by Daniel Felsenfeld and Bea Goodwin
EXPOSURE: WEB PREMIERE
Exposure was presented at nancy manocherian's the cell theatre in November of 2020 as part of the cell's Residency Program. The audio recording with subtitles is below:
ABOUT THE OPERA
Exposure, Felsenfeld and Goodwin’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved, is an examination of a photographers power over the media’s portrayal of “the perfect woman,” the pressure that depiction puts on a modern woman all following the outcome of a series of a female model’s portrait sessions.
In a world where models and artists alike are being victims of sexual misconduct, Goodwin, a female librettist, chose to examine Hardy’s plot of an artist creating the perfect woman and questions if this may be a start as to where the problem lies. What exactly happens when a woman exposes herself as an artistic expression? And worse, what happens when that artistic expression is seen as being flawed.
This writing duo parallels Hardy’s literary structure of three 20 year intervals with a modern twist; focusing on the realm of photography, art, and the varying images of the “Eternal Feminine” in the 1970s, the 1990s, and today. Each act is a time capsule of the socio-economic and political times we are living in, under the impeachment of Nixon, Clinton and well, today.
This work's aim is to expose the abuse of power in our industry, address the media’s portrayal of women, and facilitate discussion of the lineage of #metoo.
The choice of having two women tell this story was a purposeful one, portraying abuse of power that transcends gender that leaves us wondering how many victims’ stories we haven't heard of.
The story begins with a prologue in which everyone in the audience is given a candle. It allows them to experience agency over the plot and the twists and turns the duo of women take. When their candles are lit, it is they who start the story.
Act 1, New York City, 1970s
We meet our artist, Aliana, and her model, “Emily,” in a white, clean studio. An innocent young model experiences sitting for an artist for the first time. The artist and model communally find the beauty in one another and challenge the ideas of how “old dead white guys” captured the female physique; waxed and reclined. The artist thinks the model is perfect. They make love.
Act 2, New York City, 1990s
We see our artist, Aliana, with another young model, “Emily,” twenty years later in a messier version of the studio. This is the first model's daughter who has been around the block, and epitomizes 'heroin chic.’ While creating a still life installation piece, they discuss the beauty in suffering under the surface and the discuss the fad of fetishized skinniness. The artist thinks the model is perfect. They have sex to get her further in her career.
Act 3, New York City, present day
We see our artist, Aliana, with a new young model, “Emily,” in our times, the years the #metoo movement started. The new model was instructed to come back when she loses weight and is now "perfect." The model challenges the artist and her abuse. Yet when she leaves, we never know if she will tell what has happened to her.
Exposure was supported in part by a Live Arts Boston grant from the Boston Foundation, a Cultural Investment Portfolio grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and an Innovation and Research grant from the Paul R Judy Center. We would also like to thank The Corporation of Yaddo, Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and The MacDowell Colony. We are so grateful for their support.