GATHER HERE | Part 1 of 4: Review of SHORE: Performance Oct 16, 2015
by Natasha Marin
I am greeted by a red-owl-eyed, Emily Johnson, in a parking lot underneath a clear night sky. She remembers me from the SHORE: Story event at Hugo House, even though the performance is already in progress. This is the opposite of dismissal—this is acknowledgement, a rarity. Across the street there are bodies that seem to rock and walk at the same time—syncopated back and forth, back and forth, some holding lit boxes and singing Aaaah.
The entire area is infused with what can only be described as a listening. Because I’m me, I notice that there are male bodies and female bodies and in-between bodies too. The bourbon that Sarah Wilke (OtB’s Managing Director) gifted me, is warming inside me like the hug I received from her before I was swept into action mid-cigarette. The crowd that gathered in the parking lot was moth-like in obedience to the focal flame that had our attention.
A woman in a yellow jacket crosses the street. I forget my cigarette and the hot water in my hand grows cold—bodies in front of me stitch a quilt, they are weaving in and out of the crowd and leaving a little wake behind them as they pass each other. Then all the Aaaahs grow louder. Purposeful strides make people disappear from the hillside, actors become indistinguishable from the audience for a moment.
One of the performers coughs and because I too am currently afflicted, this gesture makes everything immediately recognizable, relatable, and familiar. I ask myself about the nature of performance and the nature of truth-telling with the body. The harmonic Aaaah continues—soft and penetrating. I feel we are all being hypnotized, or blessed, or both.
Circumambulating bodies puncture the crowd. The walking bodies begin to run, you can hear the tremor of their harmonic fluctuate with their strides. Breath becomes audible. Now the bodies slow, to a brisk pace—out of the corner of my eye, I see Emily smiling.
She gathers the gatherers, incants the spirit of John Williams, and asks us, “Have you ever wondered what the most joyful moment of your life was?” She is a natural conduit of emotion. We are instructed to walk in silence. We continue to obey the focal flame. “Some of you might have noticed the few ghosts that are following us.” The procession notices someone carefully parallel parking—seeming not to want to interrupt what is obviously an important moment. A woman balances a lightbox on her head—the air suddenly smells like dryer lint.
Resurrection of Aaaah, made of three bodies along the road.
Inside the theatre, there are two then 24 bodies on stage, placed like chess pieces inside of a cloud. Some are marked with metallic squares. Red (Aretha Aoki) punctuates the dreamscape. Emily drinks water from a glass jar, barefoot.
This is a ritual.
I know because I’ve conducted rituals like this before, all around the world. I know the hard work of moving the heart and the mind from the suburbs into the city, and back again. Staccato stomping erupts like a heartbeat amidst so much breath. I love the red and the mustache—the gently swaying bodies—the sound woven around those bodies and the #eatbeauty of it all. A dancing woman in red connects herself to the bodies that stand sentinel, back-turned, along the periphery. When the ambient audio recedes, all that is left is Red’s ragged breath and innocent mumbling. She is making us swallow our giddy laughter, our sympathy. Red has become Sound Maker, her hands turn to violins on the floor.
One note—a strumming—and everyone is in a line. Emily in a white puffy jacket with yellow pants. Adjacent, a woman in a yellow jacket and orange pants begins to move (Krista Langberg).
The people onstage have not lost their “peopledom.”
NATASHA MARIN is a local writer, artist, and community organizer. By day she is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Resource Media, a non-profit PR Firm, and after work she tears holes in the space-time continuum to run an international experiment called Miko Kuro’s Midnight Tea while single-mothering two awesome kiddos. Follow her on Twitter @mikokuro.