Summary~ On the first day of working as a disney princess in Disney world Florida you were too nervous to eat, little did you know that disney entertainers could be so wonderful
Word Count - 1426
Working in a disney resort has been your dream since you understood that the characters that wander around in the parks are actual people. You researched it for weeks trying to figure out all the ins and outs of auditioning as well as the best places to audition. You never expected to actually get a position but the audition was one of the best experiences of your life and when, only a week later, you got a phone call offering you the job of Ariel, working 7 days a week from 8 til 7, you just had to take it.
So, at 7.45am, you show up, early, just in case, causing you to miss breakfast, though you were to anxious to eat in the first place. The Magic Kingdom doesn’t officially open until 9 but everyone is expected in to help out with the hair make up and costumes, you, specifically, have a very ornate costume considering you are a mermaid for half the day and for the other half you get to actually use your legs.
As you walk into the back entrance you are hit by a sudden wave dizziness that you try to walk off but you end up loosing your footing and collapsing, but before you hit the ground you feel yourself being caught by someone.
When you regain consciousness you find yourself in a room with a heavy smile of hairspray and on some level paint. You sit up and look around seeing a bunch of make up benches and people in ridiculous costumes. The Disney entertainers dressing room.
“Hey, look who’s awake, hey there Sleeping Beauty,” a boy with an Australian accent, a blue shirt and holding a brown wig.
“Shut it, Lucas,” a girl dressed as Princess Aurora hisses with a smile eating a banana.
“Jesus, what time is it?” you ask.
“8.15,” the Lucas boy says.
“Aren’t you busy getting ready?” you question him.
“Boys don’t take as long as girls I just need to put on a wig and get my makeup done a little,” he grins. “Plus my new Ariel hasn’t shown up”
“So you’re my Eric,” you sit up properly.
“Ah, you were on time, I go by Luke when I don’t have the wig on, were you too nervous and you fainted?” he says.
“I din’t have breakfast this morning,” you admit.
“Here,” you turn only to have Cinderella throw a muffin at you, so surreal. “Eat up and head through to wardrobe and they’ll get you kitted out”
“I guess I’ll see you in the Grotto,” Luke smiles as you exit to get ready.
That morning you are guided out to ‘the Grotto’ where you are sat on a huge padded rock ready to meet any children that come by. You fall deeply in love with your costume; a shell bra that was at first odd to wear but is now fine, a beautiful red wig and most noticeably the shimmering tail that makes it insanely difficult to walk You think that Luke will be there already but he saunters in with only a few minutes before the grotto is open.
“You look different,” he grins. “Wait let me guess… you got your nails done”
“Ha ha, you’re so funny,” you roll your eyes.
“I know, that’s how I got the job as Eric,” he tells you. “It helped them look past my blonde hair, did you know that there are very few blonde disney princes”
“I’ve never really thought about it,” you chuckle.
“You know what else I think is funny, the fact that every Ariel I’ve worked with has had to be up on that rock a solid ten minutes before opening,” he leans against the fake rock wall.
“How many Ariels have you worked with?” you giggle.
“You’re the 3rd,” he tells me.
“Grotto is opening guys,” one of the employees says leaning into the room.
“Places Princess Ariel,” he winks.
The whole morning you have to try not to laugh or break character hearing Luke, who for the entirety of the time you’ve known him has had an Australian accent, speak in the most perfect disney prince American accent. He, however, has to do the same when you start talking in your squeaky princess Ariel voice.
“Last kid,” the employee says sending in a girl with a badge that says ‘7 today’.
She runs up to you, up the tiny stais up the side of the rock to hug you tightly.
“Hello there,” you announce, “And what’s your name?”
“Izzy,” she smiles.
“Well nice to meet you,” you say. “I’m Ariel”
“I know, you’re my favourite princess,” your heart swells.
“I see it’s your birthday, what did you ask for?” you ask.
“My mom brought me here, but I also asked for my own Prince Eric,” she exclaims.
“That’s a difficult present to get because there’s only one of him and I’m afraid I have him,” you say.
The two of you glance at him and he blushes scuffing his polished shoes along the floor.
“Ariel?” she says.
“Yes, Izzy?” you respond.
“Are you in love?”
That’s when Luke, or Eric, interjects, “I’m sorry, Izzy but Ariel needs her lunch”
“What does Ariel eat for lunch?” Izzy asks Lu- Eric.
“Sushi, I bet,” the little girls mother says taking her daughter’s hand.
You make an exaggerated gasp, “Of course not, I’m strictly non-pescetarian”
Luke chuckles as they leave, “You coming for lunch then,” his accent is thick again.
You cough trying to get rid of the cheesy voice, “Uh, can you help me down, it’s damn hard to walk in this frickin’ tail”
“Of course,” you expect him to give you a hand down but he full on lifts you bridal style and carries you into the dressing room again. “Don’t worry, you get changed after our 90 minute lunch break and you get to wear on of those flouncy dresses that all the girls seem to love wearing”
He puts you down near the costume department where there’s a dressing gown hung up with ‘Ariel’ embroidered on the front.
“I’ll let you change, the costume department don’t care as long as you hang the costume,” he says.
Before he leaves you stop him, “Uh, Luke,” he pops his head around the door. “Could you maybe unzip the tail for me?”
“Erm.. sure,” he crouches and swiftly unzips the tail as if he’s suddenly in a rush.
Lunch in the dressing room is strange, eating lunch with 7 or 8 grown adults who are dressed up as disney characters, this is going to be your usual day. You learn a lot that day, like how Peter pan is the most popular character with an older demographic, and how there’s a whole other dressing room for the disney villains and miscellaneous characters.
That afternoon you get changed into a fancy blue dress fit with a corset that is strangely comfortable, your hair is tied back with a blue bow ad you are given a pair of heels to walk in.
“You ready for the walk about?” Luke asks, waiting for you outside the costume rooms.
“The what?” you open the door and show him you dressed in your second costume.
“Wow,” he glances you up and down, “You do look a lot better in these puffy dresses than most of the prncessses”
“I don’t hink I’m going to get used to beng called a princess,” you giggle before repeating, “What’s the walk about?”
“Walking around the resort, getting to meet the kids outside of the grotto,” he explains.
“Ah, if I’m honest I’m just excited to hear your disney prince voice again”
The day goes well and by the end of your shift at 7 you are insanely tired.
You catch Luke waiting on you after you get changed out of the costume, you’d forgotten he’s blonde. You catch him fiddling with his lip in the mirror.
“What are you doing” you ask.
“Well I was waiting for you but I needed to put in my lip ring,” he turns to you to show the black ring in his lip.
Damn it’s attractive on him.
“Did you enjoy your first day, or are you going to bail on us already?” he grins.
“No, despite my fainting spell this morning, I’ve had a magical day,” you tell him.
“Well, to make sure you don’t faint again, I’ll make you a deal, I’ll meet you here, every day at 7.30 so we can have breakfast together,” he says.
imagine going to your first comice con, and meeting Tom and its super fluffy and romance happens <3
Awwww, I can do this one. Here is your one-shot, comin’ ‘atcha!
“You know I still don’t know what this thing is, right?”
Looking at your friend decked out in her Doctor Who ensemble, you raise your eyebrows at her as you see her adhere a celery stalk to the massive scarf she’s wearing.
“I don’t even wanna know,” you say, holding your hands up as you shake your head.
“You’re just not a cool kid like me,” she lulls, winking at you as you snicker playfully in her general direction.
“As long as I can take my crocheting and my book, I’m alright.”
“I mean, I’m not gonna make you leave them…but you really should. This thing is awesome.”
“Yeah, if you know what any of this stuff is,” you huff back.
“Just come on,” your friend urges, dragging you out of your apartment as you hastily grab your bag and slam the door behind you.
“Ok, ok, ok!” you squeal, the two of you barreling towards the elevator as it dings open, waiting for your presence.
“This is gonna be socool!” your friend squeals as she claps her hands.
“Suuuuuure…” you lull, shaking your head as you dig for your keys.
“You owe me a nice dinner,” you murmur, side-glancing your friend as she shakes her head.
2 hours later, the two of you were finally inside of…well, you weren’t exactly sure. It was just a sprawling convention center, filled to the brim with kiosks and people parading around in what were jaw-dropping costumes, ornately and painstakingly put together.
“Wow…” you murmur as you look around you.
“I know! Isn’t this awesome?” your friend says, taking your arm as you continue to rubber-neck around.
“I’m gonna go over here, I’ll meet you at the coffee stand over there in a couple of hours?”
A couple of hours!?
But before you could protest, your friend was off into the crowd, her long-ass scarf soon disappearing into the sea of people as you begin to get knocked around, people shoving their way past you as you try with all of your might to find an empty corner to stand in so that you could pull out your latest project.
But during your rubber-necking and your being shoved in every direction, you found yourself barreling down a corridor, letting out a sigh of relief as you sink up against the wall, sliding down to your butt as you begin to rummage in your bag.
“Finally,” you murmur, pulling out your crochet hook as you adjust your glasses on your face.
“You probably shouldn’t be back here,” a sultry voice says.
Sighing as you lift your eyes, you are met with the fuzzy outline of a sprawling man as you raise your head, your glasses leveling with his face as your eyebrows hike up on your face.
Now, you knew who this was.
Looking both ways down the corridor, you sigh heavily as your eyes lock back onto the sea of sounds wafting from the exit down to your right.
“I really can’t be back here?” you ask, your face dropping as you slowly pan your gaze back to him.
“’Fraid not,” he says, his eyes studying you as you lean your head back into the wall.
“Lemme guess: friend dragged you here. Feeling a bit overwhelmed?”
“That’s an understatement…” you trail off, throwing your yarn and hook back into your bag as you begin to try and stand.
“Here,” he says, dipping his hand down in front of you, “I believe I have a solution that helps all parties in play.”
Looking at Mr. Hiddleston’s hand, you swallow hard as you put your tiny hand into his sprawling palm as he grasps your skin tightly, helping you to your feet as you raise your head to lock onto his eyes again.
“Follow me,” he says, keeping hold of your hand as your eyes widen lightly.
“Hold on,” you say, wrenching your hand from his grasp as he turns around, his eyes widening in shock lightly as you recoil back a step.
“I know who you are. And just because you are who you are doesn’t mean I know you enough to trust you,” you begin as you study his taut stance, “how do I know you’re not gonna…”
“Not gonna what?” he asks, a playful glint in his eye sparking a childish feeling within your gut as you sigh heavily.
“I just don’t know you, know you. That’s all,” you admit.
“I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed with your surroundings,” he admits, his body turned fully toward you now as he reaches his hand out once more, “and I promise you can trust me.”
Looking down at his hand as you begin to chew on your lower lip, you cautiously place your hand back in his as he begins to walk in front of you once more.
“Just around the corner…” he lulls as the two of you turn the corner down a windowed hallway.
“And we’re here,” he says, sprawling his long arms out as he stands in front of a door.
“And where’s here?” you ask.
“My dressing room. I have a surprise appearance that I’m doing for a conference that’s happening, but that’s not for a couple more hours.”
“You’re offering me your dressing room?” you ask, stunned.
“I mean, I’ll be in there, i-if that’s alright,” he begins as he brings his hand to the back of his neck and begins to rub, “but I’ll just be reading a book.”
Well, you didn’t have to meet your friend for a couple more hours.
“Sounds lovely,” you muse.
“Wonderful,” he smiles, opening the door for you as he ushers you in.
“After you,” he says as you begin to step into the room.
Walking into the room as you begin to look around, you hear the door close behind you before a burst of body heat radiates onto your back.
“Sit anywhere you’d like,” Tom offers.
Spotting an oversized chair in the corner, you make your way for it as you drop your bag down, retrieving your prior yarn and hook as you sit onto the cushion, curling your feet up under you as Tom begins to move about the room.
“Care for a blanket?” he asks.
“That would be really nice, thank you,” you smile, watching as he spreads a blanket over your legs, tucking it up underneath your knees as you watch him carefully.
“Thanks,” you smile lightly, your eyes meeting his once again as a slow blush creeps across his cheeks.
“Not a problem,” he says.
The first 15 minutes of awkward silence were rough, but as you began to sink into a steady rhythm with your crocheting, you hear Tom pipe up from beside you.
“What are you making?” he asks.
“A few pairs of fingerless gloves for a friend of mine,” you muse, thinking back to your best friend who was probably dying to get autographs as you sat here in a closed-off room with one of the most handsome men to take over Hollywood.
“And what would one need fingerless gloves for?” Tom asks.
You heard him put his book down.
“Usually they’re just a fashion statement, like pockets that are sewed shut on pants or watches that don’t tell time.”
“So…pointless?” he questions.
You found yourself giggling lightly.
“I think so. But in my friend’s case, it’s to cover up some gnarly scars she got in a car accident a few months back. She’s usually alright with them, but some days she’s gets a bit self-conscious.”
“I’m so sorry for your friend’s accident,” he muses lowly.
“Me, too. I uh…I almost…”
Bringing your hand up and wiping at a tear that was threatening to wash over your face, you shake your head lightly as you clear your throat.
“Anyway, I figured it would be a nice birthday present to surprise her with,” you finish.
“She’s lucky to have a wonderful friend like you.”
“And I’m lucky to have her.”
As silence descends upon the room once more, you grunt lightly as you shift yourself, turning your body completely towards Tom as you continue to work your way around the circle you were creating.
“You’re really fast with that,” Tom pipes up again.
“I’ve been doing it a long time,” you muse.
“Since I started college.”
“What made you start?” Tom asks.
“You were bored in college?” Tom snickers lightly.
“The weekends, yeah. I was never the bar-n-club type of person. I preferred staying in and having movie marathons or reading books, or maybe going and getting a cheap hotel somewhere and exploring a new town. I never enjoyed getting drunk or having one-night-stands.”
You felt his eyes on you as you slowly lift your gaze to him.
“What?” you ask.
But you saw him catch himself as you adjust your glasses to see him better.
“Just what?” you ask, a shadow of a grin creeping across your cheeks.
“You’re just…different,” he muses.
“Is that a nice way of saying ‘weird’?” you ask as you dip your head back down to your crocheting.
“Not at all,” he muses lowly.
“Then…thank you,” you say kindly, nodding your head as the grin overtakes the blushing of your cheeks.
But you could still feel his stare on you.
“Yes, Mr. Hiddleston?” you muse playfully.
“You just…haven’t ‘fangirled’ yet.”
“Yikes. Is that an actual verb?” you chuckle.
“In my line of work, yes.”
“No worries, I’m screaming on the inside,” you say, raising your eyes and winking playfully at him.
What are you doing!?!
“Oh, really? And what does that look like?” Tom asks playfully.
“You want me to ‘fangirl’ for you?” you ask, furrowing your brow.
“I’m now curious to know what it looks like,” he admits.
Sighing playfully, you roll your eyes as you hear Tom’s chuckle fill the room.
“Alright,” you breathe, tossing your project off to the side as you stand up and walk over to him.
“Aaaaand…scene!” Tom says, clapping his hands in front of him as you shake your head at him.
“Oh my god!” you squeal as you bring your hands to your hair, “Oh my god. It’s Tom! Tom Hiddleston! Aaaahhhhh!”
As Tom’s chuckle grows to a roaring laughter, you roll your eyes into the back of your head playfully as you swing your body around, “fainting” onto the floor as you sprawl your arm over your forehead, the other one dangling off of to the side.
“Ehehehehehehehe!” Tom giggles.
Hopping back up with a smile on your face, you take an overstated bow as Tom claps his hands for you before throwing them back over his mouth in a feeble attempt to calm his laughter.
“Oh, my god,” he says as he shakes his head, “that was beautiful.”
“Nailed it?” you ask as you hold your arms out, cocking your head to the side as you playfully grin at him.
“No more takes needed,” he muses, his eyes locking with yours as you clear your throat and drop your arms back off to your side.
“Well, there’s my best ‘fangirl’ demonstration,” you lull, making your way back to your chair as Tom’s gaze follows your body.
Picking your crochet project back up from the corner of the chair, you flop down and cross your legs, re-situating the blanket over them as you begin to feverishly untangle the knotted yarn sitting in your lap.
“Damn it,” you grumble, furrowing your brow deep as your glasses begin to slide down the bridge of your nose.
“Everything alright?” he asks.
“Just these stupid knots…” you sigh lowly.
“Here,” Tom says as he comes over and pats your leg, “scoot over.”
Feeling a light blush creep up to your cheeks, you put your hands down and shift over as his warm body descends beside yours, his leg firmly pressed up against your thigh as his hand comes into your view, dipping into your lap as he grabs the small ball of yarn.
Looking up at the profile of his face, his eyes concentrated on the yarn in between his fingers, you study the imperfections in his skin…the wrinkles of time, the light scar above his eyebrow, the small freckles from months of son and years of photography flashes…
“Y/N?” you hear him call.
Shaking your head lightly, your focus comes back as your eyes descend upon an amused grin, Tom’s face turned towards yours as his eyes dance around your face.
“I believe you’re ‘fangirling,’” he smirks.
“Sorry,” you breathe, ripping your gaze from him as you dip your furiously blushing face back to your lap.
And then he found himself staring at you.
Your Y/C/H hair falling lightly in your face as your mesmerizing Y/C/E eyes squinting ever so lightly as your tongue darts out to lick your lips, concentrating furiously on the knotted yarn in your lap as your nimble fingertips work their way slowly through the frustrating ball of mess.
“Tom?” you smile lightly, your eyes side-glancing him as you see him shake his head lightly, breaking himself from his own trance.
“I believe you’re ‘fangirling’,” you mock, trying on your best accent as Tom’s low chuckle rumbles and ricochets through your stomach, warming your insides as your skin begins to stand on end.
“Then I suppose I finally know what that feels like,” he muses.
Giggling as you turn your head, you meet his eyes once again as his beautiful orbs dance across your face, your breath catching in your chest as you try to still your trembling body.
“Do you enjoy tea?” Tom asks.
“Never had it,” you breathe lightly.
“Would you care to try it sometime? With me?” he asks, his puppy-dog eyes setting in as your eyebrows hike up lightly on your forehead.
“What if I don’t like it?”
What if you don’t like it!?!
“Well,” he says as he begins to chuckle, his body faltering lightly as a smile begins to play across his cheeks, “then we could always abandon it for food. You do like food, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes,” you breathe, your neck flushing red as Tom holds your gaze heavily.
“Wonderful. So, tea and/or food after my surprise appearance? Possibly tonight?” he asks.
“Sounds-…sounds great,” you nod lightly.
Breaking the trance as you breathlessly giggle, you dip your face as you press your lips together tightly, suppressing the broad smile that was threatening to encompass your face as the playful fan within you began to rise up within your throat.
Suddenly you found yourself incredibly self-conscious.
And as you watch Tom resume the unraveling of your knotted mess of yarn, your eyes once again begin to take stock of the profile of his face, your eyes drifting to his broad shoulders before slowly descending over his chest, slowly making their way down his arms all the way to his steadily-working fingertips.
Tom Hiddleston had just asked you out on a date.
And as the smile you could no longer suppress finally takes over, leaving your eyes barely able to see as you resume your knot-picking alongside him, you begin to feel his leg lightly pressing into you every so often as he shifts closer and closer, slowly closing the distance before your arms were bumping up against one another’s.
“Comfortable?” you playfully ask, your eyes scooping over to him as you take in the spontaneous flush of his cheeks.
“Very,” he rumbles, his eyes never leaving the yarn as he holds the end up in triumph.
“I believe this…is yours,” he says proudly, handing you the end as your eyes sparkle with delight
“My hero,” you playfully muse, laying your head back as your eyes lock with his once more.
Ten Things I Learned About History from Taylor Mac
Review by Ethan Philbrick
Last month I was one of the lucky ones who got to
see Taylor Mac’s performances of “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music:
1900s–1920s” and “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1930s–1950s” at New
York Live Arts. Over the course of the two three-hour-plus “performance art
concerts” (Mac periodically reminded the audience that this was the preferred
appellation for the genre he was working in) I found myself jotting down notes
into my phone. I hadn’t planned on
writing about the piece, but it felt somehow appropriate—perhaps it was because
I happened to be sitting next to a critic from the Washington Post for the
1900s-1920s, and her journalist’s gaze was infectious? Or perhaps it was because there was something
wonderfully teach-y about the evening’s high-camp costumes, vocal gymnastics,
and participatory propositions that seemed to beg for some pleasurably dutiful
Mac’s 24-decade undertaking is indeed perversely
professorial—like an undergrad United States cultural history survey you never
dared dream up, complete with plenty of sex jokes, non-normative figures and interpretations,
searing social criticism, cocktails, gently forced participatory activities
with cute strangers, and virtuosic singing and dancing. In development for the past couple of years,
Mac plans to perform the entire cycle—24 decades of popular music (from
1776-2016) in 24 hours—at an as of yet undisclosed large venue in 2016. In the meantime, Mac will be performing
shorter iterations, such as evenings that tackle three decades at a time (each
decade forming a one hour act in themselves) and six-hour mini-marathons of six
decades (attempted for the first time as the closing Sunday matinee performance
of the NYLA run).
There is much to be loved in these performances:
Mac’s costumes, conceived and constructed by Machine Dazzle, are brilliant both
for their gaudy grandeur and their conceptually incisive details (Dazzle also
made a guest appearance as “the moon” during the 1910s, his exposed ass cheeks
slathered with silver glitter and gyrating across the stage); the band, led by
musical director and arranger Matt Ray is tight and emotionally responsive
(Amber Gray’s vocals and Bernice “Boom Boom” Brooks’s work on percussion
especially stood out); and Mac is the kind of song stylist that delivers a
lyric with so much care and life that even the most tired and played-out tune
sounds as if you’re encountering it for the very first time. Yet within this
swirl of pleasure and entertainment, there is also something quite serious at
stake, something that we might hazard to call the politics of historical knowledge. There were lessons folded within the campy
participatory exercises, theoretical propositions stashed within rambling
monologues. I offer the following list
in pursuit of these mercurial insights.
1. “History is subjective”
Mac uttered this phrase repeatedly
during judy’s between song monologues/rants/lessons (during the 1920s Mac
clarified that “judy” is judy’s preferred pronoun). The first time was when judy was clarifying
that the title of the project was “A 24-hour
history, not the 24-hour history.”
The distinction between a definite and indefinite article is always a political
one, and in this case it clarified that Mac’s project was about expansive
partiality—a one of many possible ones—rather than authoritative mastery—the
official one and only. In a world according to judy, history is only ever a history, for as one says, “history is
subjective.” It is a story that gets told (or as Gilles Deleuze might say,
“history is fabulation”—and there is much fabulating in Mac’s piece). The
phrase returned throughout the performances, but it took on a bit of a
different meaning. Mac repeated “history
is subjective” with a shrug of the shoulders just after judy made off-hand
historical proclamations that could be taken as controversial or scandalous. In this sense, “history is subjective” comes
to mean, “history is conflictual”: history is an ongoing site of disagreement,
of argument, of contest.
2. History = Accumulation
Mac adorned judy’s-self in a unique
Machine Dazzle outfit for each decade. As
judy made judy’s way through the decades, parts of each costume (ornate
headdresses, sequined shawls, giant felt fortune cookies) were discarded around
the stage. These costume elements, along
with any props that were used in the performance (severed hands, bandages,
balloons), were never cleared from the stage, instead accumulating under foot
and in the gaps between band members. The 1930s–1950s performance began with
the detritus of the 1900s–1920s continuing to riddle the stage.Each decade followed the next, but the
past was never fully past—lingering around, piling up, and persisting (much
could be said about Mac as a 21st century embodiment of Walter
Benjamin’s “angel of history,” singing and dancing through the wreckage). Along the way some things got submerged and
covered up—a fortune cookie here, a plastic severed arm there; while other
things reemerged and surprised through the accumulated assemblage—during the
1920s, balloons covered the floor and were sporadically popping in the heat of
the stage lights, sending quivers throughout the decade like post-traumatic,
shell-shocked WWI flashbacks in the midst of a swinging party.
3. History is exhausting
While Mac may not be attempting to be
exhaustive, judy definitely strives toward the exhausting. Mac has a history of creating long
performances. Prior to judy’s plan for a 24-hour/24-decade marathon performance
art concert, Mac’s play “Lily’s Revenge”clocked
in at around five hours. During the performance of 1900s-1920s at NYLA, judy
justified this propensity for long durations by explaining that judy believes
“something happens” when an event lasts longer than it is expected to—something
else is opened up, another kind of attention or experience becomes possible. To perform three-hours of three-decades worth
of popular music non-stop (let alone six-hours of six-decades worth, or
24-hours of 24-decades worth) is exhausting, for both audience and performers
(although presumably especially for the performers). There is something of this exhaustion and
duration in the act of historical thinking itself—history weighs on the body
and strains the voice. Things break
down, but perhaps they also break open.
4. “History is what hurts”
(Frederic Jameson, The Political
At the end of the 1930s, Mac left the
stage, and Amber Gray, a black actress and singer who performed background
vocals for both shows, came into a spotlight and sang Abel Meeropol’s lynching
lament “Strange Fruit” (made famous as a song of protest by Billie Holiday). With Gray’s performance—gripping and assured,
hard consonants like slaps at the end of words (pluck, suck, rot, drop,
crop)—the history accumulating before us rearticulated itself as a history of
racialized violence and resistance. As
Gray sang, the American songbook exposed itself as a history of struggle. Popular music became a painful terrain of
both violent exploitation and insurgent maneuvers, and yet it was a historical
hurt that persisted and resisted beyond appropriative closure.
5. Tear it apart and put it back
together; or “secret subversion techniques”
When introducing judy’s performance of “Keep the
Home Fires Burning” during the 1910s, Mac outlined judy’s basic interpretive
procedure for approaching a popular song that contained particularly noxious
lyrical content (in this song’s case, the pledge of feminine support and
obedience to a militarized masculinity).
The steps were roughly as follows:
–read it generously
in its historical context, see what you find
–pick it apart, tear
it down, blow it up, see what you find
–put it back
together with perversity and pleasure, see what you find
This procedure of course precedes Mac. It is a well-worn artistic tactic (and
survival strategy) for those who are subjugated and diminished by mass
culture—think camp, think various forms of parody from below. For example, “Keep the Home Fires Burning”
went from being a declaration of feminine obsequiousness to the US military
machine, to becoming an ode to lesbian love and desire, culminating in a
raucous rendition dedicated to butches and bull dykes. While performing a “concentration camp
cabaret” filled with upbeat Hollywood hits that were popular during the 1940s,
Mac framed the songs with explications of a list of “secret subversion
techniques”—tactics for creating culture so subversive that those in positions
of power can’t even read it as such.
This impulse to share strategies, tactics, and techniques is part of the
generosity of Mac’s historical pedagogy—as if to say, “ok, here’s mine; now you
go make yours.”
6. Irony-Sincerity, or Getting Campy
in the Camp
It has become a platitude to say that
the Nazi regime’s concentration camps were a horror beyond representation. Scholars and artists argue that the voracity
of the necrophilic extermination witnessed in the camps defies historical
figuration and narrative, that our words and memories break down when faced
with the reality of genocide and mass killing.
Yet Mac’s performance suggests that this should not be our point of
arrival, but perhaps where we begin—the question is what to do with this
unrepresentablility. One of Mac’s
answers in the 1940s portion of the evening was to take up the legacy of
cabaret performers who were interned in camps and dive into the abyssal horror
with the “secret subversive strategies” that I mentioned above in hand. Judy got campy in the camp (two blond
audience members were invited on stage and given sequined swastika armbands for
a carriage ride through the German countryside while Mac sang a rousing
rendition of Rogers & Hammerstein’s “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top”).
Yet even within these layers of cutting and humorous irony, there was something
in the intensity of judy’s voice that bordered on the real. Mac’s voice overflowed with force within the
height of a song’s climax—there was a thrill and a terror in judy’s belt as it
became almost a bellow. There were
moments in Mac’s performance in which irony and sincerity seemed to oscillate
in such rapid succession as to render them simultaneous. Perhaps this is what
historical consciousness feels like?
7. Figurative/Literal, or
The literal and the figurative seemed
to cross throughout Mac’s performance.
During the 1930s, Mac didn’t just tell a narrative that wove a
representation of poverty, shanty-towns, and soup lines, judy asked the audience
to form two lines and make their way to the stage (which judy informed us would
be acting as a shanty town), stopping by other audience members who had been
singled out to hold large soup pots and receive some charitable soup (actually
a bag of peanuts because as Mac reported, “we didn’t have a budget for real
soup this time around”). Moments of
instruction for audience participation such as this were typically accompanied
by a beat of generalized hesitation in which Mac would utter something encouraging
like, “I’m serious, I want you to actually
do it.” When the audience eventually arrived on the shantytown stage, Mac
made sure that we were all aware that this was only “metaphorical poverty”
(indeed most of the tickets for the NYLA performances were $75 a piece, two or
three times as much as the typical Downtown performance). In judy’s history, we were asked to reallydo things with our bodies (“I want you
to actually do it”), but what we were
really doing wasn’t real. Perhaps one
name for this confusion is theatricality—an ambivalence already captured in the
double-ness of the verb “to act” in the English language: to act is both to do
and to feign, suggesting that there is a doing in feigning, a feigning in
doing. Mac’s performances seemed to argue
that there is a theatricality to historical knowledge—that to know is a kind of
acting—a productive confusion between doing and feigning, literality and
figuration, acting and acting.
8. Collectivity and Precarity
Mac outlined the primary lesson of “A
24-Decade History of Popular Music” early on, almost in passing. As judy introduced one of judy’s first songs
in the 1900s–1920s, judy said something to the effect of, “this whole thing is
basically about community in adversity, people coming together in
hardship.” Mac ended the first night by
telling a story of the experience that motivated the entire project—attending
one of the first AIDS walks in San Francisco when judy was an adolescent. The entire series is a kind of active
meditation on the ways in which surprising and powerful collectivities emerge
within precarious and violent situations.
For Mac, the historical impulse is also the collective impulse—an
impulse to reenact, recreate, or fabricate intense collective experiences, be
they political or artistic.
9. History as a critique of the
During the 1920s portion, Mac
performed a version of the 1926 Irving Kaufman number, “Masculine Women!
Feminine Men!” Rather than perform this
ode to gender anxiety “straight,” Mac used it as an opportunity to critique
contemporary gender politics and anxieties around mis-gendering (both within
heternormative and gender non-conforming scenes). Between verses of the song, Mac turned the
song’s anxiety on its head to make a variety of arguments for more ambiguous
relationships to gender—outlining judy’s own gender identity as “neither male,
nor female, but performer” and
inviting two audience members to try to pick each other up using pick up lines
typically meant for the gender that they assumed the other person wasn’t (later
instructing the entire audience to do the same with whoever was sitting next to
them). During the 1950s, Mac staged
white flight from the urban core by asking all white audience members to go to
the edges of the seating area (now deemed suburbia), while all audience members
of color were invited to inhabit the central area (the inner city). Towards the end of the decade, Mac informed
the queer, white audience members that it was now time for them to run away
from suburbia and find a newly gay life within the inner city, but given the
demographic distribution of Mac’s audience, this meant that (even as Mac
warned, “don’t gentrify!”) a whole bunch of queer white people were now
joyfully descending upon a relatively small group of people of color, literally
displacing them with their bodies. While
not necessarily clear whether or not the exercise was offered as a critique of
the role of white queers in patterns of gentrification and displacement within
communities of color in contemporary US cities (let alone whether it was
experienced as a critique by a majority of audience members), the situation
produced the viscerally discomforting conditions of possibility for such a
critique to emerge.
10. Audience participation is a thing
Mac’s performance also offered an
opportunity to think historically about the present. History adheres to form and style. Almost every song included some sort of
audience participation—for example, during the 1900s, the audience immigrated
with Mac from Eastern Europe (the house seats) to American tenement houses (the
stage) and provided sound effects for Mac’s performance, while during the
1910s, people who identified as men between the ages of 18 and 40 were asked to
come on stage and provide a backdrop of soldiers in WWI trenches while those
still in their seats sang along from a giant scroll. Mac is not alone in engaging with forms of
audience participation (otherwise known as performances with audiences,
interactive theatre, participatory performance, etc.). Made especially clear by the rise to
dominance of Punch Drunk’s “Sleep No More” and its various imitators within
commercial theater, the position of the audience, and of spectatorship more
generally, has long been a site of ambiguous disavowal. Participation is a “thing” right now and
Mac’s performance offered a ripe forum to think about it.
Mac’s performance felt almost as if judy was a teacher or director and we were
a freshman acting improvisation class (or perhaps high school chorus) that judy
was free to use as judy pleased. Mac
would instruct us to do something and we would comply (or not). It was a bit pedagogical, a bit playful, and
a bit coercive. There was pleasure in watching people get told to do things, an
excitement in fulfilling Mac’s instructions for others to see. To hazard an explanation: perhaps
participation is “in” because we are living through a moment in which we are
subject to overwhelmingly opaque and unarticulated vectors of control from
every interface and relation and within this moment there is a delight (and
perhaps a critical potentiality) in this control suddenly appearing explicit
and easily apparent. Mac begins each show by admitting that judy hates audience
participation—that it feels like people forcing their fun on you: if you
participate you’re a conformist and if you don’t you’re a party pooper. Yet even with this knowledge, Mac ventures
into the ambivalent participatory terrain of control and submission, pleasure
and discomfort, and I was thankful for it.
Because as judy asserts (and I agree), “it’s different when I ask you do it.”
Taylor Mac’s “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1900s–1920s” and “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1930s–1950s” at New York Live Arts, January 13 - 25, 2015.
Ethan Philbrick is a
scholar and performer based in Brooklyn. He is currently a PhD candidate
in Performance Studies at New York University completing a dissertation on the
shifting conditions of collective artistic and political praxis in the
1970s. He has previously served as the assistant editor of TDR: The Drama
Review and is currently a member of the Women and Performance editorial
collective. His work has been published by TDR and BOMB. He has performed
in New York at SculptureCenter, BRIC, NYU Performance Studies, and Sophia
Cleary’s REHEARSAL at CAGE.
Looks like we have another sketch! It looks to be official.
The ornate costume consists of a sheer, crystal-encrusted bodysuit, featuring a deep plunge to show off a white bra. White stiletto knee-high boots adorned with white fur and snowflake-style wings complete the gorgeous ensemble.
A/N: Happy Famiversary, everyone! And happy Valdaya Mini Bang! I just want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this great event and be a part of this famdom. (I know that sounds cheesy, but I honestly, feel so lucky to be a member of this great, creative, funny, wise, community. Also, I want to make a giant shoutout to my amazing collaborators on this work, Yolanda (aka itsmslady86love and Nikki (aka livelovevaldaya for not only their amazing work, but their tremendous support, as well. itsmslady86love has really created an amazing, visual masterpiece for you all, and she is SO SUPER talented. I am BEYOND lucky that she chose my work. And livelovevaldaya has been so lovely and helpful throughout this process, I cannot thank her enough. So thank you ladies!
As far as the story goes, I will admit this is my first time writing anything “scandalous”, and I honestly, understand now why that is so. I am so painfully awkward in writing it that it is quite embarrassing, so maybe just skip that part. Haha
WARNINGS: language, graphic imagery, sexual situations, angst, obvious fools, and feels
What annoys me the most about the restaged tour is how much time and money was spent on remodeling beautiful, existing costumes, by picking bodices and skirts apart, and/or removing all decorations. The main result is that the costumes ends up looking unfinished and sometimes cheap. And this has taken A LOT OF MONEY to achieve. And they want us to bow and applaud their amazing tour wardrobe. Yes, it WAS amazing. Was. Before you attacked it with scissors.
Take the Carlotta’s Notes/Managers dresses. They removed all the piping decorations on the bodice and skirt - a faint imprint can still be seen in the crimson velvet on the red dress. The red dress is now also used in the first act instead of the second act, and the b/w in the second act, in what appears to be change for the sake of change. This doesn’t add anything to the character of Carlotta. In fact, they remove an important feature of these dresses - such piping was inspired by soldier uniforms, and tells us that Carlotta is ready for battle. It’s not by accident both her first and second act manager’s dress has this kind of decoration. Without it Carlotta can of course still be feisty, but the immediate visual hint is gone.
The Masquerade costumes is another story. The ornate, allegorical costumes were stripped down and remodeled, to become more streamlined ballroom creations. For this they HAD a specific idea. But why then insisting on using Maria Bjørnson’s creations, and call them hers, when it’s not what she designed and not what they wanted? Why not use for example the Don Juan Rehearsal Victorian costumes with masks and cloaks? It would have made more sense. And it would have hurt less. AND it would have been cheaper yet looked way more classy.
There’s also more tongue-in-cheek changes, like transforming Masquerade’s Monkey Girl into Satyr pants for the Il Muto ballet. I don’t really mind this one. It’s amusing more than anything.
But overall, the changes done to the originally very ornate costumes must have cost them quite a bit. And ironically, the costumes ended up looking cheaper, and has lost a lot of symbolism. I really don’t understand the philosophy behind it. With as detailed sketches Maria Bjørnson made for each costume, often showing both front and back and the specific accessories, it’s definitely not a matter of having “misunderstood” her instructions or that they “found designs in her archive that she created for the original and never used” (quote Cameron Mackintosh).
I’m sure these costumes works fine on stage. But when you call them Maria Bjørnson’s design and intentionally spent a lot of money to make them less like her design, I’m not gonna applaud and say the costumes are SPECTACULAR.
“She wears these fantastic, glamorous costumes. These ornate costumes with this glam hair and makeup. She’s fierce and she looks kind of drag. I mean, that’s what I love about her because I’m one to love drag queens.”- Lana Parrilla