LEWISTON – “The Hysterical Alphabet,” an acclaimed multimedia performance piece exploring the “female malady” of hysteria, will be presented Wednesday, May 20, at Bates College.
Terri Kapsalis, who scripted the piece and is one of its performers, will give a lecture on its creation at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, May 21, in Room G65, Pettengill Hall.
Produced by Theater Oobleck, of Chicago, “The Hysterical Alphabet” was created and is performed by sound designer John Corbett and film artist Danny Thompson, as well as Kapsalis.
The notion of hysteria dates back some 4,000 years, noted by the ancient Egyptians and dramatized by the Greeks, reinvented by Freud and other Victorian theorists and inventors, and is still in currency in the works of such pop culture figures as filmmaker John Waters.
Drawn from centuries of primary medical writings, “The Hysterical Alphabet” treats its condensed history of hysteria with levity, playfulness and critical insight. Using each letter of the alphabet to introduce a different episode, Kapsalis provides a spoken performance accompanied by Thompson’s disquieting film collages and Corbett’s vinyl manipulations.
The three premiered the piece in Chicago in 2007.
Kapsalis is a writer, improvisational musician, health-care educator and founding member of Theater Oobleck. Her recent fiction “Most Beautiful Experiments” was published by Parakeet and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is the author of “Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum.”
Corbett is a writer, sound-artist and curator. He teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is the co-director of the art gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey. He is the producer of the Unheard Music Series, an archival program dedicated to creative music issues and re-isssues, and the author of “Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein.”
Thompson is a founding member of Theater Oobleck, for which he has written many plays, including “The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett …,” which received the Comedy Excellence Award at the 2000 New York Fringe Festival and Top 10 of the Fest at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and extensively toured the United Kingdom.
The performance will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Benjamin Mays Center, 95 Russell St. Both the lecture and performance are free of charge.


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