XFINITY THEATER / PATRICK GAUGHAN
The American flag dangles ominously over the mall food court. It flaps above gas stations. We “pledge allegiance” to the flag as children and are wrapped in one when we die. Xfinity Theater’s “#TheFlagWeLove” began with me photographing every flag I saw for one year. In this solo performance, I drew on historical research about the flag’s origins and mutations to embody patriots, skeptics, protestors, and US icons such as Toby Keith and Buzz Aldrin.
The performance consisted of a series of six vignettes, each signified by a costume change, that chart specific moments in the flag’s history. In one section, I told the origin story of the Pledge of Allegiance, including how the original 1892 version included a ‘heil’ hand gesture. I then invited audience members to say the original pledge with me. One section involved audience members covering my white church robe with flag decals to symbolize my moral superiority as I sang Bobby Bare’s 1969 hit, “God Bless America Again.” In the final section, I danced to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue” in makeup, cut-off jean shorts, and a red, white, and blue rhinestone cowboy hat.
The show flooded the audience with multimedia collages of national anthems, the children’s book The Flag We Love, militant YouTube videos, and Super Bowl national anthems, all to explore what is essentially America’s logo, in all its forms, examining how all of these nationalist reminders signify tentative community and aestheticize control.