Donald Does Dusty
Diane Torr plays homage to her late brother and the great diva in her moving and uplifting solo show
Summerhall, 17 – 30 August, 7.35pm (60 mins)
Growing up in Aberdeen in the 1960’s, Diane Torr’s brother Donald was fascinated by pop star Dusty Springfield. He would regularly impersonate her with the ten year old Diane serving as audience, judge and jury, offering him points for performance.
Aware of his homosexuality from a young age, Donald delighted in knowing that “the normal rules didn’t apply to him” and his younger sister Diane revelled in being his co-conspirator.
In 1970, whilst Donald followed his showbiz dreams by becoming a dancer in the TV dance troupe The Young Generation and appearing on the West End Stage, Dusty became the first female pop singer to come out as gay.
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
DONALD DOES DUSTY began after the funeral of my brother Donald in January 1992. My idea was to make a performance that was a homage to him and to Dusty. Additionally, to create a more tender/intimate way to deal with the death of loved ones.
How does this fit in with your usual performances?
My "usual" performances, if I can say that - because each performance is unusual (to me anyway...) have focused on ways to re-invent the narratives around sex, gender and ageing.
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
They will be entertained, laugh a lot, be emotionally moved and have the possibility to drool over images of Dusty Springfield in all her mod glory. They may also learn something about Dusty’s life that they didn’t know before (yes – we all know she was gay – not that) and be transported to 1970 with BBC footage of The Young Generation exuberantly dancing without a hint of cynicism or self-consciousness.
Plus, they will see me performing as myself, as my brother, as Dusty, and as my brother performing Dusty Springfield. Expect to be transformed.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
If by "dramaturgy" you mean "the craft or the techniques of dramatic composition", I would say that I am well versed. As a writer and performer, I am aware of what is required in dramatic composition - it is part of the theatre arts to have a knowledge of this, and to utilise this knowledge in the creation of work.the craft or the techniques of dramatic composition.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or
genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I am inspired by writers/performers creating autobiographical work. These include Laurie Anderson, Maya Angelou, Holly Hughes, among others. Autobiographical work is a tradition and DONALD DOES DUSTY definitely falls into that category.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I begin with an idea and that is developed in the physical. I spend time in a dance studio dancing, crawling on the floor, thinking and taking notes. Words come from physical action. When I have a rough idea of a new performance, I will meet with friends/artists that I trust to see the raw material and to give me feedback on what they saw and suggestions for development. Showing rough-cuts can also happen on stage.
This is the way that Hedwig and the Angry Inch was developed - work-shopped to live audiences in small downtown New York theatres where the press were not invited. Eventually the performance emerged. I think I was involved in a similar process in the creation/evolution of DONALD DOES DUSTY.
It began with a performance at the CCA in 2006, and I performed subsequent versions in a run at The Tron Theatre, and in festivals in Brighton, Newcastle and Berlin. Last July, I worked with a director friend in New York and over 10 days in studios, we pulled the performance apart and put it back together. It was then presented at the HOT! Festival, Dixon Place and in August last year at the Festival Internacional de Cabarets in Mexico City, with Spanish surtitles.
Famously outspoken, Dusty refused to perform for white-only audiences whilst touring in South Africa and under the apartheid segregation laws, she was arrested and thrown in jail and then out of the country. She later used her influence as host of the BBC TV show Ready Steady Go, to bring black American musicians, such as Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas and Smokey Robinson, to the UK for the first time.
Donald quit showbusiness to become a millionaire property dealer and died of AIDS-related causes in 1992; Dusty succumbed to breast cancer in 1999.
Donald Does Dusty pays homage to both Donald and Dusty’s lives and careers. They shared a common heritage: both coming from lower class backgrounds; both singers and performers; both desirous of fame and fortune and both closeted gays in a homophobic Britain. This deeply personal and moving solo show raises issues of death and bereavement, and creates a new celebration space in which to celebrate the spirit of our loved ones who have passed on.
Diane Torr is a performance artist who has worked in dance, drag king performance, film and installation in New York and Europe since the 1970’s. Man For A Day, Katarina Peters’ film about Diane’s life and work premiered at the 2012 Berlinale Film Festival and since been screened across Europe, South Asia and Noorth America. Donald Does Dusty comes to Edinburgh following development performances in Brighton, Berlin and HOT! Festival in New York.
Summerhall, 17-30 August, 7.35pm (60 mins), £12 / £8
About Diane Torr
Diane Torr is a performance artist working in dance, drag king performance, installation, film and video.
Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, after graduating from Dartington College of Arts, England, Diane moved to New York in 1976. Over 30 years, Diane Torr developed her artistic career as an integral part of New York’s lively downtown art scene.
During that time, Diane created over 35 original performance works, videos and installations, and her work was presented in downtown spaces such as Franklin Furnace, The Kitchen and also in New York clubs including The Mudd Club and Danceteria.
Her performances have been seen internationally at venues and festivals such as an-de-werf Festival, Utrecht and Migros Museum, Zurich. She is a fellow of the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and in 2003, she gained a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the Milton Avery Graduate School, Bard College, New York.
Diane Torr now lives and works between Glasgow, Berlin and New York. She is a visiting lecturer at Glasgow School of Art, Stockholm University of Arts and Freie Universität Berlin. Diane is considered a physical philosopher – a thinker of the body. She has extensive research, knowledge and practice of several areas of body knowledge: the Japanese martial art of aikido in which she has a 3rd degree black-belt from New York Aikikai; somatic dance forms such as Contact Improvisation, Release Technique and Movement improvisational techniques; body mechanics including kinesiology and postural alignment; and bodywork such as shiatsu massage therapy and touch-for-health. Diane is best-known internationally as one of the pioneers of “drag king” performance (female-to-male drag).
In 2002, she co-directed and co-curated, together with Berlin artist, Bridge Markland, the godrag! Festival at Tacheles, Berlin. This was a groundbreaking, and now legendary, one-month long international festival of women performing masculinity, femininity and androgyny.
For over 20 years, Diane has taught her renowned Man-for-a-Day workshop across Europe and North America, and in Brasilia, Istanbul and New Delhi. Her performance Drag Kings and Subjects and Man-for-a-Day workshop feature prominently in the documentary film Venus Boyz (2002).
Diane has written a book about her work co-authored by Stephen Bottoms. Sex, Drag and Male Roles; Investigating Gender as Performance, was published by University of Michigan Press in October 2010.