Playwright Young Jean Lee strips down to naked truth with Untitled Feminist Show

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Harbourfront Centre just recently announced that they would be housing the Canadian premier of Brooklyn-based playwright Young Jean Lee critically acclaimed work, “UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW”. Running from February 12-15, the show is without dialogue, clothing or traditional gender signifiers on stage.

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The cast consists of five women and one gender non-conforming person; whom come from all different backgrounds artistically. For the entire 60 minutes of the show, all the cast members are nude. This nude performance engages the audience to embrace the bold celebration of the body in all its free forms and all its flesh and glory. It asks us to live in a feminist fantasy where bodies can exist free of shame.

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I recently had the chance to chat with Young Jean Lee about her premiere run of the show here in Toronto. Check out the interview below:

(1) With “Untitled Feminist Show”, you use the nude body as a form of expression. Is this to show how vulnerable we are as people?

For me, the starting point of the show was the desire to see performers with a range of realistic female-coded body types who were 100% confident, fierce, and fabulous. Women are trained to have so much shame about their bodies and looks, and I thought it would be amazing to see people with female-coded bodies who didn’t seem to experience any of that, even without clothes or makeup. I wanted the nudity to be the opposite of titillating and objectifying, with the performers seeming completely powerful and
comfortable in their skins. Not all of them ARE comfortable in their skins, though. We have one performer (Becca Blackwell) who doesn’t identify as female and finds it quite difficult to perform nude, but within the imaginary universe of the show in which people aren’t stereotyped according to their body parts, Becca is able to play a character who feels free of those stereotypes even when nude.

(2) Your mantra is to, “write plays based on the worst idea imaginable,“ – how does this come to you? Does it ever make you uncomfortable?

Yes, I’m uncomfortable through the whole process, and always trying to make myself even more uncomfortable. I started working this way when I was writing my first play, and I was really struggling with it. My professor Mac Wellman told me to write the worst thing I could, and the trick worked.

(3) Has the Untitled Feminist Show evolved at all from when it first was put into production?

We always have new and different cast members who bring their own personalities into the mix, but the choreography of the show has remained basically the same.

(4) What is your thought process behind developing your stage shows / plays?

When starting a play, I ask myself, “What’s the last show in the world I would ever want to make?” Then I force myself to make it. I do this because going out of my comfort zone compels me to challenge my assumptions and find value in unexpected places. I try to work with different genres and subject matters for each new show. The bigger the challenge, the more inspired I feel. I don’t want to keep cranking out the same type of show because I’m so familiar with a specific way of working. I write my shows as I’m directing them, working collaboratively with my performers and artistic team and getting feedback from workshop audiences. Our goal is to find ways to get past our audiences’ defenses against uncomfortable subjects and open people up to confronting difficult questions by keeping them disoriented and laughing.

(5) What is New York City like to live and create in?

Awesome, because of the other people and artists. Expensive.

(6) What does the future hold and what would you like to see?

I just went to Locarno and Sundance with my first short film, and am editing my second. I’m doing a three-year video residency with the Wooster Group. Would love to make a feature soon!

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Art Gallery of Hamilton: World Film Festival {Interview & Giveaway}

AGH WFF 2013

The AGH World Film Festival is celebrating its 5 years of showcasing award-winning film in Hamilton. It is an awesome community event that brings critically acclaimed film to Hamilton. The World Film Festival, which runs from September 20th, 2013 – September 29th across the city, give audiences have the opportunity to see wonderfully made film. I have been going to the World Film Festival since it started, and have enjoyed watching it grow and turn into a great night out. I can personally say that it gets better every year. Check out the festival line up and view trailers here.
I had a chance to sit down with the Festival Director, Annette Paiement, and talk about film programming in Hamilton.

FGFS: How did the World Film Festival come to Hamilton?

Annette: It came out of need. Film is and has always been a strong part of the Art Gallery of Hamilton (AGH). Our members and community expressed an interest in the film arts. In the past we had had some film programming, like Photophobia, where it was entry based. The World Film Festival just seemed like the next logical progression for the AGH. We wanted to be venue for to a certain kind of film that the community did not have access to with the closing of theatres in the Hamilton area. We are proud because the festival continues to grow each year, and the audience keep coming back to support it.

FGFS: What is the process like for picking the selections for the film festival?

Annette: I keep my ear to the ground. We are screening films all year round to prepare. I look at selections for film awards and international festivals, what is being noticed in the film world. IMDB is an excellent tool to help us make selections as well. We have our programming committee and we take suggestions from our members and the community. We want to select films that our audience wants to see, to give everyone a chance to have access to these films. However, there have been times when I’m unable to get films that I would really like because of copyright. Now, I have built relationships with filmmakers and film houses to get permission right from the source and bring the films to Hamilton. There are so many strong films out there, it’s often difficult to choose.

FGFS: I have to make a confession, I was delighted to see that you have added a segment to the festival highlighting Food in Film. I feel that our local landscape of food has changed within the past 3 years, and in my opinion, this change was made possible with the encouragement from our strong art community. How did this Food in Film come about this year?

Annette: I have always wanted to include Food in Film in the festival line up. I have been searching for the perfect film that showcases that connection. It was a difficult decision, but both films Hungry for Change and El Bulli are strong films. Definitely, we have seen a change in the food industry in Hamilton and surrounding area. We have seen the creation of a night out in Hamilton – great food and great film. We are situated, closely to many local farms. I feel that people are thinking more and more about where their food comes from. I wanted to choose films that celebrate that intimate part of our lives.

FGFS: It’s been really nice to see the community engagement grow each year. I am looking forward to the special presentation by Chef Wes Lesco (Sarcoa) before the screening of El Bulli. How have been able to create these partnerships with local institutions?

Annette: With the World Film Festival, we have been wanting to engage the community and our audience. I’ve been reaching out to local establishments and have received a great response. I start by asking places if there is a film that they can stand behind; it just goes from there. It just makes sense to have that partnership. We have partner with events like Localicious since day one. This year the Anchor Bar is our official meeting place! Working with theatres and venues within Hamilton to has also allowed us to bring film to different neighbourhoods – bringing film to our audience.

FGFS: It’s been really nice talking with you today! Last question, favourite place to dine in Hamilton?

Annette: Wow, that’s a tough one. I have to admit that I am a sushi fan. I love August 8 – their food is always fresh and it has a great atmosphere! There’s also Work, that has the best pub-style food. I was talking with my friend, and we agreed that the menu at Work is everything you would want in a comfort food!

I am super excited to this share with FGFS readers…

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We have partnered with the Film Festival to give 2 tickets away to our readers to the screening of El Bulli on Saturday September 21st, 2013 at 6:00pm at the Hamilton Public Library.

1. a) Like us on Facebook
    b) Like AGH on Facebook
    c) Come back and comment on this post.
OR
2. a) Follow us on Twitter and Tweet: “Hey @FatGrlFoodSquad send me to the #AGHWFF!”

Best of Luck! You have until Friday at midnight EST to enter!