Lights illuminate the small stage, recreating a scene from every woman’s worst nightmare: there she is, caught alone—stark naked. But the serene lighting and the actress’s calm assure the audience that Aviva Jane Carlin is perfectly comfortable with her plump body and that we have no reason to look away.
In “Jodie’s Body,” a semi-autobiographical, one-woman show written and performed by Carlin, she draws the audience into an intimate conversation with her character, Jodie, as she poses nude for a drawing class. Woven through her lighthearted banter in which she affectionately calls her own thighs “girls” and gently mocks the art students’ portrayals of her body, Jodie discusses more serious issues about the identity we choose for ourselves and the identity that others impose on us.
Jodie—like Carlin—grew up in South Africa with her liberal, British mother and is on stage celebrating the fall of apartheid. (Carlin is not Jewish, but grew up among a number of anti-apartheid Jewish families and was given a Hebrew name.) Her mother was perpetually overweight and raised her with reminders that “we are not our bodies, Jodie, we merely live in them.” Jodie recalls how she began viewing her mother’s big, strong body not only as aesthetically beautiful but as a force that could—and did—save a child from drowning and protect an African family from British soldiers. Through lively stories, Jodie compares apartheid to the less palpable influences that determine what is beautiful: “The structures you set up in your mind, that fat bodies are dreadful, are as fiercely held up as political structures, like apartheid.” Jodie leaves her audience by asking, “Is it time to dismantle that structure, girls?”
To bring “Jodie’s Body” to your community, call (212) 459-2314.