This weekend Don, David and I participated in a festival of short performance pieces, Et Cetera VI, that was tied to Susan Lori Parks' 365 plays. I am a big fan of Susan Lori Parks, and was excited when I heard about this project that seemed as if it might have sprung from the mind of another of my favorite's Erik Ehn...but the majority of SLP's pieces I saw this weekend, while well executed by the directors and actors involved, sort of left me shrugging my shoulders. Why?
When I think of SLP, I think of an experimenter. I love her sketches and charts and manifestos, and the cadenzas I find in her scripted work are bold and purposefully and audacious. I saw none of that this past weekend. I saw bits and pieces that together didn't really become anything cohesive. It was playful, but I found myself saying "so what". Not one piece of SLPs struck me as deeply felt, or relevant except as exercises. Perhaps a true writer is someone who writes everyday, but if that writer wants to be seen as a writer of worth, they should be a little more selective about what words get read or spoken in front of an audience and what words don't. To be blunt, we do and should expect something more from someone as accomplished as SLP.
Now 365 was the first part of the evening, the second part of the evening, the part that we participated in was different, sort of your more traditional collection of short pieces that always seem to populate these types of festival engagements. There were some pieces I loved and others that I could have definitely done without.
Despite all that I found myself regretting the fact that there wasn't more or a sense of community between all participating. Maybe everybody just wanted to get home and avoid the first subzero weekend here in C-town. But, I think if you get this many artists together in the room without any real publicity (we were pretty much performing for each other that night) it would be nice to see the organizers facilitate some sort of sharing or bread breaking or something of the sort. I know someone could say, well why don't you just go say hi. Well, I did. I did the "I liked your piece we should talk" thing with the few that I sincerely liked and could grab a hold of before everything went out in a dozen serparate post performance directions. I think that it's not enough to say here's your 10 minutes...and....go. I think it would be beneficial to meet and greet and discuss and question and flirt and play after the pieces. I wish we could have hung out in the gallery, I wish that had actually been planned instead of what I got which was run around after the performances as fast as you can and try to strike up conversations with people striking their props because we got to be out of the theatre in 15 minutes. That isn't "literally" what happened, but that was the feel I got from the whole thing as it wrapped up.
I love making theatre, but I also love meeting other people who love it as much as I do. And, I appreciate it when those administering these sorts of festivals help facilitate that sort of exchange.