Emily Mast

4030 N. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90065 mastonfig@gmail.com

Emily Mast - Harbourfront Centre - 20160630 - HC062


The Cage Is A Stage, 2016, performance, 1 hour
With: Garrett Hallman, Heyward Bracey, Joe Seely, Kiara Gamboa, Lucas Littlejohn, Nicolette Henry & Zut Lors
Sound: Ted Byrnes & Michael Day
Lights: Oz Weaver & Noah Feaver
Ape suits: Joe Seely
Costumes: Emily Mast, Joe Seely & Nicolette Henry
Sets and props: Emily Mast & Joe Seely
Dramaturgy: Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
Production: The Power Plant, Toronto & the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto Mississauga
Presented at: Harbourfront Centre Theater, Toronto & REDCAT, Los Angeles

By scrutinizing animality, the project examines some of the deep-seated compulsions of the human species, such as the need to control, tame, punish, and play. The twenty vignettes in this performance each explore and expand upon ideas John Berger put forth in his 1977 essay, “Why Look at Animals,” in which he compares zoos to art galleries. Stating that each cage acts as a frame around the animal inside it, he proposes that visitors stroll from cage to cage in the zoo much like they stroll from artwork to artwork in an exhibition.

In the development of this project, I pursued a number of simultaneous avenues of research. I investigated the effects of animal captivity by conducting interviews with animal experts, including a zoo curator, an anthrozoologist (who studies the interaction between humans and animals), an interspecies communicator, and a shamanistic animal spirit guide. These discussions, along with extensive textual research, have lead me to more deeply explore emotional expression in animals, the affective bonds between humans and animals, and the intersection of speciesism, racism, and sexism.

Taken together, The Cage Is A Stage asks: What does it mean to be human? What sets us apart from other animals? Where does the impulse to confine, restrain, and incapacitate ourselves and others derive from? What are the psychological, physical, and spiritual effects of such dominion? Might this reading of human behavior through animal nature allow us to imagine different cultural and social realities? And finally, how might we better understand all of the above through movement, gesture, and the body?