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Faye Driscoll: The Intimacy of Creative Play

Written by Victoria Jacobs

(Photo: Faye Driscoll and Jesse Zaritt in
Faye Driscoll’s not…not, part I, Gotham Dance Festival
The Joyce Theater, June 4, 2011
Photo by Christopher Duggan)
On the cold Sunday night of November 13th, Faye Driscoll and Jesse Zarrett presented their work-in-progress piece Not…notto a full house in Velocity’s cozy, warm Founders Studio Theater. The finished work will premiere in April 2012 at the Kitchen in New York City.
The set was a ‘V’ of white tape ending downstage center, where costume pieces were piled under pink tulle. Vases of flowers sat at either side of the stage. The duo began upstage left in stillness, and gradually made their way toward center stage, spasming, bobbling like marionettes, smiling gleefully, and moving just as easily through tendusand Greek sculptural poses. Though the pairing of a man and woman onstage immediately suggests “romantic couple” to most viewers, they moved through and past that supposition; their male and female identities were flip-flopped, juggled, stretched thin enough to be transparent, and cast aside. Their unique and rigorous vocabulary used acts of strength and submission, tender touch, subtle weight sharing, and gendered gestures. They moved swiftly through different moods and identities, now briefly sharing a quiet, intimate discussion, now throwing a childish tantrum punctuated by thrusting and punching the air; as one moved into a new disco dance or flamboyant pose toward the audience, the other seamlessly joined in.
The first half culminated with Driscoll straddling Zarrett’s back at the pile of props and costumes, where he passed them up to her and she rapidly inhabited one identity after another—male, female, wigged, bearded, funny, veiled, anxious, sweaty, brave. She threw aside each costume piece as quickly as Zarrett handed them to her, strewing the stage with a mess of discarded characters. She stood aside to see Zarrett gaping at her final pose, and he quietly clapped for her.
The second half of the performance was composed of unfinished vignettes. They rearranged the props around the stage as non-preciously as one takes care of all the minutia of household chores; the props revealed themselves in a straight line down center stage and in a little picnic setup stage left, where Zarrett and Driscoll shared a meal while soundlessly having a discussion—or perhaps an argument. After eating, they crossed the center line to the open space stage right where they each took on prop identities; he in a beard, she in a bra and glasses. Vibrant, layered music filled the room as they faced off and took turns dancing toward and away from each other. In another sketch, they both took wigs in their mouths, hers with red yarn and his with blond hair, and they circled each other, barking, clawing, and chewing, and when he seemed to attack her, she fell to the ground and began wailing in surprisingly deep sorrow.
The hallmarks of the work were raw honesty and reference to the audience paired with the playful, animal revelations of a completely open, trusting relationship. It felt as if the audience had been invited into a place as intimate as the bedroom. The work was obviously the result of a “rich, investigative process,” as Zarrett mentioned after the show. Driscoll said she began with the question of “what is beauty to me?” and researched different creation myths. She said she was “interested in the slippage of self, the co-emergence of identity, and the daily performance, the dance I do around certain people.” Her research is rigorous, specific, and totally unique to the quirky human beings revealing themselves onstage.
Not…not didn’t get as dark as it could have, but Driscoll and Zarrett did create the kind of intimacy, common language, and trust with the audience that they could have gone there—and perhaps still will. An audience member commended their commitment to each transformation, wherein even a cliche character didn’t have cliche energy. As Driscoll said, “It could be very dark or very trite;  I’m dealing with it in as honest a way as I can. People might get uncomfortable or disgusted, but I’m not trying to be like ‘F- you!’ I’m trying to transform through performance.”