They’ve said the big earthquake is on its way, and now they say the flood is coming as well. What if they were to happen on the same day? Would they cancel each other out? Would the rains lubricate the restless tectonic plates as the resounding vibrations of the earth’s crust stun the approaching storm clouds? Or will it just be one catastrophic clusterfuck? Two days ago I drove by a billboard reminding me that Judgement day is May 21, 2011—and if that’s true, by the same scripture, the end of the world will come five months after, on October 21, three days after my 30th birthday.
And yet, 2011 has turned out pretty well so far! A.C.T.’s Clybourne Park is a huge success! (But I’ve already written about that.) Our students and faculty just spent 3 weeks producing 13 mind-blowing projects they were ridiculously passionate about! (But I’ve already written about that—twice, and the third post should drop on the A.C.T. blog this week). But I haven’t gotten around to writing about Mark Jackson’s Companion Piece, which I saw on opening night at Z Space. Nor will I write about it in any depth. Why? Because this was literally the first show I’ve seen that I can unreservedly define as performance art, and I don’t know that I have the vocabulary to talk about it. It affected me somewhere on the longitude between theater and dance. Which is great! I loved it! I just don’t know how to talk about it. I’m more comfortable talkingabout Z Space’s space, Project Artaud—a converted warehouse at 450 Florida Street in SF—which is a mad awesome space that everyone needs to visit and/or produce work in. And, really, you should visit it for this show. You know what, go read Chad Jones’s thoughts on it. He says a lot of smart stuff.
Another amazing space is the Ashby Stage in Berkeley, the home of Shotgun Players. One regret for January is that I didn’t get it together to write about Shotgun’s Of the Earth while it was still playing. It was spectacular. Of the Earth is Part II of Jon Tracy’s Salt Plays. Part I, In the Wound, is his adaptation of The Iliad; Part II, The Odyssey. It helped to have seen Part I. It also helped to have a working knowledge of Homer’s works and the traditional roles of the Greek gods. During
intermission, the woman sitting next to me asked if I had any idea what was going on, and I gave her a five-minute summation of the two epics. After the play she thanked me: Act II was much clearer, but she had enjoyed Act I just as much. That’s because Tracy’s adaptation does a lot of work. It’s not a simple retelling; it uses both myths to examine our own politics and our own relationship with our gods. What I found most striking—other than the staging itself—was the idea that the gods themselves might be dissatisfied with the world as they found it and the world as they create it. “We can be better than this,” they mourned, “if the system would just let us be better than this.”
I like any play that leaves me feeling sorry for a god.
All this is to say, despite the ominous warnings from scientists and scripture alike, theater in the Bay Area is leaving me feeling optimistic about this year.