|Performing a piece celebrating the work of James Broughton aka Big Joy|
During the week leading up to gay pride weekend in San Francisco, I participated in FAETOPIA, a pop-up queer arts, ecology, theater and community center that ran June 21st – June 28th 2013 organized by members of the SF Radical Faerie community (in particular Kyle DeVries, Zac Benfield, & William Stewart). I was honored to perform 3 different performance pieces on 3 different nights in Faetopia and as a result get to connect with and view the work of many wonderful creative people. Faetopia coincided with The Frameline Film Festival, so I managed to also view 3 great documentaries on queer subject matter. Then to cap off this fabulously festive week, the Supreme Court made their ruling on Marriage Equality! It was a thrilling time to be in SF.
Part of my excitement for attending Faetopia was for the opportunity to perform a piece honoring the work of James Broughton. This year the documentary about him called BIG JOY was released in festival circuits, giving audiences a glimpse into the fascinating life of this most unusual filmmaker and poet. I had previously only known a mere sliver of his work, but thankfully the creation of this film brought more of his words and visuals to my attention. I had no idea just how powerfully his poetry would resonate with my being until I started researching his body of work. Mark Thompson, the gay activist-author and friend of James, urged me to focus my attention on a section of his writing titled "Hymns To Hermes."
Broughton gave up the opportunity to be a Hollywood film director (offered to him after he won the 1954 Cannes Film Festival's Award for Experimental Film, which was handed to him by none other than my favorite artiste Jean Cocteau - I love that connection), and moved to San Francisco to be part of the beat generation of poets. Broughton's poetry is a feast of the senses and a expression of a joyous, witty, free spirit.
I was quickly able to find 5 poems that I felt could be constructed into a short performance piece that had it's own built in story-arc of sorts. I had just a week to work on staging and memorizing the poems I selected from "Hymns to Hermes." I was inspired by the visuals of one of his films, "Dreamwood" and so used images from the film to inform my performance. I made the performance a bit like a ritual, in which I sacrifice a bird that symbolizes my body. I then reach into the bird and pull out strands of colored beads and pearls instead of guts. I then ripped the wings off the bird, turned them inside out to reveal rainbow feathers and placed them upon my feet like the wings of Hermes. I then hoisted my legs into the air and invoked Hermes to make love to me (as Broughton's poem so aptly describes). Finally I rose back to my feet and recited Broughton's passionate piece urging Hermes to "relight our blithe birthright."
The performance went extremely well. I was so lost in the moment, only afterwards in talking with friends did I recognize how much "hissing" there was throughout the performance. Hissing, by the way, is a very good thing for the Radical Faeries, it's a way of subtle cheering without interrupting the flow of energy that clapping would. I also meet Broughton's partner, Joel Singer, whom greatly enjoyed the performance and gave me permission to create a full-length show based on Broughton's works. I had not intended to create a show, but after reading many of his works, I found that they inspired me to create an hour long performance. In the same way that I created "Cavafy's Caress" based on the poetry of Constantine P. Cavafy, I am now excited to develop a piece utilizing Broughton's words and imagery to create a one-man show - a delicious feast of words and visuals. And thus, a new mission is underway to do just that!
|with Joel Singer & Mark Thompson backstage after the performance|