"My work is always looking at what's going on in my life, who I am as a gay mail," says Tim Miller, the Los Angeles area-based performance artist who has charmed international audiences--and enraged some of our moro prominent right-wing politicians--with his frank, funny exercises in navel gazing, not to mention navel exposing. But Miller admits to trepidation about addressing what's been going on in his life lately. In his funny, poignant, and disturbing new show, Glory Box, he recounts his journey through the dangerous byways of U.S. immigration policy.
In 1994 Miller fell in love with an Australian man, and ever since, they've been trying to forge a life together in the United States, where Miller has worked for nearly 20 years as a performer and teacher. But it's been a constant struggle: Unlike some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, the United States does not grant citizenship rights to the immigrant partners of gays and lesbians. The subterfuges and risks binational couples must undergo to stay together in the States can turn their lives into Orwellian odysseys through government red tape.
"I avoided tackling this for several years," Miller says. "A lot of people have kept quiet about this subject; it enforces a kind of closetedness because you're vulnerable--the government can really mess with you. But my boyfriend is here legally now, on a student visa good for another year. We have a year of wiggle room to agitate, hoping that things will progress."
Perhaps because it's been overshadowed by the larger issue of gay marriage, the issue of immigration fights for gay couples hasn't made a big blip on the community's activism radar. Miller hopes to change that through his shows, some of which will be near home, such as performances in Santa Monica, Calif., Feb. 4-5 and 11-12. "I perform in 40 or 50 cities a year in about 30 states," he says, "and that gives me a great opportunity to raise people's consciousness about this issue, make people aware of what thousands of gay couples are fighting every day."
In fact, the issue has been picking up steam--"it's gone from being invisible to having all the presidential candidates talking about it," Miller says--but its momentum is far from assured. For instance, while Miller is heartened by the recent Vermont supreme court ruling entitling same-sex couples to protections equivalent to civil marriage, he also worries that legislation there might set a dangerous precedent by ignoring immigration policy. "Any domestic-partnership legislation that doesn't include immigration rights for binational couples would be unacceptable," Miller says. "It would mean that heterosexual married couples still have one of the biggest special rights that is denied gay partnerships."
Despite Miller's political passion, Glory Box is no dry polemic. In the 65-minute solo piece, Miller also includes bittersweet tales of boyhood crushes and reminiscences about his fascination with the hope chest that stood at the foot of his mother's bed (the show's title is Down Under-speak for hope chest). He leavens the show's political urgency with big doses of humor as well as a theatrical flamboyance that undercuts the pathos and the politics.
The boyishly handsome Miller is known for literal, not just metaphorical, self-exposure, and Glory Box gives glimpses of skin along with the emotional excavatious. "I've been criticized for softening the rhetoric with humor," he says, "but I think most gay audiences can relate to that. We have our passions, but we can also be ironic about them--that's a survival thing that goes way back to our childhoods. I have a lot of faith in humor as away of lubricating the rhetorical oomph."
Isherwood is chief theater critic for Variety.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||performance artist discusses the failure of the United States government to grant citizenship status to the immigrant partners of lesbians and gays|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Feb 15, 2000|
|Previous Article:||Twin Falls Idaho.|
|Next Article:||STRIFE IN THE FAST LANE.|