Have you ever had the kind of day when life hits an emotional crescendo and shedding a tear or two is pretty much unavoidable?
No matter how powerful the urge, most folks reserve this display of emotion for the comforts of home, simply because crying in public is a cultural no-no for those over age 7.
Dance-based performance artist Monique Jenkinson has never found a reason to stop herself from unleashing the waterworks, in public or not, and in her new show "Crying in Public," which opens today at CounterPULSE, she explores the boundaries of publicly acceptable behavior and questions why the world gets in a tizzy when someone gets weepy out in the open.
"This piece brings a subtle level of questioning to our cultural modes of being. … It’s actually more acceptable to yell and flip off someone than to break into tears on the bus,’’ says Jenkinson, who draws from personal and cultural experiences for the 37-minute social critique.
The San Francisco-based artist and CounterPULSE artist in residence explains that her ability to openly shed tears in public has a lot in common with her life as a professional performer.
"It’s sort of a calling in the same way that performing is," she says. "You have to have this willful ability to not be embarrassed."
Jenkinson jokes that she’s been a public cryer since birth, but points to when she watched David Lynch’s film "The Elephant Man" at age 8 as a pivotal time when she began to develop a great sense of empathy. As an adult, her tendency to tear up led a group of friends to place bets on who could make her cry first.
"It was really mean back then, but now I can laugh it off. I’m good at laughing at myself and good at choosing people who are fine with (my crying) and aren’t freaked out by it," she says.
Jenkinson doesn’t have an agenda for the "Crying in Public" audience, but she hopes that the performance affirms that emotional expression is not synonymous with weakness.
"I want this to be an entertaining experience for people, but I also want to make them think as any art does. I don’t want to change anyone, but I do want to shed some light on emotional depth and strength as one in the same."
Where: CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. today through Sunday
Tickets: $12 to $20
Contact: (415) 435-7552 or www.counterpulse.org