BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Eliza Gibson knows how to write--and perform. She is currently performing in her newest performance piece "And Now, No Flip Flips?!", which draws from her personal life in a poignant and funny way. She uses humor to tell her story--which is one that is both common and hardly written about--divorce. In Gibson's case, she is portraying what divorce looks like for two women, which has been routinely ignored by mainstream media and culture. This is a huge step for the LGBTQIA community, and it's an amazing performance.
Her show is this Saturday, May 14th in NYC, details below:
9pm, Saturday, May 14th
The Flying Solo 4 Festival
at The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, NY 11101
I was lucky enough to talk to Gibson about what's it's like to exploit your own life in some ways, what pisses her off, and why she loves the color orange:
Was it hard to make “And Now, No Flip Flops?!” It clearly draws from your
personal life—is that uncomfortable?
Yes, it can feel like a lot of exposure. There's always something vulnerable about sharing personal stories, but it's those specifics that are also great connectors. At some point, I realized my attempts to get through a very dark period of my life had reached a level of insanity that was quite entertaining. Why limit my audience to my friends? And "Now, No Flip Flops?!" is like a Public Health Service Announcement--you, too, will survive grief. Lesbian divorce happens.
Who/What are your influences?
The absurdity and unexpectedness of every day life. The people I encounter. Today, in Saratoga Springs, NY, I met someone who works at Price Chopper. I was so excited! As a kid in Kansas City, I went grocery shopping with my mom at Price Chopper. Turns out the Price Chopper based in the Northeast sold their name to a chain in Kansas City in the 70s, so they aren’t actually the same.
Just when I thought I was having an I'm-home-everywhere-it-was-so-great-being-a-kid-grocery-shopping-with-my-mom feeling, I have to accept the fact that there's more than one Price Chopper chain in the world? That’s confusing, and I must confess, a little disappointing. My small world moment became a fragmented world moment. But isn’t Price Chopper a great name for a grocery store? Maybe I would’ve sold it, too. Who knows, maybe this will work its way into a show. A character who works at Price Chopper will get asked, with some knowing attitude,“Yeah, but which one?”
Tell me something silly about yourself.
I have a carrying case for my collection of color therapy glasses. Each pair is inside its own sock. And all the socks are inside a tool belt that I roll up. I carry them with me everywhere. I have 9 different colors. You never know what color you may need. Today I'm wearing orange. Orange is for success.
What is your artistic process like?
I generally need space and quiet blocks of time, to write. But I frequently have my best ideas in the bathtub. Or recently it was lying on a bed in a hotel room in Palm Springs, staring at the stucco ceiling. I had a total breakthrough. Acting and getting a show on its feet is a completely different process. I like to rehearse in a racquetball court. I've never played racquetball in my life. But I like the big white space to figure out and practice the physicality of a show. When I’m developing characters, I walk around my apartment being them.
What version of you makes your art?
The one that doesn't worry about making money. Most of me, most of the time, is what I'm aiming for. My most true self.
Are you working on a new project now?
Yes! I'm currently developing a show that stars an artificially intelligent avatar therapist. Her name is Amber, and she runs a support group. I’m loving the challenge of playing seven different characters, seeing who they become, how they impact each other, and thinking about how artificial intelligence and machine learning are now part of our shared human experience. Can artificial intelligence help us heal, make us better humans?
What’s something that really pisses you off?
I’m a social worker, and I can’t get the social worker out of me. The list of things that pisses me off is endless, but ultimately always comes down to the fight for equal rights and justice. We all deserve to be treated fairly. We all deserve access to health care, education, housing, food, financial resources, options to grow and evolve. We all deserve to be who we want to be, live the life we want to live, love who we want to love. Let’s get it together people.
Watch the trailer here for "Now, No Flip Flops?!":
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She has lead workshops at Brooklyn Poets.
Trained as a drummer and classical pianist, Eliza Gibson wrote and performed her first solo show, Dialogues with Madwomen, in 1995, after returning to the US from Yugoslavia, where she had been a humanitarian aid worker.
She also wrote the narrative for Memories Do Not Burn, a documentary about war orphans and refugees featuring the voice of Sarah Jessica Parker. A clinical social worker, in 2008 Eliza led the start-up for Clinic by the Bay, a free health clinic for working uninsured adults, where she served as Executive Director until 2015.