Friday, April 11, 2008

Jay Scheib's "Untitled Mars (this title may change)"

It behooves you to see this.
You can read on to read why I think it behooves you.

I've been interested in Jay Scheib since Amanda mentioned him to me regarding the '05 Prelude Festival. I don't remember what she said mind you, but I remember that was when I heard his name for the first time, from someone whose opinion I tend to care about.

Last night I saw "Untitled Mars (this title may change)" at PS122.
I really loved it, and here are some reasons why (I'm not too crazy about my language here, but it will have to do for now. Leave a comment and the dialogue can continue, and my prose will get better.):

1.) The worlds he creates on stage are those of thoughtful choas. Let me state for the record that I think the ultimate goal of theater is to create a dialogue between creator and created, between artist and audience, between artist and audience, etc. I think the reality of the "stories" that Scheib and his performers* are telling us is entirely subjective. It is not our collective reality, and it is not my individual subjective reality. It belongs to them. I can never understand it as they do - however it forces me to create my own meaning, my own understanding, and in this way, it becomes mine. Or a version of it becomes mine - MY version. And this is allowed to happen because of the way the work is created: with confidence, and with no attempt to hide the fact its imperfections, but rather with every attempt to embrace them and say to you, audience member, "this is not perfect. this is not real. this is a fiction. it is happening before your eyes. do you believe it? do you believe it now?"

2.) I feel that Scheib is having a conversation about the resources, and lack thereof, available to contemporary, progressive theater artists**. A friend of mine did not like the show because it was too messy. How can a show not be messy? I like a good clean mess. I like papers everywhere, but food in the garbage and dishes in the dishwasher. I like that I can find you that copy of The Invisibles even though it seems an impossible task amidst those piles of records and pens and that shirt over there and my sunglasses and the cat. Environments like this make us work, make us think, encourage constant adaptation and change. They are no necessarily comfortable, but they are, more often than not, the environments we find ourselves inhabiting. I think that "Mars" is about our human desire to behave selfishly, out of fear, in uncomfortable situations that leads to our stagnation and ultimate demise. But it is not a parable, it is actually also a story about a fictional colony on Mars. You can enjoy it totally on this surface narrative level, or you can allow it to remind you of your own subjective reality.

3.) I like the way he makes his actors do it. I like the stylized "bad" acting of Scheib's performers because I think it's an exploration of the question: what is acting in the 21st the age of information technology, where we are all always avatars, where we are all always acting....what then is acting on stage? On film? I also like the way he makes his actors "do it" on stage. It's sloppy, it's sexy, it's good on stage fucking. I like it because it turned me on; I like it because it makes the issue of gratuity irrelevant and forces you to ask - do you want this or not?

Here's a photo from a scene I particularly enjoyed:

* apropos to Scheib, and becoming more popular with a lot of the theater I enjoy, the "techies" are becoming more and more performative in their activities. I like this trend.

** I am not wild about the term "experimental theater" (all theater is an experiment, and if its not, it might not be theater, what is theater again? i'm not sure) and hesitate to use it, but sometimes I do out of laziness. Morgan likes to use "indie theater" a la indie film, which I appreciate, but haven't started using myself (yet?) for a variety of reasons.


richard.fredric said...

1. "The relationship between artists and audience, etc" ... ya mean good artists gotta do the empathy thing? I actually think what you wrote might be one of the best definitions of empathy I've ever read. I knew this is how you feel about it already, but I'm curious to wonder why you did not use the word.
Is it because our blog is so titled and we should be able to infer your intention?

I think there's something significant in your questions here,
"is it real?" The difference between art fantasy and fantastic real life is hazy. An empathetic connection can't happen in perfection. HMM.

2. "I think that "Mars" is about our human desire to behave selfishly, out of fear, in uncomfortable situations that leads to our stagnation and ultimate demise." The empathy thing happened for you, and that is what you got! ka bam and whoosh! Risa's emotions in a play!

3. I don't think you're really asking a question at the end of three.

You posted a photo!!! The pride. pretty soon you'll be making movies on iMovie and we'll move into the Vlog world. Oh the differences bettween the vlog and blog world! Like the differences between Cheerios and the store brand.

I need to talk to you and I want to hear about stuff so let's talk the more-real-than-this kind.

Anonymous said...

If you see something, you must go to see "Untitled Mars" by Jay Scheib now playing at PS122. MIT professor and playwright, Jay Scheib questions what would be to live on Mars. Indeed what would it look like?
By simulating a Martian Society, audiences witness what might be the future. Is it really worth it? Is there a better society waiting for us there?

Exploring the well known theme of Dystopia in SciFI books, Scheib really takes us away. The actors are awesome and the multi-media aesthetics beautiful...

I DO recommend it.