I saw three shows yesterday and took copious notes like the former Good Student I am, but I don’t want to overload the space so I’ll try to keep it brief.
My fellow blogger and real life pal Dawn Brodey has tasked herself with seeing as many solo shows as possible. Without fully intending to, I seem to have stolen her mandate. Two of the three pieces I took in yesterday were one-person and the third was a clown show that was pretty close to solo (apologies to the troubadour who sang a song and the other clown who was her helpmate).
It got me thinking about a very basic but simultaneously ineffable principle of performance. Let’s call it presence. Energy? Something like that. You know it when you see it. And when you don’t. You also know when you see so much of it coming at you that you want to hide behind your program.
[Quick sidebar: where are all the programs? Only one of the shows I’ve seen so far has one. Is it considered wasteful? I’ll give them back if it makes people feel better, but I really appreciate a little reading material before a show. Who are you, what is this, who do you want to thank or endorse etc. A sliver of context goes a long way. Thank you Dan Bernitt !]
My favorite moments in yesterday’s plays were when I could sense the actor was 100% there with us in the room and doing her or his best to reach us. They spoke some kind of truth that came from their heart or core and let us take it in. They allowed us to come to them, neither leaning so far back that we felt uninvited or uninterested nor leaning so far forward that they pushed us out of the space. I understand all too well the impulse to push one’s energy up and out when I think the audience isn’t with me. But I know from my many failures in this regard that it usually makes an audience flinch.
We just want a calm pack leader.
Thankfully Tizi Ouzo, Yelling at Bananas in Whole Foods, and Apocalypse Clown! all feature these moments. Clown is a sweet little show that made me forget that stuffed toy clown in Poltergeist. Tizi Ouzo made me forgive myself for not knowing shit about North Africa and just enjoy the way that people everywhere are obsessed with finding a partner. Bananas reincarnated 90’s infomercial queen Susan Powter and made me feel guilty about how much junk I eat. So much so that I decamped immediately to Pizza Luce for a couple of slices a coke and a brownie.
Last bit. I’ve been to three venues so far and all of them are new to me which kind of boggles my mind. I’ve been working here as an actor for almost 20 years and I thought I knew the place. The Woman's Club of Minneapolis (which I spoke about last post) reminds me of a mid-sized 1950’s public school auditorium. But nice. Really. The New Century Theater is a strange one. It is brand new and aggressively without personality, kind of like a comedy club on a cruise ship. And the James Sewell Ballet Tek Box is a typical black box space that somehow manages to convey that Dance Happens Here. It could be the tall black teasers at regular intervals stage right and left which, despite that complete lack of wing space suggest that hordes of ballerinas could grand jete into the space at a moment’s notice.
Looking at Saturday’s schedule I see 3 more solo performances. I may have to avoid Dawn.