It is not every day that one gets the chance to walk through the life of a filmmaker, writer, and actress all in the span of two hours. “LOST CHILD!”—a one-woman one-act staged by the Institute of Contemporary Arts on Sunday—was written and performed by Miranda July, the versatile artist whose fiction has been published in “The New Yorker” and “The Paris Review” and whose films have appeared in the Sundance Film Festival. The show combined elements of soap opera drama, such as when July talked about her romantic relationships with men and women, with real life struggles such as finding a job. The play told the clichéd story of a small town girl trying to make it big in the world, but the honest and personable style of July’s delivery made the show her own and gave the performance nuance and meaning.
July’s work has appeared in the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, and her films have won her four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. However, “LOST CHILD!” was acted out in a simple conversational set-up, where July spoke to the audience about her life leading up to becoming the artist that she is today. The personal feel that comes from this set-up was very suitable for the sensitive topics that July touched on.
Standing alone in the spotlight, July laid out her journey of becoming an artist through a collage of video clips and journal entries from the past. She spoke about the obstacles that she faced while trying to make a living through her passion for art and filmmaking. Aided by the simple lighting design by Lauren Audette, July stayed in the spotlight throughout the show. She worked with basic technology, like her laptop, and showed a series of webcam videos from her past as well as old movies she made from filming over “Superman” VHS tapes. The interactive atmosphere that July created brought to life her journey and her growth as an artist and as a person. She asked members of the audience to recite movie transcripts along with her, and as her movies started to take form and move away from the juvenile filming she did in the past, July seemed to mature as an artistic mind.
The plot, however, was by no means original or revolutionary. The story was one that every small-town girl trying to make it big as an artist could have told. From stealing knockoff Reebok shoes at Payless to making small bombs with her criminal girlfriend, July’s journey of becoming an artist, although quirky, is not monumentally unique. But what separated this performance from other clichéd tales of artistic journeys was the delivery of her story. July’s attitude was toned down and relaxed—it was a presentation that could have very well been told over a Sunday brunch or a walk in the park.
“LOST CHILD!” wasn’t exactly an inspirational anecdote, nor was it one to be remembered for ages to come. However, it did have heart and emotion that brought to life a complicated narrative that was not entirely plot-driven. July told her story as it was—no dramatic effects, no flashy sets, just her and her story. This kind of style is hard to find in today’s entertainment industry, but July did it beautifully with her casual approach to the play. It is only through the use of this kind of simple delivery style that July was able to meaningfully present her artistic journey.