Performance and Revolution-The Revolutionary Impact of Ashley Judd’s performance of Nina Donovan’s poem, “Nasty Woman” at the Women’s March on Washington, 2017.
“Insert a quote, perhaps a feminist quote from an Ashley Judd film.”
Today, we will examine the relationship between performance and revolution in Ashley Judd’s performance of Nina Donovan’s poem, “I Am A Nasty Woman’ at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, 2017. There are many different examples of revolutionary performances over the course of history. To name a couple of other examples of performances that sparked revolution, there was an extremely negative reaction to Irish playwright, Sean O’ Casey’s, ‘”Plough in the Stars” at the Abbey Theatre in 1926, causing W.B. Yeats to reprimand the booing audience, telling them that their audibly displeased reaction was an embarrassment, “You have disgraced yourselves yet again.” Another more recently established example is the usage of flash mobs in strikes e.g. the flash mob done to protest a third runway at Heathrow airport in Terminal Two in London in 2009. (INSERT CITATION FROM NEWSPAPER.) Perhaps performance somehow allows people more expressive capacity to be more vocal in their dislike of something. Performance allows people more participatory room than an irate letter to the team at The Irish Times or a staff meeting. It is also more effective and humane than boycott and slander.
The performance that this essay will focus on was originally prepared for a smaller performance but was so evocative in it’s expression of resistance that it was also chosen by an audience member to be performed at a later point. The audience member was granted permission to perform it, in the hope of provoking revolution with a potential audience of over half a million people watching her.
Our stage in this scenario is The Women’s March on Washington, 2017, which centred around one figure, the 45th President elect of the United States and former reality tv show presenter, Donald Trump. Despite the misleading name, the March was not solely for women but a lot of Trump’s offenses happened to involve them. Irish Times reporter, Una Mulally described the scene in Washington,
The setting is extremely important, as the context of Judd’s performance must have aided greatly in establishing the revolutionary potential as the crowd were there in solidarity to emphasise their displeasure for their newly elected leader, a displeasure greatly expressed in the poem.
(Chicago: Foley, John Miles. "Word-Power, Performance, and Tradition." The Journal of American Folklore 105, no. 417 (1992): 275-301. doi:10.2307/541757.)
We will begin by extrapolating further on the performer in question, Ashley Judd. Judd is a famous actor who has appeared in a litany of high-profile films over the course of her career including Double Jeopardy. Divergent and Someone Like You (Source this.). She is also a PhD candidate at the University of California at Berkeley at the Goldman School of Public Policy and a devout activist. So, as well as being a performer of note, she is an accomplished academic. It is entirely possible that Judd’s fame may affect the way in which the poem is received by it’s audience. There are many examples over the course of history where the charisma of the orator could be taken as the core reason for why their new and, often revolutionary, yet corrupt ideas were so blindly accepted:
(Reading on a dictator)
Some may argue that Trump’s profile as a highly functional, successful and wealthy businessman on television created a false persona which people carried into the election, resulting in them voting for what they perceived to be a charismatic figure with a history of financial success. We shall explore fame and celebrity with regard to politics further at a later point.
Other speakers at the event included a number of recognizable faces in the Arts. Amongst the panel, were Scarlet Johansson, America Ferrera and Michael Moore, further blurring the line between performance and activism. Judd had watched Nina Donovan perform her poem “Nasty Woman” in their shared native town of ‘’ and specifically requested permission to perform it at this event.
We will explore a variety of different factors that affect the revolutionary nature of the poem; the words and whether the difference in their written and performed form affect the revolutionary component of the piece, we will look at the performance itself; various theatrical techniques used and the difference between Judd and Donovan’s performance of the same work, violence incorporated in the language and movement, we will explore theories on authorship and the audience and finally we will look at further examples, both modern and historical, of gender politics and feminism in performance orientated around revolution. But, prior to delving into any of these exploratory lenses, we shall first look at the term “revolution”, exploring what it may mean and it’s various traits, as well as delving into the politics behind this particular performance.
REVOLUTION AND POLITICS
According to Matthew O’ Donnell in ‘’, revolution is a struggle to define as it is so variable within such a huge variety of contexts, but he begins by describing it’s traits. The traits he discusses outline a variety of reasons for why the average person may be tentative to approve of a revolution and thus not participate or support it until after it has happened. He offers four main reasons for this, which we could also apply to the hesitance of Americans to participate in the revolution against the current President of the United States.
The first reason for the disapproval of revolution prior to it ending, O’ Donnell says is:
“ a successful revolution incorporates itself in the traditions of a people, and thus acquires a kind of sanctity.” This suggests that people are inclined to approve of a revolution after it’s occurrence as their existence has been built around some of the outcomes of it after it has happened, and due to the revolution being a contributing factor in their lives, it is out on a pedestal (they place it on a pedastal). It becomes valuable because elements of it exist in the lives of the people who now accept it. Prior to a revolution concluding, however, people do not know what it’s outcome will be, so they are inclined to resist it. (I think that we got this.)
Another reason O’ Donnell gives for why people may not approve of a revolution at the time of it’s happening is due to a lack of expertise and knowledge. “people judge badly in areas where they are unaccustomed to making judgements. Nobody is accustomed to making judgements on revolutions so ‘it is not really surprising that he should judge badly.” (QUOTE) This outlines the tendancy people have to automatically reject that which they do not understand.
He continues with a third reason, ‘the familiarity of the old can outweigh the obvious virtues of the new.” This could be applied to settling for less and accepting all of Trump’s policies and actions due to wanting to remain comfortable in the current situation, ignoring the obvious benefits that a resistance could reap. Though a revolution against Trump may have very clear incentives and positive results for people, O’ Donnell claims that it is instinctual to favour staying the same and settling for less as opposed to striving to improve one’s own situation via revolution as the mind prefers the familiar.
The final reason outlined by O’ Donnell is,
“…revolution, to its contemporaries, is a project, a promise, a hope. It is an offering on the alter of an idealized future. The future may be better or worse than the present as a result of revolution; but while the revolution is in progress no one knows. It is much easier for later generations to approve of the revolution on account of the changes which is has wrought.”
O’ Donnell puts it quite simply, people are hesitant to participate in a revolution due to the outcome being merely a promise that could prove to have a good or bad outcome and people will resist change without a guarantee of success.
(Do I need to include all of these?)
Whether the revolution against Trump will prove to have a good or bad outcome for those who revolt remains a gamble for future generations whilst it is ongoing and this uncertainty will lead people to stagnancy and dormancy. This is the reason why Judd’s performance and those like her’s are so integral to the success of a revolution. It is to convince the audience that their promise is a guarantee, that action is absolutely mandatory for future generations. A performance allows the audience to experience the revolution prior to it happening and makes them more likely to support it, and perhaps even participate in it. There will be further extrapolation on the ability of performance to create a vision further on in the essay.
In the case of the March on Washington, specifically with regard to Judd and her feminist message, one could suggest that an approval rate is almost certain as gender equality has been ascertained in most areas of modern America and it has already proved to be successful. Some of the most powerful females in the world are American from entertainers like Beyonce to former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice. Judd cites some examples in her performance, (e.g. Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Hillary Clinton). Here she is employing the tactic of reminding the audience of former, related revolutions that have proven to be successful in order to encourage them that the revolution she supports is a promise with a track record of huge success.
The message Judd purports can only improve on the current circumstances as her movement is a resistance to President Trump negatively impacting on women’s rights, a pre-established idea that has proven to be successful in the past.
However, one must consider that the March didn’t happen solely for feminism and gender equality but it was part of an overall resistance to the ruling of the newly elected President, who was inaugarated the day prior to it. What may incite fear for Americans everywhere who wish to join in the revolution is the clear evidence of negative repercussions for those who have expressed resistance to Trump thus far. For example, when President Trump was displeased with some journalistic work done about him, he banned certain news outlets from attending a White House conference, (NAME ACTUAL CONFERENCE) essentially limiting their access to vital information, reducing their ability to fulfill their duties of employment and censoring them. In this case, their revolutionary actions had a lasting negative impact and the revolution was responded to with dicatatorial censorship. This censorship and tenuous relationship with the media will be discussed on a more indepth level later in the essay.
(Include a reading on this.)
O’ Donnell concludes, “Revolution is a procedure for drastically reorganizing a state for the benefit of its people.” And, despite his earlier trepidition to do so, he defines it as follows:
“A revolution is a violent and allegedly patriotic attempt to radically reorganize the state with which a nation coexists territorily, on the grounds that the common good is being neglected and will be better promoted by the post-revolutionary state.”
In our case, the common good is to highlight all of President Trump’s various offenses so that it is guaranteed they will not repeat themselves on a larger scale and be accepted by an uninformed, traumatized public who have forgotten that they have the right to resist. Judd performs to remind American women that they still matter, despite the fact that a man who has exhibited so much unacceptable, offensive and misogynistic behavior at their expense on a hugely public scale has been elected to office, not by the majority of people but by the electoral vote. It is to remind them that politics is there for the people, not vice versa, they are not alone in being repulsed by his various oppressive behaviors and that their voice still matters. It is a reminder that, now, more than ever before, it is important to stand up and make themselves heard.
In many ways, Trump’s presidential reign thus far has been one of revolution against conformity, and even, revolution against what is generally considered to be politically correct. Though perhaps in this case, the revolution he is staging is less for the greater good of America and more for the greater good of his bank account, particularly with regard to taxation choices (himself). Albeit, it may be difficult to spot a trend of normality in the history of American politics, as many of the Presidents thus far have devited from presidential duties. From Barack Obama appearing on Ellen….many have acted in an eccentric manner at some point
But one could argue that Trump’s violently sudden changes so early on in his term are particularly unusal. One example of how he deviated from the norm quite violently, is how he has filled the Cabinet with controversial figures, some of whom have expressed appreciation for the KKK, others who have no experience with politics whatsoever and, perhaps, never will. His cabinet selection set a record for the delay in time it took to get approved by the Senate (ON WHAT SCALE, READING). Many Democrats voting that the elected cabinet members hadn’t been vetted and were unqualified for the role assigned to them due to a lack of experience in what they were supposed to oversee. One example of a questionable choice, is the election of former Governer of Texas, Rick Perry, to the Department of Energy. Perry outlined his belief that the Department of Energy should be eliminated during a Republican primary debate in 2011. Electing a man who has expressed the need to terminate a Department to lead it into it’s future is certainly an act of violent revolution and, perhaps an escape from sanity and logic.
As well as his choices with regard to the Cabinet, a number of questionable matters have come to light since his inauguration. The terms LGBT and Climate Change are non-existent on the current White House website which one hopes has no correlation with Trump’s prioritization. Some argue that many of the indiscrepencies on the website were a result of clumsy transitioning as the website as a whole is currently quite sparse but it has still sparked interest.
Many Americans have been alarmed by the people that Trump has appointed to the EPA Transition team, the reasons why being quite evident,
“For example, he appointed Myron Ebell to lead his EPA transition team - an oil and coal-funded enemy of science who wants to gut the agency. That team also included David Schnare and Chris Horner, who have spent much of their careers harassing and intimidating climate scientists.”
These choices don’t bode well when paired with the lack of Cimate Change representation on the website.
Aside from important presidential choices, Trump’s personal life and how it deviates from what is expected could be considered revolutionary, in that it is violently omnipresent. Despite having many opportunities for public address, Trump has continued to go on late night twitter rants; some tweets being personal attacks at those who have offended him, others defending actions of his which have caused grevious offense after the fact and some tweets delve into political matters on such a shallow level that they appear to have a minimizing effect:
“Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!”
One could also consider his social media presence to be revolutionary in it’s capacity for change. With a twitter following of over twenty seven million, each tweet bares potential to cause it’s own mini revolution, one spelling mistake and derogatory comment at a time. This reiterates our earlier question of whether celebrity and politics should be allowed to co-exist so easily when they have the potential to cause longlasting damage.
And finally, as mentioned previously, he has condemned press associations with which he doesn’t agree as ‘fake news’ and excluded them from attending a White House press conference. (More than one conference?) Various news outlets that he excluded, included CNN, The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian and Buzzfeed. This action bares one to think that news outlets, particularly publically funded news outlets may have to censor themselves due to the threat of being cut for displeasing the President, and losing thei employment and livelihoods. In a scary turn of events, in an address to the US House (WHEN?? Date and source this!!), Head of the House of Science, Space and Technology Committee, Congressman Lamar Smith stated that the public should not rely on news outlets or data scientists for information but solely and, unquestionably on President Trump himself.:
“…better to get your news directly from the President, in fact it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
Perhaps the American public will breathe a sigh of relief as they relinquish their unecessary sky subsciptions, newspaper expenses and focus solely on their twitter newsfeed as their source of news on all things environmental, political and otherwise. A man who has evaded taxes as their…(QUOTE/SOURCE THIS)
Trump has described his relationship with the media, as follows:
“I have a running war with the media,”
It appears that the President, perhaps the most vocal person with regard to who the United State engages in war with, is currently at war with the key source of communication between himself and the people he leads. This should present a major issue that should cause great alarm if it is any sign of his volatility. Some have argued that, it’s not truly the news outlets that Trump does not favour:
“…but in reality his war is with facts, and since evidence and facts are the currency of science, scientists fear that he’ll also wage a war on science. A war on science is a war he’s guaranteed to lose. Trump can deny the science, silence the scientists, censor their reports, even fire them from government agencies - but that won’t stop the Earth from heating and its climate from changing at a dangerous rate. At best he would survive a four or eight-year term, leave the planet a worse place for future generations, and be seen as a villain in the history books.”
(Maybe mention more recent revelations…the Syrian missile strike)
Considering all of these components, it is quite obvious why the Women’s March on Washington was necessary and as we explore the various revolutionary components of Judd’s performance in relation to feminism, we will delve further into one of Trump’s most astute offenses, his misogny. Judd highlights the sheer necessity of ensuring equality throughout Trump’s presidential reign, regardless of what his personal beliefs are. What better way to present equality than by presenting the duality of the interpretation of the term ‘Nasty Woman’, a term coined by President Trump in a primary debate in reaction to his opponent and a term reappropriated and owned by said opponent, Hillary Clinton. By directly contrasting the positive, radical and revolutionary ‘nasty women’ of the past who have forged a path of equality for the modern woman with the sordid and deplorable nasty actions of the man who coined the term in the first place, the audience is presented with an insidious inequality and uncomfortable hypocrisy. Judd highlights how the inequality needs to be stopped now before it progresses any further.
Having established what those at the March were revolting against, let’s begin to explore the various components that contributed to the revolutionary effect of the poem.
WHAT IS A PERFORMANCE…DEFINE THIS
Words and Performance:
“Words are always situated. They cannot naturally occur but in context, and they cannot naturally recur without reference to prior occurences and prior contexts.”
Perhaps the extreme opposite of natural occurrence is performed occurrence, but we argue that the latter is an extremely important and effective way of promoting a revolution and it depends massively on the context also. The context of our performance, an open air stage in Washington in front of a sea of attentive listeners in a revolutionary March aginst the inauguration of President Trump, is perhaps the ideal context considering the subject matter of the poem, which also contains a number of references to prior contexts. Nina Donovan’s poem began as words on a page. Donovan is a nineteen year old poet from Franklin, also the native town of Judd who saw Donovan recite the original piece there prior to asking for her permission to perform it in Washington. In relation to what inspired the poem, Donovan has said:
“The second [Trump] called Hillary [Clinton] a nasty woman, I said, “Oh man, I’ve got to write a nasty woman piece…I reclaimed it.”
This expounds the idea of words being important enough to provoke a revolution. It’s evidence that just one pairing of words can inspire somebody to create art that would go on to be watched online by close to eight hundred thousand people as well as many live at the event. A word can become a poem which can become a revolution. As Judd performed her piece in Washington, Donovan marched along in solidarity in Nashville, along with fifteen thousand others.
(INSERT READING ON NINA DONOVAN)
And, upon reading it, it is evident why Judd chose the poem. Donovan has carefully constucted a movement with her words, a movement that builds in momentum continuously. It is carefully crafted, intertwined with stark images and damning dictatorial comparisons that will forever stay with it’s reader or audience. A collection of words that, we propose, if performed well in the correct context could cause anybody to revolt.
“I feel Hitler in these streets. A moustache traded for a toupee.”
This section will explore the difference in reception of written text versus performed text. Of course, there is an entirely new element to this particular performance as the author is not performing it, but a performer who saw it originally performed by the author is, adding a new layer of interpretation. We will explore the difference between the performance techniques of the two performers also.
Written text and performed text may add different values to a revolution (QUOTE) but the common denominator between the two is the words. We ask whether the words alone are impacting enough to cause a revolution or did Judd’s performance technique and the context of the performance make them so? Would the same effect have been ascertained if Judd had merely recited the words in a monotonous tone? In the following quote, (philosopher,who is this man?) Baumann outlines his belief that the text provides somewhat of a blueprint for the performer to deliver the message through their performance:
“ Bauman noted the importance of the emergent in verbal art in 1977, stating that “completely novel and completely fixed texts represent the poles of an ideal contimuum, and that between the poles lies the range of emergent text structures to be found in empirical performance.”
(Is this correct?)
A picture paints a thousand words…but equally can’t one word provoke a thousand pictures, isn’t that what journalism is all about? Isn’t that why flash photography was invented?
(Reading and/or quote on journalism.)
“Yes, we can” provoked eight years of bliss and the Trumponian term ‘Nasty Woman’ provoked millions of women all over the world to reappropriate those very words and to take action against the world’s most successful misogynist.
“I am a A NASTY WOMAN but not as nasty as a man who bathes in Cheeto dust.” (Quote from poem.)
If the pen is mightier then the sword, can’t we also conclude that the performed word is mightier than performed violence? The roar of an intellectual phrase is one thousand times more effective than the roar from the turbo engine of a fighter aircraft. Every individual who has ever transitioned from a child to an adult has experienced their own revolution from what they once were because of words they have read, listened to or spoken.
“The stories told to me were like arrows. Elsewhere, hearing that mountain’s name, I see it. It’s name is like a picture. Stories go to work on you like arrows. Stories make you live right. Stories make you replace yourself.”
Here Benson Lewis (who is this man?) talks about the capability of words to incite people to alter their behavior and to become new versions of themselves. Judd is certainly trying to incite people to become more proative, using Donovan’s carefully selected words. But, with regard to revolution, shouldn’t the performance of a text be given just as much weight as the content?
(The different interpretations of text and performance.)
“…theater has developed its own “concrete language” of gesture and posture, a language of anarchy which pushes the actor and audience toward a questioning of “object relationships” (usually taken for granted) and thus towards chaos.”
And what could be more chaotic and inspiring than a world famous actress delivering an open air performance emphasizing every pause and question as she scans the eyes of the various audience members. She proudly proclaims,
“I…am a…Naaaasty Woman.”
And Judd uses her body to express the importance of every word.
“the body, as one of the primary media in which sociopolitical relations of power and inculcated and reproduced…”
A vein pulsates in her neck as she demands a response from the audience, her palms turmed out in question, she throws her hand down in despair as she emphasizes,
“A man whose words are a DISS to America”
Is there a difference between words written on a page and words once they are performed? Over the course of the history of performance, there have been many different views towards this.
(Insert some real views.)
Having considered the importance of words and their potential to cause change, we will compare Donovan’s performance of the poem to Judd’s performance of the poem and look for techniques incorporated by each of them. Perhaps the delivery of each performer effected the way in which the audience member, the new author received and processed the text.
COMPARE THE TWO PERFORMANCES HERE
Perhaps the script for this performance is different in that it was written by the performer who intended on performing it. It was not written solely for text but, neither is it a dramatic text and it doesn’t contain stage directions or instructions. However, Judd’s performance of the piece differs dramatically from Donovan’s, so clearly Judd viewed the text to be the more significant component as opposed to the original performance.
When Donovan performs the poem, she performs with a pace and rhythm that is not dissimilar from a rap, a spoken word piece. This is not surprising as Donovan has a history in performing spoken word…cite various examples…She does not pause for the audience though they interrupt her anyway with laughter and wails of agreement at some of her more provocative lines. So well delivered and regimented in pace is the performance, that is quite obviously that, a performance. One that has been carefully rehearsed to be presented under a spotlight on this high, dark stage. One that does not invite an audience to participate, one that tells a very personal story.
Judd chooses not to perform in this stylized semi-rap style. In broad daylight, in a much more casual set-up, with audience members visible cackling along in the background on the open stage, she invites everybody present to listen, to participate and to own the words and ideas that she presents. She dares them to question what she is saying, in fact she calls upon Scarlett Johannson personally with one of the questions she asks,
“Scarlett Johansson, why were the female actors paid less than half of what the male actors earned last year. See, even when we do go into higher paying jobs our wages are still cut with blades sharpened by testosterone”
Not introducing the piece as a performance or mentioning an author or script, she makes the words could very well be her own original thought. Her use of pausing and her hand gestures differ massively from that of the …Donovan who maintains a very neat, tight composure throughout.
(READING ON THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE:. Reading on naturalism.
Osipovich, David. "What Is a Theatrical Performance?" The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 64, no. 4 (2006): 461-70. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4622191.)
One could argue that the performance of a text is automatically more revolutionary than the written word, due to the community present in the audience:
“Communal action makes a shared reality, and over time, a shared experience…performance brings the individual’s senses into concert to receive strong impressions.”
The performance took the words on a page; carefully placed, meticulous, poetic, destroying words and Judd’s delivery turned them into a revolutionary roar. A roar to summon the spirits and memories of all of the women in the world who had ever overcome oppression, to remind women that their existence is built on revolution.
Both verbal and non verbal stimuli were incorporated to engage the audiences’s senses and sense memory. The use of Judd’s body presenting a visible resistance, the expanse of the crowd and open air setting creating a frontline warzone like atmosphere. And, of course, Donovan’s words present such striking images, that are visceral in their description,
“I’m nasty like my blood stains on my bedsheets… and a ‘swastika on a pride flag’ and Judd’s performance styles invites people to engage.
FAME/ Celebrity and Politics
One major difference between the two performers is their level of fame. As aforementioned, Judd is a globally recognized actress with an established career, Donovan is a relatively teenager, merely starting out.
(The charisma of a dictator readings…the power of the orator etc.)
If the the audience is more inclined to listen to a recognizable figure, does her fame make her a better suited candidate than Donovan for this address or does it distract from the words being presented? Does this have the same potentially blinding effect we discussed earlier of blind support to a celebrity endorsement?
In, “Knowing the Performer.”, Leo Braudy questions the effect that celebrity has on text and performance.
“How, if at all, does it change our under- standing of texts we thought we knew well, and how does it open our eyes to texts in the most general sense, we had previously ignored or been unaware of.”
(Knowing the Performer from the Performance: Fame, Celebrity, and Literary Studies Author(s): LEO BRAUDY Source: PMLA, Vol. 126, No. 4, Special Topic: Celebrity, Fame, Notoriety (October 2011), pp. 1070-1075 Published by: Modern Language Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41414176 Accessed: 18-04-2017 21:32 UTC)
Isn’t fame as valid as any other catalyst in exceling the speed of a revolution or does it undermine the revolution? Does transposing one’s prestige and fame in one sector into politics cause potential for disaster, is it completely unethical or does it depend on the celebrity in question? Isn’t the incorporation of fame in revolution only unethical when fame is the goal, not a tool in ascertaining a better post revolutionary state for the common good?
First, one must ask, what is fame? Isn’t fame ever evolving in the current climate of snapchat stars, vine addicts, people who have more subscribers to their youtube channel than the population of Ireland? Does the level of appropriateness change based on the origin of the celebrities’ fame? Surely fame is simply a tool in ascertaining publicity and drawing in the public and once the public has arrived, the focus changes entirely to the revolution and the audience couldn’t be that easily brainwashed by a man with twelve million twitter followers, could they? Is there a danger to fame and it’s influence that require a clear separation from politics?
One could argue, with regard to Judd that she is not leaning on her acting career, as she has built recognition for herself in academia and activism completely outside of it.
“Can fame ever escape from celebrity, its ill- begotten and cannibalizing offspring? Classi- cal fame could only be achieved after death?”
(Is celebrity based on popularity less valuable, more crass?)
“Brandishing their long-focus lenses, paparazzi are poised to catch celebrities in private, and with luck scandalous, moments.”
(Which brings us back to our earlier point about how one word can paint a thousand pictures…as long as it’s the word of a celebrity perhaps. As a revolution recquires an audience, which often is acquired through a violent jolt, perhaps the use of celebrity to attain such interest to begin the revolution is an ideal scenario as opposed to a corrupt one.)
“Theater and drama studies from this point of view focus on the play text and the production versions of the play, while performance studies ex- pands the idea of what a performance can be to include any kind of public event or action. In this array, performer studies focus almost exclusively on the star, the human figure at the center of all the hubbub.”
(INTRO SEPARATING PERFORMER STUDIES FROM PERFORMANCE STUDIES-ROLAND BARTHES)
One could argue that if Judd were to rely solely on her fame and had no intellect, her message would soon dissapate and her celebrity would serve to ridicule the revolution she associates herself with. As though celebrities receive attention, a massive proportion of that is negative and certainly more critical than with your average person,
“Charismatic individuals can no lon- ger, if they ever could, rely on their charisma to be sufficient; they must through study or intuition understand how best to construct themselves for the public eye.” (Perhaps…intelligence…)
Authorship and Audience.
(Death of the Author-Death of the Performer)
This final section will delve further into the importance of the author to a piece of theatre, the role of the author and the role of the audience. We will look at Barthes theory on “The Death of the Author” in relation to revolutionary writing and how it could be applied in this case.
Barthes argues that it is not possible for anybody to claim that they are the author of a piece anymore as everything has already been written but that the piece of writing creates the scriptor. When applied to our case, ‘I Am A Nasty Woman’ made Nina Donovan a scriptor, but her role as an author ended after the piece was completed.
Barthes argues against incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of text as it may alter the understanding of the reader and it certainly provides an unecessary distraction. He claims that the writer and creator are unrelated. He argues that the reader is the creator upon reading and should have all of the power of interpretation,
“it reverses the balance of authority and power between author and reader.”
This theory places all of the power of the text with the reader or, in ourcase, the audience receiving it.
“the death of the author clears political space for the multi-voiced populace at large, ushering in the long-awaited “birth of the reader.”
Or, in our case, Donovan must relinquish power to enable birth of the audience as the new creator. They must then derive their own meaning from Judd’s performance of Donovan’s text. They may have their own issues with Trump’s administration, they may hold particular points of hers as their own, they may remember a line from the poem the next time they are watching Trump address a crowd and be inspired to act on it and they will then have ownership of the thought.
“Barthes argued that once published, the text is no longer under the control of the author and that the author is irrelevant.”
Perhaps it is a good thing that Judd performs Donovan’s poem without introducing it as the audience need not apply Donovan’s personal history to the script or even consider it to be a prepared performance. They may think of it solely as the thoughts and impulses of Ashley Judd or a stream on unconsciousness as, at this point in time, Donovan’s poem was not widely known. The original author, perhaps even the performer becomes somewhat irrelevant after the performance happens, as from the point of consumption, the audience becomes the new author.
“the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author".
Here he suggests that ownership of meaning completely leaves the original author once the text is written and it is handed over to whomever receives it. Perhaps the same could be extended to performance. Judd may perform to the best of her ability but when she has performed the poem, in it’s completion, it is no longer hers, but rather, it belongs to the revolution.
Insert readings on the importance of having an audience.
This leads us to perhaps one of the most vital components of our revolution, the audience. The people who need to support the revolution, without whom a performance is merely a sigh of dissatisfaction. Equally, one could argue that the audience being present, is what makes a revolution in the first place. Without performance, the words are simply written on a page, dormant and inactive and waiting to be appreciated by a reader, who likely knows what they are about to read. But, when Judd performs the poem at this March with half a million attendees, it is entirely possible that somebody there will be hearing the poem for the first time, without intending to and it may change the course of their lives. Though, most of the March attendees are in solidarity over equal rights, there is heightened passion, a provocative nature and an anger that Judd’s performance of the piece imparts on the audience, that is intended to inspire them.
REVOLUTION AS GOOD/BAD THING:
As we have explored earlier, it is just as likely for a revolution to bring about bad change as it is to have a good outcome. We should hope that revolution in Washington is associated with virtuosity and clear endeavour but, by nature, revolution is a violent action to attempt to change the everyday. However, Judd’s recital of Nina Donovan’s poem, one could argue, is objectively virtuous regardless of the outcome as the intention behind it is simply inclusive, corageous, selfless. The words of the poem are designed to encite passion, confidence and strength in women who have been beaten down, had their character attacked and had their ability questioned. It is an attempt to own a slur thrown at them by a man who rules over many of them. And, one could argue that the performance of the poem is more virtuous than the poem on a page as it is only when the words are performed and heard that they become revolutionary. Eager to be inspired to action, eager to be led. Every revolution needs a leader and Ashley Judd made herself a leader when she decided that she would be the voice of the oppressed feminist in revolution against the man who thinks ‘a smile…unbutton.”
Val has debated in the main chamber in the the GMB, Trinity College, Dublin for a variety of societies and events (E.g. DU Philosophical Society's 'Freshers Week Comedy Debate' where she debated amongst well-known comedians Andrew Stanley and Al Porter and was awarded best speaker.) She is due to present an academic paper at the ISTR Conference, 2017 in the University of Nottingham this April.)