Friday, May 18, 2007

Thoughts on Bussy

I saw the Bussy play earlier last week, at the Howard theatre (the little black box in which all amateur - and thus most of the controversial - performances seem to be held). This was the second annual installment of the Bussy play, which is basically a collection of true stories submitted to the project and given life by different performers of varying levels of theatrical background.

The thing I really like about this kind of amateur theater, especially performances comprised mostly of monologues, is that the relationship between the actor and the character they are performing is different than it is in more professional acts. In "real" theater, the actor is supposed to shed all of his or her personal mannerisms; the way they hold themselves and the way that they speak is all supposed to dissolve once onstage and be replaced by those idiosyncrasies particular to the character. There is a huge focus on inventing ways to speak, to gesticulate, to walk, and to stand that are specifically suited to each character. Not so in amateur plays, or at least not to the same degree. If a girl is playing the role of an aggressive character, she will most likely be standing, speaking, and using her hands in the manner that she would if she herself were being aggressive in real life. My point is that this trait makes amateur plays seem more personal somehow. There is not the exaggeration of drama, and everything seems more down to earth.

As for Bussy itself, a lot women have complained that it was too whiny, that some of the pieces where substantively anti-feminist (this accusation was specifically directed at the piece in which a woman is basically begging for a man to hold her). I've thought about this a lot. I've recalled all of the feminist theory I've read, from Betty Friedan to Islamic feminism. I had come to the conclusion years ago that there is a plethora of ways in which to be "feminist", but the common denominator is about allowing women to choose. To choose how to live, where to work, what to study, whether to have kids, who to worship, how and if to marry. And if Bussy gave the stage to a piece submitted by a woman who has chosen to beg to be held by a man, then that is actually a feminist strategy. Because, whether we like it or not (which doesn't matter anyway), many women, given the choice, want to stay home, or to be dependant on a guy, or other choices which may seem to be the anti-thesis of the mainstream feminism of independence and "liberation". Allowing women a space in which to voice themselves has to be inclusive of all women, and not just those who fit a certain profile. It may not make for good theater, but I think performing those pieces in which women seemed "weaker" or "whinier" was probably the ethical thing to do.