Straight White Male: Performance Art Monologues

Straight White Male: Performance Art Monologues

Straight White Male: Performance Art Monologues

Straight White Male: Performance Art Monologues

Excerpt

Whatever else happens in performance, performers perform identity. And however else identity is constructed, performance plays a part in its production. One of the tasks of the study of performance is to investigate the function of identity in the making of meaning. One of the tasks facing those who would alter identity-linked structures of privilege and oppression is to study performances that maintain, mimic, or modify such social relations.

This book is a study of performances by white heterosexual men that might be considered part of the genre of "performance art monologues." The first chapter provisionally defines this genre, lays out some of the theoretical premises on which the study relies, and introduces the issues of identity and identity politics in performance. The second chapter offers a cultural contextualization of the genre, comparing it with stand-up comedy, traditions of Western poetry, the theatrical traditions of solo drama, and other forms of contemporary performance art.

Chapter 3 examines Spalding Gray, the first of two central examples. Arguably the most famous monologist in the United States, Gray began his performing career in regional theater, then moved to experimental theater, where he began experimenting with autobiographical monologue. He has now produced more than a dozen such monologues, two of which have been made into independent feature films. My analysis investigates the content of his best-known pieces and examines the manner in which his career-long autobiographical project converts every event that occurs within range of his performance into an element in the representation of that career.

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