Local Syndrome: Woman, Laid Bare

By on July 3, 2018

Erin Roy’s one-woman show is an honest look at some of humanity’s universal struggles

‘I hope people walk away feeling a little braver, a little confounded,’ Erin Roy said of her new show, ‘My Life in a Minor Key.’

JACKSON HOLE, WY – “I try to be funny and succeed part of the time, but most of the time I fail.”

I see a lot of myself in Erin Roy. She is an ambitious performance artist who has a habit of leaving town, extending herself to the outside world, only to return to Jackson again with a new perspective.

After the debut of her one-woman show My Life in a Minor Key last week (which continues until July 8) at Dancers’ Workshop, I sat down with Roy at Trio American Bistro and tried to nail down what instigated our decade-long friendship.

Akin to most Jackson connections, like mitosis, we merged together due to our shared interests, including a love for performance.

Roy has been living in New York for the past few years, pursuing acting through various avenues, conservatories and an endless stream of auditions. She has returned to Jackson in the interim, boomeranging like many of us do. Her relationship with the nonprofit Dancers’ Workshop is enduring, and Roy finds herself gravitating back to work with whatever new project artistic director Babs Case has cooked up. This time, however, Roy is premiering her own production.

My Life in a Minor Key is a triumph, and a very necessary injection of weirdness, vulnerability and humor into Jackson’s theatrical scene. While Jackson’s visual arts community often has a consistent theme of landscape studies and wildlife portraits, its performing arts perspective is not easy to stake to the ground. Erin’s one-woman show is a celebration of the possibilities of theatre and performance, a 60-minute ode to ambition, lofty dreams and the anxiety and fear that hold us back from achieving both.

“I felt like if I could get in front of an audience and make a fool of myself, I could strip away that desire to be perfect and be left with what is basically me,” Roy said.

In the production, Roy slips between several costumes and characters. A dramatic mimed interpretation of Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet Swan Lake holds all the joyful erraticism together. There is no fourth wall in the performance, as Roy coaxes the audience for participation while bribing them so she feels liked. To say anymore would spoil the unpredictability of the show, which, Roy said, will evolve with each production.

“I hope people walk away feeling a little braver, a little confounded,” she said. “I’m asking audiences to walk in with zero expectations, and, if they do come in expecting something, I hope to strip them of that desire to try and figure out what they’re getting themselves into.”

Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t hide my expression of pure joy and wonder. To stand on stage in front of an audience for a whole hour is an undertaking, but watching Roy throw herself around the stage while revealing her insecurities is not just an act of theatrics, but humanity itself.

I can attest to the fact that performers, whether they be musicians, speakers, authors, actors, etc., are obsessed with garnering acceptance and admiration. We’re not always forthcoming about that because it reveals the inner-workings of our process and psyche—that we care deeply about the work we create for public consumption and how it is received.

Roy’s production is an honest testament to the concept that the veil people hide behind to be liked or loved is often the very barrier that prevents us from our own happiness.  

But just as we need Roy to remind us of these truths, her show “needs people,” she said. “It needs an audience to come to life, and I hope those who come leave with a full heart, laughing.”

My Life in a Minor Key is 6:30 p.m. through Sunday, July 8 (no performance July 4) at Dancers’ Workshop Studio 1 in the Center for the Arts. Audience members are paid (yes paid) $5 for attending.

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