The Wooster Group’s ‘The Town Hall Affair’

ArticleJ. Hoberman at Artforum:

WHAT EXACTLY IS The Town Hall Affair, an hour-long performance piece the Wooster Group staged this past May as a work-in-progress at the Performing Garage in SoHo? Is it a reconstruction of Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker’s 1979 feature Town Bloody Hall, which documented the “Dialogue on Women’s Liberation” presented April 30, 1971, at New York’s Town Hall by the Theatre for Ideas? Is it a deconstruction? A hall of mirrors? A stroll down memory lane?

Multiple iterations of a narrative (often jumping from medium to medium) tend toward myth. Such has been made of that archetype-populated April evening when Norman Mailer took the stage to defend his masculinist manifesto “The Prisoner of Sex,” which had just appeared in the March issue of Harper’s Magazine, before a panel of four women (three of whom would publish accounts of the event) as well as a packed house.

Originally, Mailer had wanted to debate Kate Millett, author of the literary polemic Sexual Politics (1970) and bête noire of Mailer’s countercritique of feminism. Millett refused and so Mailer made do with the Australian feminist Germaine Greer, then on a book tour promoting her best-selling feminist analysis The Female Eunuch (1970). The panel was rounded out with Jacqueline Ceballos, president of the New York chapter of now; Village Voice dance critic Jill Johnston, recently out as a lesbian; and New York intellectual dowager Diana Trilling.

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