Who's in the Box?
Performance art is as performance art does
BY SUZI STEFFEN
BURN YOUR CREDENTIALS This will come as no surprise to my hordes of adoring readers: I live in my head. I like my head; it has served me pretty well through graduate classes and writing challenges. But analysis isn't always useful, and when I'm confronted with the opportunity to participate, I sometimes freeze.
|Kyle Warren, James Engberg and Evan Howells: Clown boys, wandering|
However. At times I can be the teensiest bit mischevious. So I apologize in advance, theater legend Sparky Roberts … When I arrived at the UO's Villard Hall, clutching my 8 pm ticket for Anonymous, one of the many white-clad people handed me a card to fill out. And so, dear Ms. Roberts, I, er, wrote down your name even as you were kicking ass as Mother Courage at the Leebrick. (But I did fake the email address. And when the card asked about my last prank, I wrote, "Pretty much this one.")
After that, for a moment (perhaps in the spirit of someone nicknamed "Sparky"), I was so daring: I took the name tag the guy handed me ("Marker"), but I didn't put it on. I refused my assigned identity. Freaky.
DO YOU SIGN YOUR ORGASMS?
But I can't say it was untimidating, this process of going through the building. I thank the cast of Mud, who probably didn't know they were my guides that night (though they might have wondered who the weirdo was with the legal pad). They and other young theater folk wandered through, happily participating in various rooms. When they entered a room that appeared to be called "Glory Holes Out of Order," they brought with them a refreshing willingness to stick body parts (mostly hands and feet) into curtained holes cut in a wall. Seriously. And they were rewarded.
Also on the Glory Holes level is Anonyma, whom I did not ask to read my colors. I did hear some choice statements about who's a red and who's a blue and a perhaps unintentionally hilarious disquisition on the repression of eroticism.
WE WILL ALL DIE OFOUR COMFORTS
Speaking of erotic, those whisper pieces in the Peep Show of Arena Theatre? Nice.
I returned the next night because I needed more info, and I went at 9 pm (tix are available for 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm). This time, I put on my new name tag ("Dear"). But I wasn't alone (thank you, long-suffering partner), which turned out to be key, as was leaving my notepad and backpack at home. We encountered Box Man (I would have fed him, but I didn't have the right currency for the candy seller outside), and we had our picture taken at Anonyprom. I stole a gift from the Ten Commandments of Gift Wrapping people's pile and was chased, briefly, by zombie gift-wrappers. Oh, and I wrote outside the box, literally, but that came later.
WHAT GOES WITHOUTSAYING SHOULDN'T BE SAID
At times, I found myself annoyed with the show's pretentious / portentous signage (don't think I made up these little subheadlines, OK?), but that's not their Jenny Holzer-like point. As I drifted by the department's bulletin board, I thought about how deconstructedly weird the "real" signs looked: "Non-academic student productions in the Pocket Theatre must be approved by the Pocket Theatre board." Ha! How deep! How unstable! How … wait a second, that's not ironic. Hm.
The last stop in the show lies in the Robinson Theatre, where you'll get several opportunities to participate. After the booths with computers, I wished I'd thought of something more interesting to share with the world — like the Cheetos fantasy and other tales later projected on the building. But I was boring, even banal. Maybe I should go back and say something really exciting … (Or hey, wait a second! Cast members! Project this review!)
Also, I remembered that I suck on live radio or in improv theater pieces; when I was confronted with a microphone, despite a list of helpful prompt questions, all I could think of was one word. So this week, if you're in the basement during the show and you hear a croaky little voice say "squirrels," you'll know who it is.
Anyway, go (preferably with friends), and don't worry about any feelings that might arise when there's an in-the-know-group perpetrating Art. You're the enzyme the actors need, so do your thing. Listen to the stories, watch the equine-human bonding. Think about the possibly deep, possibly sophomoric, definitely enjoyable commentary on technology and the Internet and omnipresent cameras, John Cage and Happenings and Barbara Kruger. Or leave thinking out of it: Squeal at Box Man, moan in the Glory Holes and enjoy yourself all over the building.
Just don't try to steal a can of spray paint. Some parameters can't be disturbed.
Anonymous runs through June 2. For tix, call 346-4363.