The idea came to me during an improv class.
I had been going to this acting studio for a few months, all the while struggling with myself, not only as an artist, but a woman in front of a camera.
I had started going because I wanted to hone my skills – but it turned, subtly, into a magnified examination of self image. I wasn’t worried now just about delivery, but about the way I looked when I delivered. And that meant a lot of things – the sparkle of my eye, the frizzies of my hair, the obviousness of my eyeliner, my outfit and accessories, the level of pout in my lips.
This sent me into a bit of a self-hating tale spin. I was a nervous wreck. And I couldn’t focus on my art at all. It was all about how I looked.
When I got home, I would look at the video taken during class, and would despise myself. “What the hell face am I making?” “My hair looks terrible from that angle!” “Why can’t I admit that I’m just fucking fat?” I stopped watching the videos because it was too hard.
I spent classes scrutinizing the other women. I would think, “My God, how do they look like that? Why can’t I?” Or, worse, I would find vindication in an awkward or heavy girl. “Well, at least I look better than that!”
It was miserable.
I started taking a class that wasn’t in front of a camera – a comedy class. It was easier for me.
Then one day, I sat in a class, and it was dominated by women. I think there was one guy in there. I watched improv scene after improv scene, and what I found were generic “womanly” actions and reactions. I saw women acting out the story of being a woman that is easily acceptable. And it was a little dismal. Shopping, cooking, shoes, men. No scenes about lumberjacks, I’ll tell you that much.
Then two women got up. And with the signature hand-on hips bitchiness which is easily accepted by two women in competition for whatever, the (male) teacher joyfully yelled out, “Cat Fight!”
In that moment, something sparked. And understanding. Because what is a Cat Fight but the struggle of women?
And it is a struggle. As an artist and a person.
At first that’s what I wanted to explore : “Cat-Fight : or My Struggle As A Woman”. But I quickly realized how lame and hyper-feminist that was. Worse than the Vagina Monologues.
And really, being a woman isn’t all struggle. Not even. Some of it is rapturous pleasure. Some of it is deep intimacy.
So, what exactly DOES it mean to be a woman?
How does it differ from just being a human?
What can we find, see, celebrate and lament?
Can we find things to work on – just as I had to work on my preoccupation with self-image?
This show isn’t going to be preachy. And it’s not going to be one-note. No, it’s really not the fucking Vagina Monologues, and honestly, I want to make this show for feminists, yes, but also for misogynists. And everyone in-between.
I also have the luxury of knowing some incredible women artists, so this show will be highly collaborative. And might have some interesting and sexy moments. Hopefully some funny and touching ones too.
But that’s getting ahead of myself.
The show is about to start racing down the runway, picking up momentum for flight. And we’ll see how it might soar or crash, but that’s part of what’s exciting too.
It’s my first independent show. I’ve been putting on shows for a few years, at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater and elsewhere. But now I’m excited to make some discoveries on my own, play by my own rules, and maybe fuck up.
I hope you’ll join me on my journey as I do.
xo Vanessa Cate