The Maids' The Maids (2014)
Performance; white-t-shirts, havanitas flip flops, french maid aprons, video projection, wearable sculptural objects constructed from household tools and leather, brooms, cleaning rags, roomba robotic vaccuum. Text from Jean Genet's The Maids, plus interviews with contemporary housekeepers in New York City (who also perform the piece).
Performances: Abrons Arts Center, New York. November 2014; Dorothy Streslin Theater, New York, 2016.
Residency: Park Avenue Armory, 2014
Artists: Kathryn Hamilton, Laudiceia Calixto, Rita Oliveira, Terence Mintern, Isabel Sanchez, Brian Oh, Rebeca Medina, Juan Betancurth, Giovanna Almeida, Bruce Steinberg and Sofia Ortega Cordoba.
In The Maids' The Maids, Kathryn Hamilton and Sister Sylvester company members partnered with domestic household workers in New York City to devise a response to Jean Genet’s notorious 1947 one-act The Maids. Using Genet’s central device of maids role-playing as their employer to expose the subtle (and not-so-subtle) humiliations involved in domestic labor and the experience of immigrants, the performance invites contemporary domestics to use the theatrical space to stage experiences from their own lives. What emerges is a portrait of two separate New York Cities: a city that serves and a city that is served. One is for the increasingly affluent English speakers who can afford domestic workers, while the other—separated by language—is that of precarious laborers, often illegal immigrants, who serve them. In the waste and excess of this rich people’s playground, who cleans up the mess?
Navigating the intersecting fault lines of labor, language and power, the show presents stories and experiences culled from the experiences of New York City domestic workers, which are used to give depth and perspective to Genet’s celebration of ritual transgression through a “maids’ rebellion.” The show is performed in the native languages of the performers: English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Still from video of Rita Oliveira and brush-gloves, by Juan Betancurth:
Stills from the performance at Abrons Arts Center, 2014: