I am thrilled to officially announce my latest project – The Hystericon, debuting this summer in the Toronto Fringe Festival. We have just begun rehearsals with my theatre company, Good Old Neon.
In late 19th century Paris, Augustine, Blanche, & Geneviève are the most famous patients of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière insane asylum for women. They are his personal lab rats & performance artists, models & test subjects, as he conducts his experiments in “hysteria,” that dark recess of psychiatric medicine. Through the nascent technologies of photography & the black arts of hypnotism & psychopharmacology, Charcot turns them from troubled women into Hysterics, celebrities of the Belle Epoque: Augustine the Photogenic, whose pictures adorn Charcot’s publications; Blanche, “The Queen of Hysterics,” star performer in his public lectures; & Geneviève la Pucelle, who talks to God & believes she is possessed by demons – tonight they perform for their audience an hysterical revue, a cabaret, en Comédie en vaudeville, demonstrating the history & pathology of hysteria – but something seems to be going wrong. As lines are dropped & cues missed, the show starts to crumble, & the odyssey takes turn for the strange…
The Hystericon was inspired by the true life-stories of Augustine, Blanche, & Geneviève, & by the hundreds of black-&-white photographs taken of them by Dr. Charcot & his associates, found in the infamous Iconographie photographique de la Salpêtrière, the asylum’s annual photo album. Long a subject of fascination for art critics, historians, psychologists, feminists, & the darkly curious, now the first time a stage play is devoted not to the doctors & their experiments, but to the women themselves; their hopes, desires, loves, & fears.
Check out the Good Old Neon production blog at www.goodoldneon.ca! & follow us on Twitter @goodoldneonTO.