Mairead Case (MFAW 2014)

Responding to:
Test Site
by Autumn Hays

Country of Origin
by Dirty Devlin and Mister Junior

This is our real job.
– Temporary Services, Art and Labor

It was hard, deciding how to write about these two performances. Hard because performance—Performance!—is still pretty new to me, so I want to run towards all the pretty sparkly things at once and of course that makes hard, sharp analysis challenging. Hard too because our schedule meant I was writing about the shows in-progress, about dress rehearsals not opening nights, and three because all three people are such different performers. I didn’t want to dull or force anyone.

So for Transfusions—and stay with me, this isn’t a dodge!—I picked one prism and another prism. It would’ve been easy to pick something else, all three performers use plenty of tools. In Country of Origin, Dirty Devlin and Mr. Junior use bananas, aloe, and a picnic basket, a Devo mashup and some gardening equipment. In Test Site Autumn has a dunce cap, audio, and test papers. She gets chalk powder everywhere. And all three performers use their bodies in brave ways, Dirty Devlin and Mr. Junior take their pants off and Autumn traces herself onto a blackboard for three hours. If these shows were neon signs, they might both say AMERICA. Anyway, I had lots of options.

But as I watched their rehearsals—and slept on them, and thought about them while I ran along the Sixteenth Street train tracks in the mornings—as I watched their rehearsals, what kept surfacing was not an object or theme but a tone.

Both groups use doubles—Autumn makes hers, she spends hours writing lower-case Ds and Bs on a chalkboard, B then D then B then D so they make rows and rows of wobbly little beds. Dirty Devlin and Mr. Junior reveal theirs, the stage is lit by one shaft of warm light and one cool, plus then they twin each other while they perform. They carry, they sweat, they strip, then one sits and the other faints.

Doubles and twins and so: I’d bring two of the same thing. And I’d bring prisms, not mirrors, because of how both performances involve their audiences. In Autumn’s case folks take a test and in Devlin and Junior’s, the crowd reacts to the final tearaway. The light here is refracted.

Gemini, says myth and dreams, gemini symbolize internal contradictions and the individual’s struggle. Tarot says they are lovers in Eden just before the fall, and if there’s a better card to symbolize labor I don’t know what it would be.

Here these performers struggle with the body, the government, the self; with who’s the boss. So the twinning is a smart move, two’s a magic number because it leaves space for a third—something that becomes, or at least something that isn’t quite matched or unmatched. Something beyond embrace, conflict, recoil. A queerer body, a shadow language, a space outside night and day.

Mairead Case is a Chicago writer, editor, and teacher. Currently she is an MFA-Fiction candidate and writing fellow at SAIC; Youth Services Assistant at the Poetry Foundation library; and an editor at The Chicagoan, YETI, and featherproof books.