It’s 2008 and I just finished graduate school at the University of Utah in hyper-conservative Salt Lake City, Utah. Justin Morrison suggests I apply to work and perform with Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s La Pocha Nostra at the re-opening of since closed SUSHI Performance and Visual Art space. There’s a bit of footage of me, pre-performance with performance artist, Lula Chapman at 6:50 in the video below.
Bridget Roundtree & Iain Gunn (Animal Cracker Conspiracy), Mindy Donner (puppeteer), and I practiced 7 hours a day for 5 days with Guillermo, Michelle Ceballos, Violeta Luna, Rene Garcia, and Lula Chapman. Gómez-Peña asked us to bring 7 “artifacts” from our personal “pop-archeological collection”. There were masks, fake guns & ammo, musical instruments…but anything could become any of these things. I fake nursed a big, black crow, de-evolved on the catwalk into a blonde supermodel chimp with my nipples covered in black electrical tape, the famous Chanel C’s outlining my breasts, and Coco’s Bitch written on my back in red lipstick. I also walked it on my hands in a long, blue tutu that flipped down to cover my head, reversing my body. In rehearsal, Guillermo thought the latter would work well if I were naked. “But you have the last word!” he yelled over the Dresden Dolls. In the end, I wore a nude thong.
I remember telling Bridget at one point during the week that it felt like psychological hell week. Many aspects of the experience were so much more slippery than I was used to, even as committed to improvisation as I already was. I felt immersed (buried?) in the characters and scenes we were building before I could even consider what we/Guillermo were/was trying to say with the work. But I was all in. And I’m so glad I did it. There was some transmission that happened over that week in that big concrete room. They are radical. They are activists whose art gets right up in peoples’ faces AND they were incredibly tender, respectful and loving throughout the entire process. I felt cared for by Guillermo, Violeta, and Michelle and I knew I wanted those I worked with in the future to feel like that.