Alyson Campbell – The Butch Monologues: performance as a bridge from ‘border wars’ to ‘playground’

The Butch Monologues, by Laura Bridgeman, directed by JulieMc McNamara. Theatre Works, Melbourne, 2019. L-R Fiona Jones, Anne Harris, Quinn Eades, Jax Jacki Brown, Jacques de Vere. Photo by Margherita Coppolino.

Presentation

Alyson Campbell

University of Melbourne

The Butch Monologues: performance as a bridge from ‘border wars’ to ‘playground’

In this paper I look at The Butch Monologues (TBM) by Laura (Doc) Bridgeman, directed by JulieMc McNamara (Mack) (2013 – present). Based mainly on interview with the writer and director, and my own multiple viewings of the work, I examine how the collection and, more precisely, the productions of it, make an intervention into the very painful contemporary context, and history, of “‘border wars’ between butch lesbian and trans men” (Mackay, 2019b, p.399; and see Halberstam, 1998). I suggest that TBM manage to blur these borders, or at least niggle this negative framing, and I argue that the stories it tells, and the invitation to assemble and produce a form of kinship –  however temporary or tentative – are more vital than ever, given this current tension.

Keywords: The Butch Monologues (TBM), butch identities, trans masculinity, temporality, queer dramaturgy, assembly.

Alyson Campbell is a freelance director and dramaturg whose work spans a broad range of companies and venues in Australia and the UK over the last 30 years. She has collaborated most closely with Sydney playwright Lachlan Philpott since their production of his play Bison in 2000, creating queer assemblage wreckedAllprods with him in 2001. She  is an Associate Professor in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, and her research, artistic practice as a director, teaching and activism converge around gender and sexuality, particularly queer performance and dramaturgies and contemporary representations of HIV and AIDS. She has written widely on these areas, most notably co-editing the collection Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer (Palgrave, 2015) with Stephen Farrier, RCSSD. She now likes to write about feral pedagogies and is passionate about Feral Queer Camping.

Ian Rafael Ramirez – Remembering the Utopian Performativity in Today x Future in Manila

Presentation

Ian Rafael Ramirez

University of Melbourne

Remembering the Utopian Performativity in Today x Future in Manila

Drawing from my past experiences on being in Today x Future (TxF) – a renowned club in Metropolitan Manila, Philippines where Filipino members of the queer community gather – this presentation analyzes TxF as a site of performing queer futurity in the here and now. In this sense, this presentation is a looking into the past, a tracing back not only of the performances of an embodied queer community in the said space but also its historicity. This includes the changes in the landscape of TxF’s demographics, imposed restrictions over the years, and its dawning future. Specifically, this presentation aims at addressing the questions: How does the embodied queer community in TxF perform utopia? How does TxF transform modalities and actualize the utopia of queer futurity? To what extent can utopia be performed in this kind of space? The interest of this presentation is also in the critique of the club’s trademark – “The Future is Now”. Furthermore, the presentation relies on the act of remembrance as a way to challenge the “here and now” and envision a “then and there”. For this purpose, Jose Esteban Munoz’s notion of utopian performativity plays a central role in analyzing the performances of queer futurity in TxF. 

Ian Rafael Ramirez.Ian’s interest is on queer performances, performativities, and dramaturgies. His current research project is an inquiry towards the drag and gay pageant communities in Metro Manila, Philippines. At present, he is undertaking the Executive Master of Arts at the University of Melbourne.

Lizzie Thomson – Back into the Closet: Intimate Gatherings of Non-Heroic Activism

Presentation

Lizzie Thomson

UNSW

Back into the Closet: Intimate Gatherings of Non-Heroic Activism 

This paper will consider the pertinence of Closet Dramas to our contemporary lives and contemporary performance practices. It will look back to the work of Early Modern Women Closet Dramatists in England, when the possibilities of women playwrights staging their plays professionally in theatres was near impossible. In what could be interpreted as acts of defiance and ingenuity, women wrote plays that did not need the patriarchal space of the stage but were shared through the non-spectacular mode of domestic playreadings. Without costumes, sets, or actors acting, these unconventional plays were written and read inside women’s closets. This private, domestic space could become a politically charged site for feminist resistance, imagination, experimentation and potentiality. These written plays opened up space for women to critically engage with political discourse and to envision ideas of gender that deviated from normative expectations. The small gatherings of intimate playreadings enabled women to develop ‘micro-publics’ where they could safely, and subversively, communicate and develop their ideas. The content of these plays, such as Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure written in 1668, often explored queer relationships and utopian, feminist communities. 

I am particularly interested in how these closet dramas reflect women playwrights’ will to pursue writing and performance practices, in spite of the societal limitations in which they lived. The closet can operate as both a prison that restricts women’s access to publics and politics, but also as an unsupervised, uncensored haven for performative innovation and expression. I am also interested in how the closet drama enables interrogation into the relationship between writing and embodiment. As Nick Salvato points out, the closet drama exists as a ‘mode at the threshold between writing and performance’ (Salvato, Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance, p. 5). 

In this short paper, I aim to draw connections between aspects of women’s closet dramas – including subtle modes of feminist activism and exploration of the relationships between words, embodiment, writing and performing – with the work of contemporary choreographers Mette Edvardsen (Norway) and Siriol Joyner (Cymru/Wales). 

Lizzie Thomson is a choreographer, performer and researcher living and working on Gadigal and Wangal lands of the Eora Nation. Over the past 20 years, she has performed throughout Australia and Europe with many artists including Rosalind Crisp, Agatha Gothe-Snape, Mette Edvardsen, Jane McKernan, Nikki Heywood, Brian Fuata and Marina Abramovic. Her choreographic work is driven by interests in affinities between dance and language, as well as in the political potency of practices of attention. Lizzie is undertaking a PhD in dance theory at the University of NSW. Her writing on dance has been published in books, journals and exhibition catalogues.