Reckoning with the idea of what is “feminine”

The Pipeline reading premiere of Amy Gijsbers van Wijk’s feminine octagon [or, aristotle can eat me] is coming to the Week of Extraordinary Risk on June 28, 7PM. In advance of the reading, we learned a bit more from Amy about the seeds of inspiration for this project, namely culture’s impact on our notion of the “feminine,” the patriarchy, capitalism, and some good old-fashioned Aristotle inspired anger.

Learn more in our interview below and reserve your seat now for feminine octagon [or,aristotle can eat me], June 28, 7PM, Jefferson Market Library (425 6th Ave, NYC).

Pipeline Theatre Company: What do you want us to know about your play?
Amy Gijsbers van Wijk: This high-energy, bizarro dark comedy is attempt to reckon with ideas of what is “feminine,” and the ways in which culture (especially the Internet), patriarchy, and capitalism all calibrate, commodify, and complicate how we (“we” being everyone, but most esp. womxn, femme, & female-identifying people) experience it; how femininity also means there’s often an underlying physical/emotional threat of harm. The “octagon,” in the title is meant to describe the structure of the play, and toy with the concepts of the (so often described) cis-male-orgasm-mirroring Aristotelean play structure and inherently- feminine circular play structure. I’m seeing what it would be like to blend those into an octagonal shape (taking edges/climaxes/conflicts and a more macro circular build into some hybrid shape). A colleague described the play as a “feminine self-help/healing ritual,” and if that is even slightly true for others’ experience of the play, I’ll be over the moon.

PTC: When and where did you decide to start writing this play?
AGW: I started writing the play without knowing if I’d ever use the initial ten pages to make anything. I scrabbled together those ten pages in about eight minutes of furious writing, a few months before PlayLab applications, and then shelved it. When I was putting my application together for PlayLab and trying to decide what I was going to pitch, suddenly this idea of what those ten pages could become felt really clear — it was a confluence of things I’d been thinking about a lot in my own life, as an artist and as a femme person. I was excited by the idea of turning something a little “throw-away” (not knowing what I’d do with those 10 pages) into the heart of a bigger piece, because it felt challenging, and scary, and like a bit of a bargain — committing to the idea that these wild impulses could become, thematically, the support a whole play. 

I also spent a lot of time in graduate school studying, and being deeply frustrated with, the expectations and limits of plot and Aristotelian structure. One day, I was in a meeting with my professor, Rob Handel, and I think we were going over an outline that I’d made, specifically to hammer out the plot of a play. I said, “You know, sometimes when I’m working on plot, I . . . am filled with this deep sense of rage, like physically, in my body. And I understand why I have to be able to [have this skill as a writer] but I am also full of anger.” There was a pause, and then he said, “That’s interesting. I think maybe you should use that anger in a play.” I think that a lot of that anger has found its way into feminine octagon [or, aristotle can eat me]. So I guess you could also say it started there.

PTC: What excites you most about this project?
AGW: I’ve tried to create a play that feels authentic and centered around the experiences of womxn, that assumes they are my audience, they are who the play is for. That’s been really exciting, and also lets me see the ways I’m socialized to assume and explain things, in an effort to help out the patriarchy, to center and make men comfortable, in my writing and as a person. Which is equally awful and exciting. I’m thrilled to try and hold space for the intense spectrum of femininity, of feelings around that. Also, there is tons of weird movement in and out of worlds, a chorus, a karaoke performance, a giant party, Mary Shelley, people turning into reptiles — it’s a play that’s steeped in images and transformation and rhythm in a way that I can’t wait to hear, and hear how people react to it. 

PTC: In one sentence, tell us something strange that happens in your play.
AGW: When Allure and Candy are in the middle of getting ready for a night out, Orpheus descends . . . it is unclear from where, or exactly what his deal is. 

PTC: Are you working on anything else?
AGW: I’m working on a play about mainstream kink/BDSM pornography called DIRTY DIRTY, and I’m in the middle of writing a pilot as a part of the Tank’s Pilot Writing Group.

PTC: What’s next for you?
AGW: I’ll be in residency with Fresh Ground Pepper’s BRB Retreat this summer, working on a brand new play.

About feminine octagon [or, aristotle can eat me]

by Amy Gijsbers van Wijk | directed by Anne Cecelia Haney
Thursday, June 28, 7PM
Jefferson Market Library | 425 6th Ave
Make Reservation

Allure and Candy become goddesses. A man falls from the sky. Flowers + Mary Shelley fall in love. & cam girl Eurydice_19969 wants to make that ca$$$h. feminine octagon [or, aristotle can eat me] is one hour, one night, one hundred nights in the search for an unforgettable, life-changing party.