Well, the Performance Laboratory had another great monthly event last night. What was fabulous about this time around was that we staged it mostly outside in the backyard of the CAID, with each performance in a different area of the yard. I’m becoming more and more drawn to site-specific performance as opposed to performing on a standard stage setting, and having the Performance Lab outside added a new exciting dynamic to the performances and event. Besides the fact that we had to mow a completely overgrown lawn a day ahead of time, and that there were mosquitoes nipping at everyone’s skin for the entire event, it was AWESOME. Great performances, nice theme of ‘water’ to tie it all together and a fabulous audience. The Performance Laboratory really does just get better and better. The more we learn from each month’s event, the more we grow as organizers, performers and a solid community.
As for my own performance, well, I went kinda crazy. And it was so much fun. See, I’ve been performing this character since approximately November 2010 named Buoj iz Jeb. Buoj iz Jeb is an old man with a dirty mouth and a foul sense of humor. He’s not afraid to talk, and despite his raunchiness, he’s a pretty likable guy. The thing about Buoj iz Jeb is that he likes to take his clothes off. That’s what he does for a living. He’s a professional figure model, and more recently, a stripper and swimsuit model as well. His first big break took place at the Work: Ann Arbor Gallery in downtown Ann Arbor on November 19, 2010. He showed up with an easel, some props and his own body to be drawn by the art show attendees in an interactive performance, which took place in the front window of the gallery, exposing itself both to those on the inside of the gallery, as well as those on the street passing by. Each time an ‘audience member’ drew Buoj iz Jeb, he taped it to the window facing out to the street to display. By the end of the night, the window was full of drawings of his naked, old man body.
This time around, Buoj iz Jeb was the host of the Performance Laboratory. Going with the theme of water, Buoj modeled a different swimsuit between each performance. Each swimsuit was peeled off to reveal the next, until by the end of the night he was completely naked, transforming into a nudist swimmer. Each swimsuit had a theme, and music that he played out of his boombox to go along with it. There was lots of audience interaction, and in the end Buoj collected money in his socks for the show. It was a big success! For this performance I hadn’t had a lot of time to plan ahead, as I didn’t commit to performing until a week before when we realized we needed more performers to fill the show. Slowly over the week my ideas developed, but nothing was ever set into stone. Even though the performance wasn’t completely planned, I had a structure and idea of where it was going from one point to the next. I also had a lot of thoughts in my head about what I might do, which naturally came out in the moment. The majority of the performance was improvisational- responding to the audience and situation. What I love about playing Buoj iz Jeb is that all the things I am unsure about or question ahead of time naturally come out in his dialogue- he has the ability to communicate what’s working and what’s not, and make that a part of the show. Basically, his character gives permission to be completely chaotic while still having a throughline and end point, which most of the time is to take his clothes off. What’s the point? Well, to make the audience uncomfortable, and yet completely enjoy the absurdity of something that would not usually happen in most cases. There’s something about Buoj taking his clothes off that people totally get a kick out of, in many ways because it’s pretend- it’s not real. Buoj’s body is not a real naked old man body, it’s my female body dressed in a nude unitard that I have designed to appear realistically as a male body. However, it’s still obvious that it’s not real. Therefore, the removal from reality makes a generally grotesque and disturbing action turn into a fun, still grotesque, but raucous and hilariously disturbing event. If we were gonna talk concept and theory, we could say that the performance plays on the stigma of male sexuality and body image, in particular that of an old man, in society. It challenges the audience to view something that normally they would feel extremely uncomfortable viewing in a completely different context. It also challenges gender ideas: me playing drag in reverse.