This weekend, embrace your Femme side

by Beacon Staff • September 30, 2009

that everyone goes through, with different means of finding it, dealing with it, and expressing

it. However, most may not realize how exploratory and performance-

based the self-identification

process can be.

When Maggie Crowley, Emerson

'05 alumna and self identified femme, realized there were not many shows in Boston in which she could explore her identity, she made her own.,Self identification is something

that everyone goes through, with different means of finding it, dealing with it, and expressing

it. However, most may not realize how exploratory and performance-

based the self-identification

process can be.

When Maggie Crowley, Emerson

'05 alumna and self identified femme, realized there were not many shows in Boston in which she could explore her identity, she made her own.

The Femme Show was founded by Crowley in 2007, after which she took on the role as artistic director. A femme, says the Merriam-

Webster Dictionary, is "a lesbian who is notably or stereotypically

feminine in appearance and manner."

But the show pushes the boundaries of its definition, revealing that the word "femme" can mean something different to each person, and that there are just as many ways to express its meaning. This is what Crowley had in mind when she used her BFA Dance and BA Political Communication

degree to express her views and ideas as performance.

The show is a gender variety performance of sorts, dealing in issues and the expression of gender, queerness, and the femme identity. While in its first year the show contained mainly dance numbers, it has since evolved to include spoken word, film, burlesque,

drag and comedy.

"Every fall we put together an entirely new show," said Crowley in a telephone interview. "What's exciting to me is we have artists who have been working with us for two or three years who are constantly thinking about what else they have to say on the same topic, and then we also have some new artists bringing [a] different

perspective. We don't have a theme, but there are always threads that connect our stories, threads about finding where you fit in, finding a place for gender or sexuality that fits you; there are always themes about what it means to transgress various gender norms and labels."

One artist who has been with the show since its inception is Havalah Backus, a senior BFA acting major at Emerson. Backus met Crowley before the first Femme Show, and the two started talking. Backus had a background in creating pieces that Crowley was looking for, and she said she's been involved in the show ever since.

When asked about her training at Emerson, Backus said it has influenced her performance.

"Emerson plays a huge role, especially in my solo pieces. I took a solo performance class with Kathleen Donohue [Associate

Professor of Performing Arts] and it just blew my mind. It blew my mind about how I was developing my work and what I was exploring. I used to be a lot more text-based and now I'm a lot more improvisational-based in the creation process. I used to do a lot more direct address [with the audience] but now I'm doing some more introspective work, and instead of just telling the story I'm showing a lot more of the story.I feel so different as an actor and as a performer because of my classes."

What makes The Femme Show unique is its variety of performers who identify with varying sexual orientations and gender qualities.

While some of the performers

relate to the femme identity, some do not, and each person has a different view of what "being femme" means to them.

"We definitely all have different ideas on it," Crowley said. "Not everyone in the show is femme identified which is something that I really believe in. People can have a pretty complicated relationship with labels and they can have something to say about what it means to be presenting femininely in the world or within a queer context . to me it's really important to have a variety perspective

on that."

Alicia Greene, a performer in The Femme Show, expressed that challenge with labels as she finds identification.

"Sometimes I identify as femme and it's mostly by default," Greene said. "From an outside perspective people see me in different

spaces because I play football

and I also do a lot of things that are traditionally 'dykey,' so sometimes people challenge my identity as a femme."

Greene also said being femme can be a double edged sword in this way, an idea that is portrayed throughout the show.

While one member of The Femme Show may relate to its purpose different than the next, or express their gender, sexuality

or queerness in another way, the common theme found in each interview is a communal relationship

between the cast members. The Femme Show is the only touring

troupe of its kind, and while the performers bring their bold production to different states, they form a tightly knit gender-hood and support system.

Their upfront, explorative mode of dramaticism can be very personal, and Crowley, Backus, and Greene all stressed the importance

of cast camaraderie as well as audience enthusiasm.

"Acting is probably the most vulnerable thing I do," Backus said. "And I'm almost more myself than when I'm doing anything else. There's moments that are so honest and real... You only have yourself as a tool, so preparing for a piece like this-there is a lot of trust. I trust the other people who are in the show, [and] I trust that I have a community that can support

our experiences," she said.

The Femme Show is a remarkable,

dramatic portrayal with many forms of exposition and expression that all Emerson students

can relate to. It is a show for all of those who have ever felt in search of something within themselves.

The Femme Show will be showing

Oct. 2 - 3 at 8 p.m. at the Cambridge

YMCA Theatre. Tickets are available at the door for $12.