Education of The Girl Child - a one woman opera - by Meredith Monk is a solo piece which traces the life of a woman in reverse from old age to childhood.
It started with Merdith Monk dressed in white at the back of a river of white cloth sitting on a stool crooning. As she became younger Meredith moved down the river of cloth - at each stage performing appropriate movements and singing appropriate songs. She moves from old age into the prime of life - a woman with strength and purpose - to a young woman and finally to childhood.
Above Meredith as an old woman and as a young girl
Sadly the above are the only photos we have of we have of this work but we do have a video (see below) which if we ever manage to access we will add to the site.
Education of The Girl Child - was first performed in April 1972. It was performed at the Blackie on 9th June 1972 on the same evening as Raw Recital.
Education of The Girl Child was not originally due to be performed at the Blackie it was added to the programme in part so that it could be videoed.
Videoing 'Education Of The Girl Child' The Education Of A Camera Crew.
The following was written for 7UP by Dave Ward and since it was written closer to the time, it is as good a description s one is likely to get.
Hours of camera practice in the early hours of the morning - slowly angling, turning, raising, lowering the camera - helped solve some of the problems confronting Sally Morris, Wendy Harpe and Judy Bates (now Gough) when they recorded Education of the Girlchild for Blackie TV in June 1972.
Meredith Monk, creator and performer of this one-woman opera gave a single performance for an audience of 120 on 9 June in the Blackie - and later gave 5 more performances for the 3-woman TV crew.
The crew, with Chris Furby on microphone, set out to make a TV recording in which the camera would frame the piece as naturally as the human eye - following the Girl Child, dressed in white lace pantaloons and an embroidered bodice, down the path of white cloth, which spilled out from the pulpit and across the floor of the old Main Auditorium. The apparently simple plan - to make a single sustained recording from one slowly moving camera over the 30 minutes of the performance - proved as difficult to achieve as most simple plans are.
The Girl Child slowly and meticulously made her journey - moaning, bleating, sighing, wailing, crooning, to a piano, accompaniment... head, hands, and feet tracing delicate patterns in space around her ... slowly discarding in turn her wig, her spectacles, her apron, and her hair-pins to sit at the end of the journey with her long dark hair tumbling over her shoulders. And the 3-woman crew made their journey - one precisely and gently adjusting the camera... the others crawling on hands and feet as they inched the camera's wheeled tripod backwards, sideways, over uneven floorboards, and up and down steps.
For the 3-woman crew it was an education in itself. Sally Morris who worked the camera said "The physical experience of making the tape took us deeper into the work, as we studied and analysed it, than if we had been in the audience. I've looked at television programmes all my life but it was only after using a camera myself that I began to see them."
Madeline Slovenz lays down the white river prior to videoing,Wendy Harpe & Meredith read reviews whilst people set up for videoing and Judy and Sal watch a performance prior to videoing
Judy prepares the credits, Sal practises on the camera
Sal & Judy check the equipment, John Steadman & Chris Furby
(who did the sound recording) set up for videoing.