Sunday at the Fringe had me thinking about audiences.
I saw three shows and two of them seemed to be stacked with people who were pre-disposed to like them because of factors that had nothing to do with the quality of the work. I was all prepared to get my nose bent out of shape, thinking, why are these fools going ga-ga over this mediocrity?! Because they know the performers? Because they love the subject matter? Because they’re Philistines without taste?
The rabbit hole I was falling down played to all my worst qualities. I was becoming the dick head I feared this blog would expose me as.
And then I thought about why I like what I like. On Saturday I saw three shows I could honestly enthuse or even gush over. Because I liked the performers. Because the subject matter spoke to me. Because I’m a prideful man who esteems his sense of taste as unassailable.
I’m looking at the man in the mirror. [shiver]
That said, I’m not tasked with being fair or nice. Alan Berks said to write about whatever I wanted in any way I wanted. So I’ll tell you about what I liked because I think that has some value. What I don’t think I’ll talk about is why I didn’t like what I didn’t like because I don’t think it’s a particularly productive public conversation. I know from first hand experience that artists can be sensitive beings. I also know they can get discouraged by impersonal criticism and, conversely, that they can get better with experience.
So I am going to ac-cen-tu-ate the positive. And let the negative take care of itself.
Get Ready for the Vagina Fairy at Red Eye Theater is a brave bit of work by Rebecca Kling a transgendered woman who tells us all about her experiences navigating the medical and psychological paths associated with her life’s situation. And also the curious and well-meaning people who want to know things. I learned not to ask if she’s had “the surgery” unless I want to hear about her gallbladder procedure, for instance.
This is a strong and uncommonly informative work, in part because, as Rebecca herself acknowledges, while most of us have heard of transgendered people, very few of us have first hand experience with them. I was fascinated, entertained and enlightened.
I saw the show with fellow Minnesota Playlist blogger Dawn Brodey as an experiment. We thought we might see a show and have a “He Said/She Said” type of conversation or even blog back-and-forth about it. At some point we were both overcome by the abundance of jokes that could be made around our choice of show and the idea of He/She anything. That may not be the most sensitive or appropriate way to say it, but we both felt absurd.
We had a wide ranging and deeply thoughtful conversation after the show over a couple of drinks. Gender roles, body image, sexuality and more all figured prominently in our talk. Set aside the fact that the show was well written and wonderfully performed (and it was). One thing I want from my cultural experiences, be they theatrical or otherwise, is just this kind of sophisticated sort of provocation. Make me think, and then maybe I’ll talk. With other people.
With Minnesota audiences that’s a special victory.