Jesse Hewit / Strong Behavior

Summer 2010 Artist in Residence

Jesse Hewit is a San Francisco and Brooklyn based artist and performer. He holds a BFA from NYU/Tisch/Experimental Theater Wing [Read More…]

Performing Thursday-Sunday, August 5-8, 8pm

“Tell Them That You Saw Me”

“Tell Them That You Saw Me” is a dance theater work that visually and kinetically considers the high art of performing feminine subjectivities within contemporary narratives. As a movement and sculpture-based adaptation of the two canonical play texts “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett and “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, the work employs five women meditating on militarism and unison voices/bodies, on the elaboration of costume and facade, and ultimately, engaging in a theoretical and choreographic investigation of the social condition of groups versus individuals, of absorption versus barrage, and of floating versus sinking…and drowning. The piece uses lipstick, repetition, sacred hymns, fatigue, large tanks of water, and sex stories to explode archetypes of existentialism, gender, and connectivity.

Jesse is performing with Laura Arrington



Jesse's Blogs

whoa. everything changes. has everything changed?
Aug 24th, 2012

way way way back in APRIL (!!!!!!!!), Emily Leap and I sat down and wrote a letter to the three people who would later be our Portland guest artists for the June Residency and the TBA premiere that’s happening in 2 weeks. We wanted to give them some kind of something that would let them start to understand us and get let in on some of the things this project has been doing and thinking about.

It’s now last August, and reading this letter is INSANE because everything happened and collided and crashed and blossomed and got blown up, while we were working in Europe…but somehow some of this stuff is totally still at the core of what we’re doing, so…lalala scenario scenario….here’s the letter:

Dear Portland Guests Roya, Keyon, and Taka:

We are two (Emily and Jesse) of the core-ish group of artists working on Keith Hennessy’s work, Turbulence (a dance about the ecnomy), and we wanted to reach out and say hi, maybe shed a teeny bit of context on where the project has been, and what some of our thoughts and feelings and experiences have been, making dance and performance about “the economy.” This letter is in no way meant to prescribe anything about your up coming expereince, or ours for that matter, but more a way to just say “welcome” and give a little background.

So, hello! We are particularly glad that you all are joining us because the dynamic of a rotating crew of guests has become, for us, a really interesting/challenging/contested/fruitful part of engaging with this work. There have been questions on the table as to what kind of investment and familiarity we core folks are supposed to have with the project, and it seems that, at this point, we do kind of keep leaning toward destabilizing whatever static answers we might come up with in regards to this. So, thank you for being  inherent catalysts, game-changers, and just new collaborators. It will be rare, in this letter, for us to speak on behalf of the group, as this is not a group defined by its coherence and we two are certainly not here to give you “the answer” to what this is all about, but we think we can honestly say that every person who has collaborated with us so far has left a solid mark of presence on what the piece now is, what it was, and what it’ll inevitably become. The long and short: we’re glad you’re going to join us.

But, so, what is it exactly that you’re joining?  And how is it possible, really, to join, as equal collaborators, a project that’s been in creation, with a core group, for a year and a half?  Well, we’re writing this email so that you can begin to find your answers to these questions, but also to let you know how much we’re all still looking for those answers ourselves.
Still, there are some things that we know that you don’t, and for sure we have that to share with you.  We’ll start with a kind of an introduction of what is maybe a core with a bit of scoliosis.  We are Emily, Jesse, Larry, Jassem, Jorge, Julie, Gabriel, Jupiter and, of course, Keith.  Some of the words we use to describe ourselves, in no particular order, are maker, dancer, trapeze artist, yogini, singer, waiter, writer, administrator, cook, shaman, faerie, go-go dancer, sex worker, gardener, empress, student.  We’ll let you figure out which words belong to which people when we get to you.  The point is that we come from lots of differnt places and hold lots of different identities and we’re complicated…so, this piece is complicated.  Discussions are complicated.  How does this group feel about its role in the global economy?  How does this group feel about capitalism?  How does this group feel about leadership, respond to authority?  Well.  We’re still trying to figure it out.   

Also, there are alot of elements of design around this piece that change everytime we work and perform, but one notable element is Jassem. He makes sound with lots of machines and toys and works with big beautiful bouts of distortion and volume, amongst many things.  These sounds will never not be in the space with us. This is something to know.

Another thing that feels like a thing to know is just a brief history of the project, from our points of view. Turbulence came into each of our lives at different times. As long ago as December of 2010, certain folks were joining a study group at Keith’s house and then doing a workshop that lead to a performance experiment, also that week. For the first half of 2011, the work laid mostly with Keith, as he developed ideas and strategies around moving ahead with it, and a number of us were asked to travel to Europe during July/August of 2011 to work further. We worked for a week at Ponderosa in Stolzenhagen, Germany and for a week at Impulstanz in Vienna. Both places, we workshopped and created and lived with anywhere from 8-18 other folks from about 15 different countries. Then, in December of 2011, we regrouped, added a few more locals and a few folks we had met in Europe, and worked intensively for another week and did a showing in San Francisco. As for the future, we will be going back to Europe in July, after we work for another week in SF following our time with you, and we’ll be working in France (Pontempyrat) and Germany (Stolzenhagen and Berlin) with various permutations of this core group and of course, new and old friends from our travels thus far. Then, in September, we’ll be back with you at TBA, we’ll be in Seattle, at YBCA in SF, and at New York Live Arts (DTW) in NYC.

Next, and perhaps the most straightforward element of the work so far, a list of source materials.  Not all of us have read, listened to, or watched all of this, but these are some things that have been in circulation throughout the last year and a half.

  • Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.  There’s also a film documentary by the same name, more complimentary than parallel.
  • The Inside Job.  a film documentary.  Easy to find.  Pretty solid foundational piece of the work.
  • We Dont Torture - a song by 80s brit punk girl band, The Au Pairs
  • I’ve attached three essays that Keith sent to those of us who went to Europe last summer just before we left.  Demystification of economics, the economics of community.
  • There are quite a few episodes in the archives of This American Life that explain the economic collapse that have been useful for some of us in trying to understand things like derivatives and sub-prime mortgages.
  • We’ve all now made a pretty good attempt at memorizing this text from the movie The Network:
  • A poem, written by Keith, set to music by Gabriel:
            You lied
            You made a fucking killing
            You got away with it
            And then you got promoted

And now for a fuzzier list.  This is an attempt by Emily and Jesse to name the parts of this work.  These are some structures and objects and scores that have been in the room(s) with us in the past and that may, or may not, come with us into the future.  In no particular order:

  • Asking the audience to read each other’s clothing labels, to find out where all of our clothes are made
  • Having the audience research the conflict metals in their smart phones with their smart phones.
  • Very large gold sequined fabric
  • Ending with a pop dance party, Rhianna being a particular favorite
  • Passing champagne to the audience
  • Pissing on stage, in containers or not, on the gold fabric, though we’ve mostly been to hesitant to go quite there…
  • Joining hands and spinning in duets is called the “Turbo folk dance”
  • We play games with building unsustainable structures, going for height, though collapse is inevitable
  • 5 people holding one down, the one who’s down wanting to kill his or her captors
  • Aerial space.  A bar that can hold a few people.  A high strap that isolates one person in the air.
  • Cardboard.
  • A sculpture of lights, made by whoever the tech crew is, however they want.
  • Mic check, Occupy style.
  • Fake healing – you maybe experienced a bit of this already, no?
  • Financial appraisal of our skill sets.  e.g. It took Marcio x number of days to learn this move and he was paying x number of dollars for the classes he was taking to learn it, therefore the value of this move is ___.
  • Listing the ways we make, and have made, our money.
  • Stepping out and watching.
  • Getting up as high in the room as possible.
  • Smaller triangles of the gold fabric that are skirts, hoods, shawls, etc.
  • A three level pyramid with gold hoods draped Abu Graib style.
  • Traditional black torture hoods
  • An assortment of plastic weapons
This is a lot of information we’ve just given you.  Please don’t feel overwhelmed.  We’re all delightfully confused and curious too, trying to revel in the many dynamics of destabilization and questioning, and also in the privilege of getting to make a work like this.  There are no rules for how this should work and your role is yours to invent, just as we’re all trying to invent our own.

We hope this was somewhat helpful! Or at least interesting or peaking of your curiosity. We’re very much looking forward to meeting you, throwing your body and ideas clear across the room, and interrogating and healing and tearing down and building things with you.

Emily and Jesse and the Turbo team

Julia Serano & Carol Queen Post-Show Panel
Aug 10th, 2010

100807 Jesse Hewit / Laura Arrington Strong Behavior Post Show Panel from In Studio on Vimeo.


Audience Reacts to Laura Arrington & Jesse hewit/Strong Behavior, Artist in Residence show at CounterPULSE
Aug 6th, 2010


Laura Arrington & Jesse Hewit/ Strong Behavior Post Show Panel
Aug 6th, 2010

100805 Jesse Hewit / Laura Arrington Strong Behavior Post Show Panel from In Studio on Vimeo.


tell them that you saw wings
Aug 5th, 2010

last post.

i am scared to ever self present again. CounterPULSE has spoiled me absolutely rotten.

Jessica, Andrew, Hae-Jin, Estacia, Ryan, Julie, Roz, Margarita, Meleta, and Cameron…my lord, what solid supporters.

I am calm. The performers of  ‘Tell Them That You Saw Me’ are holding this work with fire and commitment. Long live the sextet: Anna, Erika, Julie, Loren, Maryam, and Shawnrey.

Mica has designed looks for the show that are chokingly startlingly strong. Andrew was crafted my lighting ideas into a clean and simple set that let’s the work be utterly seen. He is a rock.Eddie’s table stands strong and charged.

Meleta and Cameron have taken on the running of this show with such grace that I almost feel anxious about how relaxed I seem to feel.

My sister show, ‘Hot Wings’ is insanely gorgeous. Literally. Insanely. Gorgeous.

We’re good.

Thanks, ya’ll.

Let’s go.


New video flyer for Artists in Residence
Jul 15th, 2010

Watch Jesse and Laura engage with their new works.

Get a peek at the new dance theater pieces to debut in August at CounterPULSE!

Meet Jesse
Meet Laura
Buy tickets

Learn more about the Artist Residence Commissioning program


A self portrait
Jun 20th, 2010

I wish I could say that I came to it on my own, but I didn’t.

Yesterday’s work-in-progress showing was very important for the development of this work. And I’m feeling pretty emotional about it right this second.

The question/”issue”/conflict of me as a male auteur, making this work very much ON the women of this company has always been a beast. Initially, there were ways of trying to do some sort of damage control, ie: The work would include (and even highlight) personal testimonies that would subjectify each performer.

Or would it?

How do you balance the male gaze, the male narrative, when the lead artist on a project is male. What even is male? It seems that while we have established that femininity is surely illusive and undefinable, we havent offered the same dynamism to maleness and masculinity. My presence raises skepticism, raises eyebrows and sensitivities around objectification and appropriation. And it should. The dominant narratives and gender inequities in our societies absolutely call for such a skepticism. But/And what I’m realizing, is that that is something to look dead in the eye and not try to quell, curb, or do away with.

I have been appropriating things from the women in my life for as long as I can remember. And not in some unintentional and inevitable macro-sociological way…no…in a careful and curious and longing and intentional way. For as long as I can remember I have been repulsed and frightened by homo-social male environments, by “traditional’ masculinities and pervasive patriarchy. Of course I also have reaped their benefits… gone for years not questioning my automatic accesses as a fairly gender-normative man. But embedded in my lived experience as male, is an utterly constant identification with what i understand to be female and feminine. And so I appropriate these qualities left and right. I work to embrace my love handles, I yearn to embrace the power and pleasure of sexual submission, I question hierarchy, I investigate senses of physical pain, I listen closely and make lots of eye contact, I chose things solely because they are pretty, I understand the necessity and regenerative power of crying, I sometimes stay quiet for too long, I struggle with (but practice) patience. Now… I know that there is no real way to categorize what is a male or female (or masculine or feminine) way of seeing and feeling and doing, but what I do know to be true for me, experientially, is that I have seen these traits and actions in the women around me in a way that I have not seen them in the men, and they are what i fashion myself after.

So…when Hana Erdman said to me yesterday, “I feel like this is a self-portrait for you,” something cracked open inside me.

My performers and I will continue to struggle with our roles in this process. That is the nature of the gendered work structure that we have all agreed to go into. But i will not back down. Because this self-portrait is exactly what it is. My admission is that I need these women in order to understand and see myself in this work, and of course that makes me uncomfortable. Im not uncomfortable being needy…or taking other people’s  time to carry out the investigation. What is tricky is that, in a way, these performers are a function of my vision, my self-portrait and they are women and I am a man and that permutation of one person’s self-realization has gone down way way too many times. So…what do i do?

What do you think?

Im hoping that some connection can be made that is somewhat like that between Lynn Cheney and Saddam Hussein.    

Taylor Mac sings Palace of the End

sigh….there’s so much to do.


building things
May 27th, 2010

Today is May 27th, 2010…that never gets old.

So, Tell Them That You Saw Me (which I’m realizing is kind of a very Miranda July-esque title…funny how subconscious influences work on us) is being built.  Julie, Maryam, Loren, Shawnrey, and Anna are all pretty much on fire. I’m learning not to fixate so much on identifying dominant themes, and instead trusting the work to kind of reveal itself as it will.

Now that Julie’s back from Croatia, we’ve been having really good rehearsals. I’ve been consciously trying to keep the level of focus up in these rehearsals, which has been a new-ish tactic for me; I tend to really let whatever is happening in the room kind of unfurl. And the last evening-length project that I made (Total Facts Known) definitely had a summer-camp element of socializing to it that became infrastructural to what the piece was. This time however, things feel different. Shawnrey, Julie, and Maryam are all in entirely different psychological spaces as performers, and the four of us know how to get stuff done, so we’re moving quickly. And Loren and Anna are such a seamlessly logical pair to add into this and both so seasoned and brave and rigorous…it’s just been really a pleasurable and productive work environment so far. There’s also something about not having any boys around. And that’s all I’m going to say about that right now, because I’m not fixating on the gender politics of this work as much right now. It’s purposeful, and it’s about allowing myself to be surprised and be wrong and be taught by the process and by the ensemble of folks making this with me. So…yeah.

In any case, our first work in progress showing was crazy hard for me, but it seriously UNLEASHED a new determination to avoid judgment and future-tripping, and just to make the damn thing. And now we’re deep in it.

Just to document, it feels like the themes that are emerging are:

1)explorations of codependency via spatial composition

2)duets of disclosure; the dynamics that exist between sets of two

3)cultural locations of trauma…and what happens when you explain yours to someone

4) lounging meditations; picnics

5)a desire/need/insistence on being felt and seen and above all…remembered.

it feels like there’s this way that the work keeps coming back to these scenarios where these women appear to be inside of a very structured and rational sets of tasks/directions, but they find ways to make mundane moments explode into really charged and curious expressions of individual or group pain/pleasure/panic/stoicism, etc…

I wouldn’t be surprised if the work that we show in August just ends up being about people in vast and empty places, trying to make an impact on one another in order to fill someone (anyone) with the experience of who they are. The Beckett text (‘Waiting for Godot’) still guides me alot in the activites and exercises that we do in rehearsal.

So…things are wonderfully open-ended at this point. But in other news: I am THRILLED to add a few folks to the team:

Erika Chong Shuch is performing in the piece.

Mica Sigourney is designing the looks for the performers.

I am lucky.

here’s an excerpt from a Meg Stuart piece called ‘Do Animals Cry’ that is inspiring me right now:

i especially love the section with the kid coming between mom and dad. christ.

and here’s some beautiful pictures of Maryam, taken by Jon Rivera (




April 6th, twothousandandten…
Apr 6th, 2010

Writing that title makes me remember my self-scripting teacher in undergrad, Rosemary Quinn, and how she would so clearly and ritualistically STATE the date at the opening and closing of each of our sessions. It has stuck with me. And its funny, I use it for all sorts of things. When I’m having a sad or rough patch in my day (or week or year for that matter), I tend to find some sky to look up at, and I say to myself the whole and complete date…outloud.  When my schedule gets out of hand and I’m not breathing so well, I sit really still and look around wherever I am, notice it, and STATE the date.

Anyway, this is my first blog post about my new artistic endeavor about women and water and unisonance and a hodgepodge of other things that I have both close and utterly foreign relationships to. I am more excited but less self-assured than I’ve perhaps ever been when starting to really begin the process of publicly talking about a new work of mine, so in response, I hereby am stating that TODAY is April 6th, 2010. There will never be another April 6th, 2010. And this is what I’m engaging myself in. POW.

So the piece…

I tend to work out alot of design elements in my head before setting any movement or action with the performers, and tomorrow I’m doing a little photo shoot that will hopefully yield a killer publicity shot and also a specific and inspiring image for me to work with. For my last show, I understood what the “world” of the piece looked like very early on in the building process, and it really shaped everything about how I worked, so I’m kind of feverishly searching for that clarity about this new work. I’ve been paying lots of attention to structures and architecture, looking closely at interior design and set design, and frankly spending a more-than-usual amount of time at the MOMA, looking at pieces for inspiration. I feel like once I’ve got my set design somewhat locked in, I’ll understand so much more about the movement vocabulary and the other elements of the performance. so thats high on my list.

I’m also anxious and excited to get the performers/collaborators into the studio. I am mega-lucky to be working with the same three women that built Total Facts Known with me (Julie Phelps, Shawnrey Notto, and Maryam Rostami) and I’ve added Loren Robertson and Anna Whitehead to the mix. All five folks are pretty brutally smart and brave, in my esteem, and I’m feeling pretty aware of just how great this ensemble is going to be. Which feels good. On that note, I’m excited to get them into the studio, because they have such amazing art-making brains, and I’ve actually gotten to the point, where I need some outside perspective and some visuals of my ideas on other bodies, as I’ve been thinking mostly to myself about this work for almost a year now.

and….i feel like, for right now, I’m kind of avoiding the politics of this piece, and I don’t know why. i mean, basically, we’re taking stories of distinctly women’s experiences, splicing them into a structure with texts about the existential woes of man (beckett and miller play texts), and adding a bunch of often clownish, often violent, often confronting movement sequences and tasks. Am i curious about the simple moment of women doing canonically male texts in a queer compositional structure? yes. Am i having a crazy deep moment of self-reference where i try to locate my misunderstood gender identity in this aforementioned concept. yup. will it be creepy and appropriating or self-depricating or boring or simply a non-event? maybe. but…i honestly feel like these are conversations that’ll bear alot more fruit once the work starts to really shape up. i’ll keep “you” posted.

In any case….there’s lots to do and I dont know how pertinent any of this is to any of you out there, so I’ll close for now. But…i think that I’ll end with a list, which is kind of a “me” trademark, as anyone who has worked with me knows. so…here’s a list:

things i still need to figure out:

-is the cast structure two pair and one soloist or just five folks who float in and out of permutations of five?

-how much is this piece about race? how in control do  i need to be compositionally of that element?

-do i need a stronger or clearer central theme or narrative? will that arise from deciding on specifically what pieces of the text im using?

-what the HELL is going to become of this scary and strange moment/intersection of me directing five women? do i need to do something specifically different?

-what does this show look like? big logs dipped in gold paint? a dilapidated bus? colored christmas lights? bare stage? some kind of large conceptual paper structures? a picnic bench?

-what what WHAT?

okay….gotta get to work.

I’m already feeling profound gratefulness to CounterPULSE. I’m already feeling critical and afraid of this piece and I already totally like it. Here we go…..wheeeee…..