Journal

Michelle Ellsworth in the NY Times Mar 9, 2015

by Erin

Michelle Ellsworth was singled out by The New York Times as one of the stand-out performers in 2014's American Realness Festival:

If you wanted to spend some time contemplating death — your own, other people’s — Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side was a good place to be on Monday night. As part of the American Realness festival, two very different shows — Michelle Ellsworth’s cheerfully wacky “Preparation for the Obsolescence of the Y Chromosome” and a much darker work by Jeremy Wade with an obscenity in its title — grappled with disappearance, decline and the thin line between being here and being gone.

For Ms. Ellsworth, a jittery performer who expertly folds nervousness into her character, the disappearance in question is both hypothetical and very real. She starts “Preparation,” a 50-minute hybrid of PowerPoint presentation and science experiment, by explaining that “in 2003, two things happened.”

First, she read a column by Maureen Dowd (in The New York Times) titled “Incredible Shrinking Y,” about the depletion of the Y chromosome’s genetic material over millenniums, and the possibility of its vanishing altogether. (To account for subsequent research suggesting that the Y actually isn’t going anywhere, Ms. Ellsworth offers an alternate title, replacing “Obsolescence” with “Evolution.”) Second, a friend’s father died. And so she set out to prepare for life after men, for the absence of a dad or of half the species.

“What will be missed when they go?” Ms. Ellsworth asks. In “Preparation,” which can also be enjoyed at PreparationY.com, she takes us through the inventory of male-replacement apparatuses she’s been developing, homespun contraptions including a toilet seat that lifts and lowers at unpredictable intervals and a “male gazer,” a towering eyeball that keeps watch over her every move. “It’s not like I love it,” she says of the male gaze, “but if it were gone, I might miss it.”

She also discusses her conservation efforts, like collecting “man smells” — a door-to-door process of stuffing T-shirts in jars — and archiving “man dances,” fancying herself the Alan Lomax of masculine ephemera. But while “Preparation” is very funny, it doesn’t evade sadness. What begins as a lighthearted “motivational video,” with Ms. Ellsworth speaking into an onstage camera, subtly transforms into a dialogue with herself, in which we can sense her own experience of loss and grief.

Read the article at The New York Times. 
*photo by Andrea Mohin

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