T:BA:11 Report, "I've Forgotten Everything"
I’ve Forgotten Everything
There is an ill-thought sense of organization to my planning of these blogs, namely, the Mike Daisey performance of twenty-four hours. How is it that I could expect to engage with this performance and have any clear recollection and impression of the previously engaged-with events? So that is why I am going to open my final report of the Time Based Arts Festival with my experience in the present tense, now going in to the seventeenth hour of “All the Hours in the Day” monologue.
6PM to 6AM– Settling In
Already, we have launched in to a twisted narrative with as many as five interweaving stories involving Warren Zevon, David Bowie, Nicola Tesla, Daisey’s dead childhood friend, alternate worlds, death, guns; we have listened to Daisey walk around the halls with mic in hand; we have witnessed the sky glow light blue at sunrise, singing Amazing Grace; we have heard his doubts of being able to pull this off; we have had too much coffee; we have eaten oranges and cooked bacon. We have wrangled in our seats, we have watched the audience dwindle, we have moved to the front rows, we have moved to the sleepier balcony, and most of all, we have devoted ourselves to this show. The story involves a twist of supernatural, dramatic story line that seems to be based in fact, but as it develops, it is becoming too surreal to comprehend. He sits there with his gun on the desk, always at reach, tempting you to think that he might fire it off at himself or in the crowd, because the narrative continues referencing death and the end of things. But as a master of his craft, he is not obvious, allowing you to imagine this.
10:53 AM – Diving In
Now, going in to the seventeenth hour, I realize that I have it much better than him. As I type, he is also writing his next forty-minute section, only one of twenty-four total sections to this epic performance. Why I even have the right to compare myself with him is that we are equals in this participatory event; he is the performer, I am the spectator, and for me to be fully engaged, I must be present for all twenty-four segments. This feat I am definitely going for now. However, I have the opportunity of rest, eating, drinking coffee (going on to my sixth coffee in the last twenty-six hours of my waking existence) while Daisey must prepare in between each section, he must speak every word to me, the participant, one among fifty to one hundred people who are here for the final word, who must be silent and respectful of the space required to develop this story here. Moreover, I am the journalist, my creative participation is the writing that you are now reading; should he blow it, I am the one who will tell the world. Of all the journalists I knew in the audience, I was the only full time participant. Granted, I slept in my seat, I fell to rest my eyes and lose grip on the narrative. But in these five-minute sleep periods, I am capable of remaining awake in the passenger seat of this journey for a long stretch. I am without proper sleep for twenty-six hours now, perhaps.
12:39 PM – Unplanned Break
I am declaring here and now, despite some concepts of a planned stunt, that an unsuspecting reality sprung in a perfectly surreal moment in the narrative: the historic fire bell went off without warning or signs of fire. And it is possible that this was staged, but if I am to read our storyteller and his response to the situation, it was not staged, it was perfect synchronicity. Daisey thinks on his feet, though he is an atheist, he manages to interpret situations along with the context; there is nothing that ever goes wrong, it simply relates to the natural chaos and unpredictability of both our world, and extemporaneous performance. He relates to the fire bell in the context of that point in his story, that we all need, hope for, or deserve some kind of fire bell in our lives to wake us up, so that we can restart our lives and become the itch, the urge to change, and transcend what we were attached to and move from the path we’re on, that may only be leading to our self-destruction.
1:54 PM – The Unwinding
Now going in to the twentieth hour of this epic, and in to the final hours of T:BA:11, I am struck by that sense of dismal return to daily life that always permeates the air of a great festival’s end.
Daisey utilized the fire bell and took a new approach, changed the story on the fly, and simply improvised it, the notes became under a new sense of control. We all watched him struggle and rooted for him, because we are discovering ourselves as he is discovering himself and his story on the stage. However, until this point, I really was questioning areas of truth to this story compared to that which was made up. If he chooses for the remainder of the monologue to go on in this manner, I may very well feel that he choked and broke up, giving up on a story that he had crafted for this day. However, it all depends on the quality of it, how well it is told.
6:06 PM – The End
In that last breath, that last word from Daisey that seemed to hang in the air with anticipation like the falling of a nuclear bomb over a testing zone, it ended. Daisey was met with standing ovation and waves of applause to mark the amazing and historical feat of theater that just took place, but he wasn’t finished. Only With a final sing along, led by Holocombe Waller, which followed a Warren Zevon cover – Mike Daisey and Jean-Michelle Gregory’s wedding song – the festival came to an end. There remains the galleries, open for a month more, there remains a benefit dinner that I cannot really afford, but truly, T:BA:11 is over.
The hang over is not quite here, the taste of too many donuts and coffee remains buzzing in the air. The beer garden is still set up, despite a lack of beer, and the giant inflatable creature is still there. It is over; the box office is closed. And I now sit at the table in the barn, on the farm where I live, and I realize I was awake here thirty hours ago, and haven’t taken to bed since.
This is the Jimmy Swaggart impersonation entitled, “Get Mad At Sin”. More than an impression, this is a reenactment of a 1971 vinyl record by solo Swaggart. I felt that the audience didn’t know what to do about it. They are so damned accustomed to irony and political commentary that the performance may not have been taken in it’s self. I however enjoyed the performance, intellectually comparing it to the changes and similarities to contemporary society, but also as an actual spiritual document. And honestly, it’s the same thing going on today in the south and even rural Oregon, but a T:BA crowd isn’t aware and can literally shut out the existence of modern Swaggarts. I do not agree with the obvious anti-homosexuality, the obvious white values embedded in the speech, but the message is not essentially a bad one. Thus, the irony may not exist at all. It is simply a sermon, and Jimmy Swaggart is an amazing presence to attempt the emulation of. Dinwiddle did not go for the Irony and making fun. Lacking exposure to that recording and Swaggart in general, I have to take it all in itself anyhow. I enjoyed the performance. It was something special. It was important to me to see, because I am particularly interested in spoken performance at this time in my life, as a comedian, and this fellow is also a funny guy and later co-curated a program at The Works called, “Catch”.
I nearly forgot that I had attended this haphazard affair. Though, it was all in all an entertaining night, it seemed to lack any real taste or attempt at cohesion. The audience was taken aback, and the word “awkward” has been used repetitively, especially in reference to (what seemed to be) Luciana Achugar’s performance. If I am wrong, please correct me. It was a strange semi-nude dance that had no development, appeared amateur, of prurient interest, and garnished no applause. I broke the rule of objectivism by opening the applause when nobody else would. It was embarrassing. I only did that because I was afraid that was my friend, Kathleen Keogh was this bizarre masked performer. Now, Kathleen did a full nude moment. I think my interpretation makes sense now… Kathleen may be accustomed to men looking at her sexually during Woolly Mammoth’s humorous and sometimes sexy performances. If so, the way that her dress was pulled over her head, blocking her face, and the way that her body was exposed and purposefully-awkwardly moving about until being pulled off stage, might be a comment about the fact men are simply obnoxious. Or they are just funny ladies; always entertaining. It is worth mentioning Oregon Painting Society for their set, only that it was good and stood out, but didn’t really go very far. What strikes me the most is the awkwardness of non-comedians doing only seven minutes, when they are accustomed to fifteen and thirty. However, the lady comic there that night was self-deprecating and not very funny. Sorry.
Here is a show that I found truly captivating, but may have been even resented a little bit by the audience. I could feel the disappointment in Ouramdine as he waited for at least one standing ovation. Here, I maintained objectivism and did not stand up. I wanted to, I should have. I hope he gets this review. Now, I love the kind of material he worked with. It was non-linear, it was mathematical, it was electric, and it was surreal, absurd, and energetic. A long rod balanced with stage lighting and free weights centerpieces the stage while Rachid takes to a number of calculated movements with his body and other props. He does a middle section where all of his movements are in simulated slow motion, entirely controlled by his own grace. He appears to be in a drunken stumble, walking around and around the centerpiece, sometimes synchronized with the pace, but most often in conflict. He may not be drunk, but he is tired, clumsy, and persevering, and there is something inspiring about that. I finally recognized the cover of this year’s program guide in his performance. The red white and blue image appears on screen, on stage, and the multimedia is perfectly scored with the music and stage happenings. The score is very industrial, but more than that, sometimes quite ambient. Piano beautifully colored the landscape of the score that ranged from downright noisy to downright funky, but always with a certain industrial sound. I think because it combined movement with some of my favorite things (noise, loops, surrealism, minimalism, social commentary, bravado, live music, multimedia) it was one of my favorites of the year.
Finally, a comedy show at T:BA: These guys really beat my expectations based on the videos online. That is comedy for you; it really depends on how you work the audience. They worked it. The magic is sort of like a rusty old lawn mower, because every audience is that rusty lawnmower until you have sufficiently yanked that nylon cord until it roars with the power to slice through overgrowth of resentment and bitterness built in to our sad human population. It was honestly quite a happy crowd though, so they were ready for laughter. Did I think they were funny? Yes, they are funny. Max Silvestri was a riot. He simply stood still and allowed association to split the jokes and run them together in a way that was often over my head with pop culture references that suits the wealthier cable watching art-lovers in the audience, and of course the well-to-do New York City scene, but regardless, even when I was clueless, I found his associations to be utterly clever and without cease. Then, the dynamic duo, Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate were very funny and excellent with a crowd, which is an art itself. Watching and hearing Jenny is a serious break from the standard self-deprecating female comic today. Many are, but it is not common to see sexy Jewish ladies doing heavy hitting comedy. You can only think of one. Gabe Leidman is another funny Jewish, gay comic that doesn’t obsess over that point of view, once again refreshing. You can see the sharpening of their material and delivery, so well crafted from their weekly stage series in Brooklyn, and only T:BA could bring to Portland a special event like this for a single one off theater show. I feel lucky.
This is the film of single frame movies, strung abruptly together, however spanning long sections that seemed to tell very simple stories of the surroundings captured in the film. A shot of trees in the breeze weren’t simply trees the breeze, it was also an airport site and would bear witness to hundreds of flights per week, based on the ten minute clip. There was also a shot of Muslims in prayer; their rear-ends generating a sea of lumps. One amazing shot consisted of molten steel columns in motion, in some kind of manufacturing operation with amazing moving geometry developing in the single frame. I was unable to attend the complete screening, and I was resting my eyes and cleansing the palette in preparation for this Mike Daisey show. It was the perfect thing.
8:49 PM, Sunday, September 18, 2011
I am officially thirty-six hours without a single stretch of sleep beyond ten minutes, and certainly with peace and in a bed. I have once again embarked on a remarkable number of hours viewing art and performance. Although I attended less shows than previous years, I still took in a mind-blowing grouping of performances. I witnessed some crap also. And, I suspect that if you add up every hour I spent in a theater compared to last year, I would believe I have topped my attendance endurance.