WATCH SUSANA COOK VIDEOS VIA HIDVL*
Susana Cook: “The unPatriotic Act: Homeland inSecurities” (2007)
The unPatriotic Act: Homeland inSecurities is a solo performance on the spectacles of nationalism and homophobia that combines political satire and dark humor to unveil the links between the horrors unleashed by the repressive military dictatorship in Argentina and the current Bush regime in the United States.
The Idiot King (2006)
The Idiot King is about the Sanctity of Marriage and policy making. In the play the Idiot King and his Court discuss several issues affecting the world like Satan, global warming, the sanctity of marriage, abortion, and evil. The discussions are embedded within Christian religiosity, biased logic, and irony. The parody includes real quotes from some of the ruling discourse, making it difficult to tell them apart from the jokes.
The Values Horror Show (2005)
The Values Horror Show was written as a response to the 2004 US election campaign ran by the Neo-conservatist agenda that claimed to protect “family values” and “the sanctity of marriage.” While proclaiming themselves as defenders of traditional values in America, the Neo-conservatists did not intervene in matters of murder, war, poverty, and genocide that came along. The show starts with a war. Two armies are fighting for God and they have similar prophets and commandments. It is confusing who is fighting in what army. During the show, the soldiers become the workers who end up confronting Lady Incorporated, a character that represents capitalism. Throughout the play, Cook interweaves American traditional values with the current policies against ethnic minorities other marginalized sectors of American society.
100 Years of Attitude (2004)
100 Years of Attitude mocks the title of the Latin American novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez. The play approaches the theme of execution, imperialism, invasion, and colonialism making several explicit references to the war in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and the official discourse of the US president George W. Bush’s administration regarding the role of the United States in the international context. The play talks about the end of the world as a subjective experience, that is captured in the following sentence: “When everybody around you is dying… that’s the end of the world.” In the piece, a Christian executioner prays before killing and an American family comes to live in town taking over the local homes. The people of this fictional lesbian town are executed several times, always coming back to life; the life of a community prevails over that of the individual. Some other themes that appear in the show, that are a constant in Cook’s work, are the theme of the “Hero” –through references to Odysseus– and the corrupting effect of power.
Dykenstein–Sex, Horror and the Tragedy of the Straight Mind (2003)
Dykenstein is a lesbian adaptation of the classic story of “Frankenstein.” In this play, Dr. Dykenstein triumphantly creates “the perfect dyke,” but one of her assistants carelessly leaves the creature unattended in front of a TV and a bunch of trashy magazines. Brainwashed by mainstream media, the perfect dyke becomes a “wild” straight woman. Desperate for a husband, the monster threatens to murder Dr. Dykenstein if he does not make one for her. “Dykenstein” is a parody of the Christian Right’s take on science, the U.S. anti-abortion crusade (which declared that having aborting a fetus older than two weeks is murdering an American citizen), and the rights of women.
Homerun is a monologue about God and home runs that Susana Cook performs playing a guitar. The solo piece was inspired by a commentary by a famous baseball player that Susana saw on TV, in which the player presented home runs as “a God-giving thing.” In the monologue, Susana humorously locates this “gift” in inadequate contexts like Argentina, where baseball is not a popular sport like in the United States; and she also imagines a female protagonist who, despite her talent, would not make it to the major league because of her gender. “Homerun” was part of “Rivers of Honey, Women’s of Color Cabaret,” held at WOW Theater Café in New York City.
Hamletango, Prince of Butches (2002)
Hamletango, Prince of Butches is an adaptation of “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” for an all-women’s cast. In this play, all the original elements of Shakespeare’s play appear rearranged, transformed. Here, the prince is a woman and the ghost is her mother. If in the original drama the ghost of the father comes back asking his son for revenge, causing a tragedy where everybody dies, in this version the ghost of the mother does not come back asking for revenge. Ophelia appears here as a good swimmer, but the audience still witnesses her funeral –and so does she, next to the other characters, bringing together the living and the dead, ghosts and ashes. The tragedy, then, becomes a comedy. At the end of the drama –as in the original “Hamlet”– a group of clowns comes to tell “what really happened.” Represented as peasants who just witnessed the death of the whole royal family in the hands of each other, the clowns find themselves in a palace full of clothes, food, and wine, without a King, a Queen, or a Prince. So they dress with their clothes, drink their wine, and celebrate.
Spic for Export (2002)
Spic for Export is a performance about memory and the borders of life. “Spic” is the ethnic slur applied to Latinos and Hispanics in the US. In the piece, which explores the borders between the “inner” and the “outer” world, death appears as just one more element of life. The show is organized in a series of monologues that describe the character’s journey in search of God, Truth, Justice, Friends, True Love, and True Gender. The protagonist ends up finding the frontiers of the social body, looking for a job, trying to survive in a corporate world. Includes Cook’s “Lemon Cookies” monologue.
The Fraud (2001)
The Fraud was performed after the 2000 controversial elections in the United States. The play addresses the rights that were lost under the Bush administration, when most of the social services were cut off and the poor and marginalized lost the basic support that kept them alive. In the play, the characters experience feelings of loss and confusion. They end up not knowing if they ever had what they think they have lost. The audience is invited to put 25 cents, and a black woman will die, right there, in front of them. During the rest of the scenes, the characters experience apathy, fear, and desperation while dealing with all the dead bodies around them. In the last scene, they “represent” the people from Third-World countries; the ones who were not called to vote, but that will be affected by the measures enforced by the president of the United States. Because US policies will affect their lives deeply, they claim their right to vote.
Gross National Product (2000)
Gross National Product is a response to the Giuliani administration in New York and the devastating effects that his policies had on the poor. The play deploys the interrelation between poverty, the working class and marginalization.
Hot Tamale (1999)
Hot Tamale is a Latina fiesta about the Latina stereotype. 1999 was Latin pop singer Ricky Martin’s year with his hit song “La fiesta.” Latinos became the new market. They were considered hot, great lovers, great dancers, and big consumers. “Hot Tamale” is a show about sex and hot tamales.
Rats, the Fantasy of Extermination (1998)
During his administration, Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, decided that he was going to “exterminate” the rats from New York City. In “Rats” Susana Cook used some of Giuliani’s discourse to compare it with the fantasy that some people have to make gays and lesbians disappear; the fantasy that those in power have that they can exterminate and rend any minority group invisible. “Rats” is about queers, butches, lesbians, and a little bit about rats. The show has a non-linear structure. The piece starts with a comparison between rats and King Hamlet. The main character realizes that she already became a ghost –even when she is not dead yet– and she starts obsessing about her ghost and her death. She states: “sometimes your death can be more important than your life.”
Butch Fashion Show in the Femme Auto Body Shop(1997)
The Butch Fashion Show in the Femme Auto Body Shop was performed at Dixon Pace in the context of the HOT Festival in July, 1997. The performance, a collaboration between Susana and artist Lisa Haas, is comprised of scenes previously worked for a cabaret by Cook’s Tango Lesbiango company called “The Service Economy Vaudeville.” It is a witty, satirical exploration of the ups, downs, and sexual charades at play in an urban butch-femme relationship.
The Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library (HIDVL) is the first major digital video library of performance practices in the Americas. Created in partnership with NYU Libraries and with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this growing repository guarantees historical preservation and free, online access to more than 600 hours of video through the Hemispheric Institute website. A trilingual Profile (English, Spanish and Portuguese) is created for each collection, contextualizing the videos with detailed production information, synopses, image galleries, texts, interviews, bibliographies and additional materials. Artists and organizations always retain the copyright to all their videos, as well as the original material, which is returned after digitization. With video documentation spanning from the 1970’s to the present, the collections seek to promote dialogue and a deeper understanding of performance and politics in the Americas.