I stumbled into the Dungeon Theater carrying a full backpack full of personal artifacts, a bag of my strangest clothes and something my friend called a “bondage bar.” These were all materials an email detailed as necessary for Guillermo Gomez-Peña’s Postra Nostra Performance Workshop, a six hour workshop were, several students, several faculty and I were taught exercises for “rebel actors.” Along with the usual things like clothes to move around in and a notebook, the workshop also encouraged us to bring personal objects, props, costumes, emphasizing the importance to bring military and fetish ware. As I a dropped my belonging as took a seat, I took a moment to appreciate the awkwardness of greeting some of my peers and professors as they avoided my face and instead stared intensely at the bondage bar which was the only fetish object brought to that workshop.
After the participants gathered in a circle, Guillermo entered, flicking his long greying hair to the side of his head exposing his neck tattoo which was either a snake wrapped around a human heart or an image of North America made out of wires. I was a bit star-struck by his presence. Poster advertising his solo performance piece, The Return of Border Brujo, covered almost every bulletin bored on campus starting first week. The show itself, which sold out within fifteen minutes, was a two-hour tour de force, which I hope this campus will be talking about for weeks. He was everything cool and radical about theater.
He was an artist who just put intelligent provocative things on stage that were so powerful they forced people to talk about them. He was some sort of idol and here he was sitting next to me.
The workshop centered primarily around using the human body as a primary material for artistic expression. We took turns being either raw material or artists. As raw material, I had to close my eyes be a malleable and cooperative human body as I let people bend and mold my back arms and legs while they placed costumes and objects on or around me. At one point I stood upright, my hands above my head in fists and with some sort of mask on my face. As my arms started to tremble I listened to Guillermo tiptoe around me, saying things like, “This piece is almost completed and those butterfly wings on his back are very alluring and humorous.”
It was moments like these that make me glad I don’t have to go back home from school and tell my parents what I did in school today. “I tied the school’s associate director to some scary looking pipes in a black box theater with a belt. Then I took the apples intended for our snack and stacked them on top of his body. I pretended it was social commentary but actually I just wanted to see how many apples I could stack on his till body.” I’m glad I go to a college where instead of dropping their wine glasses in horror, people instead go “Whoa, that’s so cool.”