Choreographer and Artist Jack Ferver on Practicing Father Erasure
Jack Ferver. Photo by Daniel Rampulla (in front of painting by Billy Jacobs)
On our latest episode, Elizabeth talks with choreographer, writer, and performance artist Jack Ferver about their work. Jack, who uses they/them pronouns, puts words and movement to the grief, loss, and fragmentation or, “shattering” of the self, as they call it, that comes with the near-constant existential and cultural threats the world poses to queer people and essentially anyone without power. Their piercing dance-theater pieces have been called “wild and tragicomic” by the New York Times and “so extreme that they sometimes look and feel like exorcisms,” by the New Yorker, and although pain is at the center of much of Ferver’s work, it’s often arch and bitingly funny too. A new performance forthcoming at MASS MoCA is titled, “Is Camp Global Warming and Other Forms of Theatrical Distance for the End of the World,” and incorporates Kellyanne Conway as a character.
Jack as the Little Lad.
If you've seen the now-iconic Starburst candy commercial from 2008 featuring a character evocative of Little Lord Fauntleroy named “The Little Lad,” that's also Jack Ferver wearing a Victorian children’s playsuit and pageboy wig, dancing and clapping with delirious joy, exclaiming they're "a little lad who loves berries and cream." The commercial is deeply strange and silly and was otherwise forgotten until Gen Z TikTok users started posting clips of Jack as the Little Lad in 2021, prompting them to make the Little Lad their own account, with posts instantly racking up views in the millions.
This episode centers less directly on Jack's experience of their own late father, or difficult childhood growing up in small-town Wisconsin, but about what the "Little Lad" that makes adults uneasy with their femmi-ness, has come to represent for a new generation of other "half boy and half girls." (Which is the way Jack described themself in kindergarten, alarming adults and leading to relentless bullying from classmates and society at large.) The character, Jack says, has no father and is an opportunity for him to practice "father erasure." This is something that has also impacted Jack’s primary work as a choreographer, particularly the void left by the countless artists who died of AIDS in the 1980s, and whose influence and mentorship were lost to them and so many others.
Jack, circa pre-K, when they were insistent they were a girl. Photo courtesy of Jack Ferver.
Jack, who is a faculty member at Bard, also talks to Elizabeth about the role of the teacher, the ruinous and sustained defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts in the 80s under America’s first celebrity president and abusive father, Ronald Reagan, as well as exorcising trauma in the body through dance and movement, the inspiration Jack draws from Tori Amos's "father record," why on earth we let high schoolers perform A Streetcar Named Desire, and the importance of learning how to take off your own handcuffs.
Additionally, you can watch Jack’s work at JackFerver.com, find their poetry on Instagram, or see them as the Little Lad on TikTok or YouTube, where a recent piece, "Anna," directed by Jack’s husband Jeremy Jacob with cinematography by Daniel Rampulla, features the Little Lad trying desperately to connect with their mother, Anna Wintour.
New Daily Monthly Dad Alert!
On our newest episode of our Patreon Bonus series “The Monthly Daily Dad,” Erin and Matt discuss 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord’s obsession with Putin’s mother (presumably because fathers have nothing to do with the making of a sociopath), and Meghan McCain insists her father was the only failed Presidential candidate to acknowledge the Russian dictator was not to be trusted. We also break down the philanthropic failures of royal father of the century, the Duke of Pork, HRH Prince Andrew, accentuated by the casual excellence of his sister and the only good royal, Princess Anne.
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