Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A good weekend for Queer Women

Not only is this weekend Gay Days at Disneyland, there's also

L.A. Women's Fest: Women Rock!
Saturday October 01, 2005
Time: 3 p.m. Gates Open; 5 p.m. Show
Location: John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd., East, Hollywood, CA 90068
Tickets: $55, $65;
Box office: 323.461.3673 or

The most amazing lineup of talented lesbian performers come together on one stage for a show you won't soon forget! Picnicking, vendors and nonstop entertainment from sunlight to moonlight in the enchanting Hollywood Hills. Oh yes, and did we mention you'll be in the company of 1,000 women! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Breast Exam Project. Sponsored by Women On a Roll.

Interestingly, both of these events are quite expensive and at least a little politically regressive in their lack of indication of trans- and bi- awareness and inclusion, although one can assume that Gay Days at Disneyland is fairly inclusive in that it's fairly opt-in and unofficial.

The best queer women event this weekend is, of course, DITCH on Sunday, which will be awesome and educational and is cheap and super-inclusive. Anyone interested should comment and I'll spread the word.

And if I were in SF instead of LA, I'd be at:


"...the original, the raucous, ultrasapphic comedy...leaves
audiences shaking with laughter... screamingly
funny!" -Dallas Morning News


Don't miss this sexy, scandalous and critically
acclaimed show that tackles race/ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and more!

SATURDAY, OCT. 1st at BRAVA Theatre Center
Located at 2789 24th Street (S.F.)
*parking available at S.F. General Hospital at 23rd & San Bruno

A MATINEE QUICKIE @ 4 p.m. (Spanish Performances)
“La Maestra del Sexo y las Tortillas”
includes live preshow music by Meli Rivera
(Tickets: $10 at the door/ CASH ONLY)

A ONE-NIGHT STAND @ 8 p.m. (English Performances)
“Mastering Sex & Tortillas”
(Tickets: $20 at the door/ CASH ONLY)


AGES 16 & UP. $5 discount for students w/ ID.

Official Promoter: SFO PROMOTIONS

Community Sponsors: KALIENTE, Boricua Productions, Ellas en Acción, QueLACo,
and the S.F. Queer Cultural Center

Monday, September 26, 2005

Queer Fashion Art Show

This event (the opening reception) should be interesting and fun. It's a sounds like an odd and interesting collection of artwork totally worth going down to the archives to see.

WEAR ME OUT: Queering Fashion, Art and Design
an exhibit honoring what we've fought to wear

November 5, 2005 to January 29, 2006
at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives
909 West Adams Blvd., LA CA 92007

Opening reception 7pm, November 5, 2005.
with DJ Emancipation and members of the Black Artists Collective

Los, Angeles, CA, September 23, 2005--"WEAR ME OUT: Honoring what we've fought to wear" puts textiles and clothing at the forefront of an exhibit on the subject of "reading fashion." Bringing together 30 queer visual artists and fashion designers, curator Tania Hammidi aims to "take the shame out of fashion and situate how aesthetics, gay/lesbian/trans memory, and utility have historically converged on our bodies.”

The show busts seams in its exploration of aesthetics, narrative, and cultural memory wedded to orafactory perception and tactile exchange. Emily Roysdon explores gesture in her "Gay Power" jumpsuit installation while Heather Cox brings out gestural and patterned repetition in "Shirt Quilt.” Privacy and monumentality meet in a dynamic series of bronze panties, "Porn Stars and Academics," by Elizabeth Stephens. And while "Visible Difference" by Lenore Chinn appears aesthetically balanced, it's message is much bolder. New work from Emile Devereaux, "Wormhole #3," provides a sonic interactive piece on recogniction while Mitzy Velez explores the artist's own emergence as a lipstick-donning gay woman confronting normative standards of beauty.

Worn by Le Tigre's JD Samson is "Totally Soft" a t-shirt articulating a vocabulary of sentiment, bravery, and comfort through physical wear and tear. Chitra Ganesh dons resistance through Hindu mythology and constructed Indo-Persian armor in "The Awakening." The cover painting "Last Time I Wore A Dress" by author Dylan Scholinski suggests that scale communicates his own experiences of psychiatric incarceration and regulated dress, while drag coiture of performance artist Shelly Mars evidences the 1990's historical shift in queer/lesbian focus on female masculinity and lesbian rites of passage. Queer fashion photography from K8 Hardy, Cass Bird and Sarah Baley are far ahead of the fashion industry. "Blue Things I Wear" by Jessica Lawless honors genderqueer sensibility while confronting heteronormative gallery phobias.

Designers Parisa Parnian (Rigged OUT/Fitters, NYC), Hushi and Micheal (LA), Bre Cole + Aisha Pew (Chocolate Baby Designs, Oakland) and Gayngsta (LA) approach design, the body, and queer cultural memory in widly divergent manners. Designer Parisa Parinan's "queering" of vintage menswear addresses desire and the problems of a global fashion labor force head on, while Micheal and Hushi bring Iranian identity and gay sexual desire together on one muscle T.

19th century African Amerian "Quilts of Suits," the lost shoe of Mayor Frank Jordan (on loan from SF Gay Lesbian, Bisexual, TransgenderHistorical Society), and G.B. Jones' "Bitch Nation" T round out the archival corners of the exhibit.

Whether celebrating the everyday or unfolding the repressed, these bold artists enact the subversive practices of reading fashion – and show us that we speak and remember through clothing.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Theatrical Version of a Chick Flick

Rebeck, Theresa. Dir. Judith Ivey. Bad Dates. Laguna Playhouse. 9/22/05.

Bad Dates at the Laguna Playhouse resembles several of the other things I've been reading/watching recently. It has a lot in common with Sex in the City or In Her Shoes. That doesn't however, necessarily disqualify it as good theater. It was extremely entertaining, and as such probably fulfilled its main goal, which was I'm sure to sell tickets and amuse subscribers.

Beth Broderick, most famous as Aunt Zelda on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, performed this one woman play extremely well. She maintained her pace and energy and held the audience's interest for an hour-and-a-half monologue in which she was more or less just telling stories straight to the audience. Her skillful manipulation of several elaborate costume changes without revealing anything to the audience earned her a great deal of applause mid-scene. While the beginning of the play was a little awkward and audience members weren't quite sure how to behave, once she got going she brought the entire theater along for the ride. It was quite amusing that at the beginning of the play, the audience seemed to want to be more participatory, almost as if it were as stand up act or a rally. They seemed to want to applaud and shout 'right on, sister' after every beat, and the play didn't seem necessarily written for that kind of interaction but it's fascinating that the impluse arose. It has something to do with the direct address of the play to the audience, as if it were just two friends having a conversation rather than an actress performing a script to a silent audience.

The LA Times Review compliments author Theresa Rebeck's wit and facility with words, but criticizes the failure to achieve a deeper meaning. I suspect, however, that "the myriad differences between women and men, and the things they want from life" are less important to the play than the reviewer implies. It seems to be a play about women, not so much about men or about the interactions between them. It creates the dynamic of female friendship between performer and audience. It performs a normative femininity as a cross between self-sufficiency and haphazardness. While reviewer Daryl H. Miller calls the character of Haley Walker a "ditz" and a "floozy," and perhaps he's(she's??) right that she seems more of a charicature than a realistic character and she gets caught up in fairly ridiculous circumstances, he misses that the extremity of the situation and character are part of the point. It's fun that she's so over the top, and that rather than the deeper meaning is what matters about the performance.

Not that I can't talk about deeper meanings. First of all, there's the shoes. The set for Bad Dates is Haley's apartment bedroom, completely taken over by pairs of shoes. They're in boxes, on racks, under the bed - everywhere. Rebeck seems to be following in the footsteps of the rest of the chick lit genre that requires expensive footwear as the indulgent luxury of an everywoman. Why is this? Where does the footwear fetish come from, and why is it the primary hallmark of contemporary femininity. Rebeck draws attention to this in the first few minutes of the play by both having Haley claim that the shoes are not a fetish and allowing her to admit that most of the shoes hurt too much to wear. She dramatizes the effective hobbling, foot-binding aspects of a high heels, which every woman knows and far too many fail to admit. This revision of the contemporary mythology around beautiful shoes is probably part of what makes the beginning of the play so jarring, but it's an interesting way to set the tone for a play that then indulges in all of the fluffy femininity that that those inital assertions undermine.

My favorite aspect of the play was its references to Mildred Pierce, a 1945 noir women's movie starring Joan Crawford as a long-suffering woman striving to protect her evil and spoiled daughter. Rebeck openly references the plot similarities between the ridiculous circumstances of the film and the equally extreme events in Haley Walker's life, creating resonances between the two texts while simultaneously undermining them (presumably, Walker's daughter is not evil and thus the circumstantial similarities are irrelevant). Being a modern women's story, Bad Dates' references to its 1940s counterpart serve as a form of validation tying together an easily-dismissed genre (chick flicks, chick lit). The intertextuality gives Rebeck's script more strength and depth, more claim to a wider discussion of feminitity and women's roles in society, than it might have had without these references.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Noir play

Overmyer, Eric. "Dark Rapture." Eric Overmyer: Collected Plays. Newbury, VT: Smith and Kraus, 1993.

Eric Overmyer's Dark Rapture is often subtitled "An American Theatre Noir," and it is in its recreation of film noir style and stereotypes that it is most captivating. It has all the proper noir ingredients: gangsters, three beautiful but dangerous femmes fatales, and one fairly bland leading man who nonetheless gets the girl and gets away with the cash. There are exotic locales, double-crosses, and characters who quote Raymond Chandler. In reading, the play seems to start out as pretty boring, but I suspect that if you dove right into the atmosphere and made the beginning highly stylized to capture the audience's attention right away, this would be an extremely fun play to watch or perform. While it took a while to draw me in, by the end of the play I was completely engaged in the twists and turns of the plot as hidden identities were revealed. If done properly, I believe this play could be excellent.

Stargazing at my Own Little Constellation

I'm totally excited about:

John Fleck in She Stoops to Comedy at the Evidence Room. Through Oct. 23.

Isabelle Huppert (who rocked my world in I Heart Huckabees) performs Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychose at UCLA Live. Oct. 5-9.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Events: Susan Stryker Film and Lecture

Film Screening and Q & A: Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's
(2005, 57 min.)

Date/Time: Thursday, September 22, 2005, 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm (2
showings), Q & A with the directors (Victor Silverman and Susan
Stryker): 8:30 pm

Location: The Rose Hills Theater, Smith Campus Center, Pomona College
Campus map

Written and directed by Victor Silverman (Pomona History Department) and Susan Stryker (Transgender Scholar/Activist), Screaming Queens tells the little-known story of the 1966 riot in San Francisco's impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, when transgender prostitutes and gay hustlers banded together for the first time in U.S. history to fight against police harassment. This unheralded event helped kick off a new movement for human rights in America.

Brown Bag Lunch Lecture: "(De)subjugated Knowledges: The Emergence of Transgender Studies" with scholar/activist Susan Stryker

Date/Time: Friday, September 23, 2005, 12:00 pm

Location: Humanities Auditorium, Scripps College
Campus map (#19B on the map)

These events are free and open to the public.
For more information, please call (909) 621-8274.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sci Fi Authors and Politics

Kurt Vonnegut on the Daily Show was pretty awesome. Here's his list of Liberal Crap I Never Want To Hear Again. I very much enjoyed Evolution Smevolution week.

This article in the Guardian about Kim Stanley Robinson is brilliant. His new trilogy sounds amazing (and eerily precient). Here's what Robinson says about our president:

"The current guy is worthless, probably the worst president in American history. There's a sort of stupid, small-minded meanness - a pathological assholery - to him. I think he likes doing bad things."

I love that. And if I had more time to read books for fun, Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below would definitely be on the list. And I've always meant to read his Southern California trilogy, too.

An Ill Omen

This worries me. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the publishing director at Routledge has been fired. He has been credited as responsible for the rise of cultural studies and for publishing the major works in queer theory. The fact that The Chronicle of Higher Education calles it "the end of an age in cultural studies" makes me a little nervous about the future of what I do.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Political Activism for the Couch Potato

I just called the Governator's office to support AB 849, the gender-neutral marriage legislation. Since I'm notoriously phone-phobic, this is a major accomplishment for me. Fortunately, you don't actually have to talk to actual people or even be articulate about your opinion; it's just an automated machine. Here's what you do:

1. Call the Governator:916-445-2841 (his number is listed at
2. Push: 2 (voice your opinion on legislation)
3. Push: 1 (gender-neutral marriage bill - Senate Bill 849)
4. Push: 1 to support marriage equality
(via towleroad and Prophecyboy)

It's quick and easy, and there's some hope that it will have an effect, since he hasn't actually vetoed the bill yet. The Governator's supposedly scheduled a meeting with gay marriage activists, and the more support they have to show him the better the chances.

Now, I'm not unambivalent about gay marriage. In general, I think state-sanctioned marriage of any sort is a pretty bad idea. In many ways I'm a 1970s lesbian feminist, especially in the belief that all marriage is an exploitative property contract and a holdover from a time when women were bartered between men in exchange for money. Lisa Duggan is wonderful and articulate on how the fight for marriage is essentially conservative and works against meaninful social change in that it reinforces dependence on the family and household, freeing the state to make more cutbacks in things like welfare, health care, and child support. But nonetheless, just because I don't believe the state should be promoting marriage at all, that doesn't mean I believe that perpetuating marriage as a heterosexual institution furthers the cause of gender liberation. And Arnie's excuses for vetoing the bill are downright vile and discriminatory. So voice your opinion, in the form of pushing a few buttons on your phone. Even if it is a qualified support, I encourage everyone to do their part in undermining marriage through gender neutral language.

Lillian Hellman and Who?

Ephron, Nora. Imaginary Friends. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.

Imaginary Friends dramatizes the relationship between Lillian Hellman, author of The Children's Hour, and Mary McCarthy, who was also an author and critic in the '40s and '50s. Apparently, Hellman and McCarthy had a longstanding animosity culminating in McCarthy's comment on TV that "Everything [Hellman] writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'" and Hellman's subsequent lawsuit. Ephron basically imagines everything that led up to this legendary feud, including a few song and dance numbers and a some strange childhood interludes involving a tree and a dolly.

Ephron is most famous as the screenwriter for When Herry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, but this play was a bit of a departure for her in its fragmentary nonrealistic style. The play's premise, which was basically something like Hellman and McCarthy trapped together in the afterlife rehashing their lives and their famous fights, might not have been substantial enough to actually hang an entire drama on. It seemed basically like one extended catfight which was interesting for its insights into the 1930s-1950s literary scene and leftist politics but not quite dramatic enough. It gets major points for having two very strong leading roles for women (and an odd moment in which they kiss), but somehow it seemed just a little off.

Hollywood does Genre

Gay does genre this season with Hellbent, the first gay slasher flick, which just happens to be set in West Hollywood and also happens to have been released this week. The Village Voice HATED it, but I want to go out and see it and support it anyway. The much-more-anticipated gay genre flick coming up is, of course, gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain, which has all the gay men I know counting down the days until December 9th.

As for me, I have a date to head out Saturday morning to see Corpse Bride because it doesn't get much better than Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. It looks creepy and delightful.

And here is a wonderful interview with Neil Gaiman about Mirrormask. In it, he reveals a quite hilarious opinion of Hollywood execs and why some film adaptations of comic books are so bad. Courtesy of Neil Gaiman's blog. Also, Neil Gaiman will be speaking at the West Hollywood Book Fair on Oct. 2. Cool!

I'm also, of course, on the edge of my seat for Serenity, Joss Wedon's space-western (double genre!). Both Serenity and Mirrormask will be released on September 30th, which also happens to be right when I go back to work. Cruel, cruel fate.

I'm also very much looking forward to In Her Shoes on October 7th as well, despite not being a huge Cameron Diaz fan. In terms of genre, the occasional chick lit and chick flick can be fun, and I like Jennifer Weiner quite a bit. I borrowed In Her Shoes and Little Earthquakes from my mother this summer and devoured both books.

Why do all the movies I really want to see have to be coming out at the end of the summer when I shouldn't be this indulgent. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vintage Wooster

Savran, David. Breaking the Rules: The Wooster Group. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988.

This is a fairly strange exploration of a strange group. Savran attempts to mirror the Wooster Group's style by presenting their material out of chronological order and in fragments of interviews and photos juxtaposed with his analysis. Unfortunately, this organizational structure leaves the book with interesting first and final chapters and an interminable middle chapter.

Savran doesn't explicitly explain his arrangement with the group, but he seems to be some sort of authorized official historian with a great deal of access to the group. This leads me to question also what kind of constraints he might be working under in exchange for this access. He does not explain much about how the group came into existence (other than it vaguely emerged from Elizabeth LeCompte's and others' disillusionment with Richard Schechner's leadership of the Performance Garage) or other personal dynamics within the group. For example, Steve Buschemi magically appears in L.S.D. (...Just the High Points...) with no indication of when he joined the group. Elizabeth Lecompte's sexual relationships with Spalding Gray and Willem Dafoe clearly influenced the structure of the group, and yet they are barely suggested in Savran's book. Similarly, Ron Vawter's homosexuality goes completely unmentioned. In is attempts to avoid documenting the personal gossip and dirty laundry of the group, Savran leaves gaping holes in his explanations of the group's history.

Route 1 & 9 and L.S.D. (...Just the High Points...) emerge from this book as fascinating theatrical experiments masterfully described and analyzed by Savran. The juxtaposition of Our Town and The Crucible respectively with various other cultural moments evoke criticism of both American theatrical traditions and the historical periods represented by each of these plays. Savran explores L.S.D. as an exercise in historiography, looking at Miller's Crucible and the work of Timothy Leary as two images of the same period. The Wooster Group takes apart that moment; "it performs the fact that history, like theare, is always a dance of absence and substitution, a dance of death" (205).

The middle chapter, however, in which Savran discusses all of the early work of the Wooster Group prior to Route 1 & 9, works neither as a history of the group nor as an anaysis of the ideas behind these productions. In this chapter, the pieces that compose the Rhode Island Trilogy (Sakonnet Point, Rumstick Road, and Nayatt School), its epilogue (Point Judith), and a completely unrelated dance piece (Hula), are all thrown together in a jumble of all the Wooster Group's early works. In the discussion, these pieces emerge as a general tribute to Spaulding Gray and the entire early work of the Wooster Group seems to be a sop to his ego. Each piece of this section is discussed mainly in its contribution to Gray's psychological development progressing toward his career as a monologist. His departure from the group seems to happen because "I knew it had to come to an end" (149) as opposed to his self-centered "need to be...the major subject matter and the focal point" (149) or because his relationship with LeCompte had ended. This entire chapter seems tedious quite disingenuous in its failure to discuss the real impetus behind any of these early works.

Savran's most fascinating contribution in this work is his discussion of LeCompte as one of the major American theater artists. He frequently emphasizes what it means that all this work comes from a female perspective and what it means for her to be "autocratic" (eschewing specific reference to the director as auteur that is rather familiar in avant garde theatre). While at one point LeCompte seems to use her role as a female director as an excuse for some misogynist comments by Gray, for the most part Savran celebrates the strength of her control over the Wooster Group as a hint of a feminist critique contributing to the Wooster Group's deconstruction of the social structures by which the group and society are implicated but which they also challenge from within. It's an interesting analysis and it deserves some more time, especially in reference to LeCompte as a woman, which Savran seems to want to explore further. He is clearly a feminist and a socialist, but he tries to avoid bringing too many of his personal beliefs into this discussion of the group's work. He limits his own perspective and contribution to mostly a fairly strict analysis of the performances.

Rufus is an Opera Queen

The New York Times does a nice, personal interview with Rufus Wainwright in which he discusses his love for opera. Unfortunately, the end of the article basically says "These young people these days just don't appreciate the opera the way we did back in the day." Ugh. But Rufus is articulate and quite passionate.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lesbians wear Leopard Print

White, Patricia. unInvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representablitity. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999.

This book belongs to a second generation of feminist and queer film theory, following and critiquing the work of scholars such as Mary Ann Doane, Richard Dyer and Teresa De Lauretis, and she has no qualms about harshly contradicting her predecessor's "missreadings," though sometimes the scholarship she quotes appears more significant and interesting than that she provides.

White's readings of classic films are spectacular; she beautifully parses the symbolic systems that codify certain stars and roles as queer despite the unrepresentability of lesbianism under the Hays Code. White focuses on analysis of films from this period, roughly 1930-1960, and demonstrates the ways in which lesbians were representable even though it takes some careful reading to discern them. She focuses on 'women's films,' gothic horror, and the asexual sidekick, villian, and other 'character roles.' She also alludes to but doesn't engage with the gossip of lesbian that is part of certain 'star images' such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Agnes Moorehead (Endora on Bewitched). One of the things I learned that besides unmarried women in roles such as nanny, governess, or spunky secretary as lesbian types, you can also spot lesbians by a tendency to wear either leopard print or tweed. I knew I needed more tweed in my wardrobe!

White introduces the concepts of the "femme film" and "retrospectatorship," both of which I wish she would have more thoroughly explored. The "femme film" seems to mean films the 'woman's film' genre (the pre-1950s version of the 'chick flick') "that sustain lesbian inference" (xviii). It raises questions of the lines between homosociality and homosexuality (when does female bonding cross into 'lesbian inference'?) and emphasizes that while butch women were fairly unrepresentable, a lot could be explained away as normative femininity as long as the women seemed appropriately gendered. White, however, doesn't seem to want to consider lesbians too closely in butch-femme dyads or even necessarily discuss whether or not two women are necessary to make lesbianism visible. After introducing the term, she doesn't seem to continue to interrogate it throughout the book, and I would like to know more. "Retrospectatorship" more or less appears only in the last chapter, and again seems fascinating but underdeveloped. This concept implies that we now watch old films through a general cultural perception of them; no one can watch Bette Davis in All About Eve without some perception of camp appropriations of her persona. We view classical Hollywood cinema through contemporary lenses and thus get more intertextuality and a richer experience. These classical films are part of what shapes contemporary queer identities and visibility, and thus we view the films through those conceptions of identity. Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca seems to be an evil and obsessed lesbian in part because that's the way that queer relationships were representable at the time and partially because that's how we've learned to see queer relationships through that representation. It's a fascinating concept, and I'm not sure White gave me enough to really understand or commit to it. I suspect I'll have to come back to this book and try skip the fascinating readings of old films and try to sort out the theory.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Here are the release locations for Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask (CA only posted below). This is tough because I believe it's the same weekend as Serenity, but since this a small film in limited release, it's even more important to get out there and support it on opening weekend. Why are all the summer movies I want to see opening at the end of September? Based on the reviews from Sundance and the online trailer, this film looks visually stunning, like a creepy futuristic Alice in Wonderland, and I can't wait to see it. The film was directed by Dave McKeane, who did all the cool and creepy covers for the Sandman graphic novels. Hurry to a theater near you:


OPENING 9/30/2005


Edwards University Town Center 6
Irvine, CA

Landmark Act 1 & 2 Cinemas
Berkeley, CA

Landmark Nuart Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Landmark Ken Cinema
San Diego, CA

Landmark Lumiere 3
San Francisco, CA

Rafael Film Center
San Rafael, CA

from Neil Gaiman's Blog

A Truly Artistic Director

Oskar Eustis writes in the Village Voice at the start of his first season as Artistic Director at the Public Theater. He talks about vision, quotes Brecht and Charles Ludlum, and wants to make theater accessible to everyone. He remembers the spirit of '70s theater collectives and experimental performance art. And he even believes in supporting WRITERS; "We need to provide the kind of financial and artistic resources writers need to make sure that any writer whose talent we believe in and who believes in the values of the Public can find a home here". The article is really inspiring and gives me a much greater hope for the landscape of theater in this country. Bravo, Oskar.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Civil Sex

Freeman, Brian. Civil Sex. In The Fire This Time: African American Plays for the 21st Century. Ed. Harry J. Elam, Jr. and Robert Alexander. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2004.

Civil Sex is a fascinating and informative play about African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. It deals with his passion for activisim and more centrally the ways in which his sexuality got in the way of his work. The play wove interviews with people reminiscing about Rustin and enactments of his life in a strange and occasionally confusing temporal mix, but I feel like this would be clarified in performance.

Reviews complimented the ways in which each actor assumes various roles within the play, moving across races and genders in a style reminiscent of Freeman's earlier work with the PomoAfroHomos.

What is most clear about this piece is both Freeman's and his interviewees' respect for the subject. Rustin emerges from the play a fascinating and tragically underrecognized and excluded member of the civil rights movement. His sexuality, especially in the final tableau that unites him with a former lover and emphasizes his attraction to young white boys, has transformed from a dirty secret and barrier to his activism to an affectionate joke.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oedipus Dykes

Jill Dolan, lesbian feminist scholar, author of The Feminist Spectator as Critic, and professor at UT Austin, has openly joined the blogosphere (eep - that word makes me cringe a bit). Her first posts are all about Oedipus at Palm Springs, the new work by the Five Lesbian Brothers, and I find her reminiscences about the early days of the Brothers fascinating. In a single (extremely detailed) blog post, she traced the history of feminist theater, gave a more detailed review than most of the major critics, and clearly knows how to use her html tags. My favorite line is, "the Brothers are middle-aged white lesbians, and American theatre has seen few of those onstage, clothed or not." I'm impressed, and I look forward to reading more from Professor Dolan in the future.

Speaking of Oedipus at Palm Springs, the NY Times review can be found here. Here's the Villiage Voice review by Charles McNulty, soon to be our local critic at the LA Times. I'm still looking for the New Yorker review if anyone has a link.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Miller and Williams

Savran, David. Communists, Cowboys, and Queers: The Politics of Masculinity in the works of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

This book comes fairly early within the discourses of queer studies and masculinity studies, and as such it feels a little dated. but makes some extremely interesting moves. It's about the plays of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams and what they each say about a mid-century masculinity juxtaposed against the McCarthy hearings and postwar economics. While it's a fascinating project and I will find this book quite useful, I found it most interesting at the very end. Savran does a great job of talking through the playwrights' works and analyzing them quite specifically, but he seems much more interested in Tennessee Williams than Arthur Miller. He really gets going in the final chapter of the book, comparing Williams' later works to contemporary critical theory by Barthes and Foucault.

Savran argues that Arthur Miller is a lot like Ibsen and Tennessee Williams is a lot like Chekov in their general structures and subjects; Miller addresses the borgeois individual (male) while Williams often presents "the death throes of an old regime and...the conflict between two generatiosn and two social classes" (100). Miller is generally seen as political while Williams is personal. Savran focuses on Williams' "surrealiist theater of extravagant and polymorphous desire" (78) and emphasizes its revolutionary potential. While Miller "recuperate[s] a desperate masculinity" (69), Williams at least in some ways challenges gender-as-usual, although Savran criticizes as well as praises Williams' portrayals of gender.

One concern I had with this work is the fact that Savran dismisses out of hand the "Albertine strategy," in which Williams' heroines are often interpreted as gay men re-gendered to be socially acceptable. While he makes a strong point about "the violence the 'Albertine strategy' inflicts on the Proustian text by recklessly transposing both gender and sexuality and producing an unintelligible clutter whose only coherence becomes the ill-concealed homosexuality of its author" (115), I think he runs the risk of trivializing the deep empathy and identification Williams creates for his female heroines and especially the way that he inhabits their desiring subjectivity. Through Williams and through Blanche and Stella, the audience appreciates the spectacle of Stanley's virile masculinity in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Savran's project seems to be to recuperate Williams as a revolutionary, and he does so quite well and not uncritically. By focusing on textual pleasure and desubjectification as revolutionary and queer strategies, Savran provides an extremely intelligent analysis of Williams much-derided later works. He specifically draws attention to the fact that "too often, the history of the oppression of women is neglected and women are subsumed...under a masculine (that is, nonvaginal) regime of sexuality" (169), recognizing that while Williams may be more revolutionary that the bourgeouis theater with which he is generally associated, he "remains the product of discourses and practices that continue to position him, however uncomfortably, within the locus of Western male privilege" (174). Overall, an extremely interesting book notable for its masterful critical analysis.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Death of a Neighborhood Bookstore

The New York Times printed this article today on the closing of Kepler's Bookstore, a bookstore in Menlo Park not far from Stanford University. Though I lived nearby for five years, I only went to Kepler's a handful of times and I now feel guilty for how little time and money I spent there. As much as I love local bookstores, I am very much a culprit in their demise and I feel guilty knowing that I almost always order the books I need from amazon before checking out BookSoup or any other great local establishment. While whenever I'm in a local independent bookstore, I never leave empty-handed (that would be criminal!), they deserve more of my patronage and support than they get.

The article is fascinating, highlighting Kepler's place in the 1960s counterculture, about which I had no idea. This place where the few times I went I spent hours wandering through the books finding strange and unusual recommendations was at one time hangout to Jerry Garcia and Joan Baez (or at least her mentor). When I went there, it was such a lovely place to spend a weekend afternoon on the rare occasion that I would have one free. I would get an extremely yummy coffee milkshake at Cafe Barrone next door and wander through the bookshelves for hours. It was one of those great local bookshops that needs to exist, and I really hope something comes through to save it. Hopefully Kepler's will be there for me to stop by next time I'm in the area; it would be terrible if I have learned to appreciate it too late.

The good news is that there's still hope, as LAist reports. If you're in the area, attend a rally Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 5pm. Otherwise, visit the Save Kepler's website. And support your local independent bookstore while you still can.

Fantasia for Urban Hipsters

Hyperbole:epiphany. Son of Semele Ensemble and Rogue Artists Ensemble. 9/2/05.

This is a high-concept experimental theater kind of show; in it, there is no live dialogue and the audience doesn't see the actors' faces. It is all masks and puppets set to music, which makes it an extremely interesting experience. With five directors and myriad designers and musicians, the result is a little inconsistent. There were some extremely strong pieces, but also some weaknesses. The good news was that no selection lasted more than the length of a song, so they went quickly and if you didn't like something, it was pretty sure not to last too long.

One thing I found interesting about these performances was that the vast majority of the pieces involved human masks and puppets, which can be both a good and a bad thing. It shows the range of human-like expressions that one can create with a mask, but in a way I feel like it misses an opportunity to be really outlandish and non-human. And some of the people masks (especially those in the "Johnny Crumb" piece) were kinda scary. I really enjoyed pieces such as "The Trap" in which the performers used the maks to create alternative physicalities - in this piece, the actors (or at least one of them) wore small masks on the top of their heads, which made them look like cartoon characters and worked wonderfully with some creative body language. I also loved the remote control hampsters of "Disruptions" and the talking sandwich in "Sammitch." "Too Much Love" was hilarous, especially because a boy was playing the girl and a girl was playing the boy so it came across as a depiction of what each thinks of the opposite sex.

My least favorite pieces were the framing stories of "Epiphany" and "The Senseless" which seemed too slow and too vague to set the tone for the rest of the show. Overall, though, it was a fun and interesting show, if a bit more concept than consistency. I think I would feel a bit better about it if I knew that it was a building piece, if these people would continue to learn from the experience and perform more with masks and puppets. The skills that were developed in this production seem prodigious; it's a shame to know that the same people won't necessarily be continuing to collaborate and improve together. The show seems better as a means rather than an end.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Drag Theater?!?

"Drag Theater" is my new favorite genre. I just got an advertising e-mail from The Cavern Club Theater for this show:

KOKO! - The Island Adventures of Miss Koko Neufchatel
A fierce and fabulous cross between Castaway and The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert.
The Cavern Club is transformed into an Island Paradise more enchanted than the Tiki Room!
Don't miss this chance to see kooky Koko, her hot Island boy and the amazing TALKING TIKIs!
Fridays & Saturdays at 9:00pm & Sundays at 8:00pm
September 2, 3, 4, and 9, 10, 11 - $15

The e-mail informed me that "This show comes direct from Phoenix, a thriving Drag Theater Community - Who Knew?!?!?!" Very educational. Not sure if or how I'll fit this into my work and theater schedule for the next couple weeks, but it sounds interesting,