Despite a couple of similarities, the two plays that will show in the Kleinau Theater today through Sunday are as different as learning differences and reality TV.
The first to take the stage is writer and performer Julie Cosenza’s play, “Where’s Queerdo? Disabling Perceptions!” The play revolves around a mime named Queerdo and her journey, knowledge and experiences as a homosexual and dyslexic person.
The play, using audio, video, juggling and African zumba exercise moves, portrays Queerdo as she proves that having a learning difference such as dyslexia doesn’t always have to be inherently bad.
Or, as the play suggests, “there are many different ways of knowing.”
In “Queerdo,” the education system is portrayed as a sort of three-part confinement machine that feeds people through one end and releases them from the other in the exact academic shape they should be in upon entering the real world.
The first part of the play is disciplined learning, which includes tasks such as filling in the bubbles on Scantron sheets. The second part addresses learning differences and how much effort goes into converting school texts into accessible resources for anyone who might need them.
“And then there’s corporate university, which we saw really come about in the strike,” Cosenza said. “So, (the audience can) see how we move people through this system, but don’t really stop and think about what the experience is while inside the box.”
Cosenza, a graduate student in speech communication from San Fransico, said she had to change her thesis around a bit to make the play happen. She said much of her earlier work revolved around the idea that dyslexic students should be included in the educational system, but instead, she decided to express that there are things gained from dyslexic experiences in academia.
“So, instead of saying ‘We should be here. You should include us,’ I am now saying ‘We’re here, and here’s what you can learn from us,’” she said.
After Cosenza’s play and a short intermission, “The Real Housewives of Heather’s Head” will invite the audience on a short trip inside writer and performer Heather Hull’s thoughts while watching reality TV.
As a dedicated “Real Housewives” viewer, Hull, a graduate student in speech communication from Tempe, Ariz., said she wanted to show the audience that watching reality shows similar to the channel’s cash cow isn’t necessarily all that bad.
While some of the shows’ wives are ridiculous for obvious reasons and drive obnoxiously expensive cars, the shows bring female-centered relationships and shared personal experiences to the forefront, Hull said.
“Sure you see a lot of fighting and drama, but you also see very real family and personal issues that come up, which can affect anyone regardless of how much money you have,” she said.
Susie Shircliff, a senior from Louisville, Ky., studying cinema and photography, said no matter what messages the housewives express, she would rather stay away from the program altogether.
“They are always yelling and screaming at each other. I can’t take all of that drama and muck,” she said. “I would much rather just watch ‘Sesame Street.’”
In the beginning of the monologue, Hull introduces the audience to the five housewives in her head — the prom queen, the sidekick, the hostess, the malcontent and the middle-schooler — who spend the rest of the performance discussing their thoughts and reactions to an episode of “The Real Housewives.”
Hull said the personas she portrays came from blocking together multiple nights of live writing while watching an episode of the show. She said she would watch the show with her laptop in front of her and type out every thought that popped in her head, no matter what it pertained to.
“My goal is to narrate a typical me watching ‘The Housewives’ experience for the audience and to kind of show that my inner thoughts are always conflicting,” Hull said. “I love the housewives, but I don’t think they’re perfect.”
Though there are many differences between the Kleinau’s two performances this weekend, one similarity is that both performers address the idea of normalcy. While watching Hull’s “Housewives,” the audience members will learn “everyone’s sense of normal turns different when they get used to things,” but if they pay attention to Cosenza’s “Queerdo,” they will remember that “normal was always a little more boring anyway.”