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  • A Woman Who...: Essays, Interviews, Scripts, and: Of All the Nerve, Deb Margolin: Solo, and: Robert Lepage: Connecting Flights
  • Chris Mills (bio)
A Woman Who...: Essays, Interviews, Scripts. By Yvonne Rainer. A PAJ Book. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999; 437 pp.; illustrations. $47.00 cloth, $19.95 paper.
Of All the Nerve, Deb Margolin: Solo. By Deb Margolin. London/New York: Continuum, 1999; 202 pp.; illustrations. $18.95 paper.
Robert Lepage: Connecting Flights. By Robert Lepage, with Remy Charest. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1998 (French publication: 1995); 196 pp.; $15.95 paper.

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And then every night at the same time the guy upstairs gets to fucking his girlfriend, and it makes a kind of rhythmic noise like a clock, and then at the end of this very predictable extravaganza she screams Oh my God I'm coming Oh my God I'm coming, but I don't really see the point of that. I mean, you don't stick your head out of the car window and shriek Oh my God I'm driving Oh my God I'm driving. Not that it isn't great to be enthusiastic about what you do, but I mean why state the obvious?

—Deb Margolin (66)

The unifying project of these three books involves performers laboring to document their performance-making processes—an activity that could be as enticing to read as directions for making a three-point turn: either you get it or you don't. But the idea of process functions beautifully here, haunting and broadening the texts. These books provide enjoyment and insight into writing and performing as both separate and interrelated disciplines. The book, often a space in which performance gets flattened or truncated, serves these artists well, animating performance documentation through a variety of presentational modes.

In considering these books in conversation with each other, it's only fair to begin by thinking about form. The most formally fulfilling is, in many ways, the Rainer book, but it has an advantage, being the longest of the three and concerning the artist with the longest and most varied career. It is part of the Art and Performance series that includes volumes on Rachel Rosenthal, Richard Foreman, and Meredith Monk. The Margolin book has a succinct sort of charm with its seven monologues, introduction, and commentary, all in 200 pages. Finally, Lepage's book functions most clearly as a discrete text, without breaks or explanatory material, except for the occasional direct question from Charest or production note. Taken together these books give us entree into the lives and processes of art-makers.

One of the most productive aspects of these books is the effort to include methods of performance documentation that extend beyond the simple inclusion of photographs. Within the field of performance studies the inquiry into the possibilities of documentation is generating a broadening of documentary methods. Rainer includes texts, photo documentation of performances, and commentary on her work, as does Margolin, although she leaves the theoretical commentary to Lynda Hart. Lepage presents performance as the intertwining of a life, a history, and a company.

A Woman Who... is the best sort of confessional book, with biography, theory, and art-making coming together to provide the reader with the multiple influences on Rainer's successful and varied oeuvre. Introductions by both Peggy Phelan and Judith Mayne contextualize and explore the impact of Rainer's work before the reader is immersed in it. Rainer's writing, especially the later essays, has the right measure of explanation, apology, and celebration. For example, this [End Page 180] volume reprints the seminal essay, "The Mind Is a Muscle" (written in 1966, first published in 1968), an achingly beautiful piece of writing—brash, full of undaunted confidence, smart, and chatty all at once—and precedes it with an introduction written over 30 years later. From the introduction:

In rereading [the essay] I am impressed, i.e., slightly embarrassed, by my historical myopia as evinced in such expressions as "ideas about man and his environment." Not to beat up on myself, I...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4715
Print ISSN
1054-2043
Pages
pp. 180-182
Launched on MUSE
2002-11-27
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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