Review: Sarah Friday Presents “Freak Show”

“Freak Show” is an experimental performance piece directed by Sarah Friday. According to the program, Friday received her Masters of Arts from UNT in 2016 with a focus in Performance Studies and is a performance artist. “Freak Show” addressed multiple themes such as intersectional feminism, colonization, sexuality, romance and gender through multiple skits and vignettes which draw some influence from absurdist theatre, queerlesque and burlesque. The show is in the Performance Space in the General Academics Building, which adds to the close intimacy, like looking into a window at the chaos within.

Walking into the Performance Space, the audience is immediately met with the cast performing sexualized actions and dances, setting up expectations for a heavily sexualized show. Justifying these expectations even more, the introduction asks for the audiences consent to tantalize and arouse its audience members in the role of the voyner. These expectations are immediately turned on its head with the first scene “This Land is Your Land/ The Lion Tamer”. Elsita Dean’s character, Madam Frost, is in the position of a dominatrix to Matthew Lippi’s character, spanking him with an American flag and making him read Sister Outsider by Black feminist Audre Lorde.

“Scene V: Walking the Tightrope” is one of the more serious vignettes. Red light fills the performance space while the performers (Elsita Dean, Bethany Farmer, and Shayleigh Ward) walk along a tightrope, stripping as they go, while Erasmo Rodriguez and Matthew Lippi follow them, acting as the predatory, patriarchal expectations that society places on women. Once the actresses meet society's male oriented satisfaction, Lippi and Rodriquez drop the role of patriarchal advertisers and begin to catcall them. As the scene goes on, the two actors become more and more aggressive and the actresses become increasingly scared and frustrated.

One of the themes that is brought up most often is love and how it can become corrupted. Sometimes the discussion focuses on how society tries too hard to define and control love. A scene that hones in on this is “Scene II: The Symposium/ Siamese Twins,” when greek philosophers try to truly define what love is, each undermining each others’ theories, while Dean's character looks at them from a modern perspective and thinks they're all equally wrong. Other times the discussion is on how absurd the commercialization and corruption of love is, like in “Scene III: A Word From Our Sponsors” which criticizes how society uses love as a marketing ploy that can be consumed, and “Scene VII: The Wedding”.

Each of the performers is great at conveying the variety of emotions that the many vignettes of “Freak Show” demand of them. Farmer gives an especially noteworthy performance in the vignette “Rape Culture” in Scene IV where the frustration and pain she feels about how men have hurt and harassed her and how the therapist has no qualms about placing the blame on her.

Overall, “Freak Show” is a fun, sexy romp that I highly recommend checking out. The incredible performances were compounded by a dynamic script  that integrated themes of love, romance, gender, sexuality, and rape culture. If you are brave enough, you can even sign up to sit in the front row and be interacted with by the performers. However, if you are sensitive to fast flashing lights or are uncomfortable with sexually explicit content, you might want to sit this one out. Tickets are $5 and can be bought in advance at GAB 309 or at the door at GAB 321.

Freak Show showtimes:

02/09 at 7 p.m.

02/14 at 7 p.m.

02/15 at 7 p.m.

02/16 at 7 p.m.

Header design by Mateo Granados.