Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Membranes and beauty

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UNLIKE other artists participating in Nuna (Now), Stephen Lawson only recently discovered his Icelandic roots. And the Montreal-based performance artist found out he has a rather intimate connection to the Nordic country.

"I was adopted at birth and have been recently reunited with my birth mother," explains Lawson, who will perform his one-woman drag show Zona Pellucida on the opening night of the upcoming Icelandic/Manitoban arts festival.

"And not only is she of Icelandic descent, but in fact I was conceived in Iceland."

Coincidentally, the show Lawson will perform on April 22 is also named after a biology term relating to conception.

Zona Pellucida is both campy drag show and expressionistic video theatre and centres around a '40s-era actress and her uneasy relationship with a writer. Lawson lip-synchs his entire performance to sampled audio clips (music, sound and text) from classic films about theatre, including the 1951 Bette Davis film All About Eve, Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950) and the 1978 Gena Rowlands film Opening Night, among others. There is also a projected video environment that becomes a character in its own right during the show.

The rather cerebral title of the piece, Zona Pellucida, is the medical name for the membrane that forms around an ovum as it develops in the ovary and which must be penetrated for fertilization to take place.

"We often choose these lofty titles for our trashy drag pieces because people think of drag and lip-synch as a low art form, but we think of it as quite a high art form and one of the more difficult art forms out there," explains Lawson, who created the show with his collaborator Aaron Pollard under the moniker 2boys.tv.

"The whole piece deals with the interior and exterior world of the actress and the membrane that exists between these worlds."

Lawson also has a longtime local connection. The southern Ontario native moved here in the late 1980s and helped found the celebrated Winnipeg-based troupe Primus, known for its highly physical performance pieces. After the company folded in the late '90s, Lawson moved to Montreal and formed 2boys.tv with Pollard. The duo has performed across Canada, as well as in New York City, Milan, Madrid and Barcelona.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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