Smile Politely

Q&A with performance artist Rebecca Nagle, performing tonight

Rebecca Nagle is performing her one-woman show “A Dozen Things I Want to Do On Stage” tonight at the U-C Independent Media Center at 8 p.m. There’s a sliding admission scale of $6 to $12 (not sure how it slides), and Jacob Barton will be opening on udderbot. Rebecca answered some of our incredulous questions by email. As an introduction, the dozen things are:

  1. undress to “Wenn Ich Mir Was Wünschen Dürfte”
  2. fit in a small box
  3. tell your secrets
  4. discuss why something is racist
  5. fall in love
  6. read her fantasies
  7. act out your fantasies
  8. induce a tragedy
  9. fall down
  10. take truth serum while letting the audience ask her questions
  11. tell a tall tale
  12. disembowel herself


Rebecca Nagle: I do nightly disembowelments. It does not involve magic, but it does involve a daily trip to the blood bank.

Smile Politely: Who supplies your truth serum? Are you tempted to lie in answering this question?

Rebecca Nagle: My friend back in Baltimore is a neurologist at John Hopkins. She gets it for me. I’m not lying.

Smile Politely: How did you get interested in 1920’s political cabaret?

Rebecca Nagle: I took a class on fascist aesthetics in college which was mostly about art in Germany and Italy during World War II. And one of the things we studied was Weimar republic cabaret and how radical that art form was and how it was oppressed and shut down when Hitler came to power. And right now in contemporary performance there is this whole neo-cabaret movement, that isn’t always self aware of its origins. And knowing that I was going to use the format of a variety show I did more research and was really fascinated by how radical the cabarets in the 1920’s were. A lot of the performance was this visceral reaction people were expressing to the violence they had witnessed in World War I. In Vienna some of the cabarets incorporated Dadaism, so it was really experimental.

Smile Politely: What is the best tall tale you’ve ever heard?

Rebecca Nagle: The best story my family has is from our first family vacation before my dad and step mom got married. We were in a small town in Minnesota in this small episcopal church and this old, old, old priest was effeciating a baptism. And he kept backing up into the baptismal candle and lighting his robe on fire. And as the alcolites were hitting him on the back to put the fire out, he turned to them and said thank you because he thought they were patting him on the back to say that he was doing a good job. So he never realized that he was lighting himself on fire and none of the people in this small, polite congregation ever told him.

Smile Politely: What’s been your favorite and least favorite reaction from an audience member to this show?

Rebecca Nagle: It’s hard to get people reactions right after the show, because I’m dead. But I really like it when people find me on the internet and send me e-mails and facebook messages. Sometimes really long ones about all of the things that the show made them think about. It’s a pretty meaty piece of work and to see that people really take the time to digest it makes me really happy.

Smile Politely: Anything else that you want to share is welcome, thanks for helping to weird up our little towns.

Rebecca Nagle: Other things to say… hmm… In general the performance combines 1920’s European cabaret with 1970’s feminist performance art to make an interactive variety show that deconstructs power, gender, sexuality, and truth.

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