Jess Barbagallo

  • performance January 15, 2021

    Spirit of the Age

    BEFORE SITTING DOWN AT MY DESK for the inaugural evening of the Public Theater’s digital edition of its annual Under the Radar Festival, I scroll through my phone, looking at costumed marauders storming the Capitol Building. The pictures depict smiling Vikings, Confederate and Revolutionary war soldiers, Captain America as a paratrooper holding a straw broom. Is he a warlock, or a street-sweeper? There are enough mixed metaphors for heroism to make your head explode, and I am struck by how desperate people are for cosplay, their imaginations totally warped by popular fictions.

    It’s not the most

  • performance December 04, 2020

    Perfect Stranger

    IN A PARTICULARLY telling moment of the Pomodori Foundation’s 1993 production Queer and Alone, based on the eponymous 1987 novel-cum-travelogue by Jim Strahs, the ne’er-do-well narrator Desmond Farrquahr (Greg Mehrten) finds himself in an intimate conversation with one of his primary nemeses, Miss Deborah Springman (Ann Rower). It’s 1979 and Desmond is mysteriously en route to Hong Kong, along with a passel of morally questionable “travel rats,” whose exploits he recounts with varying tones of amusement, scorn, and outrage over the course of the show’s sixty minutes. Having arrived somewhere in

  • books September 28, 2020

    Open Plan

    TO DO 9/7/20 

    -Bleach tub

    -Eradicate fly infestation

    -Investigate whether or not I am being ghosted by my CSA

    -Forgive former sex partners

    -Don’t be hurt by freshman indifference over Zoom

    ACTIVIST-COMEDIAN MORGAN BASSICHIS'S The Odd Years is an inspirational guide for anyone seeking a model of (modest) art-life practice in the midst of a shitstorm, which I’ll leave as an opaque reference as it's simply too tiring or redundant at this point to enumerate the contents of our shared mess. Comprised of to-do lists recorded every Monday in the years 2017 and 2019—note 2018 is missing, thus the clever

  • performance July 27, 2020

    Nun of the Above

    AT 8 PM ON A WARM, Thursday night, a crowd of twenty arrives in a virtual room for a Zoom performance of composer, cellist, and writer Ethan Philbrick’s Disordo Virtutum, presented by New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. With varying degrees of surprise and pleasure, I find that some attendees are familiar to me. I see a former lover, an artist with whom I have made small talk on several occasions, and a choreographer I once had a shy first date with over greasy pasta at a small Italian restaurant in Ridgewood. (Today we’re friends; she’ll text me after the show.) Curator Lydia Brawner is there

  • slant June 10, 2020

    The Wheels of Joey

    AS I WAS BIKING TO MY FRIEND REL’S to retrieve a needle and some fresh material to read during quarantine, I saw an ominous calling card casually hanging from a door on Onderdonk Street. It read ROMAN EMPIRE LOGISTICS LLC, conjuring in my mind the image of flimsy gladiator breastplates being fed to lions. I presumed it was a realtor’s moniker, but later discovered it was a “fleet logistics company” contracted by Amazon to deliver packages during the pandemic. I even learned that this small enterprise was ahead of the socially responsible curve, requiring employees to wear face masks as early as

  • performance April 09, 2020

    Down Time

    FOR THE LAST FEW DAYS—between applying coats of linseed oil to my newly stripped desk and walking my dog up and down the block, maintaining six feet of distance from the other stragglers walking their own in this ominous time—I have been dipping in and out of the Trickle Up: NYC Artist Network, a subscription video platform launched on March 23 by Taylor Mac, Kristin Marting, Morgan Jenness, Emily Morse, Niegel Smith, and other leaders of the downtown theater scene. The goal of the project is to share unique missives from NYC artists as a way to gain 10,000 subscribers at $10 a month for the

  • performance January 29, 2020

    No Man’s Land

    IN THE PHYSICAL SENSE, there is very little in Richard Maxwell’s play, Queens Row. His approach to directing actors has always appeared to be an act of distillation: Eliminating the excesses of dramatic interpretation so that actors speak and are heard not for the force of their conviction—a programmed contrivance of the meta-script which constitutes popular performance—but for their commitment to stilling the physical body in lieu of more obvious psychologically-motivated behaviors. No tics, unless required explicitly by the text. No histrionics. Pure presence.

    In the eighteen years since I saw

  • performance October 07, 2019

    Here Comes the Son

    AS A THEATER PRACTIONER who has participated in the presentation of work at major museums in New York City and Europe, I’m no stranger to how the art world loves “hybrid” works of performance, which usually means the poor medium gets run through the blender of conceptualism in the name of some opaque inquiry, only to be spat back out in a so-called novel gesture. Reductions of theater to “performance” are often also thin, begging the question: How does an art practice grow when the porous social exchanges that feed its makers emotionally and aesthetically have been so utterly misappropriated by

  • performance July 19, 2019

    Butch Chasers and Femmes Fatales

    I ARRIVE TO SEE BAR DYKES at the Flea just a few minutes before 7 PM on a Friday. I spot Becca Blackwell and their best friend Casey ambling toward the theater from an unremarkable Tribeca watering hole; Jennifer is waiting inside with the tickets. Tanya texts me—“hold the curtain!”—and I can only guess what special dose of hell the MTA is serving her this evening. Returning from a quick visit to the all-gender bathroom, Becca excitedly informs us that bottles of wine are going for twenty dollars at the lobby bar. It’s a forgone conclusion that two will be purchased, and drunk, before the play

  • performance July 11, 2019

    Forbidden Love

    ON THE SECOND FLOOR of the LGBT Center on West Thirteenth Street, at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, Sebastián Castro Niculescu stands in teacherly repose next to a large screen. An academic goth of indeterminate age, she begins to introduce her performance, Tired Selena, by gently bemoaning the heat of the room. She gives us permission to do what we must to survive our enclosure and assures the crowd that she herself will only get shinier over the course of the next hour. Appreciative titters travel over the small audience that has gathered here, although I’m doubtful anyone will

  • performance May 07, 2019

    Live After Death

    IN THE LOBBY OF THE KITCHEN, a small black table offers tiny plastic cups of clear alcohol—wine or liquor I can’t be sure, and I don’t actually know the color of absinthe, but it seems like an appropriately gothic choice for this event—a staging of Anohni’s SHE WHO SAW BEAUTIFUL THINGS, advertised as “a two-act surrealist and absurdist drama containing music, painting, video and performance.” I imagine the preshow drink as ritualistically endowed with a kind of ceremonial magic useful for conjuring up the past. A merch table offers, among other staples, vinyls of Anohni’s music, which I first

  • performance April 19, 2019

    Cher and Cher Alike

    IT WAS EITHER SCOTT’S IDEA, or Maddie’s idea. Or it was Dave’s idea, but then Dave couldn’t come. He’d already seen it anyway and told me that it was like nothing that should be allowed onstage, but there it was. We gave his ticket to Jennifer, and the four of us made our way to the Neil Simon Theater to see The Cher Show, which—playing right across the way from Mean Girls—made a neat little homo alley out of Fifty-Second Street.

    Sitting way up in the $69 “cheap seats” on an undersold Wednesday night, I marveled at how beat up the stage floor was. This is Broadway, I thought, those words hovering