Art

Green Porno

“Green Porno”, describes animal sexual behavior, through a one-woman show.

Story by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi - info@chiaraspagnoliart.com Photos courtesy of BAM
Photo © Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Courtesy of BAM

Back in 1996, Eve Ensler was perturbing public opinion with her play “The Vagina Monologues”, through a series of soliloquies connected with the feminine experience, from birth to menstruation, from masturbation to mutilation. A dozen years later, actress Isabella Rossellini came up with a similarly outrageous and ironic approach to sex: “Green Porno”, describes animal sexual behavior, through a one-woman show.

Isabella Rossellini’s passion for nature goes back to her childhood: “I have always loved animals. I am particularly fascinated by the diversity in nature. My family knows this well. Since I was a little girl I brought home all kinds of stray cats and dogs, but also worms, frogs, insects and read a great deal of books about animals and took many biology courses at university.”

Then why focus on sex? “Well I’m interested in animals, but most other people are interested in sex,” the artist explains. So in 2008, she started making a web series on animals mating, encouraged by actor/filmmaker friend Robert Redford, who has always been tremendously supportive of experimental independents films and is also very interested in nature. Redford commented at the time, “This is what we artists do. We tell serious things in the most accessible, entertaining way”. Thusly the series aired on The Sundance Channel, showing director, producer and performer Isabella Rossellini enacting the mating rituals of several animals, especially insects and marine creatures.

Photo © Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Courtesy of BAM

The ever so successful television performance has now arrived on the stage of Brooklyn Academy of Music, it opened on January 16th and will be running until the 25th. The idea to adapt the video clips for theatrical production came from Isabella’s friend Carole Bouquet—former Bond girl and Chanel model—who introduced her to the influential French playwright Jean-Claude Carrière, who wrote several screenplays for the legend director Luis Buñuel.

The Brechtian setting leaves complete freedom to Isabella’s thorough biological analysis of what happens in the natural world. The light-hearted and cheeky zoology lecture is presented without any special effects or razzle-dazzle frills. Day-Glo costumes and paper puppets are part of the environmental friendly mise-en-scène. Isabella’s exquisite charm and movement on stage, when she tosses props around and acts with her lilting Italian accent, are extremely captivating.

She unveils with great energy and irony how nature has no boundaries when it applies to sex: males eaten right after reproduction, one’s sperm blown away by another male’s within the female vagina itself, wild orgies, fierce fights, dances, seductions, extravagances, hermaphrodites, trans-genders, homosexuals, heterosexuals, unexplainable acrobatics, pervasions… Anything is allowed and is definitely not in line with the erroneously abused phrase “against nature”. Life is passed down whatever the cost.

Photo © Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Courtesy of BAM

Isabella Rossellini’s one hour and fifteen minutes panoply of reproductive oddities—such as the hermaphroditic snails who prod each other with sharp darts before copulating; dolphins who perform any kind of sex from oral to homosexual; the Queen Bee whose vagina is “corked up” by her partner’s penis before he dies to make sure the descendants will be his and not of any other—is incredibly amusing and instructive. The means of expression are simple, as proof that all it takes is a good idea to offer an intriguing picture of the animal kingdom.

The randy beastly performance, staged by the general administrator of the Comédie-Française and Chevalier in the Order of the Merit, Muriel Mayette, relies on science, a few of the clips from the video-series and some DIY props, not to mention Rossellini’s singular flair for storytelling.

The actress combines scientific facts with children’s theater-like pageantry, to explain the roles of the queen, workers, and drones. She has the freshness of a child and the vision of a dreamer in debating on the topic, with the tenacity of a warrior when it comes to standing up for the rules of nature.

Photo © Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Courtesy of BAM

As a matter of fact, the Italian born actress artist, has always had a great sensitivity as regards the environment’s well-being: in 2012, she became Burt’s Bee veteran insect re-enactor to create a thoroughly bizarre set of Public Service Announcements called “Burt Talks to Bees” to enlighten on the troubling decline in bee populations due to colony collapse disorder. The self-ironic actress wore a paper beard, to embody the role of Burt, a real-life beekeeper who founded the company many years ago, and imagined the conversations he might have with his own bee population about their plight. Needless to say Rossellini also played the bees. These videos come just in time for National Pollinator Week, which was established by the US Senate to raise awareness of declining pollinator populations.

Isabella Rossellini says she sees herself as an entertainer and not as a scientist; therefore her goal is to spread awareness on certain facts connected to nature, by making people laugh. She is so fully dedicated to expanding her knowledge in the field, that at age sixty-one she lives in Bellport, Long Island, and comes to Manhattan to attend a master’s degree in conservation and behavior at Hunter College.

Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini’s daughter definitely has wits, class and irony to enthrall audiences for the entire performance. Yet the ideal closure to this wildly entrancing and amusing eco-pantomime, would have been to hear Isabella sing as a closing innuendo, the song by The Bloodhound Gang—the American alternative punk rock band that often deals with sexual subjects through puns and satires—“You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the discovery channel.”

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