I am very excited about my new book of performances and essay/stories from University of Wisconsin Press called A BODY IN THE O. I had climbed inside of the “O” in the Hollywood Sign in 1984! The title of this new collection is playing with the Shakespeare “Wooden O” notion from the Henry V prolog…all that we can make happen in that O of the theater space. I hope the collection will conjure some of my contributions to that wooden O!
I climbed up into the enormous letter “O” on the Hollywood sign high in the hills above Los Angeles. This was in 1984 when you could still scamper up the Hollywood Hills goat paths and get close to the huge, world-famous landmark. If you were brave enough to confront the scary precarity and climb up one of the several stories tall letters, you had a perfect moment in time and space that must be recorded. In the photograph by Dona Ann McAdams documenting the event, I seem to be wearing hot pants and a crop top, a young gay boy’s uniform of the time when returning home to hot L.A. from chilly NYC and risking his life climbing the decrepit Hollywood sign.
Why did I pick the “O” I wonder? Why not the H for homo? Or the H in tribute to actress Peg Entwhistle who famously committed suicide by jumping off that letter as her career tanked in 1932? Maybe it was O for orgasm. O for orifice. Or maybe it is just because O is the letter that has the most space in it and I could reach the first handhold! Maybe the “O” was in acknowledgement of the gasp of recognition I would feel when my husband Alistair and I would meet our dog Frida who had been abandoned at eight weeks old in 2002 to become coyote food in the canyon below the Hollywood Sign, but who was rescued and lived to find her two daddies.
Okay, now I have done it. If you bring up “O” when talking about performance, we can’t help but alight on the Shakespearean “Wooden O”, as he refers to the Globe Theatre at the beginning of Henry V. Shakespeare asks the audience’s help in imagining great events and wonders if the empty space within any theatre can be enlivened to make serious shit happen and confront our times:
….Can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? Or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
Well, we better damn well try! For if we are not going to try to “cram within this wooden O” the Battle of Agincourt along with daring to take up the battle to confront racism, the resistance to Trump, the struggle against homophobia, the challenge to imagine a better future, then why bother making theater!