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Events The Shame Symposium

The Shame Symposium

Chelsea & Magda

June 9 - June 9

Runtime TBA

Cost TBA


DescriptionInterviewAdditional Reading

“We are interested in shame that is linked to pleasure and reveals something about the personality that culture condemns.” Magda

“Smart comedy mixed with a deeply accomplished dance/movement sense; ironic, self-aware pontification; and a thick slather of fresh, crisp feminist sensibility.” Julius Ferraro,

What if your flaws are your talents?

Chelsea & Magda embrace shame to present whole, complicated, terrifying visions of themselves. Not a humiliating and self-hating shame pit, this performance is a symposium on the arena of pleasure at the core of shame; it reveals what happens when people stop avoiding the less-than-ideal versions of themselves.

Expect costumes, dancing, and yelling and nudity and photographs and experiences around being a person with shame, which is every person. Expect drama and unexplained things. Expect explained things, too, and slide lectures and live demonstrations and special guests, including the music of Mike Kiley and shame portrait photography by Jaime Alvarez.

Magda & Chelsea are a dynamic Philly-based dance/performance duo who have been creating and performing together since 2012. They performed The Vulgar Early Works at FringeArts in 2015.

$29 general / $20.30 member (Join today!)
$15 student + 25-and-under

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Singer Songwriter, featured in <em>The Vulgar Early Works</em>

Interview with Chelsea & Magda

How did you come up with the title “The Shame Symposium”? Do you remember where you were?

Magda: Ha, yeah I remember because it was last week. And actually we came up with it just because we had to meet this promo deadline. We were in rehearsal sitting on the floor and talking about if we should stretch and start dancing or try to get some administrative work out of the way and we slipped into a title decision conversation. We were almost going to call it “Recent Developments, Discoveries and Theories” because our work is going away from the “show” format (with a unified theme) and towards a presentation of research. As an artist, what if I could present all of my interests and practices in one evening without trying to make it have a narrative or a cohesive-ish-ness? But admittedly much of our research has focused on shame and we want to give people the heads up- you know not everyone is interested in watching shame transformation.

Chelsea: I like the word Symposium because it puts our work in an academic arena. It lets people know that we will be presenting research, experiments, and demonstrations. It will be a collection of performances, photographs, thoughts and experiences around being a person with shame, which is every person. I agree with Magda, not everyone is interested in watching people explore their shame. So in that way I think this title is scary for us. It feels like it is really putting the vulnerable thing out there for everyone to see.

Describe the “Shame/Pleasure Cake”.

Magda: Ok, well this term originated in an improvisational movement and text score that we developed at our Yard residency this past summer. Maybe Chelsea feels like explaining the score? I don’t. But the importance of the term now resides in the linking of shame and pleasure. We are not interested in shame that is action based or traumatic. Like: I was mean to this girl and I feel guilt about it and it made me think I was a bad person etc. We are interested in shame that is linked to pleasure and reveals something about the personality that culture condemns. So: I often feel that I am an “aggressive woman.” I feel shame because people have shamed me about it. Telling me I’m too intense etc. I feel shame because it implies that I want to hurt others, which I don’t want (to be clear). But I also feel pleasure in the experience of power, in the act of domination, in the explosiveness and playfulness. I don’t believe these qualities are inherently bad or harmful. And the question we pose to others is: Is there an aspect of your identity that causes you pleasure and shame? Let’s look at that. Let’s celebrate that. Because when we do we are going to see your full flawed and complex self onstage. And we are going to break the cycle of idealization to shame to idealization to shame…

Chelsea: I don’t remember the moment that we made up Shame/Pleasure cake actually. It is a convenient food metaphor. I feel like people always look food to art metaphors. In our research the link between shame and pleasure around an aspect of my personality is clear. I believe shame and pleasure live on a spectrum with the object of the shame/pleasure in the middle. At The Yard we performed a layered improvisational movement score. The shame layers were: Shame of genuine movement, shame of dancing to music, shame of improvised duet. Then we flip the cake upside down and reveal the pleasure layers: pleasure of large movement on my body, pleasure of feeling intense musicality, pleasure of being present with another person on stage. This specific shame/pleasure cake was crafted around our shame of what we perceive as “dance tropes” to avoid, but also how that tropes can sometimes feel wonderful.

(Assuming you are) How will you incorporate others’ shame portraits into the show? (And how are you making them?) 

Magda: Josh if we told you how we are going to make them we would be sharing our secret sauce. I’m not gonna share my secret sauce! We are currently taking more “Shame Portraits” which is literally a photograph in which a person inhabits the “less than ideal version of themselves.” We will include these images in the performance and talk about what they mean. We might project them huge, I liked how that felt when we did it at Scratch Night. We are also working with some performers to create “Performative Shame Portraits” in which they make a solo of that pleasure/shame identity aspect. So there will be some guest appearances/cameos of these. We’re making them collaboratively. That’s all I’m willing to say about it now. We will probably be totally transparent about the process in the show.

Chelsea: We’re working with a photographer named Jaime Alvarez on the shame portraits photographs. I felt like it was important to mention his name. We have the participants answer a series of writing prompts. Asking them to list personality aspects about themselves that either they think are true, or others have said to them. Then they pick one that gives them Shame/Pleasure. We then work with the idea, feelings and images to make it a performative shame shoot. We often try to offer ourselves as tools in this process. We call ourselves “shame-doulas.” So if the person is trying to get in touch with their anger we can yell a lot, to make them feel more comfortable yelling. We like to do this because so often getting your picture taken feels absolutely terrible, and there is a whole nother level of shame that comes with that. We don’t want the person to feel alone on the other side of the camera.

As best you can for something you are still working on, can you take us from the portrait to the stage? How have you developed this into a performance? What are the performance aspects?

Magda: The photos don’t lead to performance. They are separate things. The “Shame Portraits” are a subset of the tactics we are exploring for using shame as a tool to get whole, truthful versions of identity onstage.

Chelsea: We are exploring a lot of our own shame and what feels good to perform. We do dances of shame and dances of pleasure. We do dances about our friendship and we have improvisational scores that create shame/pleasure situations right in front of the audience. We dance around with our childbodies because we want to get back to the purity of movement and pleasure. We make rants about things that we are angry about and that hurt us. We think of things that we have never seen women do on stage and we try to do them.

Is there a framework to the show? (for example, “it’s a cross between a slide lecture and a game show” for lack of a better example) Is the audience involved?

Magda: Yes! Those are good guesses. They are some of our guesses too at this point. We will probably have slides. We will DEFINITELY lecture. This is the show in which we are letting ourselves talk as much as we want. We have fantasies of a game show called “Guess Her Shame!” which is totally bizarre and nerve racking. I don’t know if that will make it in. The audience won’t be involved, unless we do some soft-core planting of people we know might want to participate in certain moments. We don’t want to freak anyone out. Shame is a delicate flower. You have to be gentle with her. And we have to protect her.

Chelsea: The show is a bit like Russian nesting dolls. Shame/pleasure cakes inside of shame/pleasure cakes inside of other surprise shame/pleasure cakes. Part of it will be “formal” research presentation. Improvisational experiments in front of the audience with immediate reflection of experience. The Shame Symposium is definitely female.

Additional Reading

“The goal here being personal liberation, and communal liberation.  I know there are some other aggressive women out there.  It’s for them too.  And for the timid men too- for all the shame portraits.  That we could all include ourselves in performance more and feel a little more relaxed around our tender identities.” Magda,