Autobiography of Red is a universal coming-of-age story about the search for self-expression and identity. The novella is raw and unsettling, just like the teenage years for pretty much everyone. It is not a morality tale or feel-good journey of empowerment, but a love story. Geryon is an Everyman Freak for anyone who has felt like an “other”, and is learning about love for others, love for his art, and love for himself. This project served as a great performance text for devising and problem solving for students of the BA performance program at the University of Minnesota. I was drawn to Autobiography of Red for its dark lyricism and stylistic acrobatics, because out of this pours a musicality of language and image that students could roll around in for a long time. I am completely awe-struck and humbled by Anne Carson’s mind. It riffs on the myth of Geryon, a small winged red monster who falls in love with Herakles when the divine hero comes to kill him. Carson sets her coming-of-age story in the present when Geryon is five years old and begins his “autobiography”. It is a portrait of an artist finding his form, and explores themes of abuse, queer/trans identity, and how we are characters in our own myth. We explored the form of the picaresque, and followed Geryon on his journey of self-discovery using small groups of performers to work on specific sections of the book, and in doing so, created our own journey of self-discovery. Our process employed the use of “action-design” to fuse objects and simple scenic elements dramaturgically to the staging, while music and songs activated Carson’s complex narrative style. We moved musically from Bulgarian women’s choral music sung by the “mother” (a greek chorus) of Geryon’s home, through the rough and ready indie-punk of Herakles, and finally into the fusion of Peruvian folk and psychedelia known as Chicha; the novella concludes at the base of an active volcano in the mountains of Peru.
Photography by Alex Clark