Spine: What Happens when Porno, Isabella Rossellini, and Bio-Diversity Collide? Who Can Say “STEAM”? Who Can Say Green Porno Live?

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To be sure, some of Lisner’s audience came for the sex–explicit, diverse, and environmentally conscious. Some came for the celebrity–a noted model and film actress (Blue Velvet) with a legendary mother, Ingrid Bergman, and father, Italian director Roberto Rossellini, presents a bio-diverse pornography in a university setting (there’s that sex again, and it’s for academics). Others came for the content–scientific information about the reproductive habits of sea creatures, reptiles, mammals, anthropods, amphibians…. And a few–I’m certain–came for the aesthetics: a unique fusion of lecture, comedy, and rough-film (that’s Peter Brooks’ Rough-Theatre, but in celluloid).

Isabella Rossellini as a snail. Photo courtesy of Sundance Channel.
Isabella Rossellini as a snail. Photo courtesy of Sundance Channel.

STEAM (that’s educational jargon for Science-Tech-Engineering-Arts-Math education, or put simple: teaching science through art) has finally come of age.

As an educator and performer, I understand the value of teacher as performance artist, and Isabella Rossellini has brought mastery to the approach, even if she spews the stage with leftovers by evening’s end.  Search the world over and you will not find a funnier, more interesting science presentation. In fact, you won’t find too many funnier or more interesting theatrical presentations out there either.

If you are at all prudish about sexual intercourse–be that intercourse monogamistic, polygamistic, serialistic, hermaphroditic, sado-masochistic, cannibalistic–then Green Porno is for you. For you are guaranteed to leave the performance giggling about penetration in all its many forms.  Rossellini’s wide ranging exploration of snails, flies, whales, and praying mantises; barnacles, ducks, spiders, and elephant seals; limpets, starfish, dragonflies, anglerfish, earthworms, toads, and … is bio-diversity training on steroids.

It seems as if our animalistic drive to reproduce has turned the entire universe of living creatures into sexual absurdities. Did you know that a gorilla’s penis is tiny because he’s big and strong and male enough not to need a big “you know what” to dominate his mate? Or that the female duck has evolved a convoluted vagina with shut-off valves and dead-ends in order to control which duck among her gang of amorously aggressive males will successfully pass on his genetic material? Or that barnacles have penises four to seven times as long as their bodies? For the slow moving barnacle this lengthy explorer allows him to reach out and touch someone that is possibly clamped on to another pier? And those are just some of the many biological wonders Ms. Rossellini titillates us with during her 75-minute show.

Of course, Green Porno debuted in 2009 on the Sundance Channel: so far there are three seasons of short films that depict Rossellini dressed up as various creatures either mating with a male or a female (if she plays the male–though there was one creature that only exists in its female state) or, as is the case with the spider, being devoured by her young brood.  Rossellini is also series’ writer and chief researcher; she also directs (along with Jody Shapiro).

The live show allows Rossellini to create a one-woman, multi-media performance whose goal is not so much to entertain, though it does so with great delight; and not so much to educate, though its scientific information packs an educational wallop. What the live show does do is create the infinite impression that sex is far stranger and far more absurd than any rational god could ever devise. I mean, really, would an Almighty all powerful God require the male anglerfish to implant himself permanently in the vagina of the female? Only as a sick joke to be sure. Although if Dante had known about the anglerfish’s reproductive habits he might have borrowed their reality and rewritten his divine punishment for the lustful.

Rossellini’s monologue isn’t all about reproduction and sex by the way. The model and film actress also weaves in the story of Green Porno’s birth (pun intended). In recent years she realized that acting and modeling opportunities were not as plentiful as they had once been. So she returned to school, to study animal behavior at New York University, a subject she has loved since she was a child.

The Green Porno series emerged out of this re-discovery of intellectual freedom, i.e., the ability to pursue what one wishes to pursue out of curiosity and pleasure.

Rossellini also has a bit of fun with the biblical Noah. As God loads the boat in preparation for the flood, checking off animals one by one, male and female, the earthworm comes along in his singular, bifurcating self, which totally confuses the heterosexual God. And Mr. Earthworm is but one of a long line of creatures who do not follow the “natural [heterosexual] order” of things.

And that, more than anything, is what Green Porno is about: how the diversity of the natural world would stun even God in his heaven. Either old Lucifer has been playing fast and loose behind God’s back with snails and limpets–and I won’t even go into what has happened to the super smart dolphins, but don’t be surprised if they don’t all soon go blind from their reckless behavior–or nature in its evolutionary wonder has created its own infinite variations on a theme.

Running Time: One hour and 15 minutes, with no intermission.

Green Porno, Live on Stage appeared for one night only, November 8, 2014 at 8 p.m., at GW Lisner Auditorium -730 21st Street NW, in Washington, DC. For more information, visit here.

LINKS:
The Sundance Chanel Green Porno Series.

‘Green Porno Live on Stage’ With Isabella Rossellini at Lisner Auditorium review by David Siegel on DCMetroTheaterArts.




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Robert Michael Oliver
Poet, Performer, Theatre Artist, Playwright, Educator, Writer--Robert Michael Oliver, Ph.D., has been involved in the DC arts scene since the 1980s, when he co-founded The Sanctuary Theatre in the old sanctuary of Calvary United Methodist Church. Since those fierce days in Columbia Heights, he has earned his doctorate in theatre from University of Maryland, raised two wonderful children, and seen more theatre as a reviewer over the last two years than he saw in the previous thirty. He now co-directs, along with his wife Elizabeth Bruce, the Sanctuary's Performing Knowledge Project, which organizes a host of writing and performance workshops, plus Mementos: Poetry and Performance for Seniors, a yearly literature-in-performance Fringe Festival show, as well as Performetry--a monthly poetry and prose performance event at DC's community arts & culture center BloomBars.