On Jan. 12, 2018, Regina Gibson performed DIVINA, her one-person show in an homage to her operatic hero at Dixon Place, an artistic incubator in the Lower East Side.In her new one-person show DIVINA, Regina Gibson opens singing “Habanera,” the signature song from the opera Carmen. Her voice expertly flows between both light and clear then rich and resonating lower tones. As she performs the song you feel as though you’re observing a woman singing and dancing alone in her bedroom, or sitting at a traffic light in her car. It’s relaxed and peppered with joyful little dance moves. Once it’s ended she walks over and casually checks her cell phone. Titters from crowd cause her to look up and she discovers–she is being watched. Apologizing, she confesses that she is waiting for someone she likes to text her back. In an effort to stop checking her phone she distracts herself by talking about her idol, the famous opera singer Maria Callas.
Dipping in and out of storytelling and song, Regina expertly vacillates from emulating the poised opera singer, to her own hilarious contemporary character. She’s endearingly frank and goofy as her vulnerable character–inciting roars of laughter. She gushes in the first half of the play about Maria’s work ethic and perseverance. Becoming inspired herself by the emotional and unapologetic way Maria lived her life, Regina recalls a gut-wrenching line from a love letter that Maria Callas wrote. “Can you imagine living like that ALL the time?,” demands Regina–in a mixture of disbelief and wonder–calling us back to her own battle with her phone and how scary it is to be vulnerable, and her struggle to feel confident in the face of that. Returning to her idol for inspiration and strength, Regina looks at Maria’s self-assurance with the famous quote, “Don’t talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay I make the goddamn rules,” though Regina admits how arrogant it also sounds.
We learn that perhaps not everything about Maria Callas was to be admired, her tendency to attack other performers for not being as devoted as she was, and refusal to work with colleagues that she considered lazy and incompetent. That side of Maria doesn’t appeal to Regina as much, but the hero does not fall from grace. Maria is still Maria. But Regina chooses to take the best from her; the music, the passion, and the strength. The music starts again for “Habenara” only this time she sings it in English, she’s performing for us. Playfully seducing the audience, channeling all the charisma and magnetism of Maria Callas, Regina stands in self-possessed victory. And as the song plays out, she exits, leaving the phone on stage.
By: Rebeca Miller
Photo Credits: Andrew Walker, Colin Jakubczyk.