Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Show Must Go On...

I probably shouldn't be writing this yet. I'm torn between wanting to write on The Show Must Go On while it's still fresh in my mind, and needing more time to reflect and decide on what it was that I experienced on Saturday night. I think this is a show that's very important to 'get', to know the history behind experimental dance and to understand what the performers were doing, or more importantly in this case, who exactly the performers were. Last semester I took FPA 111 with Dorothy Barenscott and one of the art forms that we studied was the emergence Performance/Body art in the mid 1900s and the blurring of the line between performer and audience. Although I'm no expert in the field of performance art, I felt very grateful last night that I had some context for what I was witnessing and understood that it was not just some random experiment in making people uncomfortable, but rather a statement about the role of the audience in a performance.

Sitting in the dark for the first two songs, I immediately took an active role in my position as audience member and looked around to see the reactions of those around me, the theatre crowd was as diverse as the performers on stage and I saw a variety of reactions ranging from confusion to annoyance to enjoyment. When the performers appeared on stage for 'Come Together', simply watching us and slightly swaying to the music, I began to piece together what was going on. I was immediately reminded of John Cage's experiment with audience reaction/participation in 1962, titled 4'33", in which the pianist sits still at a piano in front of an audience for four minutes and thirty three seconds, only moving to flip the blank sheet music to the next page, then returning his hands to his lap. Cage's intent was to remove his own individual expression and have the sounds and reactions of audience fill in for the piano. The shuffling of feet, coughing, nervous laughter, sighing, all of it becomes the performance as the performer sits neutrally, staring at his piano.
I began to understand that the audience was just as much involved in the performance as the dancers on stage and found myself giving equal attention to those around me and those on stage. The charm of The Show Must Go On lies in the suspense factor as the audience sits, sometimes in the dark, sometimes watching the dancers be hilarious (i like to move it move it), sometimes watching the dancers be tender (see hugging picture above), and sometimes watching the performers stare right back at us. I almost felt like we should have bowed right back when they came out at the end of the show, because everything from the performers, to the audience, to the DJ, to the theatre space itself lended to the performance. This is definitely a show that some people would find entirely pointless, (such as the woman beside me who kept sighing loudly, saying 'my god', and checking her watch), and others could appreciate for it's artistic value, or maybe just for the music, though they seemed to know exactly which songs I hate the most and played them just for me. My favorite scene was the IPOD one, which seemed to be a direct commentary on the isolation of the 'bus-stop culture' that we've discussed in class. The way I can tell this I enjoyed this show is that I haven't been able to stop thinking about aspects of it and I feel like I have way more to say about what I got out of it, but I'll save that for class and my longer critical review.

You can find a recreation of Cage's 4'33" here:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shawn,

    I'm glad you didn't wait to get your thoughts down about last night's show, as you have many brilliant things to say here. And it's terrific that you can't stop thinking about it. Make sure those thoughts are voiced at tomorrow's class!