Looking for an acceptance & emotional freedom in a "Liberal" performance in a liberal city Dec 14, 2015
by Pal Makuso
As Taylor Mac expressed himself in his interview by Diana Nollen on Hooplanow.com: while us usually presents poetry in a relatively neutral way so audiences can hear the words without the reader's bias, that's not the case with his performance. Taylor Mac said, "I'm full-on using my subjectivity and visions to interpret these poems in the way I want them to be interpreted." I am sure some audience had hugely enjoyed Mac's full-on personality/subjectivity, while I and my personal experience during the show fell into the shadowy side of the spectrum. I've come from a very different place from Mac and his community, and I failed to find a sense of an acceptance and intellectual or emotional freedom in my theater experience last week.
I am not sure when was the starting point of a show - when Taylor Mac stepped onto the stage in the mists eructed from the fog machine & the audience's cheering, Mac' charismatic curtain talk, or when the audience first read the performance program. Before the show had started, I read what Mac had said in his program that while classical music has always strived for God and its perfection, the popular music took the advantage of people's imperfection and used the imperfection to build their community. This way of differentiating classical from popular music was out front divisive. Classical music was population music from hundred(s) years ago; even though it took a different form from contemporary music, it, too, was created out of artists' passion, love & sensational experiences. To tag classical music with the label of "God" was unfair. There are classical musicians who are atheists and there are pop musicians who hold religions. To separate the two forms of music into perfection versus imperfection, restriction versus freedom, God versus non-God, right wing versus left wing was an act of stereotyping and alienating the people who were on the opposite side of the globe.
In the beginning of the show Mac invited an audience member to go on stage and had all the other audience to raise their hands, shaking their bodies and cheering for the person on the stage - for no reason. Some people obviously had their fun doing this crowd cheering; I was freaked out. Mac's request forced me out of a state where I could be private, meditative, and where my thoughts could fly. It forced me to stand up with everyone else, put on a smiley face where I have had enough out of my 10-hour work day, and to do something in conformity with the others. It took away my privilege as a theater goer to be in charge of my own personal experience, and it threw me into the setting of an activist/religious event. Don't take my wrong I am a liberal myself - I am openly bisexual, trying to stand up against various forms of inequalities and attending activist meetings & protests whenever I can. However, it was not why I attended a contemporary performance. I have come to a theater to enjoy art & the liberty of thinking and feeling - a space that would allow something personal & private to take place. In the mean time because of my reluctance to "worship" the person on the stage, it gave me a great sense of insecurity because I was not in conformity with everyone else. I was in complete isolation.
Next, Mac started to talk about how the Amazon techies owned their happiness and how they were "undeserving", while he and his more "deserving" folks suffered. This did not sound like the best starting point to talk about the financial inequality in our capitalist country. Instead of promoting socialism and possible ways that would bring people more reasonable ways of living, his talk was divisive to folks who worked in different fields. Difference made people into enemies and it was a norm in the misery of humanity; we did not need more! Were we supposed to hold hatred against people who made more money and to allow ourselves to believe that they were "undeserving"? Mac's humor just didn't work for me. Believing that the majority of the audience held the same point of view as Mac, this again put me in a state of fear, and this was how I experienced the rest of the show.
One more thing I had to say was how the burlesque dancer, Jenny, bounced away across the stage with two circling pieces on her nipples, while Mac, the male anchor, called her back over and over again, through a microphone, like how you would call out to a dog or a cat on a playing field, in a friendly yet dominant manner. Jenny took her job seriously and there wasn't much smile on her face, and she did not have a word to say on the stage. It was her boobs bouncing, and the rhythm of the two circling pieces on her nipples moving under her rigorous physical control. Jenny's presence shrunk into a sexual object, as her relation to the audience was connected only through her bouncing female body and not through her emotions, neither through her intelligence. She did not have a voice on the stage and was in a complete control by the other male. Her bouncing body was a piece of entertainment to the audience. Mac was the boss, and he did not take care of this woman artist.
I experienced a strong sense of being forced into an agreement and conformity with the "liberal community". I left the theater full of confused feelings of guilt and fear; I had experienced a theatrical isolation for almost two hours! I didn't not experience the connection.