From ‘Blue Velvet’ to ‘Green Porno’ 

There are far more colors on the palette of Isabella Rossellini than might be suggested by 1985’s “White Nights” or her recent guest appearance on “The Blacklist.”

She famously wore “Blue Velvet” for David Lynch. More recently, she has been making “Green Porno,” a documentary series for the Sundance Channel she has adapted into a one-woman show she is presenting this week in The City.

Fascinated with animals from childhood, Rossellini is pursuing a master’s degree on animal behavior and conservation. It’s been “a great source of information” for her profiles of snails, spiders, hamsters and other critters — the “green” part.

The “porno” part? Rossellini’s corner of the animal planet has to do with sex and reproduction, and no holds — including the amorous death-grip of a praying mantis — are barred. She explains, “I don’t say, ‘Oh, this creature is way too scandalous.’ Biology is biology.”

In the films, the former Lancome model, wearing elaborate costumes, narrates and portrays her multi-legged subjects and their physical urges in comically graphic detail.

She doesn’t feel it was much of an acting stretch, but it tested her in other ways.

“I had to become a writer and I had to become a director,” she says.

To bring the work to the stage, she also had to become a playwright, or at least a collaborator. Enter close friend Carole Bouquet of the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only,” who insisted that “Green Porno” was meant to go live, and facilitated an introduction to Oscar winner Jean-Claude Carrière to help make it happen.

“He’s the great surrealist writer who wrote all the [Luis] Buñuel scripts and was now working with Peter Brook,” Rossellini says with a bit of “pinch me” in her voice. “He’s really very known in Europe and very revered, so I said, ‘Let’s try that. A great adventure!’ How could you resist that, you know?”

Rossellini also relied on evolutionary biologist Alan Grafen and other scientists she has met during her studies to keep the presentation accurate.

In the stage version, Rossellini appears as a lecturer at a scientific conference. “I might say things like, ‘There are some animals that are hermaphrodites, having both sexes.’ I mention a few examples, but it is not really a conference on science, so it gets crazier and crazier.”

Though she does not see herself as a teacher, Rossellini’s goal is to present real information in an entertaining way.

“I want people to first laugh and then leave and say, ‘Oh, we laughed and laughed, but we were saying very serious things.’ That’s my goal.”

IF YOU GO

Green Porno

Where: Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $50 to $60. $100 includes post-performance reception.

Contact: (415) 292-1233, www.jccsf.org/arts

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Bio:
Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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