If we can say what we want, then we are honestly and critically locating ourselves within a fractured sociopolitical system of power and subjugation that needs all the attention that we can give it. We are putting out bodies first, and insisting that basic needs are still the most important ones. I specifically feel hope around programs like This Is What I Want, because it potentially combines live interpersonal experience with a straight-up act of social transgression. Maybe it's a little easier to talk about what we want here in the Bay Area (though I have my suspicions about the authenticity of our sex-positivity around here), but rest assured, it is legitimately radical almost everywhere else.
SFBG How does the second annual compare to what you set out to do last year?
JH This time around I am working with Ernesto Sopprani of THEOFFCENTER as fellow producer, which means that we now have a component of organization, publicity, and community engagement that was not there before. We are also now kind of a full-blown festival, as we have two different shows that take place in two different venues. Both Joe Landini at the Garage and Lex Leifhiet at SOMArts have brought incredible energy to the project, and we couldn't be happier to be housed by them. The process of building the lineup is very different this year because of how successful last year's program was. Rather than invite people, we decided to ask folks to submit proposals and then we chose what we thought was the best fit.
Perhaps the most major change this year is the addition of a curatorial team. [Rachael Dichter] and I went into it from the start knowing that we would both choose what the show would be and that we would invite others to get in on it too. We asked Keith [Hennessy], Jiz [Lee], and Michelle [Tea] because they are all super-critical thinkers when it comes to the intersections of issues that this program deals with. Those curatorial meetings were actually some of the most interesting and charged conversations about what's happening in local performance work that I've had all year.
SFBG What is happening in local performance work as you see it, and as it relates to the work in TIWIW?
JH I'm actually going to pull an almost direct quote from a blog entry I wrote for THEOFFCENTER's salon [i.e., a virtual roundtable conversation mapping the queer performance scene underway at theoffcenter.org]. This moment in the Bay Area is significant because people are playing with telling the truth. Artists are complicating previously-assumed-to-be-radical notions of violence, definitions of damage and boundaries, assumptions and acts of appropriation, and feelings of peace. We are trying anything and everything. And while the character of our general approaches can feel trite or simple at times, the scores are executed with full frontal energy and, above all, persistent curiosity. No politic is safe. No form is sacred. It's producing frictions and questions and images that have a nice and startling throb to them. It's a good place to be working right now.
TIWIW is very much a product of that kind of thinking and making. Telling the truth, in any form or iteration, is an increasingly radical act. And telling the truth about what you want sexually holds a specific and very fragile weight because of how sex and sexuality can change the temperature in a room, in a community, in a country, among a people or peoples.