“Rasa-festa” by Erin B. Mee and Jessie Bear
Today, like every day, theatre is more essential than ever – we need it to prod, object, question, surprise, comfort, scare, and confront. We need it so we can practice mono-tasking. We need it so we can create communitas. We need it as an exercise in creativity for everyone who partakes.
Not just any theatre will do, of course. When theatre is set on a stage, in a living room, with a couch, and is about white people dealing with death or family secrets, and was written by a dead white guy, I say to it: “Very well, then, but you’re going to have to prove yourself to me; you know that, right?” And sometimes it does. And that’s always a pleasant surprise.
But I like theatre that’s dirty, gritty, thoughtful and surprising, set anywhere but a theatre.
I like theatre that doesn’t ejaculate. We have enough of that in the world. I don’t love linear theatre that builds to a single climax followed by a cigarette. I like non-linear theatre with multiple orgasms.
I like shows that last for 30 days like Ramlila, or 41 nights like kutiyattam, or at least six hours like Ivo's Roman Tragedies. I like it when I don't have access to everything, when I am participating in something larger than myself, when I am not consuming a product.
I like rasic theatre that invites me to taste the essence of a situation, to partake, linger, and relish rather than remain distant, objective, and judgmental.
I like open-ended works where I have to make the meaning instead of being told what to think. I like pieces where I have new experiences and meet new people and think new thoughts and...
I like theatre that trusts me. I like theatre that trusts my bravery, and trusts my capacity to be uncomfortable, and understand, or not understand.
I like to be hugged. I like uncomfortable eye contact. I like theatre that makes my hands clammy, my palms sweat, and my teeth chatter.
I like theatre that feeds me, but that asks before doing so because, you know, sometimes people have food allergies.
I like theatre that smells, and tastes, and has textures I can touch. I like the stroke of velvet, the smoke of a cigarette, the scratch of burlap, the smell of garlic. And coffee. And bourbon. I like a dance of chocolate choreographed by your tongue against your palatte. I like theatre where you have to serve vodka to the characters. On a tray. I like desserts served in a Japanese tea ceremony that are edible embodiments of haiku.
I like a still life that talks: I like a conversation between a bottle and a vase. What would they say to each other? I like an exchange between and apple and a peach.
I like theatre that asks you to lie sideways on the floor to write a poem. I like theatre where you dance on the table. I like theatre that rethinks the role of the spectator. But I don't want to squawk like a chicken.
I like theatre that takes me to new neighborhoods. I like theatre that takes me to new planets. I like theatre that takes place underground, on the street, in a pool, at dinner, on a ferry, in a subway, in a cemetery, in a deserted house. I like to dip my feet in the water of the play. I like theatre you can walk through, under, over, beside. I like theatre that approaches you, and theatre that beckons. I like theatre that sits quietly and waits for you to find it.
I like to walk through the story like I do at Piazza Armerina where the story is on the floor in mosaics and you have to walk around it to "read" the story. Or a series of stained glass windows in the cathedral in Monreale where stories are told on the walls, and you have to move from vignette to vignette. I like to drive through the play like The Ride.
I would have liked to station myself in a spot in York to watch a series of medieval mystery plays unfold over the course of a day or two.
I like theatre as ritual.
I like hearing several languages on stage. I don't know anyone who speaks only one language.
I like mudras and sign language -- I like apprehending language through my eye rather than my ear.
I like 4:33, Water Music, Cut Piece, Couple In A Cage, Fires in the Mirror, the Hasty Pudding theatricals, SITI's Rite. I like rolling the dice. I like being implicated.
I like theatre that is influenced by painting and sculpture rather than by the novel.
I like theatre made by blind people, people in wheelchairs, people with Down's syndrome, people with polio, people with diabetes. I like anything that challenges mainstream definitions of “normality.” Who is normal anymore?
I like theatre that includes all kinds of bodies: all shapes, heights, sizes, smells, colors, ages; bodies that sing, bodies that dance, bodies that celebrate the beauty of chance encounters. I like theatre that includes penguins and rats.
I like theatre that isn’t afraid to admit that it’s scared. I like theatre that’s gentle, warm, and welcoming one moment, and cold, unforgiving and frightening the next.
I like theatre that flirts with me, bats its eyes.