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Dialogue with a Vagina Monologue (Chapter II)

By Nick Fracaro at 5:40 pm on Thursday, January 25, 2007

mangina suitThe dramaturgs have, for the most part, remained stumped in their search for an appropriate male companion piece for The Vagina Monologues. One ‘turg did recall the title of a student’s performance piece “Mangina Monologue,” but as yet no actual script or excerpt from a play has been procured. However, the whole search for an appropriate companion piece might be a moot pursuit. The application process for the V-Day 2007 Worldwide Campaign demands that organizers consent to the following mandate:

Men are invited to participate in Worldwide Campaign productions but not as actors. Men should be invited to get involved behind the scenes as well as to facilitate men’s discussion groups and other activities.

So no male spear carriers on stage for V-Day. But even with this restriction, I see some wiggle room for potential companion pieces. Although the application for V-Day does not have a third gender option, the form does allow a third choice: male, female, and prefer-not-to-answer. Perhaps there is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at work here.

A Modest Proposal to Boy Playwrights

beautiful boy germaine greerThe Worldwide Campaign of the Vulva Choir has a somewhat parallel historical situation where in the Church women were once forbidden to sing. My proposal to boy playwrights willing to adapt to exploit the vacant niche envisions a theatre revitalizing itself in a manner similar to what happened in 17th and 18th century opera. At that time, women’s place was taken by castrati and this practice, known as castratism, remained popular until the 18th century and was known into the 19th century.

Although there is no precedent on how these alterations might affect the development of the voice of young playwrights, the possibilities are limitless. In opera, the castrato is a male soprano, mezzo-soprano, or alto voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or who, because of an endocrinological condition, never reaches sexual maturity. Therefore, his voice never deepens. Castration before puberty prevents the boy’s larynx from being fully transformed by the normal physiological effects of puberty. As a result, the vocal range of prepubescence (shared by boys and girls) is largely retained, and the voice develops into adulthood in a unique way. As the castrato’s body grows (especially in lung capacity and muscular strength), and as his musical training and maturity increase, his voice develops a range, power and flexibility quite different from the singing voice of the adult female, but also markedly different from the higher vocal ranges of the uncastrated adult male.dutch book cover for the female eunuch

Pope Sixtus V formally approved the recruitment of castrati in 1589 for the choir of St. Peter, and the practice reached its peak soon after. In Naples, several barbershops had a sign that castration was performed there. The male heroic lead would often be written for a castrato singer (in the operas of Handel for example). When such operas are performed today, a woman (possibly cross-dressing as a man in a so-called trouser role) or a countertenor takes these roles. However, some Baroque operas with parts for castrati are so complex and difficult that they cannot be performed today.

Unfortunately for my modest proposal to boy playwrights hoping to adapt, genital alterations are classified under V-Day’s glossary of violence. Although only female genital mutilation is defined, and nothing is mentioned about male alterations, the assumption is that such a transformation if discovered might actually disqualify as opposed to qualify you to be on stage with the Vulva Choir.

The King is also The Queen

Even though the term ‘transgender’ most often refers to those who change their gender, it is increasingly being used to signify a gendered subjectivity that is neither male nor female. I have noticed that over the last four years of my engaged study of Butoh, combined with my many years of Elvis impersonation, I have achieved a certain desired transformation in my subjectivity.

My day job is Squeegee Elvis. I work the rush hour traffic at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge in the morning and the Holland Tunnel traffic on Varick Street in the afternoon.sacred marriage alchemy

Hopefully, my DNA becomes like pulp and I evolve within and toward the fictive reality of my performance.

In the Elvis suit I get girl-in-the-street compliments I never get normally. “Hey, Elvis, nice package.” I do wear a rolled up sock as codpiece, so the sweet talk is somewhat warranted. (I sport the codpiece not for enhancement purposes but for modesty’s sake. The white jumpsuit is that cheap Halloween costume of thin polyester.) But it’s the other admiring comment I frequently receive that puzzles me. “Hey, Elvis, nice ass.” No comprendo chicas looking at a guy’s ass, even Rico Suave’s ass. What’s up with that? My thought is that we are all evolving into the Third Sex. For 2000 years, everyone imitated the asexual Christ but for the next 2000 years everyone will be imitating Elvis. If the Vula Choir really wants to become the Worldwide Campaign it purports to be, then V-Day needs to invite the Elvi crooners into its Church.

female last supper

Elvis was always more lady’s man than man’s man, but I think Elvis in the white Aztec jumpsuit is something even more. The Third Sex god. The gyrating hips of a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.

lion eatin sunTom Waits’ new Orphan album has a weird insect lecture in the “Army Ants” track where he instructs, “The female praying mantis devours the male while they are mating. The male sometimes continues copulating even after the female has bitten off his head – and part of his upper torso.“

Hunka hunka burning love.

…to be continued.

Chapter III: most famous feminist theatre production meets most famous feminist meets most famous theatre misogynist

“There has come into existence, chiefly in America, a breed of men who claim to be feminists. They imagine that they have understood “what women want” and that they are capable of giving it to them. They help with the dishes at home and make their own coffee in the office, basking the while in the refulgent consciousness of virtue. . . . Such men are apt to think of the true male feminists as utterly chauvinistic.” from Eternal War: Strindberg’s View of Sex –Germaine Greer

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Trackback by theaterboy®

January 30, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

We’re not equipped….

(To be clear, the rules bar men from performing in The Vagina Monologues, not from working backstage or in other roles.)  His views on the topic — rather thoughtful, sometimes, and decidedly wide-ranging — are here and here, in order of posting.

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Comment by nick

January 31, 2007 @ 10:52 am

Tboy,

Thanks for the attention and the double-edged critique of my posts. I was somewhat apprehensive about the posse you sent after me. I see you got the Lucky Spinster and sas to saddle their horses, but so far they seem a bit reluctant to read, as opposed to skim, what I wrote. And both you and your posse still haven’t really ventured out of the corral at the theaterboy® domain, although I do appreciate Tboy’s closer read and attempt at dialogue. As you point out, boys especially need to walk gingerly around the subject.

I want to post more on V-Day, so I won’t answer much here in the comment section or at your blog, but I will say this:

“I think he crosses a line, at least eventually. For a while the history of V-day stuff is amusing, but frolicking in the overlapping territories of castration and female genital mutilation strikes me as overdoing it.”

I gave that section its own special Swiftian title, “A Modest Proposal to Boy Playwrights” to underscore the satire. Of course I am not advocating genital mutilation. The modest proposal contrasts the two contexts, one historical, one cultural.

Today we find the castration of boys to sing in opera barbaric and perverse. However, only a few centuries ago, even the Pope thought differently.

Germaine Greer’s Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility expanded her critique of Western attitudes toward sexuality, fertility, family, and the imposition of those attitudes on the rest of the world. Her target again was the nuclear family, government intervention in sexual behavior, and the commercialization of sexuality and women’s bodies. Greer argued that the world is over-populated only by Western standards of comfortable living. Advocating poverty over consumerism, she frequently endorsed practices at odds with the beliefs of most Western feminists. She wrote that female genital mutilation had to be considered in context and might be compared to breast augmentation in the West.

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