Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gut Responses

So aren't gut responses awesome? Right below this post, I had some choice words to say for the offending audience at Mike Daisey's ART performance of Invincible Summer. As the days continue, it turns out that they weren't religious (they were a choir), and that it apparently wasn't premeditated -- in fact, it was "agitated" by the house manager's reluctance to pause the show. Of course, this is just what Norco High School says, still without explaining the fact that a chaperone felt it was necessary to also drown the script out (literally).

We can assume, as over at Playgoer, that it's a non-issue: that the high schoolers felt intimidated by what they perceived as rage in Daisey (though I feel that's hardly the case if you watch the much ballyhooed video), and that the chaperones thought it better to just leave without discussing their stance. And hey, I've had to walk out of productions before that all but force you onto the stage to exit, so I can sympathize with the unfortunate circumstances that led to the walkout being so disruptive. But this is all in looking back at the past, in retrospect: the fact of the matter is that when it happened, nothing really did either. Bloggers posted about it, and Daisey struggled with it in the moment, but so far as I can tell, charges weren't filed for what is clearly blatant vandalism, and I saw very little (which is to say none) in the actual print media about it. Apathy is one of America's problems, but it's also become more and more an issue in the types of performances I've seen. Ever safer, ever more passive: why is it that this spontaneous event was more visceral to me than the show itself?

The reason I think your gut is awesome is that that is where passion and excitement come from. I wrote the perhaps ill-informed blog entry below while I was piqued, but it was true at the moment I said it (to me). And that's what I'm really interested in, as a reviewer: not really the processed idea -- filtered, stretched, and frayed -- but in the immediate, the stirring, the real. You shouldn't have to like it more later by placing it into context (look at how Stoppard's stood by his statement that Coast of Utopia needs no reading list), and much as Steve Martin's lines about icebox laughs (in Picasso at the Lapin Agile) are amusing, who really goes to theater so that they can experience something later . . . if they're lucky?

Of course, as seen by what happened to Daisey, sometimes gut responses are bad, too, or perhaps just water bottles. And maybe it's a good thing that nobody's overreacting. We just banned fake weapons from the stage; should we ban water next?

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