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This article was written on 17 Oct 2011, and is filed under Performance Club Events.

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We Went. We Saw. Discuss.

If I remember correctly, that was the title I wrote for the inaugural outing of the first P Club (thanks, WNYC, for promising to archive almost all of the club’s posts and deleting them instead. Nice touch.)

Saturday was the inaugural outing of the second P Club. Actually it was a twofer: at four a few of us attended/performed Lois Weaver’s Long Table, a 90-minute discussion at the Performing Garage about performing the real. We never did decide what that means. But, still, it was a good dinner party, by turns meandering, intriguing, frustrating, thought-provoking….we’re already plotting on how to do one of these as a future potluck event. The rules could’ve been written for us:

Then we went around the corner to Lucky Strike, and made good use of our nice drink discounts in the two-hour period before the night’s (sort of) main event, The Rehearsal, where we were joined by several more club folks.

It was so good to see everyone! I’m sorry we couldn’t all go out after and rehash, but those of us who did the full day were pretty exhausted. Next month, for sure, we’ll do a day-of postmortem. (I’m thinking a Performa event .. any thoughts, folks? The calendar makes my brain hurt.)

For now, online will have to do. What did you all think??? Just from a few brief chats after it ended, people seemed to have a wide variety of reactions.  One person at least loved it, another was massively irritated. I was … well, I’d say meh. Irritated but not especially exercised by Cuqui Jerez’s concept, which folded layer upon layer of a scripted rehearsal in on itself, and us, during the two-hour show, which was presented by the Garage and P.S. 122 as part of the Crossing the Line festival.

The concept of rehearsal-as-performance-as-rehearsal-as-performance-etc. was discussed at the Long Table. I expressed skepticism then. It’s a formula that we’ve seen a lot of in recent years, and I’ve found that it doesn’t tend to be thoughtfully deployed and, even when it is, it’s too navel-gazing to produce sparks. Jerez, who was at the discussion, politely took me to task for that opinion, I think suggesting that my approach was counterproductive to questioning why such a tactic might now be in frequent use, and what it means to say in particular cases.

Fair enough. I get jaded. It’s not a good place from which to experience.

And The Rehearsal was clearly a thoughtful work; this didn’t feel like something that came from an artist blindly following a fashion. The performers were smart and charming.

But.

I’m still not sure I understand the point of so much energy (theirs and ours) being deployed to examine the mechanism of the theater, especially when you consider that, at least in New York, the audience for this sort of work is already intimately familiar with this mechanism, and the various ways in which it has been constructed, deconstructed and stapled back together over the centuries. At this point it’s staple upon staple upon staple upon sta–well, much like The Rehearsal, there’s no end to it….

 

11 Comments

  1. aynsley
    October 17, 2011

    Well–
    I have to say that I laughed so hard during the yawning section that I started crying and then yawning and crying and getting hysterical and it was so satisfying. like reality tv for my life. and it reminded me of a book that I apparently made my parents read over and over when I was a kid. It was called “Tell me a Mitzi” http://www.vintagechildrensbooksmykidloves.com/2010/01/blog-post_07.html and from what I can remember the little girl in the book would walk up and down many, many flights of stairs always forgetting something and needing to return in order to try to leave the house.

  2. claudia
    October 18, 2011

    This is one of my favorite comments ever, Aynsley. As well as this Mitzi gem:

    “All three stories are delightfully pointless, staying otherworldly while exuding a somber everydayness.”

  3. siobhanb
    October 18, 2011

    I still don’t really know what I thought. I felt more enthusiastic than “meh” but with a lot of “what’s the point?” mixed in. I spent a lot of time laughing and feeling surprised and entertained. The performers were so interesting as individuals, I enjoyed just watching them mess around, albeit in well-worn territory. I loved the Ibiza/improvisation scene. But I share your confusion, C, about the purpose of examining the mechanism of the theater when that’s been done so many times in so many ways. What was this adding? It was like a harmless little doodle in the big picture — pleasant in and of itself, but not much different from the other doodles around it.

    As for the long-drawn-out refusal to end, I found it pretty irritating. (In the words of my brother, who joined me for the evening, “Man, they sure bashed over the head with the infinity stick.”) At the beginning, I found myself trying to figure out who/what was “really” in control, waiting for some secret to be unveiled about the inner workings of this little society. I guess the secret was that nobody was really in control, and soon I realized that I could stop asking myself “what’s going on here?”, a question that I don’t think you want your audience to stop asking, on some level. I crossed the line from “huh, interesting” to “ok, time to go” when they started singing The Never-Starting Story, not just because of my general aversion to ironic uses of 80s pop/theme songs, but because it was such a glaring restatement of the obvious. From there, I felt like Jerez was just stuffing in ideas that didn’t fit elsewhere — the changing of the lights, the bow, the running back to get something — adding more more more but only deflating her own idea.

    Aynsley – amazing. I might have to pick up a copy of “Mitzi Sneezes.”

    • claudia
      October 23, 2011

      “…soon I realized that I could stop asking myself “what’s going on here?”, a question that I don’t think you want your audience to stop asking, on some level.”

      that’s a lovely way to put it, S.

  4. julieL
    October 18, 2011

    i felt really uneasy when the “lighting guy” left the ladder open at full-height, and unattended. I loved it until then and after that I didn’t like it, because that would never happen in a real theater!

  5. Jonah (Siobhan's Brother)
    October 18, 2011

    Claudia, maybe your experience of such a piece is just to feel jaded. If so, then your response, i.e. to suggest that choreographers try something new, is more than reasonable. Why should Jerez suggest that it’s invalid? Is your job, as a spectator, to act in a way that’s “productive”? Is the only valid response to maintain an open mind?

    I pretty much agree with Siobhan (maybe it’s in our genes), but I do think there was more to the piece than examining the mechanism of the theater. It made me think, for example, about how, in keeping up appearances, we might forget who we really are; how self-criticism might hamstring us; how social media and the like seem to be creating an ever-growing chain of references (a tweet of a link to an article discussing a photograph of an event …) that makes anything authentic hard to access — stuff outside the theater.

    But, I wonder whether Jerez had any of this in mind. The piece seemed very blunt, very simple, relying over and over on the same trick: “Oh, that’s ALSO a rehearsal!!” It didn’t lay out any real-world implications of inauthenticity; nor did it suggest any way to get our heads around the tricky concepts of (excuse the computer jargon) nesting, recursion, reference, and infinity. The end basically seemed to say, “We thought about this, but we couldn’t come up with anything!” In contrast, there are books on the same themes — e.g. Douglas Hofstatder’s “Godel, Escher, Bach” — that impart understanding without hardly making you think.

    p.s. It was fun!

    • claudia
      October 23, 2011

      But does it matter, if she didn’t have any of this in mind? I love that you had it in mind … that’s enough for me. It doesn’t make my relationship to the work any more interesting – but it gives me a new relationship with some of these ideas you bring forth. Good enough for me.

      p.s. I’m glad! Come back again!

  6. leah
    October 18, 2011

    Gosh Jonah, lovely comment. Mine now seems trite, but here it is:

    At the long table talk before the show Cuqui Jerez referred to “layers and layers of fiction.” To me, in the show she was peeling the same layer over and over. Maybe from slightly different angles. And while it was a masterful peeling of (the same) layers it was also a superficial peeling that recycled cute affects, pop songs, and the same tricks.

    Maybe she did it so skillfully it allowed me to want something deeper. Or maybe she was so focused on relaying the message (in the same way and through the same mechanism) that it would have been refreshing to see something deeper to these layers.

    I sit here writing basically the same sentiment over and over (I’ve refrained from posting them all). That’s what the show felt like.

  7. Kirk Bromley
    October 20, 2011

    What are the artist’s goals? Can you identify the artist’s goals? Do you respect the artist’s goals? Through what human material is the artist moving to arrive at these goals? Is that interesting human material, or the same old worked through stuff? How in or out of control was the artist during the creation of the piece? Can you answer that by seeing the piece? Is one better than the other? To what extent do you feel the artist has discovered new information in creating the piece? Do you feel awed by the originality of the artist’s sensations, risks, and concepts throughout the piece? Is the piece the result of one idea, or do many ideas result from the piece? Is the piece an expression of what is humanly possible, or is it a repetition of what is humanly probable? Is your liking of the piece because it is so wonderfully obvious or because it’s so daringly non-obvious? What does that make you? Such are some of the questions I’ve been thinking about when trying to figure out how to “grade” this piece.

    I don’t like repetition in art. I know some people think it’s a way of commenting on repetition outside art, which is no doubt very prevalent, but why repeat the prevalent? I also don’t like art that comments. I like rare, original, forward-moving creativity, which has no time for repetition. It is out of control because it’s scared, horny, desperate, struggling, crazy, on fire. Look look look, do do do, grab grab grab. I like that. And as such, I suppose Cuqui’s piece felt too controlled, too top-down management, too “artists enthralled to a prior concept,” too repetitive, too enamored with exploring a “real” that in being commodified by a concept became a gimmick, which seems like some kind of mythological animal that is so easy to catch everyone hunts it and serves it to their guests, but if I’m going to leave my house and attend a dinner, I expect rarer fodder.

    The performers in this piece did enchant me, perhaps because they quite successfully fulfilled the roles set out for them. But they were soldiers in an unambitious campaign. Clever, crafted, ironic, conceptually tight, but inevitably very pop, which, in the end, um, there apparently is no end to such stuff.

    I will also give props to the yawning section, which graphically and physiologically displayed the tension between the real and the feigned. I can’t think of 100 other ways to do that, but that’s not my job. It’s the artist’s. Moving random objects around, singing or climbing ladders to teen idol songs, chatting about this or that whatever, learning to tap dance when you can’t tap dance, so much was done in the service of a good idea that seemed to be happy just floating around in its serviceability as opposed to bashing, breaking, busting and really blowing it up. But maybe I over-value such stuff.

    That said, I left with a kind of physical sensation that was akin to nausea, and maybe that’s a success on Cuqui’s part. I think it came from two sources. First, the piece succeeded in taking me to an edge where I felt frustrated and kind of baffled by the curling inward on each other aspect of reality and fiction. But i also felt a nausea from the closeness of the piece. It was a confined, spinning, self-consciously banal world. It was like spending time with people who go on and on about this and that with the occasional “ha ha!” that says “In case you didn’t notice, I am just going on and on about this and that, and each time you think I’m being genuine, I’m actually just being me! How real is THAT?”

    Add to this that two of NYC’s most powerful “avant garde” theater space curators said before the show that they really liked it. And they are both very smart, thoughtful men, and I’m sure they have good reasons for it. I think that sums it up for me. It felt like an avant garde widget. Zing zing, start it up, and it does this kooky thing. It fills spaces and entices outsiders and talks about performance while performing.

    Get real.

    PS – I loved the piece, and give it an A+ cuz it gave me so much to think about.

    • claudia
      October 23, 2011

      careful, Kirk, you’ve got nowhere to go from here but down…

  8. [...] what the goal was. It was supposed to have been, technically, a “long table” event, inspired by “The Long Table” event invented by Lois Weaver, where people sit around a long table with food and drink and talk [...]

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