INTO THE DOLLHOUSE
“While Shakespeare held forth on the seven ages of man, Carmen C. Wong zeroes in on the growth stages of womankind” —The Washington Post on “Into the Dollhouse,” February 22, 2012
“Into the Dollhouse” is an original devised-movement performance that explores girlhood, nostalgia and looking back in order to walk forward. In this way, the piece is as much about nostalgia as a means of time travel as it is about navigating a society that dictates what constitutes femininity. Seemingly innocuous incidences that shape how we see the world form the building blocks of the performance, which also asks: Who did we think we would become? Will we ever get there? Which rituals have left an imprint in our journey?
This three-vignette meditation on childhood and the beauty and oddity in evolution drew from a collective lifetime of memories, collaged with (con)textual elements from several seminal works: Monk’s “Education of the Girl Child,” Halprin’s “Parades & Changes,” and snippets from Mee’s “Salome,” fused with songs that trigger reminiscing (specifically decoding the messages behind “Tea For Two,” “Que Sera Sera” and “Close to You”). The effect of collaging borrowed prose, songs from popular culture and dance as metaphor for transformation, addressed a particular challenge in performance: how to draw associative elements from personal mythology to evoke from an audience similarly emotive memories and sensations?
The project’s set design frames the work as a memory installation of tactile illogic; a representation of a dream world tossed awry, a dollhouse to house one’s pervasive (and untrustworthy) memories. Baby dresses are swept aloft to create a strange canopy overhead and girls’ dresses stand like scattered sentinels. Among their company the audience are invited to choose their seats and are welcomed by a parading June Cleaver-esque housewife. A teenager reads about sex from a book hidden behind Archie comics while a girl bashfully offers “tea” to audience members as they walk by. From the start, the audience is cocooned in this soothing, gauzy diegesis, and gently asked to play and reminisce.