Sara Juli: Burnt-Out Wife

August 11, 7:00 p.m. (online)

American Dance Festival

It’s the kind of scene audiences at the American Dance Festival have come to associate with the work of Sara Juli: In a bathroom the color of Pepto-Bismol, a toilet plunger takes the place of a bridal bouquet as a woman solemnly reenacts her wedding cortège. Then her character brandishes a hairbrush like a mike for an impromptu standup routine:

“The other day my husband sent me a text, and this is all it said: We need more toilet paper. … I texted back: We need more post-coital cuddling.”

“I sent another text right after that: We also need more throw pillows.”

For 20 years, Juli has been combining comedy, dance, autobiography, and razor-sharp insights into subjects traditionally considered taboo into compelling solo shows. The Money Conversation delved into her personal finances as it examined our culture’s hang-ups about expressions of value. In 2016’s Tense Vagina, an actual diagnosis, a condition that went undiagnosed and untreated for years after Juli gave birth to two children became a springboard for examining the effects of shame and silence on women’s health care in the U.S.

“I’ve found repeatedly that when things are bothering me, they’ve often been bothering a lot of other people,” Juli tells the INDY. “I’ve also found that sharing them in public helps move conversations forward.”

She ventures again into controversial territory—the challenges that have arisen in her own marriage—in her new work, which has its virtual premiere tomorrow evening on the American Dance Festival’s website.

“When you’ve been with someone for a very long time, it’s easy to fall into the trappings of a relationship without working on it,” Juli observes.

In Burnt-Out Wife, she examines loneliness, asynchronous desires and needs, and the social roles and expectations packed into the institution of marriage with her trademark wit.   

Given the sensitivity of the issues, Juli notes that she sought and received her husband’s consent on the piece.

“He wasn’t thrilled about it, but he never said, ‘No, you can’t do that,’” she says. “Not that there weren’t heated discussions at times during the creative process.”

But her work’s ultimately not a scorecard on the shortcomings of spouses.

“It’s not a piece about my husband and his faults, or me and mine, although you can see both in it,” Juli says. “It’s more about the concept of marriage itself—hopefully a window or portal for audiences to reflect on their own long-term partnerships as well.”

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