Diary of A Teenage Girl at 3LD
Friday night Culturebot went down to 3LD to check out The Diary of A Teenage Girl, Marielle Heller’s adapation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel of the same name. This impressive production, directed by Sarah Cameron Sunde and Rachel Eckerling, does a great job of capturing the intensity and insanity of being a teenager out of control and raises some interesting issues along the way.
Diary is the story of Minnie Goetze, a fifteen year old girl growing up in San Francisco in 1976. She lives in a dysfunctional household with her mother and younger sister and a succession of her mother’s deadbeat, drug- and alcohol-addled boyfriends. She starts an affair if one of these boyfriends, the 34-year-old Monroe, which starts her down a reckless path of chaos and confusion, fueled by booze, drugs and hormones. Her best friend is a similarly precocious 15 year old named Kimmie.
The set for the production is a 70’s style “conversation pit” with Minnie’s bedroom in the middle. The design is Sensurround in the best possible sense, with a totally immersive video and audio environment where characters and scenes take place all around and in the audience. The production level is really great – it really makes you feel the dazed and confused slightly out of control boundary dissolving sensibility that was the 70’s.
The story, as related by Minnie, unfolds in 48 scenes, like panels in a comic book, as she recounts her life into a tape recorder. And what a story it is. She starts an affair with Monroe and sets out on a sexual odyssey that can seem shocking at times. She goes through all the touchstones of 70’s pop culture – ‘ludes, cocaine, Rocky Horror Picture Show, David Bowie – but retains a remarkable innocence and enthusiasm throughout. She writes poetry and draws comics, writes fan letters to Aline Kominsky and in many ways is the quintessential counter-cultural American teenager. And while the markers of her adolescence are set in the 70’s, I think that sense of adventurousness and voracious appetite for life, no matter how fucked up, is true for teenagers everywhere and always. I certainly felt that the show spoke to my adolescent experience – I wanted to have sex, I wanted to do drugs, I wanted to have adventures and be out of control. That’s what teenagers do.
I think what may be controversial about this production is that it is not a morality tale and it is not a victim narrative. Minnie is almost always portrayed as having agency. She’s not exploited by her 34 year old lover, she doesn’t “realize the errors of her ways” and magically reform into a good girl. What she does is survive.
The show itself moves briskly, is well-paced and well-acted. Marielle Heller not only adapted the story but stars as Minnie and in some ways it is like a solo show with other people in it. The other characters tend to be a little bit two-dimensional, in keeping with the graphic-novel sensibility. It was a good choice because the show is very presentational rather than conventionally dramatic, which could have veered much too close to Lifetime Movie territory.
Culturebot suggests that when you go to see the show you get there a little early and check out the gallery show of Phoebe Gloeckner’s original artwork. Though the show more than stands on its own, seeing the panels and reading Gloeckner’s authorial voice will help give a sense of the world of the play and introduces you to her general attitude. ALSO, Culturebot’s good pal Bill Roundy curated the gallery show and we trust his opinion intrinsically on all things comic-book related.
Did you see the show? What did you think about it? Discuss!