Letter from the Editor: Power of Performance & Masquerade

Letter from the Editor: Power of Performance & Masquerade

Dear Beloved Reader,

IIn the fifth grade, as leaves cascaded down into a shriveled crisp and as the autumnal air descended, I begged my mother to let me be Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween. It seemed like a request that was unlikely to be fulfilled; it was our first Halloween after migrating to the US and we were tight on money—a pristine store-bought costume was surely an unnecessary expense. Surprisingly, though, my mom eventually caved under my barrage of pleas—whether out of guilt or love.

Her compromise: we would make the costume together.

I happily obliged and together we set off on our first trip to Joanne’s. We picked out a deep crimson velvet that tingled with possibility under our fingertips, and rushed home to start our new project.

Back home, my mother pulled out her worn sewing basket, glinting with jumbled mysteries, and asked me to excavate her treasure trove in search of the perfect button. Running my tender fingers over the various trinkets, I picked a pretty little thing—a crystalline, embossed button, so clear that it almost prophesied fulfillment. With all our ingredients assembled, we were ready to start our craft.

Cutting and hand sewing, we littered the living room floor of our cozy rental home with scarlet scraps, for weeks. My mother, sister, and I were always careful to tiptoe through this war zone of stitchery, our eyes always scouring for loose needles, concealed like camouflaged landmines.

As Halloween hesitated at our doorstep, we worked diligently to complete our project, and by “we,” I mean “she.” My mother stayed up late into the night, stitching and stitching, weaving in and out of this endless sea of red.

Finally, the day arrived and after long days and nights of labor, it was finally done. As we prepared for our night of sweet festivities, my mother crowned me with her creation, cloaking me in her labor of love. As she secured my thick hood just barely over my eyes, she warned me teasingly, Be careful and keep your hood up, or else the big bad wolf might find you and swallow you whole.

And so I did, kept it up for the next three years as I masqueraded as the Little Red Riding Hood every Halloween from fifth to eighth grade. After eighth grade, I ended up retiring the costume, after feeling like a not-so-little Little Red Riding Hood.

Now as I sit on the floor of my closet, twiddling with the edge of my vibrant cape, woven with the blood of my mother and the youth of her daughter, I wonder what costume I traded that cloak for. Have I been unprotected all these years, vulnerable to that big bad wolf? What costume have I been wearing all these years? What costume are you wearing? How are you, too, masquerading or putting on a performance? 

Ella Powell asks these questions in her piece “Who Are You Showing Up to the Party As?” In her critique of frat party culture, she wonders how masks and performance can be a mechanism of protection, but also an impediment to owning your identity. In her poem, “Versions of Myself at a Party,” Susannah Baker also ponders the idea of performativity and individuality, imagining how all the parts of herself collaborate as a cast to put on a performance that is herself

Cassie Dallas also builds on the theme of daily performance and dives into the bacchanal and gaiety of Halloween with her piece “A High Holy Day of Queerness,” where she provides a brief history of how queer folk and drag queens have found a sense of freedom through costume. Jordan Coleman also thinks of those who are costumed in our midst. In her poem “becoming witch,” she begs us to question and reflect on who are the modern witches hidden among us.

During this Halloween season, Lindsey Smith provides us with a chilling sense of unease in her piece “Eternally.” This series of fictional letters from an eerie stalker explores ideas of embodied physicality during a character’s many years in the discipline of ballet.

Finally, Eryn Rhodes brings us “Open Letter: Words Have Consequences. It’s Time to Own Them.” In response to the recent talk by Abigail Shrier, Rhodes urges her audience to take responsibility for their speech and the impact of words in building a University that is truly ‘great and good."

As always, my utmost gratitude goes to Mary, Miriella, and Leigh-Ann for being the stage hands that keep this show running. You all deserve stadiums of standing ovations. And to you reader, I hope this issue inspires you to reflect on all the costumes and masks you — inherited, gifted, adopted. But most of all, dress up, have fun, and be safe this Halloween!

With all my love,

Jasmine <3