During rehearsal an actor slips in and out of character. She stumbles, forgets her line. She pauses, repeats the line, hears director’s notes, asks questions, repeats the line with a new emphasis, adds a gesture. I often observed this work from the wings of Karl Marx State Theater, in Saratov, where I grew up. I was drawn then, as I am now, to the actor’s ability, through rehearsal, through embodiment, and through intended emphases and fortuitous accidents, to reframe and renew the script.
After moving to the United States, I began speaking English and rehearsing the script of immigration, stumbling, forgetting my lines, making them my own. Much of this script is about translation. With the generative labor of the actor in mind, I understand translation less as about a loss of meaning or authenticity than as a productive reiteration, a form of close reading. I’m fascinated by typos, notes, mistranslations, edits, and other creative noise that accompanies transmission from one language to another. I pursue this noise wherever it appears: in materials, images, and texts as they disseminate ever farther from their origin.
After a performance, in the dressing room, the actor is still fully in her costume. She takes off her wig, lights a cigarette, loads Candy Crush Saga on her phone. She’s not quite Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, nor is she my mother. She’s both and she’s something entirely different. The lines that define a role are tenuous. I’ve pursued these lines in my recent videos, often working with my mother, an immigrant and an actress, as a subject and collaborator. My hope for this work is to reveal the intimacy that emerges in the liminal space between roles, the personal translation between identities.
My guiding methodologies are close reading, rehearsal, and translation. I pursue the moments when the definitions scripted into the role – of a public sculpture, yard art, a Lenin monument, an archival photograph, a former prime minister of Israel, or an iPhone application – begin to break down. By revealing that which emerges in dissemination or between roles, that which begins off stage or outside of the frame, I invite the viewer into the strange, intimate, and contested space of rehearsal.