Theatre is Life;
Film is Art;
Television is Furniture.
To the half-dozen cranberry-haired teenagers fully immersed in the optimistically-named Drama Department of our predominantly Republican, sports-focused rural-suburban learning institution, this helped solidify our self-congratulatory youthful angst and firm commitment to getting beat up weekly by the gym teachers. These days (nearly a decade after having spent nearly a decade in Theatre-with-an-re) I might amend that sign somewhat, to read:
Theatre is full of actors;
Film is fine but I like movies;
Television is comforting;
Facebook ruined society.
Also I hardly ever wear Smiths t-shirts any more.
Nevertheless, although I’ve escaped Theatre for Wiseass Striptease I remain committed to live performance as my artistic medium of choice - for the simple fact that I am still fascinated by the variations from one performance to the next, and inspired by the constantly-changing interaction between performer and spectator. ** The liminal space in which live performance exists is one of quite literally infinite possibilities: it is where theatre, dance and ritual all find roots. ***
What you don’t so much find in that impermanent transitional space is digital cameras.
I’m a firm believer in the inherent social contract between performer and spectator: We’re here for and because of each other; this experience wouldn’t exist if either of us weren’t present. And “present” doesn’t mean “taking photos of the whole thing so you can status-update about what you did tonight.” If you leave with your own emotional response to my performance and feel moved to convey your impressions to others through your own words, it becomes our experience; if you take crappy cell-phone photos of my entire act, you have crappy photos of me on your phone and not much more.
Now, amidst all of my you-damn-kids-get-off-of-my-lawnery, I will readily acknowledge several things:
1. The average audience at any given titty show isn’t there to experience the ritualistic transformative possibilities of a shared liminal space. They’re there to get drunk and see some tits.2. At any given titty show we are there primarily to entertain, and not necessarily to change the world. If we can sneak that in too, so much the better.3. Get a grip, grandma, the world’s gone digital and everyone has phones and Photos or it didn’t happen! and that’s just the way the world works and if you’ll excuse me I have to go text my status location to Facesquare so I can be the mayor of my life.4. Sometimes people want to take pictures because they think you’re awesome. Also it’s nice to have videos of your acts and stuff.
So I try to find a balance between kicking tourists in the f-stop and just giving up and mugging for the sea of screens and lenses. I’ll always prefer the live experience (years ago I stopped taking a camera with me on vacations, after I realized that I was getting so anxious about missing shots that I wasn’t actually noticing where I was or what I was seeing) and I will never put up with rude, inappropriate or disrespectful photographers at any show, be they professional or casual … but for the sake of my ulcers I realize I do have to chill a little and let people experience the performance in their own way.
Thinking about all this (and, occasionally, being driven to tears of rage by it) led to a variety of ideas about how to do something productive with the frustration. This January I had the chance to begin a hopefully-ongoing project through which I will a: make art out of anger and b: amuse the fuck out of myself. Transformative qualities of live performance aside, I’m pretty okay with that; so, then, here’s part one:
* Specifically, several years that started with a “1” and a “9.”
** And not at all because I have the drawing skills of a concussed bee.
*** I just recently paid off my massive student-loan debts. Just as a matter of interest.