Much of the conversation at this year’s festival has centered around geographical context. Questions have come up repeatedly about the balance between presenting local and non-local work, how to engage community audiences and the pros and cons of touring work that was created in a vastly different context than the one at a given festival. Personally, I have been struggling with the relationship between this year’s festival and a tragic Austin event that coincided with the kickoff of the Festival.
Jeremy and I stayed up late sipping beers and discussing Manwatching at the festival hub Friday night. We had vastly different experiences of the performance. He saw it Thursday alone, I saw it Friday with colleagues from UT. The premise is that an anonymous British woman (of some stature in her field) casts a local white male stand up to cold read a script which is full of details about the woman’s coming of age through sexual fantasies and mastrubation. The fellow reading for the Friday afternoon performance was witty, self aware and charming.
Jeremy remarked that it seemed like an easy pill to swallow, watching this white dude read the intimate details of some woman’s private sexual thoughts and experiences. Maybe that was the point, that it is an easy pill to swallow, but for the woman who wrote the piece it wasn’t. This information, when read by a white man isn’t really that jarring. It points to a more insidious danger, one that white straight men won’t ever experience. It was about a structure of feeling that I know in my bones, a type of fear so internalized that was brought to the surface in Austin this week. The piece is about the patriarchy in a funny way, making it possible for me to consider a critique of the system without breaking down sobbing.
Here are the first reactions that I shared with theater director and dramaturg, Gabby Randle.