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Sylvan Oswald

first performed on March 27, 2015
CalArts, Los Angeles, CA
performed once in 2015


Los Angeles, CA


In the first year of my relocation to Los Angeles I struggled with how to be a playwright without my New York community. I also had insomnia. One of the major causes of the insomnia, I decided through my own armchair neuroscience, was the testosterone I had been injecting for four years as part of my gender transition. A stressful new job didn’t help. The need to sleep became entwined with my professional fate and my ever-morphing masculinity. My unscientific quest to try everything I could to fall asleep became the seed for a project, one that would also require me to engage in LA’s performance scene and perform my work myself.

At the end of a long hallway I created an ad hoc sleep clinic that was part Lucy’s Psychological Advice five cents stand and part Choose Your Own Adventure. Four numbered clipboards sat on a bench. As each audience member arrived, they followed the instructions found in the clipboards’ pages, which walked them through a self-diagnosis protocol with excursions to some visualization exercises and a booklet of remedies I had written that verged on the pornographic. After they contributed a suggestion of their own for falling asleep, I invited them to taste a very small sample of valerian root tea, one of the sleep aids I found most effective before I finally turned to harder stuff. The project was an intervention into my artistic practice—not just writing but performing—yet continuous with my exploration in fusing autobiography and fiction via metatheatricality. It was also an excuse to create a dialogue with other artists and art-goers about making art and staying healthy in this vast new place.