After months of noodling and fretting, my biggest performance commission to date went about as smoothly as I could have hoped for. Although it’s already been a while since MaxiPad: Templum de Mysteriis, I’m finally able to look back on the experience with a little more perspective.
Early in 2015, Val Imus at SoEx asked me if I would be interested in a new performance commission attached to the “Public Works” exhibition being held later in the year at Mills College Art Museum. Thus began a series of months of poor Val trying to pin me down about what I intended to do for press/print deadlines, and me trying as best as I could to give her something to go on (while still needing time to sort it out). At that time, I was thinking a lot about padding and protection in relation to women in public space. I really had no idea what to do with these musings, but figured that “MaxiPad” was a campy title that could absorb a lot of…ideas.
Months later, now shackled with this exceedingly dumb title, I ended up coming up with some ideas for a performance that really didn’t seem to have anything to do with padding or protection. Increasingly anxious about what I was to create, to organize my thoughts I generated a list of goals and challenges that would make me happy, not stressed, to undertake.
The piece needed to be collaborative, colorful, ridiculous, political, organized, rehearsed, improvisational, camaraderie-laden and above all, fun. While I would lead the project, I wanted this to be an authentic opportunity to others to step up and make this their own thing. It needed to be a performance piece of about an hour, with multiple stages: a short walk/mini-parade, some choreographed numbers (“dance” too strong a word), and some audience participation.
To this end, I assembled an amazing girl-gang supergroup of art cronies, close friends, and former students, all with the comedic chops and coordination to pull this off flawlessly: Niki and Monica Magtoto, Azin Seraj, Alysoun Quinby, Jessica Gammell, Rebeka Rodriguez, Patricia Cariño, Kim Arteche, Dara Del Rosario, Victoria Ayala and Jeila Saidi.
I gave the supergroup a loose, “demented ladies in togas in cult of the Mysteries” premise, a verdant setting (Oakland’s Morcom Rose Garden), and some organizing principles that they could then take in whatever direction they chose. We scheduled workshops and rehearsals to sort our various ideas out. I made all the costumes and props. I prepared all the snacks for rehearsals. I was production crew, stage-mom and caterer. It was glorious fun.
The day of the performance started with some stress about a potential rain storm, but the MaxiPad deities showed us mercy. We arrived on site in the morning for our first full-cast run-through in the rose garden, then decamped to a friend’s home nearby to primp, eat a little pizza, and to knock back a little tequila to get fully into the MaxiPad spirit.
And we were off and running! In retrospect, I continue to marvel at how smoothly it all went. The MaxiPad-ettes were fabulous, of course, but it was teamwork on multiple fronts: incredible support from SoEx with press, logistics, funds, sound system and morale, and a huge turn-out from friends, family, and good-natured strangers (who had no idea what they’d stumbled into).
I haven’t pestered SoEx enough yet for their comprehensive documentation of the performance, but I’ll update the Projects section of Wofflehouse with this soon. In the meantime, I continue to be grateful for this marvelous experience, working with amazing women, in a crazy little rose garden in Oakland.
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