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performance

the Wooster Group’s Town Hall Affair

The Wooster Group, The Town Hall Affair, 2016. Performance view, the Performing Garage, New York, June 9, 2016. From left: Germaine Greer (Maura Tierney), Norman Mailer (Scott Shepherd), Norman Mailer (Ari Fliakos), Jill Johnston (Kate Valk). Photo: Paula Court.

WHAT EXACTLY IS The Town Hall Affair, an hour-long performance piece the Wooster Group staged this past May as a work-in-progress at the Performing Garage in SoHo? Is it a reconstruction of Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker’s 1979 feature Town Bloody Hall, which documented the “Dialogue on Women’s Liberation” presented April 30, 1971, at New York’s Town Hall by the Theatre for Ideas? Is it a deconstruction? A hall of mirrors? A stroll down memory lane?

Multiple iterations of a narrative (often jumping from medium to medium) tend toward myth. Such has been made of that archetype-populated April evening when Norman Mailer took the stage to defend his masculinist manifesto “The Prisoner of Sex,” which had just appeared in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine, before a panel of four women (three of whom would publish accounts of the event) as well as a packed house.

Originally, Mailer

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