By Hephzibah Dutt
“I think sometimes stories come find me and say… “It’s time”.” **
Impenetrable Innocence is the one such product of Jamie Mayo’s obedience to the stories that well up in her, demanding to be told. Mayo strings together personal narrative accounts of her encounters with the sensual, and her journey through knowledge, fear and eventual embrace of sexuality in her life. She begins by recounting a surreal, Edenic encounter with physical pleasure that she experienced as a child. And then, like beads on a string, Mayo adds narratives from middle school, high school, college and then adulthood—all of which find her at moments of discovery about her physical, sexual being.
Her storytelling style is simple…and at the same time, intricate. She stays planted, feet grounded through the 60-minute performance. But, from her ankles up, her entire body seems to sway as she creates picture with her words and dancing hands. Relying on (slightly heavy) use of descriptive language, Mayo renders environments and sensations at each of the moments that she narrates. Indeed, more than offering insight of her experience, what Mayo presents us with are dense verbal thumbnails as they happened. This applies even to explicit content: she remains planted, gestural, descriptive and, at times, nostalgic.
Absent from her script, but hinted at in the program we are handed, is the backstory of shame and fear that must have been layered into Mayo’s life at some point. This is a gap which, I believe needs to be filled in her telling, partly in order to bring coherence to the narrative as a whole, but also to lend critical and cultural weight to her project. Without it, her stories of restoration and liberation, stand in danger of becoming tales of nostalgia (which is not in itself a problem! But Mayo clearly longs for her script and stories to be more…)
Even as is, Mayo’s story-project is way more than a trip down memory lane. Mayo, in her adult life, transcended the fear and shame that she associated with her sexuality when she was a younger person. As I watched and listened to her share, it occurred to me that her telling might be a ritual of cleansing.
“I think sometimes stories come find me and say… “It’s time”.”
[** A quote from Jamie Mayo in conversation]