LOIS WEAVER - DIVA MAGAZINE - MARCH 10, 2014
When Laura asked me to respond to the Butch Monologues, she said it was because I was ..you know… a professor. We both smiled a knowing smile, a smile that acknowledges the playful ways in which we each perform notions of power- with a wink and a twinkle.
And my first impression of the performance of the Butch Monologues is its wink and twinkle -its play with power and the power of its playfulness. What a relief to laugh and to smile at our attempt to act out our desires. And what a powerful impact of recognition.
This year in New York a mainstream theatre produced a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, Fun Home. About half way through the play, the 12 year old Alison is in a diner with her dad and sees a butch delivery woman walk through the door. Of course she breaks out in song. She sings about
‘her swagger, and her bearing, and the just right clothes she’s wearing
her short hair and her dungarees and her lace up boots
and her KEYS oh oh oh her ring of keys !’
It was the recurring exclamation at seeing her KEYS! her ring of keys ! that sent a shiver of recognition throughout the audience of lesbians and mainstream theatre goers. You could see the femmes scoot in closer to their butches and touch their knee or take hold of their hand. You could see faces wet with tears, breasts soft with sobs. You could hear the butches breathe in and hold a collective butch breath, determined NOT to cry.
We held on to each other. When had we seen ourselves so clearly? When before had we been able to recognize the stunning moments of our own recognition - when we knew who were were because we could see it in others?
This semicircle of Drakes performing their butch monologues was like our own handsome ring of keys. We recognized our desires in each detailed consideration of wardrobe. We heard our names -both good and bad - being called aloud. We thrilled and despaired with each longing for sex. We wondered at the kinds of desires -like butch to butch- that some of us have never imagined and we puzzled over the wonders of motherhood that some of us have never wanted. And the collection of stories itself hangs together like solid and powerful jangle of keys and yet singles out and unlocks these diverse experiences of race and class and age but most of all desire.
So if my first impression of the work is playfulness, my lasting impression of the work is not the gorgeous and sexy show of strength -and believe me that is lasting -but the display of vulnerability. In Laura’s sensitive gathering and shaping of the stories, Austin’s careful support, Julie’s quiet direction and in the individual and imperfect telling, we feel as if each story were being lived before us in these imperfect moments of our lives.
We are living in a time when it is very easy to get it wrong, to slip up, use the wrong pronoun, be under-analysed and misinformed, make a problematic joke. The Butch Monologues succeeds in making us feel loved, like it is all going to be ok. It succeeds in its gentle failures. And perhaps that is the secret of butch/femme. We live in the longing for the thing and not in the thing itself, in the wink and the twinkle. Our desires lie in the playful, the rough and the gentle of the not quite perfect. Thank you, gentlemen.
© copyright The Butch Monologues 2015