On a Wednesday evening in June, now months into the COVID-19 pandemic, I opened up my laptop, a bit reluctant to join yet another Zoom meeting. As I waited for the meeting host to let me in to the chat room, I couldn’t shake the thought that, after months of viewing mediocre performance art which had been forced to resort to digital platforms, my expectations were low. With that in mind, I was inordinately surprised to have tuned in for the most captivating Zoom call I’ve had to date.
In My Heart Goes Zoom, audience members fittingly join on a Zoom call to hear Siobhan O’Loughlin recount her digital love story in the time of quarantine. Opening with the lead-in that this is “a story so modern, there’s no kissing; there’s not even eye contact,” we start in what Siobhan cleverly dubs “the year of March,” that oh-so-long-month that dragged on as we succumbed to social isolation.
Siobhan quickly pulls us in to imagine and participate in building a vision of the sultry man she meets in her documentary filmmaking course which has been transferred online due to COVID. The story she’s reciting is interactive, as we are first asked to guess what his name is (since that too, is, of course, hot). This continues with questions such as “what does his voice sound like?” or “what should I write him in a private message?” I couldn’t help but laugh heartily as the chat scrolled with answers such as “gravelly” or “like a velvet ribbon” to the suggestion “Italian neorealism and chill?” The audience participation was hilarious, authentic, and wonderfully incorporated by Siobhan, as she read out viewers’ contributions. Even from the beginning, audience members are asked to engage by wiggling our fingers as either “up twinkles” to agree with statements or “down twinkles” to disagree. Brave viewers were also asked to play the role of the hot guy and the course instructor. Whether riffing about documentary film or, my personal favorite, the fellow who decided to incorporate a Russian accent after discovering the hot guy’s name, the audience participants were fantastic at fulfilling their roles. The team created a lighthearted sense of fun that made everyone feel welcome to explore their creativity and participatory capabilities.
Siobhan is incredible as her quirky, charismatic, vibrant self. Her glittery fairy queen aura enthralls, as she proves that the pressure she has felt to stay relevant as an artist in these times has succeeded immeasurably. As Siobhan asked the viewers to consider how a good-looking man might utilize the space in his Zoom square, I was captivated by her ability to occupy her space so playfully. While charming with her flirtatious sweetness and notable “pout,” she maintains a sense of humbleness and approachability, even across a screen. Her proclaimed self-doubt about making the effort to reach out to this Zoom love interest, wondering if she ought to “let it remain a fleeting, floating crush from a pixelated person,” shows her vulnerability and relatability. She perfectly portrays the anxiousness that we all feel when considering making a move on someone we find attractive, even if that approach is via technology.
From the soft floral background, which appeared like a watercolor painting in muted pinks and purples, to the few perfectly curated moments of music, the team created a thoroughly thought-out piece. Relational Artist Dennissa Young and Designer Brendan Leahy were there as active participants in the Zoom call with us, warmly greeting viewers with their smiles. Both Dennissa and Brendan kept the flow of the show steady, as Dennissa assigned participants their roles and scripts, and Brendan timed the music wonderfully.
The team behind the Please Don’t Touch The Artist performances, has accomplished something intimate, thoughtful, and original. I logged off of Zoom feeling completely refreshed and thoroughly impressed, and I cannot wait to tune in for part II.
Please Don’t Touch The Artist: My Heart Goes Zoom part II will be performed on June 13 and another two-part performance will be presented on July 17 and 18 at 9PM Central. All performances are Pay What You Can.
Check the calendar for future performances here: http://siobhanoloughlin.com/pdt/