Talk to me about Shame
Julian Goldhagen in a scene from Talk to Me About Shame
Author: Julian Goldhagen
Description: A multimedia solo performance piece wherein the experience of shame is explored in order to reconfigure relationships to shame from ones that are isolating to ones that nurture community bonds.
First Produced: 2012
Date Added: 10/21/2013
Content Advisory: Nudity, sexual content
Keywords: Documentary · Coming of Age · Gay and Lesbian · Meta · Requires/Supports Sophisticated Multimedia/Technical Elements · Art and Artists · Social Issues · Protests · Politics · Solo Play · Characters are Mostly Young Adults · True Stories · Biographies · Memoirs · Naturalism/Realism · Non-traditional/Non-narrative/Experimental/Post-dramatic · Postmodern · Gender and Sexuality · Feminism · Gender Identity · Sex · Philosophy
1 Act, 60 Minutes
1 Gender Neutral Character
NOTE: Talk to me about Shame is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original Production Information
Talk to Me About Shame was first presented in May, 2012 at New York University/Tisch School of the Arts Experimental Theatre Wing with the following cast and credits:
Performer: Julian Goldhagen
Director: Kevin Hourigan
Review by Lillian Meredith
Before the start of Talk to me about Shame, co-creator and performer Julian Goldhagen joins the audience in the house. He greets friends, meets new people, and is generally charming and casual, establishing an atmosphere of ease. He manages to do this, it must be added, while wearing nothing but a large diaper and blue toenail polish.
Goldhagen is a young performer with a gift for storytelling and enough natural confidence and charisma that he is able to make a solo show about the experience of shame – a recipe for maudlin confessional awkwardness if there ever were one – into an enjoyable and effective hour-long communal experience.
Goldhagen has a driving desire to talk about shame. For the past two years (he tells us, still diaper-clad) he has been working on this project, exploring shame as a concept, both in his own life and through the experiences of his friends and family. He wants to create a space where it is acceptable and safe for a group of people to investigate this painfully isolating emotion together.
He proceeds to lead us on a journey through different kinds of shame – his childhood fear of his own otherness, teenage sexual trauma, and adult embarrassment. He punctuates these personal tales with questions for individual audience members, voiceovers from interviews with friends and family, and vaudevillian showmanship.
The result is an earnest piece that manages to feel personal but not confessional, political but not didactic, and includes the audience without becoming uncomfortably participatory. Goldhagen and his co-creator/director Kevin Hourigan (who manages the staging with an appropriately light touch) have developed a play that never feels maudlin or trite, that is humorous, open, and occasionally surprising, complete with unexpected bursts of joy.
There are, of course, missteps. Inviting an audience member onstage to share a story of shame is an uncomfortably voyeuristic experience for the rest of us, and there is an attempted post-shame celebration that falls short of its rousing goal. These stand out, however, precisely because the rest of the piece is so simply and expertly controlled, so meticulously designed to make us feel, as Julian repeats, “safe, loved, and of value.” It is easy to forgive these mistakes because they are nothing more offensive than failed experimentation.
And that, ultimately, is what is beautiful about this piece. It is an experiment. It is a passion project. It seems born from a place of sheer curiosity and genuine interest, and while the backbone of the story is Julian’s experience, he and Hourigan are not trying to explain shame to a captive audience. They really do seem to just want to talk.
reviewed at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival
Excerpt from Talk to me about Shame
We will begin with something of a thought experiment. So if you could, for a moment, just imagine. You are a baby. You don’t have any shame. The entire world is brand new. Everything you hear and everything you smell and everything you taste you are hearing and smelling and tasting for the very first time. You are lying on your back, in a crib, staring up into a completely new world, and someone is looking back at you. Someone is standing over your crib, looking directly into your eyes. They are telling you through this stare that you are loved, you are safe, and you are of incredible value. You are staring up at them, reflecting this back, saying, “Yes! I understand! I am loved, I am safe, and I am of incredible value.” And a cycle of affirmation is created. Now, this cycle continues as you get older—maybe you start to walk, maybe you start to talk, maybe you start to do other things that babies do. But this whole time, there is someone standing next to you, looking at you, and affirming your worthiness on the planet.
YouTube: A trailer from a workshop production