Monday, February 13, 2012

"Bob" (NYC)

Hi guys! I’m back… After a really long absence. It’s a long story.

The short form, the important stuff, is that I am back, after having lost myself for a little while. I realized – hey, so you started this blog because you wanted to find your theatrical voice – how about letting that help you out of the dark…

So, here I am. And before I start, please remember this blog is not really so much for a review of shows themselves as it is a way for me to muddle through the kind of theatre that I want to make. And that the opinions expressed here are clearly just my own.

So, I saw the closing night of “Bob” as performed by Will Bond of the Siti Company and directed by Anne Bogart.

This is not the firs Siti show I’ve seen. In fact, I think it’s my fourth. All four times I have been extremely impressed with the physically specificity that the actors create. Their sense of space, and where they are in it, is unparalleled in anything I have ever seen. When I watch their work, I know without a doubt that every motion, every gesture is carefully thought out and worked through.

In Bob, everything had weight – from the drinking of milk to the chair to the words. And that is one of the main reasons I didn’t like it.

Here’s what I’m learning. I don’t like one man shows. I mean, I have seen some that I really enjoyed, but as a whole, they don’t move me the way other theatre does. I find that, for me, part of story telling is about developing relationships on stage, and watching those relationships play out. And the few one-man shows I’ve seen that I have liked, the relationship becomes about the actor to the audience. I felt like Bob lacked that connection with the audience. I really felt like he was talking at us instead of to us.

Further more, every time I have seen a Siti show, I… Ok, quick story time. While I was at the show, I put my hand in my purse to grab some chap stick, while the show was going. The house, I should add, was dead quiet. My purse was on the floor in front of me, I did not pick it up, I just slid my hand in, thinking I could quietly grab the tub of chap stick, put it on, and put is back – no one the wiser. Apparently, however, I had forgotten about the receipt that was laying in my bag. My hand hit it, and it rustled – I froze – the woman in front of me turned around a glared at me for making noise. Ok, so now I have my hand in my bag, and there is only one way to get it out – yep, rustle the receipt again… So I did. This time, the woman in front of me turned around and glared – and then leaned forward on her lap to get as far away from me as possible. After the show was over, she wiped around and threw some death daggers at me (never talking to me by the by) and then turned around and very loudly complimented her 13ish year old daughter on how well she had behaved and how proud of her she was – then there was more death stares in my direction.

And that’s when it dawned on me – thing number two I didn’t like about the show – the level of pretention that I was surrounded with in the audience. Ok, not just in the audience, but in the show itself. I felt like the actor speaking was saying this incredible wise and pity things – things that should be sold on notebooks and cups in theatre lobbies across the country – but I didn’t feel like he was actually connected to the words he was saying. The only times I felt like he connected with the words were the few moments he was agitated, or angry. And yet, everyone hovered in their chairs, so afraid that they would miss something. Truthfully, the whole show left me with the feeling like I had just watched something in a movie about art and that now there would be champagne and caviar for everyone to talk about how important the work was and how wonderful it was without ever actually saying anything at all. (And yes, for the record, I did understand that there was a disconnect on purpose – I know, he told me 900 times – about creating a place to be heard by separating words from movement. I just didn’t care.) I mean, I’m not saying that there isn’t a market for such work, because, clearly, there is. I’m just saying – it’s not for me.

And therein lies the problem. I didn’t care. Look, I’m not a theatre nay-sayer. I don’t believe that theatre will ever truly die because I believe that the urge of humans to watch and perform in live acts is too strong. Just like outsider art, theatre, in some form, will survive. Humans have to create – and we have to create art. We love it, we crave it, and even without any kind of training, it exists and cannot be stopped.

Now, having said that – movies are kicking our ass. And theatre needs to change – needs to be, I don’t know, more culturally relevant and less culturally elite? There was a time and a place for theatre like I saw that day, I’m just not sure it’s now. Or rather, I’m just not sure it’s theatre I have any desire to produce or even really watch again. I mean, as much as I disliked “Sleep No More” (see that blog post for why), what I loved about it was it’s out of the box thinking – I loved that it brought people into a theatrical space that had never been to one before. It got people talking about it – on an international level.

I want to theatre that matters to everyone, not theatre that is some kind of cultural capital for an elite audience to talk about over cocktails. I want to do theatre that changes lives, and tells stories that need to be told. I want to theatre that matters to me.

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