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Reviewed by:
  • {My Lingerie Play} by Diana Oh
  • Jieun Lee
{MY LINGERIE PLAY}. By Diana Oh. Directed by Orion Stephanie Johnstone and Diana Oh. Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, New York City. October 13, 2017.

Diana Oh’s installation/performance piece {my lingerie play} started in 2014 when Oh, scantily clad in black lingerie sporting a black hat and dark sunglasses, stood on her makeshift soapbox in Times Square holding two brown paper bags with words addressing sexual violence against women. During the next three years, Oh held a total of ten installation/performances in New York City public areas such as Times Square, Union Square, and in front of the Brooklyn Museum, as well as on the internet and in small theatre venues. These performance pieces all sent the message of creating a safer world for women, and Oh’s outdoor installations, engaging with volunteer participants, specifically targeted the reclaiming of public spaces for women. The final two-hour event at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater featured songs, storytelling, political statements, and audience participation in a hybrid form of performance art, rock concert, standup comedy, theatre, and ritual. More importantly, the piece was a call for activism, as the full title of the show indicates: {my lingerie play} 2017: Installation #9: THE CONCERT AND CALL TO ARMS!!!!!!!!!, the final installation.

During a pre-performance period, Oh, wearing a short black bathrobe with a red floral pattern, slippers, and sunglasses, silently stood on a soapbox holding two brown paper bags: one with a scrawled question asking why do we create a safer and more courageous world for us all, and the other with instructions on how to use the blank paper bags that assistants were handing out with markers to every arriving audience member. Half an hour through the performance a banner was raised as a backdrop that read, “Queer the World.” By this time in the play, audience members had written their answers to the question on their bags and taped them around the space, snapped their fingers in unison with Oh’s singing, and seen her disrobe to expose her lingerie (mostly shoplifted, she told us).

In {my lingerie play}, Oh used the very personal aspect of lingerie to rant about sex education, patriarchy, sexual harassment, rape, queer violence, racism, and the white hegemony of theatre, and connected each piece of her new lingerie to people and events such as Bill Cosby, the 2016 presidential election, and the Orlando nightclub massacre. A “Queer the World” banner served to convey the feminist message that a confrontation was called for against the falsehoods of a straight, white, patriarchal racist society. Claiming her identity as a Korean American born to immigrant parents, a woman of color, an artist, and queer, Oh created a safe space within the theatre to engender a community of care and disclose her main point—liberation.

By removing her clothes to expose her lingerie—and at one point removing her bra to expose her breasts—Oh took direct action in a corporeal act of dissent against patriarchal efforts to control the female body. Her topless moment was a literal demythologizing of women’s bodies as she verbalized a fearless statement against the sexist double standard of viewing breasts as a sexual object, but reinforcing the culture of shaming public breastfeeding. This bodily exposure as an action of re/claiming her body shockingly awakened in the audience a sense of emancipation.

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Diana Oh in {my lingerie play}. (Photo: Jeremy Daniel.)

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Diana Oh and her band in {my lingerie play}. (Photo: Jeremy Daniel.)

The audience’s feeling of liberation was achieved not just by watching Oh’s unapologetic performance, but also through participatory interaction with the performer. Spectators engaged with diverse intimate and/or fun activities onstage, including volunteering to have their heads shaved, joining the band by using percussion instruments, partaking in a consensual kissing session with Oh, and blowing bubbles from their seats toward the stage as she and her band performed a song. The theatre no longer functioned in its structured duality of performer and viewer—separated by the imaginary fourth wall—but...


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