TITLE: The Grand Hippo Drama, An Op’ry For The Ages
Dedicated to Andrew Macyshyn
The constant human performance of day to day life contains great moments of vulnerability, heartache, and discovery.This drama of the human experience can be called an opera. The viewer’s acceptance of this is intrinsic to the meaning of my performative body of work, The Grand Hippo Drama, An Op’ry For The Ages . By creating ties to the opera I am then free to play on its tropes and language of binaries as a tool to discuss real-world issues of class.
The term Op’ry was first made popular in the 1920s as the title of a country radio show. It was a very American response to the extravagance of the great European operas. The Grand Ole Opry is still popular today in its televised form. I use aspects from the television series, looking back to its launch in 1955, to present the performance with radio-like qualities, and a static but versatile staging. My Op’ry has a semblance to an opera yet takes the operatic code with a grain of salt. By twisting the most essential or stereotypical instances, the components that make an opera from the purist perspective, are reinforced or bastardized.
The circus in its heydey was a theatrical event as ostentatious as an opera. In both mediums the fragility of life was dangled before an audience. I explore different positions within the circus, from animals, to freaks, to strippers. The hippodrama, a popular form of melodrama from the 19th century featuring and often starring horses, is the act I chose for the title for it is both opera and circus.
The framing of this body of work is meant to call to mind something akin to a musical show sung by automatons.The props supplement the story and are made mostly of papier-mâché and found objects. The pieces are playful and earnest. I am intrigued by the ingenuity, community, and forces of patriotism behind American folk art. I use this DIY vernacular to create objects, which through my performative engagement, are skeptical of the political power structure of the circus. By drawing from the past I point out the flaws in nostalgia and how the ways of the past have created our present.
The spirit of the narrative is fixed in the heavily fabricated world of my imagination. As the piece progresses, the real world is lost as the meaning becomes more and more an inward reflection. My Op’ry uses the setting of the circus as metaphor. The story being told addresses acceptance of each other in the interior collective versus larger social structures outside the tent. The circus as a conduit for exploitation and intrigue then becomes a place of spiritual loss and recovery.