean Lee's Theater Company and toured her work to over twenty cities around the world. Her plays have been published by Theatre Communications Group (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays , The Shipment and Lear) and by Samuel French (Three Plays by Young Jean Lee). She is currently under commission from Plan B/Paramount Pictures, Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is a member of New Dramatists and 13P and has an MFA from Mac Wellman's playwriting program at Brooklyn College. She has received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Creative Capital, NYFA, NEA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Rockefeller MAP Foundation. She is also the recipient of two OBIE awards, the Festival Prize of the Zuercher Theater Spektakel, a 2010 Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship.Back to top