Philadelphia Live Arts Festival
September 6-11, 2005
Directed by Greg Giovanni, video by Nadia Hironaka, design by Jonathan Berger
Featuring Elizabeth Boggs (harpsichord), Helena Espvall (cello), and Michael Simmons (classical guitar)
drown’d used knitting to explore the pain of waiting and acceptance. The piece was built around the myth of Penelope, wife of Ulysses—champion of the Trojan War and hero of The Odyssey. Penelope endured 20 years of waiting for Ulysses to come home. When he didn’t return after the war, suitors demanded she remarry. She tricked the suitors by telling them she’d pick a new husband when she finished her weaving. For four years, she kept the suitors at bay, weaving by day and unraveling by night. In quiet protest, she spoke thru her handwork.
drown’d recreated Penelope’s action of creating and destroying through the knitting and unraveling of a giant afghan. The afghan provided a sense of scale—dwarfing my Penelope, who persevered despite the daunting task.
At three intervals during the performance, I broke from Penelope’s story and stepped in front of the curtain to conduct a knitting demonstration. Dressed in a floor-length hand-knit dress, I shared the rudiments of knitting a scarf, which I was “constantly knitting.” By the third knitting lesson, I emerged with a 40-foot-long scarf.
During the knitting lessons, I passed on purls of wisdom, using knitting as a metaphor for accepting your life, mistakes and all, while reflecting on how I used knitting to cope with the recent death of my mother, my first knitting teacher.
I taught myself to knit in order to make this piece and I became obsessed in the process. I knit dozens of hats and scarves. I even knit my husband a surfboard bag. That bag was the basis of the knitting teacher’s dress. I have a hard time following patterns so I knit instinctively, making it up as I go along. I wanted to make the kind of dress that an obsessed knitting teacher would wear—one that screamed “handmade.” Purldrop knitwear designer Erin Weckerly crocheted Penelope’s coat. A crew of knitting friends helped knit the backdrops on size 50 needles.
top 3 photos: Aaron Igler
bottom 3 photos: J. J. Tiziou