Dynasty Handbag’s “Brothers and Sisters and Motherfuckers” at PS 122
Dynasty Handbag‘s (a.k.a. Jibz Cameron) newest show, Brothers and Sisters and Motherfuckers, opens tonight at PS 122 and runs through Sunday (tickets $15/$20). Culturebot contributor Mashinka Firunts recently chatted with Cameron about this show.
The show description for Brothers and Sisters and Motherfuckers promises the appearance of psychic siblings, hexagonal twins, and devil or grandma “on the menu for the Handbag Family Holiday Dinner.” How will this smorgasbord of nuclear familial dysfunction unfold onstage?
To be honest, when I wrote that particular description I was not yet finished with the script, so I was sort of predicting what might end up in there…based on my loose idea of what was going to go down. I can say that “devil or grandma” made the cut though. What happens in the show is that Dynasty Handbag throws a dinner party for her siblings (that may be imaginary, they are just projections on screens on stage of me playing those characters). Everyone gets sick during dinner and they all start blaming eachother and yelling and flipping out. Then something happens which I won’t tell you about but a family secret is revealed! And she shit goes down, and there are lots of sound effects and dramatic lighting.
How does this compare with VERTititGO, your HOT Festival neo-noir where you combined pre-recorded sound with live dialogue to assume the personae of a fast-talking PI, his femme fatale client, and all the protagonists in between?
Lets see, well as a comparison I guess it is similar in that there are characters I am interacting with that are not physically present. That is usually the case with Dynasty Handbag, she is only experiencing things in her head, from her point of view, which is actually exactly like how it is in reality…so there! With VERTititGO the other characters were just audio tracks, or more accurately I, the protagonist, was a voice and then “I” the performer got to play all the characters–in BSMFs I also played all the other cast members, but this time they are interacting all at the same time with each other via video projections, whilst me, the performer is swimming in the middle of it all. I don’t know how that is going to feel. Insane probably. Because I will be performing live off of my own performances…and if they are annoying or problematic it will be hard to stay on point. It will also just be emotionally whacked because all the characters are sort of heightened versions of family members, but they are also me – my identification with those people, my projection of them…as a projection. A video projection of my projection. That is the project. Tion.
You’re currently a member of the adjunct faculty at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where you recently taught a course on performing the self/selves. The extensive roster of venues where you’ve appeared ranges from the Slipper Room and the Starlite Lounge to Syracuse University’s Matrilineage Symposium. NYU Professor of Performance Studies Jose Munoz includes a discussion of your work in his most recent text Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. Does your involvement in the academic sphere enter into your performative practice or process?
Since I teach a performance class that is practice-based as opposed to theory-based, most of what I try to convey to students has to do with the creative process and figuring out how to get the most honesty out of your work, so mainly it is things I just need to remember myself.
How does it interface with your output as a performance-maker?
As far as my output goes, it is very good for me to keep learning about other artists and sharing their work with students and discussing styles and execution. I can say it is beneficial. Yes. Very much. Now, were I to get into theory, I think that would fuck me up for sure.
In what way?
During the writing process I think about wether or not the work makes emotional sense to me and that is the main focus, but were I to try and imagine it in any other context, say by comparing it to the work of my contemporaries or think about how it fits in to the “state of performance art today” or even think about it’s political significance while I am writing – that would take me out of the work and it would become about that stuff and not about it’s root. Maybe I will someday write from a different seat, like sit down and say, I want to write something that addresses the current climate of queer theatrical practice or something like that. So far that has not been the case. However, it is very good to know how to discuss my work in academic terms when trying to get money to make more of it.
Munoz has written about your work’s engagement with what he calls queer futurity, or queer utopianism. He contrasts the category of broad-minded utopianism with a short-term pragmatic imperative concerned with legislative victories and same-sex marriage. How would you situate your work in terms of these categories?
If I understand your question correctly, I would answer that my work, like everyone’s work, like people, like everything, is significant to exposure and visibility. We all live our politics, and though my work may or may not speak directly to the “queer agenda”, as it is understood in contemporary terms per se, it is certainly important to me to contribute to diversity, if that makes sense. As in, all forms of queerdom, of feminism of whateverism need to be exposed, recognized, respected. Which is why issues become so ridiculous, because the less diversity that is visible, the more polarized the issues become and the narrower the scope of ideas, which means DEATH! Death of imagination, death of acceptance, more us and them. I am not saying that I like the log cabin republican idea, but I can certainly see that there is a place for them just as much as there is for hippies.
Brothers and Sisters and Motherfuckers is being presented as part of PS122’s 30th-anniversary season, whose programming continues the institution’s history of spotlighting currents of queer performance throughout its three-decade span. How do you see your work–and Brothers and Sisters… in particular–positioned in this lineage and in relation to earlier pioneering figures of queer performance who occupied the theater’s stages?
AAAHHHH!!! The more I work in NYC, the more I see that the paths I am invited to tread have been forged by those brave souls. I can only hope my work does them justice and continues to be a well placed stain on the pants of new york city theatrical history.