A History of Art

A long, long time ago, when I was just a wee lass, I went to college. I was looking forward to learning all sorts of new things and exploring all there was to offer. I did what I could but being a dance major and having ballet class every day in the middle of the afternoon put a big crimp in my schedule and I never got around to taking figure drawing or English literature, or the history of art.

After I graduated, I took up reading in a big way. I was going to make up for not taking English literature in the bargain aisles of Barnes and Noble. One day, I spied this tome, the same book that had been used as the textbook for the art history class that I could never work into my schedule.  Now was my chance, I would be my own art history class!

It is an unruly book and did not lend itself to beach chair reading (my preferred reading method).  I tried to be studious and read a bit of it, but I don’t know when last time was that I opened it.

I’ve dragged it around for the past *cough* 20+ years, always telling myself that one day, I would get around to breaking it open again. I would sit at a table with a good reading light and learn everything about art history.

Fast forward to last Monday. Because of the national hermitage movement, no one is meeting in person anymore. But everyone wants to meet on ZOOM.  Which is fine, except for the multi-neck, potato head effect that occurs when I have my laptop on my desk.  I needed a little booster, something sturdy that would raise my laptop enough that the camera was more at eye-level than chin level. And guess what, A History of Art is just the thing!

Since this book will be living on my desk for a while, I decided that I might as well crack it open. When I did, I laughed out loud!  The dust jacket flap was marking the place I had stopped at all those years ago … page 54, Ancient Near Eastern Art.

Here’s the thing, I know why I stopped. I wanted to learn about post-Renaissance, Western European art through mid-20th Century American art. And while I wanted to be a good student and begin at the beginning, I only managed to get from the Paleolithic era to roughly circa 2,000 BC.

It’s not because I don’t think that ancient art isn’t interesting or doesn’t have something to illuminate about the human condition, it’s just that I have a hard time relating when something is so far removed from my frame of reference.

Which got me thinking, I wonder if teaching history chronologically is the wrong approach? I wonder if we might be better served learning history backwards?

I flipped through the book to find where I thought I wanted to start, and I landed on page 636. This chapter deals with the period referred to as Mannerism, which seems to be the late Renaissance period immediately preceding Baroque. I think I’ll start there and work my way forward for a bit, then jump back and take a stab at the first half of the book again.

I’m looking forward to filling in the gaps in my knowledge of art history, even if it is in a haphazard way. And more importantly, to being able to ZOOM without looking like a potato head!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Spring

Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Spring

Last weekend, I headed up to San Francisco for the third ballet weekend of the season with mom and sister.  We were all looking forward to seeing San Francisco Ballet perform Midsummer Night’s Dream, a George Balanchine choregraphed fairytale ballet that none of us had seen before.

I’ll admit that I was feeling a bit ambivalent about being around such a large crowd of people given the current public health crisis, but there are certain things worth risking exposure to infectious disease and Balanchine ballets are one of them.

Unfortunately, the mayor of San Francisco doesn’t seem to share my commitment to the art of dance. As I waited at the airport for my flight to board, I scrolled “the gram” and saw notice that the ballet had been closed, there would be no performances until March 30 (later posts indicated a date of March 20 – we’ll see). At least it wasn’t just the ballet, but all city-owned performance venues.

On the one hand, it was a little bit of a relief. But mostly it was disappointing.  Especially after my sister forwarded the review of the opening night performance that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle.

What the review made clear is that SF Ballet excels at these light-hearted, fairytale ballets, bringing to my mind the excellent performance of Cinderella earlier this season or of Don Quixote last season.

As I had already done preliminary research in preparation for my own review, I thought that I would go ahead and tell you about the ballet and we can all hope that they will re-stage this production for the 2021 season.

Midsummer Nights Dream by George Balanchine

Since I wasn’t familiar with the ballet, I dug out my copy of Balanchine’s Complete Stories of the Great Ballets and looked it up (you know that he would never leave one of his own works out).

Created in 1962, Midsummer Night’s Dream was George Balanchine’s first original full-length ballet.

Balanchine had performed in productions of the play as a child in Russia and previously been asked to do some dances for various productions of the play, so he was familiar with the music that Mendelssohn had written for it. He credits the music more than the story for inspiring him to create this work. But because there wasn’t a complete ballet’s worth of music, Balanchine created a franken-score, using other Mendelssohn pieces.

The overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn

The ballet is organized into two-acts, and six-scenes. The first act contains all of the plot of the ballet – the fairy shenanigans, mortals getting caught up in fairy shenanigans, adventures and misadventures. The second act, in the fashion of the romantic ballets contains the wedding scene, the divertissement, and a happily-ever-after ending.

The supernatural elements of any fairytale ballet allow for all sorts of wonderful creatures and characters. Combining such a narrative with Balanchine’s athletic and expressive choreography is a recipe for a delightfully whimsical dance ballet.

Midsummer Night’s Dream hadn’t been performed by SF Ballet in 35 years. I hope that it wasn’t a one-night stand.

Three Visions of Ballet

On February 15, mom and I attended Program 3 of the San Francisco Ballet 2020 Season.  The title of the program was Dance Innovations. It was an evening of three contemporary works (three visions of ballet), The Infinite Ocean by Edward Liang (premiered 2018), The Big Hunger by Trey McIntyre (a world premiere), and Etudes by Harald Lander (circa 1948).

We had just seen Etudes last year and I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it again. The one thing that I will say about it is that it was a lovely palate cleanser after the two more avant garde pieces and I feel like the dancing was a bit sharper than it had been last year. Both my mom and the woman who sits next to her were delighted by the clean, classical technique and the brightness of the movement. It was very smart to program such a traditional work at the end of the evening.

Since I’ve already discussed that piece, I am going to focus on the other two, which I found tremendously interesting.


Composer: Oliver Davis
Choreographer: Edward Liang
World Premiere: April 26, 2018 – San Francisco Ballet

I had thought that we might have seen this piece last year, but when I went back to check, mom was right, it was not on the program that we saw (don’t you hate it when that happens?).

An interesting synchronicity here is that I have been listening to the City Ballet podcast on my walks and the episode that I had just been listening to that week was Edward Liang talking to Wendy Whelan about his career as a dancer and now as a choreographer. He was talking about a different commission, but it was interesting to hear about his process. I could see how he would have applied the same sort of approach to this piece.

I really enjoyed the music for this work. The composer, Oliver Davis, is Liang’s frequent collaborator.  Liang describes Davis’s style as modern, minimalist baroque. I felt like it enveloped the stage, the dancers, and the movement. There were at least a couple of places in the score that seemed to me like they would make a great car commercial (I mean that as a compliment).

This piece had to do with death and dying, with individuals coming to terms with their own imminent mortality. The interesting things about the movement had to do with how the ensemble would come together, move as a unit, but without any sense of connection – it was as if everyone was one the same journey, but alone.  Even the partnering had that lack of connection.

Liang’s movement vocabulary didn’t fall into the trap of contemporary choreographers trying to make “interesting” or “modern” movements.  He retained a classical vocabulary, but expanded traditional steps with a sense of lightness, softness, freedom. Sort of like the idea of the dancers learning to let go.


Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
Choreographer: Trey McIntyre
World Premiere: February 13, 2020 – San Francisco Ballet

Speaking of synchronicity, there seems to be some synchronicity in my small ballet world these days about Prokofiev. There was Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella last month, this piece, but also a discussion of some of his other pieces on that City Ballet podcast. Before now, the things that came to my mind when I thought of Prokofiev were The Love for Three Oranges and Romeo and Juliet.  I’m interested to discover what it is that the universe wants me to learn from Prokofiev.

The program notes for this piece were really interesting. McIntyre was inspired by a Korean film, to consider the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert’s concept of two hungers. On the one hand is big hunger – man’s search for existential purpose. On the other hand is little hunger – physical needs like food and shelter.  I would equate little hunger to the bottom tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – physiological and safety needs, and big hunger to the top tiers – esteem and self-actualization. For McIntyre, conflict arises when little hunger pursuits are given big hunger value.

The dancers were comprised of three couples and an all-male ensemble. The first couple opened the piece.  They were dressed in pink, short, coverall-style jumpsuits. Were they in charge?  Or were they instigating something?  The backdrop featured a very distinct door with illuminated green EXIT sign above it. Then the ensemble makes a bold entrance wearing bright pink pageboy wigs, white collared shirts and short shorts and the first pair make a run for the EXIT.

In the next scene, the space opened up, became more abstract, and the EXIT was graffiti covering the entire back wall. It was like a warning to get out now. The second couple both wore the same wigs and costumes as the ensemble. Were they becoming assimilated into the rat race?

Next scene, the EXIT is gone, now there is no way out. The third pair (both men) enter wearing grey/blue versions of the pageboy wig and long, grey overcoats. At that point the costumes changed to the grey/blue wigs and grey shirts/shorts for all the dancers including both previous couples. We’ve lost the vibrancy from earlier. The dancers have gotten so wrapped up in their little hunger that they missed their shot to satisfy their big hunger.

I loved the athleticism of the movement in this work and the sense of something just being a bit off. I loved the way that things kept degenerating. Even the change from the bright wigs to the grey/blue wigs was like another step in toward the eventual collapse. I really hope that they program this piece again next year, I would really like to see it again.

2020 Ballet Season Opener, Cinderella

It’s that time of the year again!  What time is that?  It’s Ballet Season of course!

Even though the 2020 season opened much like last year with a fairytale ballet, it was certainly not a romantic-era ballet or even an update of a romantic ballet.  This production of Cinderella was created by Christopher Wheeldon in 2012 as a joint commission of the Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. Its War Memorial premiere was in 2013.

The libretto was written by Craig Lucas, the playwright who you may be familiar with from Prelude to a Kiss (there was a 1992 film adaptation with Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan). He brings that same soupçon of strangeness to this work. There is no fairy godmother or mice.  All of the magic in this version of the story comes from a tree that grows out of Cinderella’s mother’s grave.  Of course, you can’t leave Cinderella sidekick-less but instead of mice and birds, she has four fates who provide the magical catalyst (and help her with the chores). This Cinderella also has a respectable amount of gumption for a story where the happy ending entails getting married (spoilers!).

Wheeldon choose to work with Prokofiev’s 1940 score. For me, the music didn’t do much, it is certainly isn’t on par with his Romeo and Juliet.  But I didn’t find choreography particularly impactful either. I don’t know if one fell flat and impacted my impression of the other or if both were just meh. 

As far as the choreography goes, there was a lot of dancing. Really athletic dancing. Maybe too much, as in too many steps. The principals were on stage for long stretches and the corps de ballet really moved. There wasn’t a lot of standing around or running off and on stage. I don’t tend to miss the conventions of romantic ballet, but I do feel that this work would benefit from some of the pauses, stillness, and space that are traditional in the romantic ballets in order to give the brilliant and athletic dancing space to shine.

The night my mom, sister, and I were there, Cinderella was danced by one of our new favorite dancers, Sasha de Sola. She brought a great combination of sassiness and compassion to the role. Luke Ingham was the Prince.  But the stepsister Clementine, who was danced by Ellen Rose Hummel, was the character who really stole the show.  Clementine is the sweet stepsister, who wears glasses and takes the brunt of her mother’s and sister’s meanness when Cinderella isn’t readily available. She is funny and kind-hearted, and she gets the guy too, winning the heart of the Prince’s sidekick.

The novel libretto allows for creative applications of production elements.  The scene where Cinderella is transformed to go to the ball is wonderfully weird and full of inventive staging and effects. For me, this scene is the highlight of the show.

There is so much to like about this production, but like I said before, there was just something about it that felt overwrought.  The last time it was presented was 2017 and I remember enjoying the innovative elements, but I don’t know that it made my heart leap that time either.

A Belated Happy Birthday to Dolly Parton

Well golly y’all, I sure am happy to have just celebrated the birthday of one of my sheroes, the indominable Dolly Parton.

I have to tell you that this has been a challenging post for me to write.  Because there is SO MUCH that I have to say about Dolly Parton. Many of you may already be aware of my fascination with her.  You’ve already heard me go on and on about what a role model and wonderful person she is, and you’re rolling your eyes – oh brother, she’s got more material. And boy howdy, I sure do. But I can’t fit all of the things that I find fascinating about Dolly in this one post, so I’ll just focus on one thing that might pique your interest today.  We can get into The Imagination Library, Dollywood, and her discography later.

I recently discovered a great podcast called Dolly Parton’s America (seriously, check it out). It’s about Dolly, but it isn’t from Dolly; it was created by NPR’s Radiolab producer Jad Abumrad. I was recommending it to a friend but having a hard time describing it.  I finally settled on, it’s deep and thought-provoking. The gist of the series is that Dolly Parton is both a creator of culture and a cultural object.

One of my favorite things about the podcast is that they discuss and examine a lot of things that Dolly won’t engage about. Things like gender and objectification and how she is wily enough to navigate these hazards without letting on to the fact that she is on to the game.  And then she wins.

One of my stand-out takeaways from the podcast was how important it is to Dolly to try to not hurt anyone’s feelings. And that is the bottom line that she is coming from in so many of the things that she does. She is not going to apologize for being herself or try to be something that she isn’t, and she doesn’t expect anyone else to either. It’s ok with Dolly that you are just the way you are; she isn’t going to judge anyone, even if they won’t do her the same courtesy.

Is it because she was picked on when she was little?  Coat of Many Colors and all that. She knows what it feels like when someone makes a point of making you feel like you’re not a part of something. She never outright says that, but her wanting to not ever hurt anyone’s feelings goes way beyond being a savvy businesswoman who wants to make sure that her market share is as large as possible.

I feel like I have an endless number of lessons to learn from Dolly Parton. About how to create meaningful art; how to be open, approachable and outgoing but still own your right to be a private person; and about how to stand up for yourself, your best interests, what you believe in, and be generous and help other people at the same time.

It’s like she says, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose!” I’m trying Dolly!  It’s not that easy.

Thank you Dolly.  Happy birthday!

I Published a Book!

Rough Writers Anthology 2019:
Moments in Space & Time

Guys, something cool happened … I published a book!  Crazy right? Full disclosure, I didn’t WRITE a whole book, I published a book with my writing club. I did however write many parts of a book.  First, I contributed a story and then I somehow got tricked into being the editor. 

Once I had agreed, I found out that being the editor didn’t mean just working with the other authors on their stories and/or editing the manuscript, it also happened to include project managing the whole shebang and creating the other bits of text that go into a book (which I learned is called the front matter and back matter).

Since I have been on a bit of a hiatus from project managing, I may have taken a few things for granted and not kept as tight reigns on things as I used to.  Fortunately, I had a talented and motivated team working with me and we finally crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s and now we have a book!

The book is a collection of stories contributed by members of the Rough Writers Toastmasters club.  We named it the Rough Writers Anthology 2019 because we have some delusion (at least I do) that we will do this annually. Moments in Space & Time is a nod to the writing prompt.

Everyone wrote their story using the same photo as a prompt (I don’t have permission to publish the photo here, but it is in the back matter of the book).  One of the benefits of being the editor was that I had early access to read everyone’s work.  I was so entertained by the range of perspectives. Even the stories that sort-of took the same tack are very different. Some folks had a specific message that they wanted to get across.  I let the photo take me for a ride (it was a strange ride, don’t ask me how I got there).

Here is a little snippet from my story:

As Bill approached the clipboard girl, she eyed him up and down and shot a look to the man standing next to her who was roughly the size of a refrigerator. This girl could tell Bill was trouble from 50 yards. The refrigerator nodded. Bill was used to being aggressive and intimidating to girls to get his way, but her disdainful gaze and pet refrigerator made him feel very small as he approached. Clipboard girl was already on to his game.

from Carl’s Green Galaxy by Cynthia Gellis

Our book, the Rough Writers Anthology 2019: Moments in Space & Time is available on Amazon!  Mr. Man says that it is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer (wink, wink).  If you want me to get you a signed copy, comment below or message me and we can make that happen.

I hope you’ll check it out!

The Nicholl Fellowships

My neighbor works for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  Yeah, that’s pretty cool.  What’s even cooler is that she invited me to attend an event at the Academy last week!  And even though I generally try to avoid the mid-Wilshire are for any reason, I couldn’t turn down such a special invitation.

The event was the celebration of the 2019 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.  This is an international screenwriting competition that was established in 1985 to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters. The first year of the competition, 99 entrants – all California college students, submitted work. This year, the competition received over 7,000 submissions from all over the world.

Previous fellows include Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), Doug Atchison (Akeelah and the Bee), and Andrew Marlowe (Air Force One).

This year’s fellows were Aaron Chung, a recent college graduate from Florida; Karen McDermott, a former attorney who now teaches at Cal State LA; Renee Pillai from Malaysia – who, when she was notified that she had won, had to find someone to drive her the two hours to Kuala Lumpur so that she could apply for a passport; Sean Malcolm, who certainly gets the tenacity award for submitting screenplays to this competition for something like 20 years; and Walker McKnight.

The formal awards presentation included a live read of scenes from each winning screenplay. Amandla Stenberg (Rue in The Hunger Games), Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, American Horror Story), Wes Studi (Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, Avatar) and Tyrese Gibson (The Fast and the Furious franchise) performed the live read, which was directed by 2016 Nicholl fellow Geeta Malik.

I had never been to a live read before and it was very fun.  I loved watching the actors sitting on stools, with the scripts in front of them and then jumping into their parts. I felt like I could really see the acting, if that makes any sense.  They were going from regular person to performer just right in front of our eyes. Rosa Salazar was especially act-y and I mean that as a big compliment.  She really used her voice and her physicality (even though she was perched on a barstool) for all of her different characters.

The scene from Karen McDermott’s screenplay gave me an idea for a short story and I was so glad that I had brought a little notebook with me so that I could jot down some quick notes.  I roughed out a first draft the next day and yikes!  It is going to need a lot of work. I will be sure to let you know when I manage to get it pulled together.

It is so exciting to get to see up-and-comers succeeding in their field. The Nicholl Fellowships are the kind of thing that really makes a huge difference in someone’s life and it was a treat to have the opportunity to share in the celebration of their creative success. I am so proud of all of the winners and of the Academy for having a great program like this to encourage new talent. It was a great evening.

Headless Mike – A Halloween Story

My writing group had a Halloween story challenge.  I was stumped about where to begin (we usually get more of a prompt than that) and was talking about it with a friend who always seems to point me in the right direction. She asked why things always had to be dark and scary and then suggested that I could write something about Headless Mike (the centerpiece of my Halloween decorations).  I’ll tell you what, sometimes inspiration is just that easy!

Here is my Halloween story.  As Loretta Lynn would say, it is all true, even the parts that didn’t really happen.

Headless Mike

In 1918 Vern Pickle, died in Long Beach.  He was 19 years old.  Vern had gone to the cyclone coaster at the Pike on his day off to try to retrieve a hat belonging to a young lady friend (what a chivalrous guy).  He rode the car up to the top and hopped out.  When he bent over to retrieve the hat, the car coming the other way on the parallel track decapitated him.  His body washed up on the beach the next day, but his head wasn’t found until a month later, lying among the rocks at near the jetty. It is said that Vern’s ghost still roams the City, ready to lend a hand.

Source: Claudine Burnett, author of Died In Long Beach

Our first Halloween on Vermont Street, I was surprised to be the only house on the block putting up decorations.  But the idea caught on and these days is fairly competitive.

The signature of my Halloween decorations is Headless Mike, affectionately named after my husband, Mike with a head.

Headless Mike is made from some of Mike’s old clothes that I pilfered from the Goodwill bag, stuffed with newspaper.  He even has “hands” made from old gardening gloves. Headless Mike spends the month of October sitting comfortably in a chair on the front porch. I’d like to say that he keeps an eye on things, but since he doesn’t have a head, being a lookout really isn’t his thing.

Now, even though I am the one who created Headless Mike in the first place, I continue to be regularly startled by the specter of this “person” sitting on my front porch.  There is something about his size and the fact that he is wearing real clothes that lends an air of authenticity to the month-long porch-sit. I’m not the only one, real Mike and especially our poor mailman are also often startled throughout October.

Real Mike is a friendly and easy-going guy.  He cares about his neighbors and his neighborhood.  But there are a few things that get him really riled up. One is people who don’t pick up after their dogs, another is littering.

Last October I put up all of my Halloween decorations, including Headless Mike.  Real Mike and I were out front admiring my handiwork and discovered that someone had left a giant dog turd on the parkway. 

Oh, the rant that followed!  How he was going to install cameras, that if he caught whoever it was, he was going to follow them home and leave it at their front door, how people who don’t pick up after their dogs shouldn’t be allowed to have animals … and so on.

I looked over at Headless Mike and asked him if next time he would please scare that guy out of letting his dog poop on our lawn because real Mike isn’t as young as he used to be, and he can’t take all the aggravation.

A few days later, I was out talking to my neighbor who is always up on the latest neighborhood gossip. She told me how her son Charlie had been walking to school the day before and when he passed the house around the corner where the big German Shepard lives, he smelled, then saw a GIANT pile of dog poop on their front step.

“Mom, it was piled right against the door, probably three-feet high!  You KNOW that when they opened the door that it all came spilling in!”

I couldn’t stop laughing.  But my gosh, who would pull a prank like that?

A few weeks later, the party girl with the Toyota Camry thought that we had forgotten about the last time we caught her littering and parked in front of our house again.  This time I didn’t notice any trash on the ground when I left for the gym, but Mike discovered her discarded Del Taco leftovers after she drove away. 

“Why wouldn’t she just put this in the trash! Doesn’t she know that all this stuff winds up in the Ocean?”

She came back that night and when I was heading to the gym the next morning, I noticed that her car seems kind of full of stuff. That’s weird. Oh well, gotta get to spin class.

Well, when I got home, Mike couldn’t wait to tell me how apparently someone had filled her car with trash.

“She was FREAKING out! She started tossing it out on the ground and all the kids and parents on their way to school started heckling her! She was crying, it was a whole scene.  I went out there with a trash bag to try to help her out, but she just shoveled it on the ground and drove off. Lots of people stopped to help me pick it up. She won’t be coming back this time for sure.”

All month long, I kept finding empty Coors Light cans on the front porch next to Headless Mike’s chair.  It was a little creepy. Mike doesn’t hang out on the front porch. Who was leaving empty beer cans out there?

Then one morning, I was leaving for the gym a little earlier than usual.  When I stepped out on the front porch, I found Headless Mike with a half-full can of COLD Coors Light in his gardening glove hand!

Ok, so this creature made of old clothes stuffed with newspaper was roaming the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning, magically avenging wrongdoing. Sure. Why not?


World Ballet Day 2019

Guys!  It’s World Ballet Day again!

I’m glad that I didn’t mark my calendar after last year’s World Ballet Day because World Ballet Day 2019 is certainly not on the same date.  But there are a bunch of new ballet videos on the internet today for our viewing pleasure, some from companies that we got to know last year and some that are newly discovered.

*Disclaimer: I don’t have hours to spend watching videos of ballet classes and rehearsals either. But by linking a bunch of them here we can all find them whenever we do have time to squeeze in a few minutes of ballet viewing in our day.

The Royal Ballet is back again with four hours of content. I love watching their class so much.  I also really love all of the studio fashion statements.

The Royal Ballet

The Australian Ballet has also posted four hours’ worth.

The Australian Ballet

A new discovery for me this year is Teatro alla Scala.  I skipped ahead to a terrible turns exercise – double attitude, double arabesque, double a la seconde, double pirouette en de dan – the stuff of my dance nightmares.  Fortunately, it looked like many of the professional dancers were having a hard time with it too.

Teatro alla Scala

The Wiener Staatsballett has given us a rehearsal of a Balanchine ballet that they are adding to the repertory.

Weiner Staatsballett

I hope you’ll take a few moments to watch a little ballet today and remember these links are here if you need a fix in the future.  Afterall, ballet season is just around the corner.


A couple of weeks ago, I saw a very entertaining one-woman show by Sarah Jones called Sell/Buy/Date.  I had learned about Sarah Jones when listening to an episode of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast.  In it, she was telling Elizabeth about her current project – a comedic theatrical production about sex trafficking.  Because that sounds like a hoot, right?

It turns out that Sarah Jones is also a Tony and Obie award-winning performer.  Her previous one-woman show, called Bridge & Tunnel was produced by Meryl Streep.

On the podcast, Sarah was very witty and smart and made liberal use of her amazing facility for accents to create all sorts of different characters.  When I saw that she was performing locally, I enlisted a friend and we went!

This performance was of the project she had mentioned on the podcast.  It was a one-woman show about people affected by the sex industry.  I knew that she would be inhabiting a tremendous range of characters, but I had no idea what to expect as far as the storyline.

The story was smartly rendered under the conceit that she was a professor in the future who was presenting a lecture.  In the future imagined in this work, technology enables the presenter to become inhabited by the recorded testimonies of various individuals.

I’d like to consider the two components of the piece: 1) the highly researched and provocative subject matter; and 2) her virtuosic performance, separately.

Sarah’s performance was amazing.  If I had been listening only and not watching, I would not have believed for a moment that all of those characters were being performed by one person.  Even the “lead” character had an impeccable British accent, although Sarah is not. But the virtuosity of her performance was not restricted to her vocal delivery.  Her physicality and facial expressions were also tremendously effective.  It was fantastic the way that that this tall, graceful, and elegant woman could move around the stage in a manner that left no doubt that she was, at that moment, actually an older, overweight, and not particularly athletic man.

In terms of the subject matter – she very deftly presented a highly provocative subject in a very insightful, balanced, and scientific way. There was nothing prurient about it.  Based on comments that she made in the podcast, I would have expected a more overtly biased perspective.  But by presenting the topic with an almost clinical tone, she left the audience to sit with their own feelings and biases, forcing all of us to think about the topic more than if she had shown her hand.

I was certainly eager to have the opportunity to discuss the performance with my friend. For me the topic leads down a rabbit hole of relationship power dynamics. As we talked, unraveling the threads of what we had just watched, we realized that there wasn’t any bow to wrap things up with, just more questions.