But what if I can’t get to Broadway, Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway? Is it like the proverbial tree falling in the woods with no one there to hear it? This is probably as good a time as any to talk a little about access and the solo performance. Some of you might be thinking to yourself at this point that it’s all well and good for me to have seen so many of these performers and to hear so many of their stories, but what about the rest of the world outside of NYC? Why talk about these performances when so many people will not be able to see them live? Well, there’s lots of ways to go about answering that question, but today I want to think about how the classroom can address the question of access. Because it was in the classroom, watching students take a stab at performing the words on the page, that I began to see solo performances, that I otherwise would not ever get the chance to see, take shape and form. In some ways, then, I think it is in the classroom (wherever you want that classroom to be, including if it’s in your home) where the work of archiving performances can occur.
How, you ask? Remember in one of my earliest posts when I wrote about that moment in 2000 when I was in Shakespeare and Company and I came across the Extreme Exposure anthology and I became aware of a world I knew almost nothing about? Because of that book containing words from the performers’ scripts, a photograph of the performer, and an introduction to the performer’s body of work, I was able to reconstruct the performances and become an audience member after the fact. I reconstructed the performances in my mind’s eye, but also, with the help of my students over the years, we were able to discover the power to be had in reconstructing some of the performances in class. Don’t get me wrong, when the students performed the words of a Danitra Vance or a Guillermo Gomez Pena or a Diamanda Galas, they did not channel those performers or recreate their performances. As soon as another body voices the written words or moves around in the worlds created by the written texts, it is different. But in giving voice and body to the written words of the solo performers, the students were able to breathe life into the pieces and experience them as performers and as audiences to each other’s performances. Stay tuned for a specific case study in the next post when I reflect upon the student performances of Rhodessa Jones’ solo piece, Big-Butt Girls, Hard Headed Women.