Academic journal article TheatreForum

Performance or Protest? Diana Oh's {My Lingerie Play}

Academic journal article TheatreForum

Performance or Protest? Diana Oh's {My Lingerie Play}

Article excerpt

This is a story about art with an opinion. This is a story of empowerment with a sense of humor. This is a story which has many different beginnings, but which we might begin on November 15, 2014, at The Paradise Factory, when Diana Oh premiered her solo concert play, {my lingerie play}. {my lingerie play} begins as a whimsical personal exploration of sexuality and sexual empowerment. On a stage mostly bare of set pieces, the focus of the play is Diana's lingerie, which she repeatedly changes in and out of while telling her story, the costume changes choreographed (bra to tank top to bra) such that she is never nude on stage despite comfortably and confidently undressing before her audience. She begins with her teen sexual awakening, the desire she felt for her first boyfriend displayed through a lacy bra (young Oh's first piece of lingerie) and further expressed through a soft love ballad.

Thus a clear format emerges: a piece of lingerie, a story and a song for each of Oh's noteworthy coming of age moments, nine in all. Over the course of the first half hour the audience becomes acquainted with chronological iterations of Oh: a sexually-adventurous-yet-virginity-preserving teen; a more jaded teen who is arrested for shoplifting and struggles to connect to her disappointed immigrant mother; a young college student empowered within her own sexuality, declaring, "I'm not a slut, I'm just a progressive sex-positive queer. That doesn't make me a slut!" Finally the audience is brought to the recent past and introduced to the adult Oh, the multi-faceted artist (self-described as an actor/singer-songwriter/theatermaker) living in Brooklyn. Specifically, Oh tells the story of the night of July 28, 2013, when she was walking home from parking her car and an SUV full of men slowed to a crawl and followed her, the men hanging out of the windows catcalling her. Oh yelled back demanding to be left alone and they turned nasty, calling her a "stupid bitch" as the car crawled beside her down the street.

This is the turning point of the performance; for Oh, this catcalling experience made her conscious of the slutshaming she's been experiencing her whole life but strategically ignoring, as women are often taught to do. The next song looks back at her teen years, at all the misogynistic comments she silently shrugged off. A heavy topic, but one Oh addresses with humor, because, as she explained during our interview, "It's a fun time, it's not political art being shoved down your throat." Oh loosens up the audience by encouraging them to join her in the rousing chorus, a simple but effective chant of "Fuck that guy!" Oh's personal shift from passivity to activism is mirrored in the audience, who now shift from their previous role as spectators to a new position of participants: participants who are calling for change but still remember how to laugh as they do so.

Next, Oh pulls out a ream of homemade flyers, each a photo of a prominent public figure: Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Barak Obama, and Alec Baldwin, among others. Each flier has a quote of the harassing comments the men in the SUV spat at Oh. She asks, "What makes it ok to talk to any of these people this way? Why is it ok for you to talk to me this way?" She hands the audience the flyers and insists they take them and hand them out to people or post them around their neighborhoods. Audience participation intensifies as Oh invites the women in the audience to repeat the most horrid things said to them on the streets of New York-a task which is simple for the women, who call out many offensive comments in rapid succession. Oh then contextualizes these experiences through global statistics on sexual abuse and various forms of socially sanctioned sexual violence and concludes, "I am here tonight to emotionally rouse you to engage in artistic warfare. To enlist you in this army."

The army Oh is referring to is a range of people who have engaged in this collective artistic warfare which Oh began long before performing her solo concert play. …

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