“40 Volume” was a sitcom-length object drama that starred three sock-encrusted vases and a head of fennel. The characters chatted through filters of personal mythology and melodramatic pop lyrics in a deflated attempt to build sisterhood. Each vase held a crowning accessory to define their character: Grey had a plastic floral arrangement; White, the most yellowed of the group, had a white-flesh colored dong attached to a chain that hung from his mouth; and Dirty, covered in soiled workwear socks, held a realistic foam croissant.
The star of the cast was a live head of fennel, an artisanally flagrant ideal of white femininity: aloof but perceptive, unaffected, and healthy. Her performance peaked with an a cappella performance of segments of Hole’s “Softer Softest,” X-ray Spex’s “Germfree Adolescents,” and “Heartbreaker” by Mariah Carey. Earlier, White led a melancholic solo rendition of “Eyes Without a Face” by Billy Idol. Brooding and seeking repair through lifestyle choice, White embodied a flippancy that was both pointed and diluted with entitlement. Grey was a foil to the other characters’ mindless—and at times harmful—dips into abstraction. Dirty also disrupted the delusions of White and Fennel and expanded the potential for absurdist solutions in the space.
“You’re glowing” when said to a man can’t equate to congratulations to gestation or pregnancy, but only proximity to that test.
Glowing . . . more like the cracked snap of a glow stick and I’m radiating, vial hot, then murmuring for days.
Like the speed freaks and bodied techno bodies it illuminates: if I’m glowing am I not just sweating—a glistening melt? No existential, no reparation, no deserving this.
A study in aspirational whiteness and its discontents, each of the protagonist’s delusions was matched by a tenderness as charming as it was suspect.
The set featured eccentric fresh floral arrangements that were periodically groomed by a silent male stagehand. I acted as a narrator and a hand to deliver Fennel to and from her pedestal in the most dramatic moments of the play. The voice actors for each of the characters were seated stage right and they used flashlights to indicate who was speaking. I sought to create a play that was led by static objects who had autonomy but were not anthropomorphized as puppets, in which the human appearances were interruptions to an otherwise fantastical world.