Hip Shot: Persephone
Bedroom – Fort Fringe
Thursday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 20, at 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 24, at 8:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 27, at 7:00 p.m.
They say: A performance art work on the myth of Persephone. Each show is created in collaboration with a different artist, for varying interpretations of worship, sex, autonomy, violation, cycle, loss and return. The girl goddess causes the seasons.
Joshua’s Take: Persephone caused quite a stir at the Capital Fringe preview. Chained collars, tape bondage, and male nudity were all featured in the four-minute glimpse of this show from Aether Art Projects, not to mention those regurgitated plums. So while part of the draw to Persephone might be rooted in sensationalist buzz, I hope the curiosity lingers with Fringe-goers, because the work deserves a generous audience.
It’s cliché to tag performance art that actually moves you as “visceral,” but with this show the word is appropriate. For each performance of Persephone, director Eames Armstrong collaborates with a different artist. The one I saw, with Jane Claire Remick, used ice, plastic, and some unnaturally colored snack foods to truly create viscera on stage; what began as dead, synthetic matter was gradually given organic life. But it’s also because the performance fully engaged my senses. The winter colors that opened the show were eventually shattered by the sight and smell of wildflowers. The space was filled with the sick, squishy sounds of tape being unstuck and of ice being slurped. And there was the moment at the end when the house lights came up. We in the audience had been watching vulnerable, exposed performers from the safety of darkness, but were now suddenly aware that they could see us. It was a, well, visceral experience, to be caught in the act of watching.
The Persephone you see won’t be the one I saw, but instead a distinct, unrepeatable event. This makes the reviewer’s job a bit tough. The original myth offers a violent unification of life and death, of birth and decay, that spurs on the cycle of the seasons. But the artists behind Persephone may have varying degrees of interest in the source material.
The best I can offer is some advice. Before you go, dip into Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book V, line 500 or so, and read this most eloquent telling of the myth. (Ovid himself, after all, was merely adapting a very ancient story to his own purposes, just as his descendents do in Persephone.) Come to the theater with whatever impressions that version left on you. Ignore the artist statements in the program, unless you want case studies in self-romanticizing or the damage critical theory has done to the language of art. Show up on time, sit near the front, and keep an open mind. Then draw your own conclusions.
See it if: You’re looking for something to provoke all of your senses.
Skip it if: You’re squeamish about food, sex, or deviations from the conventions of performance.