Lu Donovan is a Wesleyan graduate and current HPI 2018 artist who moved to Philadelphia to attend the program. Lu is a creator-dancer exploring drag performance who loves to spend their time cooking and creating in the kitchen.
Describe your experience of HPI so far – from arriving, to seeing Fringe shows, meeting other artists and beginning to show work.
Crash landing is a good way to describe it. I crash landed in Philadelphia on Sept 1st and had 3 days of doing absolutely nothing, and then HPI started on the fourth, so that was a relief because I’m a person who thrives on doing something every single minute of the day. Once I came into the structure [of HPI], I knew I had somewhere to be at 10 am every morning. They will lead me through this exercise, or this discussion, or collaboration until this time, and that structure was comforting. It was a lot of balancing – moving into a new apartment, making friends inside and outside of the program, and figuring out what is the most sustainable way to support myself financially which is still something I’m figuring out a month later. I’m lucky that I saved enough money over the summer as a cushion. All these things were very at the front of mind before thinking creatively.
All of this at once is like ‘whoa’; every day I have a pretty different experience at HPI and I still kind of am. Some days I’ll go home and be like what did I do for six hours today and sometimes it’s that we sat in a circle and talked, and it was really frustrating. I wanted to be sparking my imagination with doing the exercises and being led through activities or games. And some days we would be guided through activities and games and would be seeing each other’s creative tendencies and social tendencies and those moments were very exciting and fulfilling.
I do think it was a slow start in terms of class work, which I believe was intentional because of the fringe shows. They knew that they’re asking us to do more outside of the studios. They knew that they were asking us to go to three shows over the weekend or on a Thursday night. Again, because I'm a person who's like ‘let's do stuff’ I personally didn’t need the day to be slower.
Are you on the same path of creative investigation or has that changed since coming to HPI? What were you curious about then vs. now?
I just graduated in May, and we had a senior thesis project that for me felt like the piece, the culmination of all those years and it was very personal and felt like a self-portrait piece. It was about genderqueerness, how that relates to body size and shape, and trying to investigate how genderqueer bodies and fat bodies are made ‘other’ in similar processes of indulgence and excess and pleasure. And that was the thing. That’s the project. After that I thought, “now what, what do I care about?”.
Over the summer I started playing with drag and I was like this isn't exactly dance, but it is performance. It’s something new that I don’t’ know that much about – painting my face and using makeup is something I haven’t done since 7th grade. So, I was curious about it and had done a few drag performances last December as part of a student club at Wesleyan. I started painting my face and taking pictures and posting them, and so that was something that I wanted to continue in Philadelphia with HPI.
I did a very silly drag piece during one of the first salon performances with Jaz (HPI '18) which was great to find a drag collaborator. That’s exciting. Drag is often seen as a solo art form, but I was really excited that Jaz was here to talk about it and do it. This week I'm experimenting with being in drag, but in dance, so it’s not like “this is a lip-sync or this a burlesque show." This is a person in drag doing a movement-based piece.
There’s much to figure out during the first weeks of HPI, and it can be tumultuous. What do you like to do outside of the program? Do you have a hidden passion?
One of my favorite things to do is create menus – like this thing would go really well with this spice and this side dish, dip, and drink. Then spend four-plus hours in the kitchen making it happen, sweating a lot near the oven and listening to music with one or two other people. For example, we should make our own pita and falafel with beet tzatziki and carrot salad with feta and mint and get dry cider because it’s a summer day and hot outside.