I confess I like meeting new people though I’m socially awkward and shy. Talking with Tim Smith-Stewart it becomes apparent almost immediately that he’s smart, but not pushy about his knowledge. His natural ability to facilitate shared space made the conversation easy, and he revealed himself as a moral and thorough thinker. Our conversation at the BASE studio in Georgetown led us down many paths; the value of political gestures in the surveillance state, establishing an inherent sense of personal worth not tied to production, systemic oppression in social response to problems like addiction and homelessness, the dehumanizing effect of capital, the value of recognizing and sharing alternative histories, alienation of social media, and the danger inherent in engaging with the non-profit industrial complex.
& I’m like, Tim’s REAL smart...
Also well read. It was a pleasure to talk for a couple of hours...
What liberty might we know if could collapse the duality of gender? Geumhyung Jeong’s hour-long exploration on this theme gives us Oil Pressure Vibrator. I am sure you will leave asking questions, or wishing that you could sit down with the artist or spend some time with her.
Jeong takes us down a path, where knowing the terrain of desire involves decisions, and constant, obsessive observation. Knowing, what feels good. Knowing what does not. Knowing that we get bored. Knowing, that there can even be evolution. Jeong’s work is about knowing something in us that never quite leaves us.
Jeong makes friends with an urgency in her, and allows it to take her places, places in the natural world, places in the inanimate world of objects, places that are not so familiar and yet so. She never takes us back to society, or another human being.
CPR Practice could be reduced to commentary on the failure of eroticism, but I think it’s more than that. There is a sense of emergency - of trying to find a way out through a number of technological means, all of which fail the performer. The increasingly frenetic physical pace, contrasted by the essential inaction of the props, accurately reflects our individual and social values. If we continue down this path, there is no way out…
CPR Practice, by Geumhyung Jeong begins with an erotic dance between a human performer and a CPR dummy and ends in a crisis. Our eroticism of technology, the interplay between reality and (science) fiction, human fascination with life extension via medicine, and our inability to relate are questioned in the course of the hour solo performance.
In By Heart, Portuguese playwright and actor Tiago Rodrigues teaches a poem to 10 people.
While teaching them, Rodrigues unfolds a mix of stories of his soon-to-be-blind grandmother and stories of writers and characters from books that are, somehow, connected both to the old lady and himself. The books are also there, on stage, inside wooden fruit crates. And as each couple of verses is taught to the group of 10 people, improbable connections emerge between Nobel prize winner Boris Pasternak, a cook from the north of Portugal and a Dutch TV program called Beauty and Consolation, and the mystery behind the choice of this poem is slowly solved.
Mother Tamika, the beloved grande dame of the House of Dinah, poses these questions in the opening monologue of Jerome A. Parker and Andrew Russell’s show, playing through Sunday at On the Boards. She tells us here her story of hard work, exploitation, and ultimate deliverance and introduces us to the person and music of Dinah Washington, the so-called “Queen of the Blues.” Mother Tamika’s questions stayed with me through the next hour and a half as I took in fierce costumes and performances, as I listened to the backstories of the House of Dinah’s other sisters, as these womxn of color told of both trauma and triumph. What, indeed, do I know? I’m admittedly an outsider to this world, a white, cisgender girl. I remembered the sacred space of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in...
We want everyone who comes in to understand that we’ve made a sacred space,” says House of Dinah director Andrew Russell, sitting in the dim light of On the Boards mainstage. “We’ve made a sacred space for black and brown LGBTQ people.”
Even pretzeled into a folding chair after watching Dinah tech rehearsal, the space still smelling of coffee and plywood, I get a sense of that sacredness. Behind us hangs a huge, floor-to-ceiling curtain, cutting the stage off from the theatre’s main seating area. Another stage...
For a lot of queer black people, living is surviving. House of Dinah shows the ways five black Queens are taught or have been taught to own their survival story and speak truth to it. As a queer, non-black person of color, it was an honor to be let in to the sacred space.
A smattering of thoughts during and after House of Dinah:
Tough love is necessary. Silence is golden. Don’t let anyone see you cry.
Like it or not, these rules were established for survival.
Family is complicated. Chosen families are maybe even more so. Often queer people of color are kicked out of homes or lose whole support systems after coming out. I wonder if elders in conventional white families are revered as much as they are in chosen QPOC families. Is there almost a personal responsibility to pass on the torch...