By Christina Wolfe
What’s part performance-art festival, part environmentalist sounding board, part community love-fest, and green all over? Elizabeth M. Stephens and Annie M. Sprinkle’s Green Wedding, No. 4.
In UC Santa Cruz’s Shakespeare Glen, on a stage built by Alan Tollefson’s Basic Stagecraft class, and amid guests dressed fabulously in green outfits sipping mint water from biodegradable cups made from corn, Stephens and Sprinkle vowed not only to love and cherish each other, but to be lovers of the Earth as well.
The wedding worked in conjunction with the May 2008 Intervene! Interrupt! Rethinking Art as Social Practice conference. But it is also a creation of Stephens’ and Sprinkle’s Love Art Laboratory. Each wedding is a performance art event and there will be seven total, each corresponding to a chakra and its corresponding color and theme.
Pariesa Halterman, an usher for the event, got involved because Stephens, chair of the UCSC art department, is her art professor.
“It’s a great performance, a great way to become a union,” Halterman said. She was even more excited about the event because of last Monday’s overturning of the ban on same-sex marriage by the California Supreme Court. Halterman ended with good wishes: “I’m glad so many people came. I wish Beth and Annie the best.”
The wedding was emceed by Veronica Hart, who opened the ceremony by explaining, “We’re going to treat the earth, not as our mother, but as a lover.” The high Aztec priest, artist and activist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, married the couple in what turned out to be a very unique ceremony. Wedding guest Julia Bryan-Wilson called the ceremony “a diverse bunch of really inspiring performances.”
Before Gómez-Peña led the couple in their vows, the various friends and performance artists took turns adding their own unique twist to the wedding. The list of participants included Linda Montano, Camille Norton, Greg Archer, Emma McNary, Noland Plant, Cynthia Wehr, Sadie Lune, Jennifer Gonzales, Danielle Abrams, Tina Butcher and many more.
The contributions varied between poetry readings, comedy, a yoga demonstration, music, dancing, painting, and a headstand. But all the performances and speeches included love for both the couple and the earth.
Greg Archer started his piece by saying, “I am your pimp to a new lover, Earth.” He was helped by two costumed assistants, one portraying the tired, current Earth and one as a new Earth, pregnant with possibility. Archer taught the audience how to be better Earth lovers. His advice included “give Mother Earth a spa day” and “caress the inner thigh of good change.”
Archer wrote about Sprinkle several years ago and has been following her career ever since. After writing about the wedding project, Sprinkle invited him to participate. When asked about his motivation, Archer said, “We were talking about how we could show two different sides of the planet, I think the pimp thing sprang from that.”
Emma McNary found her way to Stephens and Sprinkle through a common affection for experimental theatre. They met up in McNary’s hometown of Austin, she told City on a Hill Press. McNary has participated in two other events besides this one. For the wedding, McNary took the stage with flowers in her hair and on her skirt. She opened her mouth and a beautiful a cappella opera filled the Shakespeare Glen. And then she began to strip. She left the stage wearing only lime green pasties and a thong.
After alternately caressing and beating a volunteer with a bouquet of roses, Sadie Lune asked the audience, “What can we, mere mortals do, to honor this most glorious dominatrix?”
Danielle Abrams also surprised crowds when, during her comedy routine, she repeatedly dunked different parts of herself into beet soup. She then had her assistants pour sour cream on her head, and invited the audience and the wedding party to snack on her.
At the end of all the performances, Gómez-Peña read a powerful poem and led the couple in their vows to each other and the earth. Their vows to the earth included promises such as “Let us not be severed from your love,” as well as “Every day we promise to taste you,” and “We promise to love you until death brings us closer together forever.”
After inviting Stephens and Sprinkle to kiss the earth, Gómez-Peña invited the audience to kiss one another and then pronounced everyone “GREEN!”