Friday, November 30, 2007

Not Beautiful Enough: Women on Violence

Three Rooms Press poets Jackie Sheeler and Kathi Georges joined forces with Magdalena Alagna and Phyllis Talley to create an incredible poetry/perfomance piece "Not Beautiful Enough: Women on Violence," that played at Living Theatre this past Monday evening.

Performing solo and in groups, the four women took the stage by storm to a nearly-full house and cranked on a series of pieces dealing with violence, usually associated with the great crime of simply being a woman. Violence was looked at from many angles. Georges' opening piece "I am Woman" was take on violence women perform against themselves to meet the false demands of the commerce-fueled Beauty Myth. Wearing a strapless short velvet dress, 4-inch heels, and bondage handcuffs, Georges took on the persona of a deluded Third Wave feminist, lambasting her feminist mother for burning her bra, while praising her own "decisions" to get breast implants and wear shoes that cause permanent back problems, all of this over a midi version of Helen Reddy's classic "I am Woman." Wobbling off-stage--still in bondage--as the song faded, Georges' character muttered, "Sometimes, I wonder if it's worth it. Then, I just pick up a magazine and schedule another appointment. Someday, I'll really be beautiful."

From there, the show exploded with a series of personal accounts of violence and subordination, including Sheeler's "Wolf Whistle," Talley's "Fix Your Face," and Alagna's "Gothic Heroine of the Suburbs." Mid-show, the women joined forces in improvisational variations of "No man will want you if you (fill in the blank)," exposing how mothers often help lure their daughters into the very societal confines that brought them to their knees, often literally.

But the show was not just one long complaint. Rounding out the evening was an exploration of real beauty--the opposite of the kind caused by or causing violence, highlighted by Alagna's belly dance to Alanis Morissette's take on the Fergies' "My Humps," an odd choice that--in perfomance--proved to be truly inspired. Talley's piece "Talk to Me," a conversation between a woman and her own heart, was also enthralling. And Sheeler's closing piece, "Meat Loaf" examined a revelatory moment in her own violence-filled childhood that served as a basis for her breaking of the multi-generational practice of meeting disagreement with violence, and also illuminated the idea that the very violence that inspired the show need not be a permanent feature of a more enlightened society.

The show was so well-received it may be replayed at either The Living Theatre or another venue. In addition, plans are underway to have regional versions of the show performed, then collected on a website. Stay tuned for details.

Pictured (from left): Performance curator Dorothy Friedman with performers Kathi Georges, Phyllis Talley, Jackie Sheeler and Magdalena Alagna.

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