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Photo:Jan Deen


WAS BLACK 1986 - Sound and movement piece with 5 performers Was Black was about Chernobyl.In Russian "cherno" is "black", and "byl" translates as "was". It was performed outdoors in the John Anson Theatre in Los Angeles. I wore a long black formal with rhinestones, and my face and skull were painted white. I entered and sang a Russian tune, "Lilacs", standing by a stand on which was a vase filled with lilacs. A very dramatic music began as 4 other performers were revealed. They were naked and covered with white paint, their hair whitened also. A series of slides on a large screen showed a black & white bouquet of lilacs on the beach, being progressively consumed by fire. I attempt to repeat the song which becomes screams, howls, and phrases in Russian: "I don't want to go!" "I am sick!", "I am afraid to die!", etc. The music, by Penderecki, uses alarm sirens, percussion, and choruses of Russian Orthodox music. The four nude people attempt to run, they cross an imaginary river on newspaper "stepping stones", they run, but there is nowhere to run. "It" is everywhere. They fall and are lifted each in turn. They slowly put on black clothes, empty boxes of iodized salt into long-stemmed glasses, and pour the salt over my head while I cradle the lilacs in my arms. The flowers slowly fall to the floor. The four people circle around me, wrapping me in long strands of tiny Christmas lights. They retreat and I am left alone, standing with the blinking lights around my body, which disappears into the darkness as the stage lights dim. Only the blinking lights are left.