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Jeremy's Ramblings, Babblings, and Other Pretentious Bullshit.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
 
Lately, I have been obsessed with non-traditional forms of performance. I wish to incorporate them into my own writing, though I'm unsure how to do that.

It started with a Honda commercial that was sent to me through e-mail. It is an ingenious two-minute film - done in one take without computer enhancement - in which the various parts of a Honda Accord assemble to make a huge Rube Goldberg device. A remarkable amount of precision is used as each separate part barely touches the next. It is truly remarkable.

I suddenly want a Rube Goldberg device in something I write. I spent one morning thinking up a smaller, less ingenious device in which the tipping of a wine bottle leads to the launching of a Twinkie into the wine bottle tipper's hand. I felt incredibly proud of myself. I don't know quite how if it would work, and how I would use it in a piece, but I felt incredibly proud to have come up with it.

Then, as if to answer my pride, I am sent another e-mail, this one involving an act that was performed on what looks like a Japanese variety show. It is a ping pong match done in "bullet time" (the process used in "The Matrix" in which film is slowed down or stopped while being rotated). Using several puppeteers, many of whom are entirely clad in black, the two ping pong players do impossible moves (such as leaping twenty feet or "swimming" in the air to chase after the ball) and in the climax of the piece, the players, the ball and the table turn to provide the audience with a bird's eye view of the game. Again, the precision and coordination of all involved was flawless and the piece was not only technically impressive but also extremely funny.

And now...that's right...I want to work something like that into a piece of mine.

Why am I so restless? Why do I want to step away from the naturalism that I've been exploring for the past few years (which, in turn, was a step away from the comic absurdity that I milked all through high school and the couple of years after)?

And the main question that I have on my mind...Are these devices that I'm drooling over theatrical inventions, or simply gimmicks? Do I want to make a multi-sensory experience that will combine deep human pathos and humor with a theatrical flair, or am I subconsciously using these ideas to cover up something that is lacking in my writing? When does innovation stop and manipulation start?

I think back to Jason Lindner's one-man show "The Gog/Magog Project", and a specific part of the show that I'll be recreating in a variety show in a couple of weeks. Gog, stuck in a cage, decides to engage the audience in a camp sing-along called "The Music Doctor". Every night this required the audience to stand up and pretend they were playing instruments. The director and I discussed how even though this was audience participation, which we both normally hate ("Who thinks the killer is Dame Kensington, the famed opera singer?"), in this show it was a desperate need to connect with the audience, a very popular theme throughout the script. A device, not a gimmick.

Maybe I'm just trying too hard to be Jason Lindner. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

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