by John Stoehr
Taylor Mac, the drag queen, is an obvious gender bender. Not so obvious is Laurie Anderson. Twice during last night's performance of her work Homeland, she used a sound effect to deepen her voice to that of a man — or demon or sage or motivational speaker (we're never quite sure what it's supposed to mean). She also has a butch haircut. She's been known for both effects for many years now.
So far, we've had oblique references to the George Bush's with-us-or-against-us foreign policy in Seamus Heaney's The Burial at Thebes, a translation of Sophocles' Antigone. We've had humorous jibes at Bush's domestic policy by Taylor Mac ("Why, that's an unattended bag!"). And we've seen the most explicit satire on topics as diverse as war, torture, terrorism, corporate fraud, the Transportation Security Administration, and global warming from Laurie Anderson's Homeland.
An opera (La Cenerentola), three works of theater (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the break/s, and The Great War), and a musical (Monkey: Journey to the West) have mixed video and animation with live performance. Laurie Anderson, a pioneer of multimedia in the 1970s and '80s, has gone the other direction. Her Homeland featured only music, songs, and spoken-word.
Taylor Mac is a transgressive clown. Mark Jester, of Low Tide Hotel, is a mime. Sabrina Mandell, also of Low Tide, is a clown. Amistad's Trickster God is a kind of clown. Monkey's comic hero is always clowning around. I saw Noodle McDoodle of the Charleston band The V Tones at a performance of Low Tide Hotel. He's a clown, too. Last night, Laurie Anderson reminded us of John McCain's apology some years ago for likening Rush Limbaugh to a circus clown: “I would like to extend my apologies to Bozo, Chuckles and Krusty," McCain said. And lastly, when CCP wrote about the Post and Courier dropping last year's Spoleto overview critic, we irritated Steve Mullins, the newspaper's managing editor. In one of his many angry emails, he called us a bunch of clowns.
Amistad was about the legal battle that ensued after a mutiny aboard a slave schooner in 1839. the break/s was about the "double consciousness" of being an African American, a psychology that's a product of slavery. Heddy Maalem's dance company, a troupe consisting of dancers from West African nations, where most American slaves originated, is going to perform this weekend a revision of The Rite of Spring in a year marking the end of the international slave trade to North America. And the Upright Citizens Brigade was actually booed the other night when it made a joke about slavery.
I Live Next Door to Horses, the sketch comedy duo, did a great bit in which two elderly woman talk about the relative states of their respective "pussies." The Upright Citizens Brigade, the improv group, went on an extended riff on the subject of labial tattooing, which culminated in the punchline: "What do you mean we can fuck on Sundays?" You had to be there, I guess.
Vaud Rats, Low Tide Hotel, and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea are set in the 1920s. The Great War takes place between 1914 and 1918. UPDATE: I forgot to add the music of the Carolina Chocolate Drops to this list. Much of it they learned from old recordings made during this era. (Thanks to Jon Santiago for pointing this out)
BAD SIGHT AND SOUND
Microphone issues plagued the opening night of The Burial at Thebes. The concert by the Westminster Choir and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra on Tuesday sounded flat and dry in the cavernous Gaillard Auditorium. Dance performances by the Ballet Geneve and the Boston Ballet also looked like they were taking place far, far away in the Gaillard. In contrast, dance performances at the Emmett Robinson Theatre (Donna Uchizono and Shantala Shivalingappa) were electric in their immediacy.