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.
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.
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!