Though it’s billed as a “Living History Tour,” you won’t encounter reenactments of bygone battles or descriptions of antiquated customs during director Brooke O’Harra’s mobile performance piece, I’m Bleeding All Over the Place.
Or rather, you will — it’s just that the histories reenacted here are intensely personal, excerpts from the life of O’Harra, co-founder of the Theater of a Two-Headed Calf and a longtime champion of adventurous new playwrights and under-produced classics. The fourth in a nine-part series, I’m Bleeding is a response to previous performances held at the New Museum and was created in collaboration with several notable contemporary playwrights (including Casey Llewellyn, Erin Courtney, and Heidi Schreck). An ensemble guides spectators through La MaMa’s cavernous Ellen Stewart Theatre, pausing frequently to enact charged moments from the director’s past: conversations with loved ones and scenes from old works, notably an excerpt from Room for Cream, the cult-hit lesbian soap opera O’Harra directed at La MaMa. These memories mingle with meditations on the performer-spectator relationship, on the emotional intimacy theater makes possible and the inevitable distance that a stage creates.
The results are both intriguing and, at times, frustratingly slight. I’m Bleeding engages with complex subject matter, parsing the daily emotional toll that micro-aggressions (homophobic, or just ignorant) exact and the director’s evolving relationship with her audiences. Its staging at La MaMa is significant, too; the space has been a deeply meaningful, decades-long home to non-mainstream voices. On its own, unfortunately, the piece feels insubstantial, its scenes a bit jumpy, its observations on theater and love surprisingly general. Spectators unfamiliar with O’Harra’s work may also find the retrospective elements somewhat opaque. But I’m Bleeding contains the seeds of a larger and stronger observation built up over years of probing theater’s unconventional edges — and luckily, O’Harra’s project continues, with many more stops on the tour.
I’m Bleeding All Over the Place: A Living History Tour
Created and directed by Brooke O’Harra
La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street