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Crossing the Fog with Sacha Yanow

Crossing the Fog with Sacha Yanow

Patricia: From your script, I loved this phrase: “the disappearing appearing act.”
Sacha: I use that phrase to explain what this whole piece or "soiree fantastique" is. Soiree Fantastique is a reference to early cinema coming out of magic shows and vaudeville/theater. Early film came from illusionists experimenting, trick photography, and special effects. George Méliès was called a cinemagician. Spiritualism was also very big at the time—and there was much debate as to whether séances were actually magic tricks. Early cinema often used séances as part of narrative content. I kept reading about how commonplace séances were - especially among Hollywood lesbians in the silent film era. The “disappearing appearing act” has multiple meanings: The fog obscures me from my authentic self, I disappear. The séance/magic show makes the fog appear to eventually make it disappear. Lack of information on queer histories is a disappearing act. My seeking it out and connecting to it is an appearing act. Etc.

I took Meisner acting training in my late 20s after having left acting for a while because of childhood baggage and coming out - the basis of Meisner's method is Stanislavski's acting system which came to the US/Hollywood around the turn of the century, after the Bolshevik revolution. Stanislavski taught psychological realism. The training helped me restore a more full repertoire of my own authentic feelings. Acting brought me truth and authenticity - even though that seems counter intuitive. I didn't "learn" the feelings, I just discovered and allowed what was already there.

Patricia: Silent Film has many revolving roles, roles that invoke the lover and the beloved. Carson McCullers has written about a simmering melancholy within the lover as a role. The overt presence of desire in Silent Film reminded me of this quote: McCullers writes that “...the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover...Almost everyone wants to be the lover...in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover...For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved...”
Sacha: I really relate to the discomfort of receiving the love of the lover. Being stripped bare. In a way this piece is about being isolated and the process of coming to find connection in history and community—loving and being loved.

And it is complicated and I don’t understand it. I am investigating not only the melancholy that I feel/felt in the roles of the clown and the vampire―but also the melancholy that seemed to be around me growing up that somehow those roles saved me from.

Patricia: Did your physical performance reference Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc? Specifically, Joan’s Passion as it moves through her mind and pools up as emotion in the eyes, the face, the throat.
Sacha: Yes, it is referencing the Dreyer film, the incredible performance of Renée Jeanne Falconetti, the lead in that film, but also the character of Joan of Arc in general. As a classic feminist icon. In my research I discovered that there were several Hollywood lesbians who tried their hand at Joan of Arc scripts.

There are three vignettes in Silent Film attempting to illustrate parts of the “fog” and Joan of Arc is the first. For me it references the Martyr role, taking on the emotions of others, “saving” people. Peter Pan is the second, the boy who never grew up: another role that many a boyish lady actor played (and it started with Maude Adams at the turn of the century). So few roles for us. It references my own gender exploration, my disconnection from my female adult identity, the search for genderqueer reality. The final was from The Graduate, referencing a later time period as I began to come into sexual experiences.

Patricia: You flawlessly conveyed Renée Jeanne Falconetti's pathos and physicality. Little Vamp exited the stage exactly from the same point of entry, but quite differently: capeless, with confidence and showing face. The silent movement walked away with renewed determination.
Sacha: I wanted to express that something has changed for Little Vamp from this experience with the Ghost Club. From connecting with herself and others. She is still black and white. Still has Vamp/Clown face and is still hesitant. But she is less afraid and sad, and like you said, showing face. More connected.

Patricia: How did you get started making work? Or is what you’re doing now an extension of being trained as an actor?
Sacha: This is my second solo performance piece. I never thought of myself as someone who would make things, but surrounded myself with makers of some kind. Acting was always a process of creating, but it’s different than writing/making work. It certainly informs the content of what I make though. I probably was always a maker, maybe I was just disconnected from it. Part of the fog…I don't know you ever feel like this with your own work, but even though I’m talking about sexuality and gender, when I’m making work I’m not thinking about it as I’m making it…

Patricia: That makes good sense to me. To think about it would just paralyze me. When we make work from our own experiences, the work becomes and reflects who we are and what we work through. How ideas develop and how experience is converted into “making.” Converting the lived into an active verb: that is one of the aspects of making that I love.
Sacha: Yes. For me, making is about excavation. Mining myself. It is a way of knowing myself and others.

 

On Thursday, January 16, Sacha Yanow will read source materials from Silent Film and read a piece featuring the Ghost Club, at Hullabaloo Books. Yanow's reading is part of the Adult Contemporary series curated by Svetlana Kitto and Katie Brewer Ball. Hullabaloo Books, Crown Heights, 711a Franklin Avenue on Park Place. 8PM sharp!

Black and white portrait of Sacha Yanow by Jibz Cameron, 2013.