Throws Like a Girl Rocks! (2/8-2/24/2007)
The Austin Rude Mechanicals (or Rude Mechs) presented its fourth “Throws Like a Girl” (TLAG) series this year from February 8-24 at the Austin Off Center. Originally produced in conjunction with the University of Texas Theater and Dance Department, Rude Mechs has made the TLAG series a fixture in Austin’s theater scene since 2000. Designed to showcase stellar women performance artists with the likes of Carmelita Tropicana and Peggy Shaw, the TLAG series for this year focused on performance artists who straddle the genres of performance art, theater and music: lesbian rock legend of Two Nice Girls, Gretchen Phillips; author of Godspeed and Tribe 8 front wo/man, Lynnee Breedlove; and formerly of queercore band Bitch and Animal (“Drag King Bar,” anyone?), Bitch.
TLAG offered a strong formal consistency while also presenting diverse stylistic material. The three performances all drew from first person accounts, as solo shows often do. They also shared a common lineage—all converging at the Michigan Womyn’s one time or another. But the performative structures and lineage is where the similarities end.
While Phillips’s “Don’t Stop Believing” had a casual, conversational style using rock, gospel and country as musical influences, Breedlove’s “One Freak Show: Less Rock, More Hilarity” was more of a standup routine with punk and hip-hop music solos mixed in. Still Bitch’s “Bitch” drew from tap dancing, classical violin performance, and a sound that revealed Bitch’s strong affiliation with Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records label.
Phillips’s Austin fame delivered quite handsomely to a standing-room-only house. Phillips began her show telling the audience that the show is about “Sex and My Parents” and then proceeded to play a cover of Britney Spears’s “Baby One More Time”—much to the delight of the sing-along audience. Interspersing comical anecdotes about, yes, sex and her parents, with covers and Phillips favorites such as “Swimming Pool” and “Reluctant Butch.” Phillips’s performance style, while informal, is disarmingly vulnerable—something that probably helped catapult her and her old band, Two Nice Girls, to queer music sainthood.
Breedlove’s performance did continue along the agit-prop queerpunk vain that Tribe 8 became known for. When discussing the politics of “passing” as male, Breedlove narrated strategies of bathroom politics, culminating in hir urinating into a bucket using a small contraption stowed in hir pocket. S/he also shared the many ways of chest binding, where s/he managed to show us hir bare chest multiple times. Despite Breedlove covering what seemed to be overly done trans-boy/butch/genderqueer topics, hir sidesplitting humor and acute narrative style shed new light on these subjects.
Bitch was a surprise, perhaps because her performance persona is not “bitchy” at all. She discussed ideas of childhood, violence, and the fact that she spent most of her early years almost legally blind—before someone had the wisdom to buy her a pair of glasses. Particularly interesting was Bitch’s portrayals of her British mother, which showed her performative virtuosity. When Bitch would enact a solo dialogue with her “mother,” not only was her British accent spot on, but also her body language and facial mannerisms evoked Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria.
Overall, TLAG delivered yet another excellent series, highlighting what seems to be a developing trend of rock/pop/punk and theatrical genres blending and blurring into each other. Any of the performers would be a treat to see, but presented as a series, it was truly a force with which to reckoned.