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Frances McDormand joins performance artist to expresses image in 'Bodycast'

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 7:57 p.m.
Photo of Academy Award winning-actress Frances McDormand and New York–based visual artist Suzanne Bocanegra, who perform Bocanegra’s piece “Bodycast” together. “Bodycast” will be performed March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the CMA Theater. 
Credit: Alison Rosa
Photo of Academy Award winning-actress Frances McDormand and New York–based visual artist Suzanne Bocanegra, who perform Bocanegra’s piece “Bodycast” together. “Bodycast” will be performed March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the CMA Theater. Credit: Alison Rosa

Coping with the trials of adolescence can be a challenge for any girl. Experiencing them from the confines of a body cast can mold one's idea of what beauty really is.

The time New York-based artist Suzanne Bocanegra spent in a body cast from ages 13 to 15 because of scoliosis is the basis of “Bodycast: An Artist Lecture,” starring Frances McDormand (“Fargo,” “Promised Land”). The show has its world premiere March 1 at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater.

“It's a very awkward time in any case,” says Bocanegra, 56, of the early teen years. “That's even more heightened by the fact I was in a body cast.”

The show is part of Carnegie Museum of Art's Women's History Month celebration. Another show by international art-world provocateurs Guerilla Girls will be March 20.

Lucy Stewart, associate curator of education, says the museum is thrilled to be hosting the “Bodycast” debut.

“The museum emphasizes world-class contemporary art, and we jumped at the opportunity to showcase a performance work of this caliber,” she says.

Although tickets to the Pittsburgh show are sold out, Bocanegra says she hopes to perform it at more venues around the country. The show will have its New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the fall.

“Bodycast” is performed by Bocanegra and Academy Award-winning actress McDormand. It incorporates elements of an artist talk, a theatrical performance, essay and live video installation to discuss notions of female beauty in the history of art and in life.

McDormand, who grew up in Monessen, offered to participate after viewing “When a Priest Marries a Witch,” Bocanegra's unique take on the traditional artist talk focusing on her Texas upbringing.

The “Priest” story is told through two voices — Bocanegra reads lines and actor Paul Lazar repeats each one, adding his theatrical spin. Both are audible to the audience.

“It's really interesting to see what an actor does to text when on the stage,” Bocanegra says. “When I'm talking, it sounds really flat, which is easy to notice when you hear what Paul does to the words. He gets laughs out of things that are not funny.”

When McDormand expressed her admiration for the show, Bocanegra told her there was more to the story. “Bodycast” picks up the artist's life story at age 12. McDormand signed on immediately.

“The first time, I thought it would be interesting to see my words coming from a man,” Bocanegra says. “The second time, it's more like my doppelganger. It's interesting to see what she does with the text.”

“Bodycast” includes Bocanegra's impressions from the time she spent in Italy in her 30s as the recipient of the Rome Prize, a prestigious award made annually by the American Academy in Rome to emerging artists.

Lazar is directing “Bodycast,” which features some of Bocanegra's artwork. Her training as a painter has helped with her crossover into theater, she says.

“I'm taking my experience and education and applying it to an art form I'm completely new at,” she says. “That can be a strength. I can come into it fresh and try things I maybe wouldn't try if I hadn't been trained in that world.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or

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