Dazzle Camouflage: Spectacular Theatrical Strategies for Resistance and Resilience offers two profiles of contemporary theater artists, Jenny Romaine and The Eggplant Faerie Players, generating analysis about their shared transformative theatrical strategies. Using oral history, archival research, and experiences working with these artists, the author tells their stories and identifies the roles of Dazzle Camouflage, Re-Mixing History, and Rehearsing Resistance in their work. Both profiles are interwoven with progressive Jewish and Queer culture and politics.
Sunday March 12th, 7-10PM at William Way LGBT Center
Benefit for JVP Philadelphia, co-sponsored by Tikkun Olam Chavurah
in partnership with Dancing for Justice Philadelphia: Black Lives Matter
Special thanks to Spiral Q Puppets, Eric Joselyn and the The Folk Arts – Cultural Treasures Charter School, Vaudevillians NYB, and Donna Oblongata for loaning key props and costumes!
Read about it in thINKingDANCE “Killer Sideburns’ Stochastic Stars” (Nicole Bindler, March 2017)
Photos by Karen Kirchoff
Video by Suzy Subways
▼ WHAT IS THIS EVENT?
The Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates the events of the biblical Scroll (Book) of Esther (aka “the whole megillah”) in which Jews are saved from genocidal tyranny by Esther’s bravery to out herself as a Jew (+ there is much more to this story). Purim occurs in the Jewish month of Adar, when we are commanded to increase JOY and welcome a season of miracles!
A Purim-shpil (“play” in Yiddish) is a centuries-old annual ritual performance of topsy-turvy, upside-down, carnivalesque weirdness – it’s in the Talmud! A time to re-read and re-interpret the Book of Esther and the daily news while wearing costumes, gayly eating triangular yonic cookies, and reveling in our surreal disorientation.
▼ WHAT IS THIS SHOW ABOUT?
This year’s shpil (play) is a re-mix of The Wizard of Oz, the Megillah, characters from Narnia, modern political questions, and more! Frogs, beavers, migratory and domesticated birds populate the landscape. Esther and her rooster traveling companion Toto are on the move. A giant baby spews tyrannical noise pollution. May this be the year that the Witch Against White Supremacy conquers the Wicked Snitch!
After Theodore Kerr published an interview with me about Dazzle Camouflage, I heard from Canadian AIDS activists who had just found a video of Michael Smith’s performance “Person Livid with AIDS”(1990) which SPREE and the Eggplant Faerie Players had toured with 25+ years ago, and then gone on to develop a new show by the same name when no script or video could be found following the death of their friend Michael Smith. The reconnection through this piece, 25+ years later, between the creative work of Michael Smith and the Eggplant Faeries feels to me to be such a magical braiding together of between-worlds connectedness. Thanks to Ryan Conrad and all who worked to share this important performance and activist history.
Michael Smith’s 1990 one-man show with occasional musical accompaniments was performed as part of the QueerCulture Festival organized by Buddies in Bad Times before Buddies became the anchored institution it is today. Person Livid With AIDS: A Day in the Life of a Gay Man Living with AIDS (PLWA), which had a three day run at the Factory Studio Café at Bathurst and Adelaide (a precursor to today’s Factory Theatre), was also captured on a grainy video tape that recently resurfaced through the efforts of British Columbia-based sex worker activist Andy Sorfleet. The tape was found in the estate of deceased Toronto lesbian activist Chris Bearchell who had retired to the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. While the production would be restaged in early 1991 as a fundraiser for AIDS ACTION NOW! and Gays & Lesbians of the First Nations, this tape, in all its fuzzy, glitchy, VHS glory, along with an accompanying publicity poster, and ‘zine, is primarily what remains of Smith’s original play. Read the full piece here…
Since before Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” (1964), critics have attempted to map the relationship between Jewish culture in the US, gay culture, and theater. In this interview with writer Ezra Berkley Nepon, we discuss the connections between these genres, examining questions of Ashkenazi and queer identity, anti-assimilationism, and new Yiddish performing arts—“Notes on KlezKamp,” if you will.
Your new book is a narrative ethnography of two spaces that reject assimilation while simultaneously embracing tradition. Why bring together these two theater cultures? … Read more
Photo: KlezKamp Youth Theater Workshop 2009 (Credit: Alan Lankin)
November 5th was a wonderful Book Celebration for Dazzle Camouflage following Great Small Works’ “Muntergang and other Cheerful Downfalls!” at LaMama ETC
Dazzle Camouflage: Spectacular Theatrical Strategies for Resistance and Resilience is the type of book you want to buy multiple copies of and give to your friends so you all can talk about it. It’s funny, accessible, and most importantly, it is about people and ideas that are otherwise absent from mainstream discussions around contemporary art and life.
In the book, Philadelphia based artist, activist, and public intellectual Ezra Berkley Nepon provides examples of engaged theater practices rooted in ideas of health, identity, faith, citizenship, and community by looking at New York based theater artist Jenny Romaine and the Eggplant Faerie Players, a theater troupe with a connection to the wilds of Tennessee. Collectively their work explores Jewish history, the legacy of family and trauma, gender, sexuality, age, HIV / AIDS, the impact of capitalism and gentrification, and the ongoing role of the archive. The book is a reach back into the not-so-distant past to help us think about how we are living now.