Deb Margolin’s Performance Composition: Writing and Embodying

“It is terribly radical to acknowledge one’s own personal images and experiences as worthy of performance.” -Deb Margolin

For the Margolin actor, life and theater are inseparable.

Performance composition is born through performative writing, and for Margolin, automatic writing, however the composition is only finished and finally becomes a “performance” only through the reception of an audience. These materials show us images of Margolin performing within the context of both history and audience reception.

The Female Body on Stage

The first of the four images in this section is a newspaper article that discusses the historical issue of the woman’s body on stage. It begins, “Is she a fat, cheesy slut?” Margolin replies, “You have to answer that question with your performance. Unless you steal the space of the stage.” ‘Stealing’ the stage is the subversive ‘collapsing the boundaries’ of gender and expectations of appearance, and it is also the embodiment of performative composition. The second image is of Margolin, attached to the article. The article presents is her in action and in communication with her audience. The space of the stage may literally be the theater, while it is also more abstractly the space of the audience’s collective consciousness.

This notion can be viewed in the third and fourth images, the front and back to a production card that advertises Margolin’s “Of Mice, Bugs and Women.” On the front side, Margolin is presented as a jarring character staring back at the audience, while the flip side of the card ensures the viewer that this unsettling character belongs to a world of infinite possibility, and Margolin the actor can and will be multiple things and people in this performance.

The Composition of the Body

Embodying is the final stage for performance composition, and it is one that cannot be achieved through an exhibit forum. These images of Margolin in the performative sphere represent the stage of embodying in performance composition that performative writing begins to shape. Margolin’s body in these images and performances holds infinite potential for performance that can arise from nowhere and nothing, as Margolin’s syllabus asserts to her students. The body is the subconscious carrier that is always embodying identity, time, place, gender, race, ideology… etc. Performance composition demands that the actor be conscious of the body so that embodiment may take a purposeful and performative shape. If performative writing is such because it collapses boundaries and engages the subconscious with the conscious to mimic experience and sensations of lived experience, then performative embodying is living through the writerly composition to physically present the lived experience of the body.