The Performance Club


This article was written on 12 Nov 2012, and is filed under Performance Club Events.

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Reverse Theatrofilm*, as Applied to a xxxxx Situation**

Scott Xxxxxxxx in The Wooster Group’s HAMLET. Photo: Paula Court.

So… I                        when I first                                        some people said well the Woosters’                           that whole blah blah blah story about the avant-garde xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx as it xxxx. And I completely agree                                                    there are some exceptions and I think xxxxxxxx is one of my exceptions, we all have different exceptions.


I also think that whole you can’t go home again line might have been written specifically with xxx in mind. And that half of what people are saying when they say that is—I am not the same person I was when I xxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. I am aging. [not to go so far as “I have wasted my life,” but you get the idea] Also I think there are people like                           who are just making bad art.

But anyway when we went it was snowing and I had spent the afternoon in Fanelli’s Café nursing a hot toddy and as it turns out there were several other people waiting to go to the Garage and so we xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Bars in the afternoon are marvelous things. SoHo looked beautiful.

Well xxxxxx’xxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. I xxxx       xxxxxxxxxx. I remember having such a xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx with the language—xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Shakespeare’s      . This time it felt          . The stakes maybe                ? Xxxxxxxxx, I would watch Kate Valk lie dead on the floor any old day, especially making adjustments for the camera. The historical camera.

I do love this idea of ancestors…I mean, what does one even do with Dionysus in 69 in 2012? Audiences, too, deal with these questions.

I wonder how much xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx a movement xxxxx. Not as xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, I think—the dancers in the audience found it too xxxx. If you’re xxxxx to xx xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

the men are losing their hair.

Xxx xxxx x xx xxx xxxxxx      . I mean, really.

And that’s basically what was going on for me last Wednesday.


*As borrowed and misunderstood from The Wooster Group’s Hamlet.

**The Wooster Group often does not permit reviews of its work. This was one of those times. Half of me thinks it’s Mickey Mouse bullshit that critics aren’t allowed to write, I mean what’s the big deal clamber out of the sandbox already, and the other half thinks right, why on earth would anyone in this world even ever want to have a critic come in and write, I mean not if they didn’t need it to get them somewhere, and really it’s just about high school rules of the jungle—the more you resist, the more desirable you become.


  1. Christine
    November 13, 2012

    I think it’s very silly that certain performance groups/choreographers won’t allow critics to write on a piece. What is their reasoning? I was give the same old jabber when I went to see Sarah Michelson’s piece for FIAF/Crossing the Line Festival. I guess if you’re getting a comp’d press ticket it’s one thing to have a say…

    I think you said this on twitter once, but it’s worth saying again: Artists shouldn’t tell critics how to behave and vice versa.

  2. claudia
    November 13, 2012

    Well, I dunno. Critics and publications decide all the time what shows we want to cover. It seems that should be a two-way street, no?

    I agree, for sure – if you walk in off the street you have a right to say whatever you want in any public forum you want. In this case The Wooster Group had very kindly given the Performance Club access to discounted tickets before the show even went on sale. Of course it benefits the company to get interested audience members, but then again this isn’t a troupe that needs that much help with ticket sales. The courtesy of not reviewing seemed like a fine one to extend.

    In terms of the telling how to behave – yeah, when artists think criticism needs to do certain things or support certain causes or blah blah blah … sorry, but no.

  3. Christine
    November 13, 2012

    hmm… I guess I never thought about it being a two-way street.  I am still learning to think things all the way through before I speak. touché

  4. claudia
    November 14, 2012

    Don’t learn too well. You’ll take all the fun out of it!

    I don’t entirely disagree with your first statement. Just that it’s more complicated….

  5. Mathew
    November 25, 2012

    I think it’s not a bad idea – to not allow critics. Our culture as a whole has an inclination for things to be wrapped up in nice easy packages we can understand. Is it good? Is it bad? Should I like it? Or not? Is this cultural? blah blah blah… 

    Not that a good critic falls into those dichotomies – and yet, there is an aspect of criticism that serves as a documented summation of a work, in particular within performance which is such a fleeting form. It’s as if people are sheep and the critics are the herders – well, in that case, I think it can be an interesting space – to not have that type of guidance for audience members. Among some circles of more traditionally bent curators in the visual arts, the idea that the curators role is too define and make clear the “meaning” to the larger populous is considered the driving force behind the role of a curator (not so different from a catholic priest making clear gods will for a larger populous.)  Personally, I’m amazed that a well educated curator in 2012 could still believe that “meaning” can be clearly defined and packaged – but on the other hand – lots of people have some pretty wacky ideas these days (cough cough… just look at the far right among the republican party…) – so not allowing critics… maybe it can be seen as an attempt to allow audience members to come to a work without an “expert” who might define an experience, rather then allowing people to reflect and trust their own experience? As a presenter, that is my primary question in relation to our audiences, how to create a context for a work, that can allow audience members to trust an experience, rather then look outside themselves for verification. 

  6. claudia
    November 26, 2012

    Thanks for this, Mathew; I agree, it’s great to be able to create a space where people bring their own expertise. (That was one of the original ideas for P Club; it’s been interesting to see the ways in which that has and hasn’t been borne out as this site has evolved.) Having the experience defined and packaged, ala a museum audio guide, seems pretty limiting and dull. Have you come across any good alternatives?

    And yet (or maybe I should say “and also”)…I find it sad the extent to which our society equates expertise with snobbery when it comes to the arts (and, of course, many people in the arts play right into this by dismissing unwanted opinions along the lines of “Oh, she didn’t get it…”) – the class wars continue!

  7. Mathew
    November 26, 2012

    hmm… you’re right about the expert=snobbery equation, and I don’t have any hopeful thoughts about that, beyond that it seems to come from a will for conformity and mediocrity… Or maybe emerges from the american heritage of puritanism, where to excel could be equated with the worse type of egoism?  

    As to alternatives to the museum audio guide – Yes! I have encountered a better system! Actually, spent 10 years doing it as my day job… Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education (which is now unfortunately essentially defunct.)  In short, the technique came from Aesthetic Philosophers John Dewey and latter Maxine Greene, and is concerned with how to bring people into an authentic experiential encounter with a work of art (otherwise know as a transactional experience.)  The process uses (among other things,) student led inquiry as a foundation for guiding an experience of a work of art, building upon questions and observations that the student makes, and using inquiry as a means of deepening continued questions, observation, and reflection on a work of art.  However, it does require a skilled moderator, and is not something that can be applied to a mass populous (such as an audio guide) since it requires an open inquiry process that is attentive and responsive to the students (part of why the technique is going the way of the Buffalo…) At its best – it is deeply anti-expert in that the focus is on a personal experience of great depth. Interesting sidenote – we used to partner with any number of nyc museums, and we always had problems at the Whitney, they didn’t approve of student led inquiry – but rather wanted an “expert” to give the official interpretation to a group of school children, pretty amazing (or rather shocking!) Quickest way I know to loose engagement among school kids – let the expert lecture… 

  8. claudia
    November 29, 2012

    Letting the expert lecture is always a chancy affair…

    And is this what you are now doing at MTA? How is it working up there?

  9. Mathew
    November 29, 2012

    Ah… you hit upon a question very close to my heart…

    While we don’t have any formal type of “educational” program (intentional,) our hope is that the entire context of MTA, from the moment one drives up the driveway (or even before that) is designed to create an experience that is welcoming and engaging. In particular, since so much of our audience is a non art crowd, maybe closer to a demographic you’d see at Lincoln Center (with a bit of hillbilly mixed in) then at maybe ps122, a big question is how do you engage with a populous who often looks at contemporary art with fear and loathing…  So first off – it’s a safe and welcoming space. The mountain views, the garden, campfires after events, the occasional b-cue connected to an art event, the cultivation of community, it’s all related to setting an experiential framework where the mind is relaxed so that inquiry is possible. Before a show starts, does an audience member have their guard up? Or are they in a state of mind that is relaxed and open?  I think that’s pretty important if your going to ask an audience to go outside their comfort zone – which we do ask.

    So – I’m going to cut myself off here – since I could keep going all day and write a dissertation about this stuff, and their is other work I need to do (sh*t – like the benefit we’re hosting in 4 days!) But I think the next question / challenge related to engagement and cultivating authentic inquiry is getting past the “I like it / I don’t like it” dichotomy – it’s a dead end that doesn’t allow for any exploration, and maybe what this is really about is cultivating the explorer in all of us?

    (please forgive the cheesyness of that last statement! but it’s true!)

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