“A guy walks up to me and asks ‘What’s Punk?’ So I kick over a garbage can and say ‘That’s punk!’ So he kicks over a garbage can and says ‘That’s punk?’ and I say ‘No, that’s trendy!’”-Billie Joe Armstrong
When I moved to Boston almost 3 years ago, I found the streets of Allston slowly pulling me into its punk scene. My iPod was filling with the sounds of Bratmobile, G.L.O.S.S., and Danger City. I began attending $2 concerts in run down apartments and the basements of people I didn’t know.
I loved the music and the scene, but it was scary. I felt like an outcast among misfits, not sure if my punk-garb was up to par or if my moshing would be adequate. But after some time I realized that I had no reason to feel like I didn’t fit in.
Punk isn’t about Doc Martens, plaid, selling band tees, spikes, or dirty socks. Punk is about using passion, anger, and freedom. It’s a rejection of rules; doing and saying whatever the f*ck you want because you bleed and sweat energy, feeling, and emotion about the world and the experiences you’ve had in it. Punk is tearing down the system, rebelling against oppression, It’s not a musical style, nor in the is it a fashion statement. It’s an attitude.
And it’s an attitude I had all along and have come to strongly identify with. My fear of not belonging was rooted in my idea of what punk was “supposed” to be. But once I banished my misconception of as punk as an aesthetic rather than an idea, I realized how passionate I was about creating some of my own punk art.
I consider myself, first and foremost, a theatre artist. However, there is something about the concept of walking to an assigned seat, having the house lights go down, and remaining still and quiet for two to three acts that irks me. I’m becoming more drawn to environmental, experimental, and non-traditional work that questions the very form it is in. Perhaps, then, I should call myself a punk theatre artist.
So where is my punk theatre? Too often when a “rock musical” is mounted on a stage, it focuses on spectacle and production value, trying so hard to be raw and edgy that the entire point of the concept is missed. Punk isn’t about perfect harmonies or distressed set pieces. Punk cannot be manufactured. It has to come from a vulnerable place within that is set on fire. I want to see less American Idiot and more Bikini Kill.
A few months ago, I started a band called WebCam Girls. Most of our songs are about smashing the patriarchy, the people who have wronged us and how those actions are constantly repeated with no consequence, and, of course, vaginas. What I am currently setting out to do as a theatre artist is blur the line between the setting in which these songs are performed, and a formal, theatrical event. I want to create a work of art that is diegetic. But how do I get a bunch of punks to set foot in a blackbox? How do I get my sophisticated theatre folk into a grimy basement? How can I keep a consistent storyline going with my music, which consists of yelling short, explicit phrases? Will it be a concert, or a play? How do I attract audiences from both worlds? I don’t have the answers, but these are the questions that will be driving my work. I’m not going to fit in. I’m gonna break all the rules and scream at the top of the lungs and do whatever I want.
So welcome to the Land of Misfit Toys, and watch out.