“DEAR ELLY – WHERE DO I FIT? IF ANY OF THEM? HOW ABOUT YOU? LOVE, GRANDPA”
Dixon Jarvis and Elly Jarvis are grandfather and granddaughter who have pretty much nothing to say to each other. Dixon (born 1924 in Detroit), is a conservative businessman who has voted for every Republican candidate since he turned 18. Elly (born 1991 near a cornfield in central Minnesota), is a politically active feminist, who after finishing her acting degree moves to Berlin and leaves her family in the United State for a more bohemian life. The two shared little more than their common ancestry. Until the year 2015: Elly has her coming out as queer in Berlin and her grandpa Dix does too, in his home in Michigan. Obviously they didn’t plan this. She is 23, he is 92. While Elly’s coming out isn’t much of a surprise, and nobody really seems to care, his definitely is. To Elly it is a sign of magic – proving life to be much more interesting and surprising than she had originally thought. Elly and Dix, two former strangers, strike up an email correspondence about queerness and sexuality that continues until this day.
These e-mails are the foundation of “Subject: YOU/ME/US,” an eighty-minute solo performance about the relationship between a queer grandfather and granddaughter. Through the e-mails Elly becomes Dix’s one and only queer confidante and they create an e-mail world in which they share their intimate thoughts on sexuality and identity but also report from their everyday lives.
After several years of correspondence, Elly decides to visit Dix in 2018 and embarks on a journey to the land of her upbringing. There, she quickly realises that for her grandfather, being queer means something different than what she had imagined. History has given the two different experiences and desires, culminating in a gross misunderstanding when they meet in person, a misunderstanding that makes Elly try and reframe their queer narratives.
Seven years and 300+ emails later, their conversation is ongoing. They are crafting worlds for each other, posing and re-posing questions, and Elly is trying dearly to understand who her grandfather Dixon is. “Subject: YOU/ME/US” is a window into their exchange – an honest and subjective reflection of the desire to connect, the role of terms and categories in the development of any identity, and the challenge of maintaining boundaries in family settings. This is a family story, a story about two people trying to connect, two former strangers, acting like teenagers. It’s an interesting conversation. It’s totally subjective. It doesn’t mean much, but it means the world.
Bonus: In January and February of this year, Elly Jarvis und Lilli Strakerjahn went with a film crew to shoot a documentary film about Elly and Dix in Dix’s home. After the performance we will show a small clip of the filmed material and talk about this visit in conversation with the audience.
In english language.
Hin und Weg Festival Litschau, Austria 2021
ByElly Jarvis & Lilli Strakerjahn
Assistent DirectorLea Brüning
Technical SupportYi-Ju Chou