Doctoral Thesis Abstract:
Performing the Trans- Body Text:
Strategies for Productive Disruption in Identity-Based Performance
Ilya Jack (Lazlo) Pearlman
[Orchid ID] https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5162-1008
A practice research thesis and complimentary writing submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of London, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, 2019
LBGTQ+ identity-based performance has a long history of presenting personal narratives to audiences. These works have been instrumental in making LGBTQ+ subjectivities “visible” in our cultures and have been positioned as some of the most important elements of our cultural production. However, these performances also run the risk of essentializing and normativising identities. Positioning trans as ‘a set of embodied texts whose potential for productive disruption of structured sexualities and spectra of desire has yet to be explored’ (Stone, 1991, para 44), this practice research has asked the question ‘what can the/my trans- body ‘text’ do onstage when it does not explain or define the Trans identity’.
This practice research has taken the form of three performance laboratories in dialogue with post-structuralist, cinematic, transgender and queer theories. The first piece pushed off of Foucault’s writings on ‘confessional culture’ (1989) to disrupt requirements of identity truth telling and found itself productively between the states of truth and lie. The in between was further cultivated in the second practice which brought autobiographical materials but neither truth nor lie onto a Deleuzoguattarian ‘plane of immanence’ (1980). This, while fruitful, did not work with the specificity of the trans- body identity. The third practice returned to the body and moved into productive disruption by creating a tactic of ‘identity visuality’ to refuse and oscillate with identity visibility.
This project reveals transing as method for creating performance ’planes of immanence’ opening spaces of productive disruption. Via the third practice I advance a new dialectical structure of “Identity Visuality” in contrast to “Identity Visibility” and a performance strategy that uses trans- identity to create oscillation between the two. I propose these interlinked and overlapping strategies as original contributions to existing trans- and performance theories with applications for making and thinking trans- (and) performance work.
Kisses Cause Trouble "Le Vrai Spectacle": Queering the French, Frenching the Queer
Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer Editors: Campbell, Alyson, Farrier, Stephen (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) pp 52-65 https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137411839
In this chapter Pearlman explores the Parisian "Trash Burlesque" troupe Kisses Cause Trouble ("Kisses") via their 2009 theatrical show Le Vrai Spectacle. Pearlman considers the ways in which Kisses’ use of French artistic forms Grande Guignol (horror theatre) and Bande Dessinée (comic books, strips and graphic novels), and their subversion of ‘universalist’ French identity through Angela Stukator’s ‘unruly’ fat female body creates a New Burlesque en décalage – a term for distortion or deviation that in this theatrical context become a specifically French version of queering.
‘Dissemblage’ and ‘Truth Traps’: Creating Methodologies of Resistance in Queer Autobiographical Theatre: Theatre Research International / Volume 40 / Issue 01 / March 2015, pp 88-91 See the PDF
I am first author on the 'Trans Arts and Culture' chapter of the book Trans Bodies, Trans Selves and also served as the art editor for the entire volume:
Erickson-Schroth, L. (Ed.). (2014). Trans bodies, trans selves: A resource for the transgender community. New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press. pp537-566
Trans Bodies, Trans Selves
“If You Want to Kiss Her, Kiss Her!” Encountering Gender in Modern Meisner Training
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) 11.3 Special issue: Against the Canon: Cass Fleming and Mark Evans, eds
Within the context of attending an intensive Meisner training in the UK, a training setting which was warm, welcoming and, unlike Sandford Meisner and many of his disciples, the instructor used nurture as a primary teaching tool and made a clear effort to create an atmosphere of inclusion in the room. And yet, not long after the classic repetition exercises began, her instruction to a male student to kiss a female student “if he wanted to” bought normative notions of masculine and feminine behaviour and heteronormative sexuality to bear in the name of “following your instincts.” The problem with this instruction was clear: neither student had been given the tools or opportunity to follow any but the culturally trained “instinct” to kiss (male) and be kissed (female). And as a transgender acting student, my potential to act on “instinct” was diminished as well: I did not have that trained “instinct,” so what would I do in their place?
Responses to creating trainings for LGBTQ+ and other marginalized student groups tend either toward rejecting acting “methods” as unfit for purpose, or to simply changing pronouns in these trainings and carrying on as before. This paper works through this and other encounters with gender ideology in Meisner technique. It looks at the way the training and the trainer supported the normative and shut down the ability for students to act on the Meisner instruction to “respond truthfully in the moment”. It considers how we might create training in which students are free not to follow hegemonic cultural behaviour patterns and how training rooms could foster atmospheres in which students who do not conform to gender and sexual norms might not encounter these hegemonies.
Dr. Lazlo Pearlman, Northumbria University
Deirdre McLaughlin, PhD candidate, The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama
Canonicity, Innovation and Reform in the Pedagogy of Embodied Poetics: Conversations between Amy Russell, Norman Taylor, Aurelian Koch, Ed Woodall, Jonathan Young, Lazlo Pearlman and Kamili Feelings
Theatre, Dance and Performance Training (TDPT) 11.3 Special issue: Against the Canon, Cass Fleming and Mark Evans, eds.