Last weekend I went to three different live theater performances as part of the SF Fringe Festival. This is a festival of local independent theatre performances. Several low-cost plays happen daily as a part of this festival. It’s an opportunity to see a varied array of plays. Each of the performances that I saw was very different from the others and I wanted to take a few days to let the experience of them sink in before I wrote about them.
Performance One: Dance
The first play was a dance performance called Cafe Lorraine. I rarely go to dance performances and always seem to forget in between them how much I actually do enjoy going to them. I find the combination of movement, song and poetry to be very powerful. This performance had a few different themes going on with a major theme of the dependence that we fall into (good and bad) when we are in relationships. One easy-to-explain visual display of this was through the use of collars and leashes to signify the push and pull of dependence in a relationship. (The one holding the leash may seem in control but cannot always go where they want without dropping the leash.)
The performance introduced the subject of shadows and that was something that I wanted to ponder more. I didn’t think that the play itself really conveyed what was intended by this theme although it was visually interesting. I felt like something was lacking. Over the days, though, I’ve thought about this shadow idea. Several things occurred to me relating shadows to this thought of dependence on others:
- The people we are in close relationships with often bring out our shadow selves, the darker parts of ourselves that we do not normally need to confront.
- One person is usually the stronger or needier presence in the relationship at any given time. The other person becomes a shadow of that person.
- In relationships where we begin to get too dependent on another person, we may become only a shadow of our own selves.
As I said, the performance wasn’t totally clear on what it intended for the shadows so I don’t know if any of these ideas of mine were meant to be inspired but it’s something that I found interesting and appealing and that stuck with me after the play was over.
Performance Two: Subliminal Messaging
The next performance that I went to was a one-man show about the power of subliminal messages and the way that we can read body language to gain information about what others are thinking. I have to confess that I was disappointed with this particular performance. I found something off putting about the performer. And I had expected to be given more insight into how he actually performed the reading of body language whereas instead I felt like he was showing us some “magic tricks” and not really giving us the secrets behind them.
That said, it did provoke some thoughts about body language and how we can use it to influence others. I do think that people pick up on the subtle cues that we send out (such as defensive posturing – crossing of arms, etc.) and I think that it’s possible to use that information to send out the message that we want to send instead. This isn’t an area of studied a lot about but it’s something that I’m curious to learn more about. Anyone know of any good reading material on this topic?
Performance Three: Solo Performance Theater
Finally, the third play that I saw was a one-woman solo performance about the feeling of being invisible. This performance intrigued me because it managed to keep me mildly entertained and yet didn’t really do a anything thought-provoking for me in terms of its content. That fact interested me because usually live theatre does manage to suck me in. And it wasn’t that I didn’t like the performer because I did find her engaging, cute and funny. So how could I find the actress appealing but the play rather boring?
Ultimately, I decided that this to me was very similar to a sitcom or to a show that I’ve seen too many times before on television. Although there were things I could relate to and agree with in the plot of the play, I didn’t find anything new or challenging within the content. Essentially, the play was about the idea that if you don’t have a major tragedy to build your life around then you end up feeling invisible in the world and not really knowing what your place is. I think that we all struggle with finding our place in the world and the feeling of being too normal or too average is as valid as any other struggle with that. However, I didn’t feel like the play went to the next level of posing a theory or something thought provoking around that idea.
What would that theory be? I’m not quite sure. Perhaps something about how the feeling of invisibility affects your ability to move forward in the world – something about the idea that being too average prevents you from achieving anything because of the fact that average is inherently mediocre. Or perhaps something about how to overcome the fear of mediocrity. I’m not quite sure. And I think that the actress was reaching for something along the lines but just didn’t quite get there.
So that was my experience at Fringe Fest so far this year. The different plays provoked different thoughts. I was left hanging a little bit because of each of them but maybe that’s a good thing. It spurs me on to think more and explore the topics of them more on my own after the entertainment is over. Perhaps that’s really what good theatre is all about.
What was the last play that you saw? What did it make you think about?