Billy Mullaney is doing this one-man show, with eleven women. Part of this process involved a survey that Mullaney wrote, and that each of the women in the cast had to fill out. They rated different activities that Mullaney proposed to be part of the show on a scale of one to seven. The activities were all things that Mullaney wanted — and so the cast and director embarked in a negotiation process, negotiating how comfortable they were with doing certain things. For example, while they decided not to have nudity on stage, it was agreed that Mullaney would be on stage watching nude women off stage, so he would see, while the audience wouldn’t.
When he was telling me this, I started to feel my whole body tense up. It seemed like such a jerk move. It seemed like exercising power for the sake of exercising power. Maybe I recalled certain of my own experiences being a performer, and feeling manipulated by male authority figures myself. In any case, I started to argue with him. I never do this when I’m interviewing someone. I generally remain impassive, allowing the person to explain themselves and asking questions as objectively as I can. But in this case my emotions got the better of me.
Apparently, I’m not the only one. One cast member has already dropped out, and he said that two people have refused to see the show after speaking with him about it.
“Have you ever thought about what would happen if you used your powers for good?” I asked him. He looked at me, surprised. Clearly he believes that his project is for good.
I realized at some point that the discussion I was having with him itself was part of the show, and perhaps the most important part. In some ways, perhaps what he is doing — looking at male privilege in a very methodical, very deliberate way — is better than ignoring it entirely. After all, almost any given play that you see is in some way reinforcing the patriarchy, in that it doesn’t call it to question. I started to think that even though I was so furious with Mullaney’s methods, at least they were an attempt to stir up these uncomfortable layers of power that usually we all take for granted.
photo by Melissa Hesse, courtesy Billy Mullaney
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