Live Arts Festival: Untitled Feminist Show

By Wendy Rosenfield

It’s been an enlightening experience, seeing Charlotte Ford’s Bang at this year’s Live Arts Festival, and then, a week later, taking in Young Jean Lee Theater Company’s Untitled Feminist Show. Both feature naked women of childbearing age with average- to above-average proportions dancing, mugging, confronting the audience, and generally having a great time in their own skin.

But that’s not all they have in common. Both forego a linear storyline for alternating collaborative and individual vignettes, with feminism and its emphasis on community built into the performances’ very structure. It’s almost as though Bang functions as a warmup for Untitled Feminist Show. The themes examined there get bigger and bolder under Lee and company’s direction, and despite an absence of dialogue (unless you count two songs, one in Welsh and the other whose lyrics are “LaLaLa”) its message comes across loud and clear. This is Lee’s second Live Arts Festival entry--the first was 2007‘s Songs of Dragons Flying to Heaven, about Asian-American identity--and she approaches gender and ideas of femininity with a similar wry humor.

Its six performers--Becca Blackwell, Katy Pyle, Regina Rocke, Jen Rosenblit and Amelia Zirin-Brown--come in varying sizes, races and gender identifications, and dance themselves into spread-eagled tableaux beneath flickering videos of brightly colored abstractions, all to sound design that travels from pastoral classical to Royksopp’s electronica. 

The ensemble upends sexual fantasies with pantomimed sex acts that end badly for the recipient or bodies that literally become housecleaning machines, and a no-contact vibrating orgy sends one of its participants oscillating into the audience, transforming it into her own personal mosh pit. Each twist in the production reveals another take on female identity, as does each performer and each tattooed, pierced, cellulited, and/or muscled form. This is one time when it's okay to stare; in fact, it's just about impossible to look away.

Sept. 19-21, 9 p.m., Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St.