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The Strengths in Miller's 'Naked Breath'

March 12, 1994

In reading Richard Stayton's critique of Tim Miller's "Naked Breath," I found it revealing that the aspects of Miller's piece that Stayton saw as weaknesses were precisely those I had experienced as the most generous and affecting moments of the performance ("Sermon From a Love Pulpit," Feb. 21).

The fact that Miller comes "perilously close to hubris" says much about his ability and his understanding of the fine line between authentic insight and hubris, which he negotiates, in my estimation, quite successfully.

His more than two years of not only touring his previous piece, "My Queer Body," but also facilitating workshops for gay men worldwide, creating a space for them to tell their stories of pain, passion, fear, of coming to an understanding of themselves as rightful participants in our society, have certainly sanctioned his "messianic tone," one I prefer to understand as liberating .

In closing, Stayton acknowledges that "it's a curious confession, at times even a compelling one" to Miller's comments: "So what's safe? This kiss? I've gotta have it. I get scared. . . . Clap. Amoebas. Herpes. Hepatitis. HIV. This fear chews me up for breakfast. I've been trying to turn this fear around." But then Stayton observes that "Miller disingenuously asks, 'Am I being too sentimental right now?' The answer is yes."

If "the answer is yes," then I ask, why? Is there a limit, an acceptable amount of affection, tenderness, passion and feeling that we, as gay men, indeed as people, are allowed to voice?

Then perhaps Miller's "disingenuous" query to the audience reveals the artist's--possibly the audience's, possibly even the reviewer's--deepest fear, of sentimentality, that fear of the consequences of allowing another person to see, hear, understand how he feels, and, yes, even ask for a response to that; an acknowledgment that he is , that he exists, as a man of feeling, of substance, of validity, and, yes, of vulnerability.


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