Putting the Bloom in Bloomsday: Playing the “Ulysses” Skank

Posted by Margarita Korol

This Thursday, I get to play the skank in James Joyce’s epic Ulysses. This 15-minute rendition will be put on for the second year by Tablet in honor of Bloomsday. In Nausicaa, the thirteenth episode of the novel, young Gerty McDowell gives Bloom wood in exposing her panties en pleine beach aire–the very scene that, in 1920, landed NYC’s LittleReview magazine publishers Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap obscenity convictions from Comstock’s Society for the Suppression of Vice, making Ulysses an untouchable banned book until Random House finally cleared Joyce’s name in 1932. Said Heap, “Mr. Joyce was not teaching early Egyptian perversions nor inventing new ones. Girls lean back everywhere, showing lace and silk stockings; wear low-cut sleeveless blouses, breathless bathing suits; men think thoughts and have emotions about these things everywhere–seldom as delicately and imaginatively as Mr. Bloom–and no one is corrupted.”

I’m starting to realize Mr. Frawley took my fate into his hands my freshman year of high school when he cast me as Outlaw #1 in Two Gentlemen of Verona, a character who was an ambiguous badass in Shakespeare’s text, yet an overtly leather-clad dominatrix in our suburban production. Strapping on a bustier and assigned three boys as my bitches (Outlaws 2-4), Frawley slowly smothered the squeaky tween until it was no longer she who read my lines. What was left of me was a perversity that finally won over my mother. I went on to do a couple student directed one-act plays before contracting severe stage fright while playing a catty woman who fancied Faulkner. I guess I couldn’t juggle this burgeoning femme fatale along with geometry and art club.

So all these years later I will set aside spastic aphonia and own Dirty Gerty as a salute to Mr. Frawley, or at least as a fuck you to Mr. Comstock.

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