At a point in life when most women have come to their senses, Patrice Vecchione seems to have just gotten energized. Not content to simply inspire others to take concrete steps toward making their dreams come true, Vecchione takes giant steps toward her own unfolding destiny.
A poet, a writer, a visual artist, and a person for whom nature always arrives with a capital N, Vecchione’s restless imagination burns 24/7. Balancing an overflowing plate of workshops, readings, and writing, Vecchione has done what she always does—add more. Next weekend the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts in Carmel will host Vecchione’s Words Dressed & Undressed, a feisty and unpredictable performance interpretation of women, identity and aging.
“I change outfits for each of the seven scenes,” Vecchione says. This, from a woman who has carefully constructed her own sense of style out of bold colors and even bolder accessories. “It all started with a clothing exhibition at the Cherry Center. They wanted a reading. I said no. I would do a performance. I didn’t know whether it would work until I did it,” she says. But once she began imagining the scenes, the entire production—all done without intermission—came together.
“My penchant for quirky dress style helps set the stage,” she notes—and the stage for her show will be abundantly set with props, scenery and moving pictures. The first scene “Contagious Enthusiasm” has been adapted from her book Stepping into Nature. In it Vecchione examines an African practice of dressing and adorning the body without the benefit of a mirror. “Who determines beauty anyway?” she asks. “The second piece is called ‘Looking for the Perfect Dress,’—what woman hasn’t had that experience?”
Other scenes are adapted from the 2009 show Vecchione produced and performed to packed houses in both Santa Cruz and Monterey. The emotionally fraught issues surrounding wedding gowns, and the decision to wear or not wear a veil are acted out in another scene.
“My favorite one is number six, ‘The Clothing of the Dead,’ about how we keep and wear clothing that belongs to others, now gone on,” she says.
The point of all of these moving and colorful scenes is to enact and illuminate the connection between what we wear—sweaters, hats, shoes—and key transitional moments of our lives. “I’ve actually had a pair of shoes call my name!” she exclaims with delight. With her scarlet lipstick and oversized glasses, golden-haired Vecchione knows a thing or two about visual signature.
The last scenario, Vecchione promises, will be the most intense. It’s called “the Invisibility Cloak,” and examines “that thing that happens when women grow older, where men simply look past us. It’s rough in our culture. At first when that starting happening to me, it was a relief,” she recalls. “It was a relief in not being judged all the time, being able to swing my arms, to feel freer in my body. But then it became irritating.”
Even though she doesn’t feel determined by the opinions of others, the performer will admit to having issues about her chin.
Working from a skillful balance of scripted words and anecdotal memory, Vecchione fashioned a one-woman cascade of costume changes, setting the stage and acting out each of the vignettes she’s chosen to illustrate key moments in many women’s lives.
Why did the multi-tasking lecturer, writer, and teacher need to add yet another project to her schedule? “A lot of this is improv,” she admits saucily. “I do so much improv in my other work, and I like to be funny. Performing is a much more immediate and alive form of expression than writing. I’m driven to make the ideas live.” Words Dressed and Undressed has it all—visuals, music, “lots of outfit changes and lots of props.”
Vecchione admits that she gets “really nervous beforehand, and then I become incredibly happy. It must mean that I’m mentally ill,” she says with a chuckle. “I can hear and feel people in the audience, and the energy changes. Then afterwards I go out and people greet me. It’s complete engagement. Women have told me that I had explained them to their husbands.”
Now that’s quite a performance achievement!
Showtimes for Patrice Vecchione’s ‘Words Dressed & Undressed: Women, Identity & Aging’ are: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, 4th and Guadalupe, Carmel. Visit carcherrycenter.org for more info. $20.