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A Brief Reflection on “They Talk About Porn in This Show. Audience Participation is Encouraged”

The play which is described in the New York Times article, “They Talk About Porn in This Show. Audience Participation is Encouraged” opens in NYC at the end of the month. The show is set at Guggenheim Museum and takes place in a small restaurant with a capacity of about 40 audience members including those who are actually actors in the show. The piece is based on support groups such as AA and is basically a fake sex-addiction support group, which aims at exploring society’s discomfort about sex.

One of the most interesting aspects about the show is the theatrical form the show takes. It breaks many traditional molds and jumps on the ‘interactive theatre trend’. As Green describes in the article, “he wanted to stage, ‘the least theatrical thing ever,’… with no set, no lighting, no formal seating.” Instead, the piece focuses on the meeting spaces themselves working to create a space that is safe for story telling and drew on parallels between the “transformative potential” of addiction meetings and theatre. It’s an interesting take on how theatre can be received, especially because so many popular interactive pieces of theatre are inherently theatrical. (Specifically, thinking about Sleep No More.) It’s wonderful how this piece captures the most fundamental aspect of theatre: storytelling.  

The Big Questions this article raises for me are:

How efficient is the interactive medium?

How  do we keep audiences focused/interested in pursing the item laid out in the original script for the piece?




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An attempt at creating a deeper world.

While developing a new pice of theatre, I have found myself deviating from theatre itself very often. I keep moving toward other mediums such as film and visual art and wondering why. Should I trash everything, change my major, and re-evaluate my life so far? NO! It all exists in the same world so why not let it all come to the table.

I want to create a theatre experience that is fully immersive. I keep going back to theatre being a mirror to the world, which, if that is true, everything should be included in that world. The trash, the lights, the artwork, the smells, the sounds, the architecture, the temperature. All of which can be incorporated into theatre through multiple mediums.

Instead of changing my major and reevaluating everything, I think I’ll just take more classes in installation art, painting, photography, or anything really that gives me a deeper view into the world. Hopefully others will be able to use them as a way into the world with me. Hopefully I can find enough ways to to open up whatever I’m exploring to the audience I’m exploring it with.

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Lights Out

In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, Argentine newspapers described an occurrence at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires (Museo Nacional de Fines Artes). Every day at 6pm on the first floor of the museum, prominently placed on one of the largest avenues in the city, there is a blackout on all art made by men, illuminating the embarrassingly few artworks included in the collection made by women. The protest is supported by the museum, whose artistic director and head curator, Mariana Marchesi, was appointed just under a year ago. She said to in an interview with El Pais, “The idea is that the public asks questions and reflects on what is the role of the woman today and in the world of art.” According to the article, 7.4% of the MNBA’s collection is by women artists (As of 2012, the percentage of women artists in the MFA in Boston was 11%). The hope of the museum is to provoke the public into asking why so few artworks by women are given the place of esteem such as the National Museum of Fine Arts (It is worth noting that the MNBA features many works by Europeans–the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires has a women artist percentage of 40%).

One of the organizations that are leading the “blackout” is the We Propose movement, or Nosotras Proponemos (“Nosotras” is Spanish for “we,” used when the we in question includes only women and girls).  The organization is calling for art galleries and museums around the world to begin to treat women in art with the dignity and respect that they deserve. The organization has a list of demands, including reaching gender parity in museums and calling on organizations not to dismiss women from their ranks because they are “difficult to work with.” I think the list is worth a read, and is certainly worth a read for the folks over at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. While museums are not the definitive gatekeepers of the arts in America, they certainly set precedents. Let’s shed some light on art that we don’t get to see as often.

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My Experience in a Men’s Prison

Two weeks ago, my Collaborative Arts Incubator class took a trip to a men’s prison here in eastern Mass*, which this class has been doing for the past seven years as part of BU’s Prison Education Program. I did not know about this program before my enrollment in the class – it was made clear to me that BU does not want to advertise this program too much because of its controversial nature. The program allows the incarcerated men the opportunity to earn a liberal arts degree if they complete several classes within the prison, which are taught by BU employees. I think it’s amazing that a) the prisoners are allowed contact with teachers (and in our case, students) from the outside world, and that b) they are allowed to be in an environment of learning where they can use their time wisely and possibly be one step closer to reintegration for when (or if) they are paroled. Nevertheless, I gathered that BU does not want to advertise this program in case parents or donors question the validity of this program and if it is of direct benefit to enrolled BU students. Having said that, I cannot emphasize enough the depth of value this experience gave me as a current student and as a citizen artist.

When we finally made it through the laborious process of admittance through security, we were escorted through the common area of the prison. Modeled after a campus, the buildings formed a square border around a green, which at first glance was noticeably tidy. Upon seeing the dilapidated state of the buildings, some of which had broken windows and crumbling masonry, I realized that the upkeep of the grass and deliberately-placed shrubs of the landscape would have given a good impression to the quality of the space from above. To anyone inside the prison, the facade doesn’t last long.

Our classroom was decorated to resemble parts of the BU campus, and felt like a safe sanctuary away from the rest of the prison. As the men in the class started to come in, I felt a sense of relief wash over the space as they greeted us with warmth and excitement. For most of these men, our class is one of the only times they have contact with people from outside the prison, and they truly seemed starved for connection. We started the class with a meditation and song, and then worked on exercises in which we divided into groups and physicalized what it meant to be trapped in a cage. Our class at BU has been working on the theme of “Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and our own exploration of this theme had been very metaphorical up to this point, as none of us had actually been in subjected to something as isolating as, for instance, solitary confinement. Seeing the men enact what it was like to be trapped in solitary confinement, or what it meant for them to stay true to themselves in that situation by connecting with their spirituality opened my eyes to an experience I had honestly never given much thought to. I was on every level aware of how I did not understand their experiences, and this made me so grateful for them for sharing. I was astonished at their openness with us and with each other, and it made me emotional to see men with so much creativity grapple with the conflict of letting down the facade of toughness and defensiveness that serves them as a coping mechanism outside of the class.

When we were done with the class, I honestly had a hard time leaving. I was shocked that after a trip I was apprehensive about, I realized that I ended up having more fun collaborating with these incarcerated men than I had with my peers in a while (no offense, guys). I feel like I experienced the true definition of theatre with a purpose, and have seen the need for people like me to continue to work with people who need it. I know I have a lot to learn about working with communities I don’t fully understand, but this trip empowered me to take action towards helping others in a way that no other college class I’ve taken thus far has empowered me to do.



*The name and location of the prison and the names of the prisoners are being withheld for their protection.

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Cynthia Nixon, Go Get ‘Em.

Today, via twitter, Cynthia Nixon, best known as Miranda Hobbs on ‘Sex and the City’  announced that she would be running for New York Governor. A lot of eyes were rolled as another celebrity enters a political race. TIME notes, “she has never run for, or held office before,” but also, “the actress has been politically active on specific issues, including education, LGBT rights, and women’s rights for years.”

I, too question what it means to have a famous figure in a position of high political power. Cynthia Nixon has a long history of activism and civic participation and I have faith that she is going to enter this tough race with grace, eloquence, power, and strength against Gov. Cuomo. I do not think it would be wrong move for her to use her fame and position in the spotlight to help move her forward, as I do not think she will take advantage of her celebrity status.

I’m inspired by Cynthia Nixon as an artist. This isn’t her first time in the political eye and she has always been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and a huge supporter for public schools. She has proven how to use her privilege and platforms available to her to have her voice heard about issues bigger than herself. She is an example to all of us: our art has potential for change. We as artists are in a very special position to use our voices to speak about change. We are the ones that make the change. We have that advantage over other people.

It doesn’t bother me that Cynthia Nixon was a star of ‘Sex and the City,’ because she’s an educated, well-spoken, passionate human being with an serious interest in improving the lives and well-being of New Yorkers.

I’m looking forward to how this race pans out and see how she does. I wish her success and safety. In the mean time, here are some of my favorite tweets from today regarding her announcement:

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Male Glance

A friend sent me this article, called The Male Glance. It’s a long one, and the general concept it covers isn’t entirely new, but I really liked the way Lili Loofbourow expresses some of her ideas.

The phrase male glance is a reference to male gaze, which refers to the way in which cultural representations of female bodies and faces are created through a heterosexual male perspective, i.e. as aesthetic objects for male pleasure. The term was first coined by Laura Mulvey in relation to film studies, where the frame is often described as an “eye” that sees the world of the film.

Male glance, in contrast, Loofbourow explains, is when works by female authors/creators/artists are taken less seriously and given less critical consideration than works by male artists. Of course, this concept is not limited to female artists, but a myriad of other identities that have been historically marginalized. This really reminded me of our discussion in class about Helen Molesworth, the Guerilla Girls, and even just general discussions about who we read on our syllabus and why.

What is important about Loofbourow’s argument is that male glance is not only being perpetuated by male viewers, but that this is part of a larger societal tendency to write off women creators, and all of us have to fight against this tendency and question whether we are making accurate/fair judgments about the things we read and view.

Loofbourow talks about Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, was written off as a chick lit author, though her career before Eat, Pray, Love included a multitude of more “serious” endeavors. She invites us to re-examine why we perceive that book a certain way, and I found this particular passage interesting:

This is not a defense of Eat, Pray, Love. I’ll repeat: I still have not read it. But that’s precisely why it’s useful as an example: This is how ambient culture works. These streams of derision and praise are what determine what gets read (or watched) and what doesn’t. These are the currents that eventually confer greatness.

Ambient culture! What a fantastic way to describe this phenomenon. Especially now when we live in a world with so MUCH content that it is impossible, time-wise, to consume and give our attention to more than a small fraction of the content being created, we have to rely on knowing about and making judgments on things without ever having experienced them. So, not only do we have to be careful about how we evaluate the things we read/watch, we also have to be aware about how societal biases influence what others think about content, and how those opinions influence our worldview and opinions. A little depressing to think about how pervasive and difficult to change these issues are, but also important to keep fighting.

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Celebrities in Theatre

Over spring break, I had the privilege of seeing Angels in America on Broadway. This is a production I yearned to see while it was in residency at the National Theatre in London and was extremely excited to see it had transferred to Broadway. The entire original London cast was transferred to NYC except for the role of Joe Pitt, who was replaced by Emmy nominee Lee Pace.

Pace is one of three on-screen celebrities that are in the cast. Nathan Lane (whose career of course spans far beyond the screen) plays Roy Cohn and Andrew Garfield rounds out the cast with a stunning performance as Prior Walter. In my past experience seeing shows that proudly advertise a big name to sell tickets, I seldom find that said celebrity measures up to the immense talents of the other stage performers. It was really interesting to watch how these three performers that had more widely known fan base not only measured up to the other actors in the cast, but also went above and beyond, wildly exceeding my expectations. Nathan Lane and Andrew Garfield in particular really stole the show.

This made me think of the difference in British and American theatre. The National Theatre does not need to bring in any celebrity to garner an audience, simply because the culture around theatre in London is so vastly different from how it is in America. Audiences there know stage actors, it’s not necessary to draw in people with a big name. Having that said, the celebrities they cast were great fits for the roles and proved their prowess as big names with equally stand out performances.