Kris Rothstein's Blog

PuSh 2020: Free Admission

Kris Rothstein

Ursula Martinez’s one woman show is cemented in a metaphor. Her work as a theatremaker over the last several decades has been all about exposure, literal nakedness, and stripping away the barriers between performer and audience. So it is a provocation that in her latest work, while baring her thoughts, feelings and memories, she is also literally building a cement wall between herself and the audience. For this show Martinez received expert instruction in proper bricklaying techniques, and her attention to the manual labour involved in her metaphor is quite hypnotic.

What is the meaning of this contradiction? Is it just an intriguing juxtaposition? Is Martinez suggesting that she will display and confess, but she will also obscure and hide? Presenting a complete and honest version of a person is a complex proposition. Martinez talks about big issues like misogyny, racism and homophobia, as well as personal details like her love for the theme music from Rocky and the embarrassing nicknames she shared with her ex-wife. Maybe we will learn something from this assemblage, but maybe the more we learn, the less we will really know. Perhaps the most obvious truths are trapped behind a brick wall. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that it is a worthy (and entertaining) question.

The title is also a pivotal key to the show. The show does not in fact offer free admission, but Martinez does freely admit the audience to the contents of her mind. Some of her admissions will be uncomfortable, some will show her in a less-than-positive light, but they will all be freely given. The format of the performance feels natural and almost stream of consciousness. All sentences begins with the word “sometimes,” and contain family stories, remembrances from childhood, or observations about the world that make Martinez angry and resentful. Woman are still made to feel less than men, as afterthoughts, and “sometimes this pisses me off,” she pronounces. Many of the thoughts are whimsical but they build to an uneasy intensity, lightened by Martinez’s beaming smile and willingness to always make jokes at her own expense. When she inevitably sheds her clothes, it is a moment of passionate and playful liberation which makes the whole enterprise feel essential.

You can read my interview with Martinez here.



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