Yarns (World Premiere!)
in residency at Jersey City Theater Center
Written by Chandy Bennett, Michael Joel, Caiti Lattimer, Carrie O'Dell, and Adrienne Sowers
Directed by Michael Joel and Carrie O'Dell
June 7 - 9, 2018
Mereseles Studios at JCTC
339 Newark Ave.
Jersey City, NJ 07302
This original devised production explores the parallels between sex work and fiber arts as a group of five women seek change and empowerment despite the hostile world that surrounds them. Utilizing texts from various sources with interviews from sex workers and fiber artists, Yarns takes us to a brothel where the women survive by turning tricks and creating warmth from the yarn that surrounds them under the watchful eye of a man who calls himself their protector. Culminating in an unforgettable burlesque performance, Yarns shows the true meaning of female empowerment and how "women's work" is a force to be reckoned with.
L-R: Josephine Cooper, Emily Cordes, Annie Fasino, Nicole Orabona, Makayla Wilkerson
This project started with a garbage bag of discarded yarn. The bag was left over from our production Departure in November 2015, and we weren’t sure what to do with it. It seemed a shame to throw it away. The bag lived in the trunk of Kaitlin’s car for a couple of weeks before our dramaturg Carrie remembered a passage from Debbie Stoller’s crochet how-to manual, The Happy Hooker : “...[A] lace manufacturer admitted that he expected his workers to turn a few tricks on the side to make up for his not paying them a living wage....this may even explain how the word “hooker” came to have such wayward connotations.” This connection raised questions about gendered labor; both sex work and fiber arts like knitting, crochet, weaving, and embroidery have traditionally been feminized. Sex work and fiber arts have not only been feminized, they are dismissed--fiber arts are relegated to the world of craft, considered lesser than the high art traditions of painting and sculpture, while sex work is written off as an easy way for a woman of loose morals or dire circumstances to make a quick buck. Fiber arts are art and sex work is work but their historically feminine place in our culture have contributed to their diminished status. We seek to explore the relationship between sex work and fiber arts and examine the connections among the things we term women’s work. The script for this devised piece uses source material interviews with sex workers and fiber artists; brothel plays of the early twentieth century such as Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, and Ourselves by Rachel Crothers; literary depictions of the tricoteuses of the French Revolution; and discussions from online communities built by fiber artists and sex workers.
Yarns is made possible in part by a grant from the Puffin Foundation.