Ann Liv Young poops on command in Cinderella

The performance artist busts up the well-known fairy tale in her new show.

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Why Cinderella?

I think I have wanted to cast Cinderella for a long time, meaning me not be in it but to have a bunch of other people and hold a real audition for all the characters. But I didn't get a grant or anything to make this show, so I can't really afford to have seven people. I think it's an interesting story, and similar to [2006's] Snow White, in that there are so many different versions of it. For some reason when I do fairy tales they tour a lot. That's good. With Bagwell [2008's The Bagwell in me], we did it in a few places but a lot of people were like, "Our audience won't connect to that." But it's a show for everyone. It's not just about George Washington—it's about people in general. Whatever. People are a little slow on the uptake. Snow White was booked a lot. Those stories—everyone can relate to them, and I guess the fact that they know they're going to be kind of dark is maybe something that people like? The contrast?

Are you the only performer in it?
I play Sherry and Sherry plays Cinderella and then Michael [Guerrero] plays Sherry's stunt double. So he plays Sherry too. He's basically dressed as Sherry, and he holds the camera and helps out with different things. In Sweden, he ran some of the light cues. But for the show here, he will mostly be Sherry Junior.

Are you incorporating a lot of popular music again?
I am. I'm playing with Styx. We use Aerosmith. We use a lot of older rock & roll music. I don't use that much recent pop music. I use a song that I made of a Britney Spears cover and some early '90s—I don't know what you would call it. Smooth rock? [Laughs]

Are you envisioning Cinderella like Snow White? Where you make something with a strong structure and have it deconstruct over time?
No. Actually, I'm making this pretty differently because I'm trying to get back in shape [Laughs]. Snow White became deconstructed because I had a baby, and I just couldn't do the stuff that I, at one point, could do. This time it's really structured. I have a script; I have monologues. Everything is timed. It is similar to when Snow White was originally made, but it's a lot quieter; it's a lot simpler, and it's very still and I don't really know if it's going to be deconstructed. I think if anything it will be become more constructed. Right now, it's very cohesive. I love the Sherry stuff, and the Sherry stuff is really made so that I can do it anywhere. And it's made for a mother who's an artist who lives in New York and doesn't really get grant support. That's its purpose. I also want to keep exploring and doing different things that I'm not used to doing. That's what I'm trying to do with this.

Does your daughter have a Cinderella fixation?
I did a really stupid thing. I started watching Cinderella for the work and then she, of course, was like, "Wow, what is this?" It was my own fault. She loves it and she actually will tell you that her name is Cinderella if you ask her. It's a problem. But I think [daughter] Lovey sees so many different types of women and is around so many different types of people—I certainly do not buy any of that Disney princess stuff. She looks at pictures of me dressed as Cinderella and she understands that I'm pretending to be Cinderella. Her relationship to it is a little more complicated than "I want to be a princess." She does sometimes say that she's a Mexican princess. I have no idea where that's from. [Laughs] She understands that I'm watching it for research purposes. She'll even say, "You're doing your research." But she's little; I don't know if she really understands that. I'm going to try hard to help enable her to understand that she doesn't have to strive to be this flawless version of a female that doesn't exist.

And who only aspires to marriage, really.
Yeah! It's sad. You look at the character, even in the Disney movie—she has some confidence. She seems like she could be a pretty cool woman. I don't know. That's what the monologues are about. She has to realize—I think—that the prince is not the answer to her problems. She has to free herself. But in some ways I think she just uses the prince to get out of this terrible situation. Maybe she's smarter than we all think.

I have a technical question: How do you poop on command?
I just make sure that I've eaten a lot of stuff. That helps me to feel like I don't have to really focus. I still have to focus. And it's definitely not a very comfortable thing. I'm definitely the type of person that has the door closed when I'm using the bathroom at home. But Cinderella talks a lot about how she's not inspired by anybody else because she's never around anybody else to be inspired. She talks a lot about regurgitating herself because she's only ever around herself and she's so lonely. So that's really why she's pooping. And then she pees in a bucket and washes her hair in it. Those are the two things that I do as Cinderella that I guess are...

Controversial?
Yeah. But people have done it before. It's really, for me, all in the context of this character. I have to focus. I have to just concentrate and do it. The pooping, I mean. The show is actually pretty clean; there's no nudity in it. The thing that's the most provocative is probably just that I'm a really vulnerable character, which I guess is generally not what I play. I mean I think I do, but a lot of people don't think that I'm ever vulnerable. I'm playing Cinderella and I've written four monologues from my standpoint. And I do poop onstage and put it back into my butt, so that's a little bit gross. We have an auction at the end where you can buy pieces of the set. You can buy poop that's dipped in glitter and Michael puts it in a little bag. In Scandinavia people love that kind of thing. They'll buy your poop.

How much was it?
I think we sold it for five euros a bag or something. But we sold a lot of the set in Sweden. I wear a Cinderella watch for the show and sell it at the end. This show is short; it's a little over an hour and it's mostly Cinderella-Sherry-Cinderella-Sherry. The show for Issue Project Room will be a little more dense, I think.

I thought you were going to perform Cinderella in a house in Jersey City. What happened?
We couldn't find a space. We were trying to find an abandoned house and we searched for six months and couldn't find anything. People would say yes and then research my work and say no because of the content. It just became impossible to find anything. That's why we found Issue Project Room; it's not the abandoned house that I had in mind, but I think it's going to be a really nice space for the show.

I wish you had more support.
Yeah, well I have none. [Laughs] It's like a joke. I have eight interns right now, and they're like, "How do you make a living?" We just live off European fees. It's completely insane. I like trying to produce myself and doing shows in noninstitutional spaces; we found beautiful Victorian houses that were totally busted up. And we were renting buses—we were getting all eco-friendly buses and people would just call us and say, "Sorry, we can't do it." It was frustrating and I just thought, We have to do this when we have more time to figure it out. But we're doing a bunch of really cool stuff. Steve Burns, who was in Blue's Clues, and I are going to do a show at his house in October and it will be a Sherry's kid show. The first part of the night is Sherry and Steve with kids. And then the evening part is Sherry's adult show.

That has possibilities—the kid-show part.
I think so. People, I'm sure, think that Sherry's a pedophile, but I think kids would respond well to her. Lovey loves the character. We do puppet shows with Sherry all the time, and Lovey thinks they're amazing. People just underestimate performance. They think I'm a crazy person.

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