Our So-Called Sleepover, or, Freud and Jung Crash 1995 through a Ouija Board
MIREYA AND MERKEL ON THE RADDEST SHOW ON EARTH
/Profile by Mitchell Colley, Mothership LA/
We checked in with Mireya Lucio & Sallie Merkel on developing their work, revisiting adolescence, and bringing back the word rad.
How did you begin to develop it this piece? What was the catalyst?
Mireya: Well, there is a version of this piece that was just the edited letters (between Freud and Jung) that I created in 2005? 2006? I had an idea for a dream piece that was about the relationship of the doctors through their letters. And then that idea got kind of shelved… And then, I don’t know what happened, I think I was having anxiety about graduation (from CalArts, where Our So-Called Sleepover… was first presented as part of the New Works Festival) and somehow some sort of like, ‘90s nostalgia thing kicked in for me and I started gathering images of all the stuff I used to have from the ‘90s and all of a sudden, I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about the letters in years, and then all of a sudden it came back and the two things got put together and I had this idea and Merkel was the person I thought about wanting to do (this piece) with.
Merkel: Aww. I remember all that I offered, to like bring it together, was that we should get possessed by Freud and Jung through a Ouija board. I brought in the Ouija board.
Mireya: And that was the rabbit hole for the show.
Merkel: …and since then I have solved other theatrical problems using a Ouija board. It’s my favorite device. And this is where it started.
Are there things that have changed in this iteration?
Merkel: Well for one, we located it specifically in 1995.
Mireya: Which was a great year for source material. A lot of fucked up things happened. Sorry. And it was a great year for women in music. We have Bjork, Jewel, Gwen Stefani…
Merkel: Alanis Morissette…
Mireya: Alanis Morissette…
Merkel: We’ve got some Brandy…
Mireya: Right. Brandy, Oh! “What if God Was One of Us”…
Merkel: Oh yeah, Joan Osborne was around that time. We’ve got some TLC…”Crazy, Sexy, Cool,” was that ’95?
Mireya: I think it was ’94 but it was still in like heavy rotation. Oh, Garbage, “Stupid Girl” was ’95. And then I guess, in terms of current affairs at that time, although were not really like explicitly using it in the show, it’s still I think resonant for us, as we’re making the piece to think about, there was a government shutdown in 1995, the OJ Simpson trial, Oklahoma City bombing happened, Selena was murdered… oh, there was an attempt to reform Welfare and Medicare…gun control regulations that didn’t go through… lots of stuff we’re still dealing with. And you know, Clinton was president…
Merkel: I think another thing that’s changed is that in the previous iteration we just read the doctors’ letters because we had a very limited amount of time to produce that (version of the show). And so now the doctors are much more embodied.
Mireya: We added more text from them, beyond their letters. We also added feminist texts…
Merkel: Right. And I think actually the new lectures and the feminist texts deal specifically with this idea of female hysteria that we weren’t exploring explicitly before. We were just like “Oh, these doctors sound like teenage girls,” or at least the way teenage girls are portrayed and perceived, but this time we’re really looking at how their (Freud and Jung’s) work has actually shaped our lived experience day-to-day, as women.
Mireya: Totally. And I mean, to go back to the idea of ’95 being a great year for female musicians, and because of this theme of hysteria, there’s just so much more, like, Girl Power. I mean, I think this time it’s actually a feminist show. Actually, that’s something that’s interesting and new, is that, while the doctors are taking up so much space in the room, we’ve actually curated a version of our pre-teen lives at that time where all of the cultural references of men have been removed. So it’s very female-centric in terms of the stuff that is being used to navigate the world.
What 3 things (or vernacular) from the 90’s do you wish were still cultural norms?
Merkel: Well, I know right away, we’re trying to bring back the word “rad” as meaning “cool” …to bring back that every day way of equating the radical with the positive.
Mireya: Maybe also the way the grunge aesthetic of not dressing to impress was this sort of style or lifestyle that hadn’t yet been co-opted by commerce. So, like, autonomous, cultural movements, unmediated by corporations.
Merkel: Another thing that I think should be a cultural norm, and I’m no expert on the type of TV shows targeted towards a teenage audience, but I remember that the last time we did this show, “Gossip Girl” was still on the air and that was a huge show and my sister—who was a teenager at the time—was really, really into it, and I’m not going to lie, I also enjoyed “Gossip Girl,” but the central problem of the show for me is that the best character on the show, the most interesting character, the wittiest character, Chuck Bass, is a known date rapist and the show actually romanticizes that as rakishness or something. So that show definitely did a lot to prop up rape culture. And when we look at the shows that we are using in some of the videos in this piece, or the shows we looked at to create this piece, we’ve got “Clarissa Explains it All,” “Alex Mack,” “My So-Called Life,” “Blossom,” these were all shows with central female characters and the thing that made them cool was that they were different.
Mireya: Yeah. And they all had strong female friendships. Well, Clarissa not so much. And even like, I mean, we’re not using it anymore, but “All That,” had like, young, female comedians, like women being funny, not just women being cute or whatever. I feel like shows back then also acknowledged a higher level of intelligence and more of a depth of emotion from young people, than a lot of the shows that are happening now for that audience.
Merkel: So, I guess, one thing we wish was still a cultural norm, would be mainstream storytelling that centers on female stories that are relatable and also inspiring. Stories that say “weird is cool.”
Mireya: Yeah, even like Shirley Manson and Courtney Love and Alanis, these women who were being loud and emotional and speaking their minds, that was cool.
What should stay forever in the 90s?
Merkel: This is a tough question. We didn’t really like this question at first. But the other day, I heard a news story on the radio in which they mentioned Bill Clinton, the story wasn’t about him, they just mentioned him, and every time they mentioned him they played the clip of him saying “I did not… have sexual relations… with that woman.” Even though it had nothing to do with the story. And I guess that’s a phrase I wish had stayed in the ‘90s. Using the words “that woman” to dehumanize and shame.
Mireya: Slut shaming should have stayed back pre-90s. But with Monica Lewinsky, it had a big moment. And it’s still a thing that we have to deal with. And it’s internalized.
What is the experience of revisiting female adolescence like?
Mireya: Well it’s funny because I think we’ve taken, without necessarily intending to, we’ve taken this idea of the versions of ourselves back then very seriously. Even though they’re fictionalized versions in some ways. I mean, we’ll say things like “I don’t know if my parents would have had that in the basement.” Being able to revisit yourself. It’s like I’m able to put myself in this, like, more empowered version of who I actually was at that time, and now with the knowledge that I have, it’s like I’m giving my thirteen-year-old self a better, more supportive, bubble of the world with what she had around her and maybe like, a better friendship than maybe some of the friends that she had at that time. And a less-embarrassed and self-conscious self, not that Mireya, the character in the show is not all of those things, but I think that in performing her I can be okay with being those things in those moments, and aware of how beneficial they are in development.
Merkel: I like this idea of giving my younger self a gift. It’s kind of like I’m getting to enjoy all of the things that brought me joy in that era without the shitty side of it. So there’s control and also, just knowledge. I mean, looking back at Seventeen Magazine and seeing how even the horoscopes reinforce the hetero-patriarchy with their emphasis on boys and the value given to what “cute guys” think of you. To be able to see how the patriarchy is operating at every level, even in Seventeen Magazine horoscopes, to bring that awareness to the kind of stuff I was consuming, I think it sort of circles back to me in these ways, I mean seeing how I internalized this stuff, or how it shaped me, has allowed me to sort of re-shape myself and liberate myself more. So I think returning to that era in which I absorbed and internalized so much allows for a sort of liberation in the present.
Mireya: Yeah, and also now, having the awareness that there was so much more radical stuff happening at that time, that I just didn’t have access to in Puerto Rico. So bringing that stuff, like Bikini Kill, into this performance and in that way, radicalizing myself in 1995. To give myself experiences that I didn’t have.
What can audience members expect to walk away with?
Mireya: It’s a really fun show. I mean, I have fun working on it.
Merkel: I think, maybe, another thing that has guided this process is something that Marissa (Chibas) would say to us whenever we were building something in her acting class, “do the thing that you always wanted to do onstage”–
Merkel: –and I think we’ve found a lot of those moments in this. So I hope that will make for a pleasurable viewing experience.
Mireya: Yeah and like, I don’t know, but maybe to start thinking about how, I mean, I think this is something that we’re already thinking about and I think a lot of people are thinking about, but if you are a person who listens to girls or women speak, saying “like” or using “upspeak” or any of these kind of like, “feminized” ways of expressing themselves and you are a person who thinks that there is less value in the content of what they are saying, or less emotional depth, because of the way they are speaking, I hope that will get questioned, or re-evaluated.
Merkel: Yeah, and it would also be cool if our show makes people look back at the things that they were consuming at a very formative age as well and allows people to do what we just described, to sort of return and re-consume that stuff and see how it shaped them. That would be cool. I don’t know if it will do that.
Mireya: And I think also to allow ourselves to take ourselves-back-then seriously, too. Because I feel like, it’s really great to grow and learn and gather more experiences, but this thought of “Oh, I was so young and naïve then,” it’s like “Yeah, we were young and naïve, but there were things that mattered, that were important to us, we were emotionally complex beings with, like, big ideas that were thinking about the world in complicated ways and had things to say.”
Merkel: Yeah. Alright. Peace out, Girl Scout.
Catch Our So-Called Sleepover, or, Freud and Jung Crash 1995 through a Ouija Board
Friday, October 23rd at 9pm & Saturday, October 24th at 4pm and 9pm at AUTOMATA 504 Chung King Ct Los Angeles, CA 90012, as part of the 2015 Live Arts Exchange (LAX) Festival.
Mireya Lucio makes things and likes to share. The things she has made recently have taken the form of dinners, lectures, walking tours, videos, audio recordings, stage shows, game nights, and site-specific happenings. As a child, she assembled meticulous performances and collages from her bedroom in Puerto Rico. She doesn’t like being told what to do/how to be/what to feel. She often channels this frustration into performing “important historical male” pageantry, where she de-stabilizes timelines and factual accounts through feminized, tangential, informal, and domestic filters. Her last performance, “Brandenburg Gate: The American Hits,” was presented at PAM Residencies. She has 6 rad sisters. mireyalucio.com
Sallie Merkel once took an online quiz to find out which Disneyland ride she is. She’s the Haunted Mansion. Maybe that’s why this is her second performance involving a Ouija board THIS YEAR. She enjoys séances and other modes of non-traditional listening to and performance of forgotten, marginalized or silenced stories. In 1995, Merkel was on a competitive jump-roping team and played Jo March in a children’s theater production of “Little Women.” In more recent years, she created the lo-fi nail art tutorial turned-existential sci-fi mystery web series “Dandy Nails with Sandy,” performed in Los Angeles with her improv group GiRL CRUSH, in productions by The Speakeasy Society and at venues such as REDCAT, the Theatre at Boston Court, the Bootleg Theater and Automata, picked up an MFA from CalArts and spent some time in New York as company member with the Brooklyn-based Irondale Ensemble Project. www.salliemerkel.com