Monday, July 10, 2006

More Sara

A few more thoughts about Sara Felder's show at Dell'Arte (see post below), now that more time has passed and the show has closed, so I won't be spoiling it for anyone.

In general, it's kind of amazing that a show that features a self-announced Lesbian, talking about Israel and Palestine, as well as her blind mother, turns out to be so non-threatening. That's largely due to Felder's personality, her performance (juggling and shadow plays fascinate everyone on a non-verbal, non-ideological level), the play itself (which dances around the tough issues rather than confronting them, though it authentically portrays a personal engagement) and in part to the audience.

Lesbians and gay men participate in the North Coast community and are generally accepted as valued members of the community. This is especially true among politically active people, who often support Lesbian and gay causes, and among theatregoers. Felder attracts a specifically gay and Lesbian contingent among her audience, and she did something pretty skillful and interesting: she played to them for a moment, and simultaenously used them to build a joke. In character, she responds to what she thinks is an accusation by an old friend, now an orthodox rabbi in Israel, about "her kind." She goes into a rant defending her coming out as a Lesbian at 16, her pride in being Lesbian, etc., to shouted encouragement and cheers from the audience. Which all contributes to the joke when it turns out the friend wasn't referring to her homosexuality at all. By "her kind" he meant secular Jews.

There is also another particular bit of Felder's showmanship (or does that have to be showomanship?) I've been thinking about. A few times early in the show she picked up one of three large knives, the kind we've seen jugglers juggle (in my case, in the safety of a television audience.) But she doesn't do anything with them. Still, they are the equivalent of showing a gun--the stage rule is that by the end of the play, that gun must go off.

Later she hands the knives to someone in the front row. Later still, after we've presumably almost forgotten about them, she is teetering on a balance board rolling back and forth over a round object, beginning to juggle lemons. She drops them. Though her juggling has at times appeared supernatural, she has flubbed once or twce, so that's what this looks like. She covers as if she's screwed up. The lemons are on the floor, when she calls for something else to juggle--and the young man in the front row hands her the knives. Which she juggles while balancing, to wonderment and applause.

The moment has been carefully prepared by the hints and expectations earlier. And if dropping the lemons wasn't intentional, it should now forever be so. Because seeing those lemons on the stage upped the ante for what is already a dangerous bit of juggling. Very skillfully done.