Circle Circle dot dot’s “LGBTQ+ On-Campus” was a site-specific examination of queer life at San Diego State University. In collaboration with the university’s Pride Center, this performance was a two-hour rotating installation project inspired by true stories of LGBTQ+ students living and working at SDSU. Nine original short stories repeated every 15 minutes within a two-hour block. The piece was a one-day-only work-in-progress that deserves a much longer life.
In “Queer Transfer (Welcome),” a tall Caucasian man (Jeremy Davies), looking to transfer from his conservative Christian college in Arizona, visits San Diego State. An African-American “SDSU Ambassador” (Brittany Allen) gives him a tour of So-Cal’s queer-friendly campus and enumerates its virtues, including numerous LGBTQ+ classes and the famous annual Big Gay BBQ. In the end, the prospective student declares, “San Diego, here come mama!”
In “Rude Dude,” set at one of the main arteries of the campus, the Dude (Michael Parrott) chases after a beautiful woman (Ashley Toolan), trying to “pick her up.” When we find out that she likes women, Dude keeps pressing: “I want to hang out with your tribe. You and me can check out women together.” She walks away with some choice words. At this point, two female students unknowingly pass by the lively scene, with one documenting the actions on her smartphone while exclaiming, “Oh, you go, girl!”
“Lex and Kat Have Coffee” portrays Lex (Invictus Animus) coming out to his friend Kat (Caitlin Ross) about the former’s female-to-male transition. Kat responds warmly. Lex shares the complicated processes of his transition — from testosterone injections to top (upper-body) and bottom surgeries. He eagerly shows Kat pictures on his phone of a matching-skin-tone removable penis he’s been thinking of acquiring. “You get to pick your own dick!” Kat excitedly says. They laugh with Kat admitting, “You know, this is a lot to process.” “Toilet Trouble,” an excellent solo dance-cum-voice piece by Soroya Rowley and Crystal Brandon, takes place in the women’s restroom. Her character is a cis-gendered woman. A toilet flushes, and out from a stall comes a tough-looking woman. She looks straight into this reviewer’s eyes and says, “You’re in the wrong restroom!” She performs a series of choreographed movements to a rock-n’-roll soundtrack (To SDSU’s credit, there are at least ten gender-neutral restrooms throughout its campus.) While moving, Rowley says, “Most people don’t have to worry about stuff like this.” She concludes on a hopeful note: “Change begins with starting a conversation.”
The one-time-only performance ended with an informal talk-back curated by the energetic, eloquent Katherine Harroff, Artistic Director of Circle Circle dot dot. Asked why the company opts for this site-specific format at the university, Harroff listed the merits of this work like guerilla-theater style, i.e. getting bystanders and passers-by to witness the actions by way of setting the acts in busy hubs on campus. Plus, a large amount of company members are alumni and alumnae of SDSU. A good many from this lot of actors identify as queer. They take this theater piece “all personally — too personally, in fact,” as Paul Monette writes in the Afterword of his brave essay collection called Last Watch of the Night. Metaphors abounded. One scene took place next to the War Memorial, a granite column where names of SDSU students who died in various wars are etched. LGBTQ+ struggles are today’s battles. Another scene took place in front of vibrant wall murals: these are the stories of real people — the vignettes that make up the human murals of my generation.