For the past few years there have been a lot of performances that explore the state of the audience, the stage, the performer(s) and perception. It’s become a trend? But maybe, like cell phones, the norm. The current season at the Walker, beginning in the Fall, seems to invite this curiosity all the more, like a light getting brighter and brighter. So bright I’m not sure I can see it anymore.
In September we had Gob Squad: “Super Night Shot”, which I loved. There were 4 performers in-the-know out on the streets of Minneapolis with camera crews and a quest: find a suitable match for a dance/hug and a kiss with a man in a bunny suit. I don’t know why I adore this piece so, even the memory of it. Those performers were each so endearing and they withstood the mighty wind and rain. There was a lot of reality and amazing live or near-live film editing and improvisation, joy (in the cab ride back to the Walker for the end of the performance), and personal revelations.
Jerome Bel, of course, has devoted himself to the situation the theater stirs up. He is perhaps the most well-known of the performer/viewer-explorers I can think of. In “Pichet Klunchen and Myself” he delves fairly deeply into issues about dance, theater, the audience, the box office, funding, and the bargaining amongst all of those entities.Certainly
Pina Bausch has explored the audience’s role, she has challenged us, asked us to endure certain things she knows most people would not normally choose to watch. I know Pina Bausch hasn’t performed at the Walker but I can hope, can’t I?
And now Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People in “Everyone.” His interest seems to be more about identity — of performer and of audience member, but frankly, less about the audience member, I thought, despite the effort to bring us closer by placing us onstage with the performers. More on that later on.
The program notes talk about Gutierrez’s work being “born from basic questions about existence and the theatrical situation: Who are we and why are we here? What binds the performers and viewers in an attentive space of perception?” and more. If I stick to the fact that the work is merely “born” from these questions and not exploring them to their thorough end, I can be forgiving. The performers execute the tasks in a simple, real and present manner, unfettered by “technique” or idiom or style or editorializing. There is a sweetness to it.
When the singing happens, and especially the bad singing (this would be a part I would excel at) I was happiest. I think the words were “When you arise you must sing songs” which made me think we, the viewers in the attentive space, were going to finally engage with the Powerful People. We would stand, “arise,” and sing and maybe do the cool arm movement they were doing in the beginning. But no. We were never invited. I thought “Oh good! They’re being bad for us, so we can feel comfortable.” All for naught.
I don’t see how the many questions the work was born from could help be addressed by having us sit in bleachers onstage. It did nothing different to the viewing. It felt exactly as though I were sitting in a theater seat, the same distance and height away as I normally am. There are many other alternative seatings that could have taken place to alter how we experienced the work. Maybe the folks on the pillows up front have a different take.
Not too long after the singing they do impressive hopscotch yoga, jumping onto one foot and staying for about 30 seconds. And they kiss. Again, each other, not us.
The strongest moments for me were the text, the bad poetry (Gutierrez’s words, not mine). The last one, delivered by Michelle Boule, was funny, heartbreaking, childlike. It seemed like she was moved to tears. She was also the only performer that seemed real during the happy, silly, playful part earlier on.
Every performer was strong. Each performer has a very distinctive look, of certain generation, all wearing t-shirts and jeans and sneakers.