Lesson Plan: Peggy Ahwesh’s Martina’s Playhouse

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Ian here—

What follows will be quick, because I did not spend an entire day on Martina’s Playhouse (1989) when I taught it in my “Avant-Garde Film and Video Art” course. It shared a day with Gunvor Nelson and Dorothy Wiley’s Schmeerguntz (1965) and Nelson’s My Name Is Oona (1969), for a week themed around parenthood.

I assigned Ahwesh’s interview with Scott MacDonald as reading for this week. I was interested in what sort of reactions the prominent child nudity and role-play in this film would provoke, particularly given that, all things considered, the events we see onscreen aren’t all that strange. (MacDonald puts it well when he reminisces that “The minute I would turn on my little Super-8 camera to make home movies, two of my boys would drop their pants … Any parent sees that kind of nudity all the time.”[i]) There is, however, a real difference between private family moments and public exhibition, and I was hoping that my students had some strong reactions I could bounce ideas off of.

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