Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

The Hess Collective Returns to La MaMa With SPOILED


The Hess Collective (, led by Elizabeth Hess, creates interdisciplinary works that address issues of social and global urgency. The troupe returns to La MaMa March 19 to 29 with "SPOILED," an original work of physical theater. Three diverse female performers enact stories based on real events of violence against women that are written from the male point of view. The piece is conceived and directed by Elizabeth Hess and sponsored by UN Women USA.

The piece is built on monologues of male characters from Chile, Germany, India, Turkey and the USA. Stories such as campus rape, military assault and female infanticide, shed light on the role of patriarchy in perpetuating misogyny. The dramatic purpose of women acting these men's stories is to illuminate the power of the male voice to co-opt female experience.

"SPOILED" is staged with a mountain of large white plastic bags comprising the set. They are filled with items of female apparel, including bras and underwear, that launch each story. The literal metaphor of the mountain of bags is that so many women's lives have been trashed and left untold. The performers are clad in gender-neutral T-shirts and blue jeans.

The texts are drawn from Hess's research archive of 22 stories, of which nine were selected for the World Premiere at La MaMa. The playing style comes from Elizabeth Hess's hybrid approach to performance, which fuses Eastern and Western physical theater practices with related performance disciplines including Mask and Puppetry. Her technique, described in her book, "Acting and Being: Explorations in Embodied Performance" (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2016), yields a complex psychological layering of visuals, movement and text, with all three meant to resonate in their own frequencies in the work. (

The project was developed following a solo piece named "DUST TO DUST" which Elizabeth Hess performed at a UN conference on gender violence in 2014. In attendance was Elizabeth Scott Osborne, Esq., President of UN Women USA - Gulf Coast Chapter, who commissioned Hess to develop "SPOILED." Its title is a double-entendre in reference to male privilege (as in "spoiled by entitlement") and to female damage (as in the scorning invective "spoiled goods"). Originally the piece was workshopped as a solo piece based on material from India and the USA, but the work has grown to include Chile, Germany and Turkey, following interest generated in Berlin following a benefit reading for the League of Professional Theater Women (LPTW) International Award, dialogue with actors from Istanbul, and a cross-cultural collaboration in Santiago. There are presently 22 stories collected, of which nine were selected for this production. The variety of their sources illuminates the global nature of the epidemic of violence against women, which is not abating but escalating in some places, and receiving attention in a new light on the heels of the #MeToo Movement.

Not all the stories are told from the perpetrator's point of view: some come from men and boys who are sympathizers and helpmates. "We are not going after men," declares Elizabeth Hess, "we're going after the issue."

The piece has evolved through a developmental lab at La MaMa followed by a work-in-progress performance at Dixon Place in 2019/

The performers are Cherrye J Davis, Ninoshka De León Gill and Rebeca Miller. Set Design is by Deb O. Lighting Design is by Justine Burke. Sound Design is by Lucas Syed. Dramaturgy is by Gina Stevensen. Production Manager is Kelly Kirby. Managing Director of The Hess Collective is Victoria McNaughton. Executive Producer is Elizabeth Scott Osborne.

There will be an Embodied Performance Workshop with Elizabeth Hess at La MaMa's rehearsal studios, 47 Great Jones Street, March 21 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Cost is $50 for general public and $35 for students. The Workshop entitles you to a $10 ticket to the show. Info:

Three post-show moderated panel discussions are planned. On March 19, "Arts on Sexual Violence" will be moderated by Monika Fabijanska (of Contemporary Art Projects) and an opening night reception will follow. On March 22, "Gender-based Violence: What Can Be Done?" will be moderated by Elizabeth Scott Osborne (President: UN Women USA- Gulf Coast Chapter). On March 27, "Women in Collaboration: The SPOILED Process" will be moderated by Gina Stevensen (SPOILED Dramaturg).

Related Articles View More Off-Off-Broadway Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You