And there's that. May 17, 2013
And, there's that.
The opening scene, a captivating field of wheat. And if I tried to describe more I would surely fail; you would have to see it to believe it. To fully communicate my feelings, reactions, and overall experience of Saint Genet's Paradisiacal Rites would require you and I have an actual conversation, an in-depth, lengthy talk that would probably last all day. In an effort to convey even portions of my experience I have to concentrate on my personal experiences rather than the details of the show itself; those details can only exist and be shared if you were there or if you are going to the show this weekend (grab a ticket before they sell out).
In an interview for the Seattle Channel (May, 2013) Saint Genet's director, Ryan Mitchell, shares that he will ask his performers "to be leeched, or be contained in very tight clothing, or be buried for four hours, or be shot with a BB gun. And I think that the combination of the altered state for a moment and the after effects of the change in both real and dramatic time opens a door for the sublime to take place in front of the audience. Something that is neither real or fake is happening on stage. But something that is other, that is outside and is truly poetic."
In Rites, performers drink and smoke profusely. From what I can surmise this is to get them into an altered state as they move towards, into, and past the sublime. It was startling how it reminded me of real life situations that I have unfortunately found myself in…witnessing addicts and alcoholics. It made me uncomfortable in so many ways but mostly I think it was because I was a part of it by being in the audience. Mitchell speaks about the "voyeuristic impulses and vulnerability" in his work - I can see it clearly. I felt ashamed for having been witness to it. I think putting this behavior on stage and saying that it allows for a transcending moment for the audience is bold, dangerous, and a gamble. It made me wonder how Mitchell would feel if he was in my seat rather than on stage and I wonder if he has ever taken a sober look at his work, as it played out live.
I read in The Stranger on opening day that Mitchell began drinking at daybreak after a very long sleepless night preparing at the theater, having already drank two bottles of wine and he would drink another before the performance began. The drinking continued on and on and on throughout the show. And so did the sucking of helium and near hyperventilating, the spewing of wine, water, booze into faces and bare asses, and my personal un-favorite the beating, humiliating, and slapping of one another.
The thing is, I get it. I get why. I, personally, just don't need it. I think I can experience pleasure (in the theater and in life) without having to be a part of (by choice or not) violence and abusive behavior. I can experience joy and see beauty without being assaulted.
The whole show has a very S and M feel to it. Beat me and I will learn to feel pleasure more fully. I understand pain is pleasurable to some, I understand some people have not had a real-life tragedy that can inform and transform them continuously and effect their view of art. I also understand that some people seek out the most intense, shocking, and over-the-top experiences to feel something. I understand that some people like violence, enjoy voyeurism, and see beauty where I see something ugly.
Saint Genet is known for its polarizing effect on its audience, fanatic fans and fervent haters. I am neither. I could see the art within the process and I thoroughly enjoyed a frenzy of visual happenings. The set was completely unique and impressive, I felt as if I was watching an artist paint a beyond life-size canvas painting. But most importantly to me, today I am sad, I feel a little violated, and I feel out of sorts. I create art and go to see live theater/dance/art in hopes that it will evoke a visceral and emotional response within me. Saint Genet did just that. I have realized I also want art to provoke me into a process of thought, retrospection, and self-investigation…Saint Genet did that too. But I just feel like shit. And I do not like that at all.
When Ryan Donnelly of "Interview" asked Ryan Mitchell "What aspects of Jean Genet's work do you connect to your own?"Mitchell answered, "Everything that has to do with hate, and lying, and stealing, and gambling, and getting fucked over. So there is that…"
And, so, there is that. I stood witness to that all, felt it fully, and now feel like shit.