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February 23, 2010

The Final Review Performance

[Setting: bedroom, 6am. LAUREN wakes up, excited for the final day of her month-long scripted life performance. The first thing she thinks about today is the realization that the project, this day specifically, is a success because she is putting things on the line, and whatever happens at the performance itself is secondary and largely irrelevant. She remembers the Churchill quote: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Whatever happens today, she feels successful.] LAUREN takes a photo of herself in the mirror holding a sign that says, “Beginning of the End!” and smiles a big smile.

[Setting: 4th floor computer lab, 12:30pm. LAUREN holds office hours.]

[Setting: UCLA Broad Art Center, EDA main entrance, exterior, 1:33pm. LAUREN stands outside the main entrance of the EDA. She is facing south, her gaze distant, tracing the route before her. It leads in the same direction: south across the concrete, across the corridor, beneath Bunche Hall and beyond to the last stretches of sidewalk before the street. She sets forth, maintaining an easy jog. As her route unfolds before her, she holds a steady focus upon it, attentive to the mechanics of her body, the regularity of her stride a rhythm marking her movement through the space. As she nears the street, she slows and stops.]

[Setting: Franz Hall, 2pm. LAUREN leads discussion in metacognition class.]

[Setting: shop studio space, 6:30pm. Final review performance begins. Music plays softly in background out of a pair of speakers that sit in one corner of the room. Performers begin to enter space and help themselves to food and drink. Copies of the script are on the table and on the audience chairs. The MAIN CHARACTERS sit around a large table in the center of the room. The AUDIENCE sits in chairs around them. People talk among themselves until everyone has arrived.]

MAIN CHARACTERS: Lauren, Antal, Casper, Diego, Tiffany, David, Kevin, Qiuming, Jonathan, Robert

AUDIENCE: Gail, Romie, Lauren Stand-In, Johanna

[From time to time throughout the performance, KEVIN gets up to change the music. DAVID, ANTAL, and QIUMING take turns using the video camera in the center of the table to record the action of the performance.]

TIFFANY: [once all performers have arrived and sat down] Lauren, everyone’s here.

LAUREN: Hi everyone, thanks for being here tonight. I was hoping this could be sort of a review of this project I have been doing for the past month, as well as an opportunity for you all to share a bit of my experience. The lines and directions on these papers that we created yesterday are what should minimally be performed, but any improvisation beyond them is great as well.

LAUREN: I guess I will begin by asking if there are any reactions to the work anyone wants to share?

[At any time throughout the performance, MAIN CHARACTERS and AUDIENCE members ask LAUREN questions about her project or share their opinions and thoughts about the work or the ongoing performance.]

GAIL: I like your fears. [Loud, raw laughter comes from one of the other members in the audience. This happens a number of times throughout the evening.]

ROMIE: Sorry about that. I just thought of a really funny joke I heard earlier today. Actually, it is sort of related to this project. Want to hear? [Everyone nods in synchrony. ROMIE proceeds to tell the joke.]

ROMIE: [to the joke] Everyone nodded. [ROMIE proceeds to tell the joke.]

[Throughout the evening, whenever anyone finishes their drink, CASPER offers them a small compliment.]

[At some point during the performance, each person in attendance takes a moment to really try and imagine experiencing everything from the point of view of someone else in the room. They think about what that other person might be thinking, how it might physically feel, what they might say or do...]

DIEGO: I like you.

DAVID: Wait, these reactions are scripted, so aren’t they just predetermined actions? How are we supposed to react on something if we can’t control our own words?

ROBERT: Where is the dog?

CASPER: He’s eating the script.

LAUREN: Perhaps by leaving room for interpretation… [LAUREN explains further...]

KEVIN: The owls are not what they seem – [ANTAL brusquely interrupts him from the back of the stage with a sudden shout of a folksy Dutch expression.]

[One of the AUDIENCE members asks LAUREN a question about her project, bringing everyone back to the subject at hand.]

ANTAL: [Throughout the evening, ANTAL periodically makes inappropriate jokes in Dutch that CASPER understands, and even enjoys, but cannot relate to.]

JONATHAN: Lauren, what is this, a happening? Have you heard of ANTAL or CASPER?

ANTAL: Yeah, don’t you have any original ideas?

LAUREN: As artists, what is the important thing? To do something that hasn’t been done, or to do what you feel like you must for some reason?

[Most answer honestly.]

KEVIN: Here’s my line.

[At least once, but perhaps more often, JONATHAN takes a piece of food and feeds the person next to him.]

CASPER: [Taking a long, long swig from his drink] For me, there were some problems with this work. [Explains...]

ROBERT: [Sometime during CASPER's explanation, ROBERT appears to take an invisible item from his pockets, appears to hold the invisible thing in the air with his right hand, then makes several careful attempts to lick it. Some people stop listening to CASPER to watch ROBERT. Finishing, he puts the invisible item back in his pocket and turns his attention once again to CASPER. He smiles sweetly.] I learned that from Phillip Glass.

QIUMING: Did you mean Philip Glass?

DIEGO: No, they don’t have Google in China anymore.

JONATHAN: [Asks LAUREN a hard question. They discuss.]

KEVIN: Fill glass; drink! [demonstrates with some nearby wine]

QIUMING: Well, this is what I think… [Elaborates, punctuating each of his points with gentle squeezes of various parts of his body.]

GAIL: It’s interesting to think that a random person has control over what I’m saying at this very moment. Or I guess all of us had control. Perhaps the person who scripted my line is a very talented half asian boy who likes Mustangs, but that’s just a guess.

[Sometime later...]

DAVID: I actually wanted to play you a song that reflects how I feel about your piece. Unfortunately, I don’t have my guitar…

LAUREN: Yes, sometimes I wish I just had a stand-in so I could get done everything I want to do but still be everywhere I need to be – [LAUREN STAND-IN interrupts, tapping her on the shoulder] Oh! [LAUREN STAND-IN stands in for LAUREN. LAUREN walks out of the room.]

LAUREN STAND-IN: So how did you guys feel participating in this piece over the past month? Did you at all? How do you feel about participating now? Did you want to? Why? Why not?

[CLASSMATES respond, LAUREN STAND-IN notes their comments in her notebook.]
[A bit later...]

LAUREN: [LAUREN walks back into room carrying guitar stand-in.] Hey David, I got your guitar. Maybe you could continue this performance with your song?

[LAUREN takes her seat back at the table. LAUREN STAND-IN leaves the table and returns to her seat.]

ANTAL: …so Hiromi, if you are the Lauren Stand-In, could Lauren be a Hiromi Stand-In at home when you aren’t around?

ROMIE: I’d notice…….maybe.

[Awkward silence.]

[Awkward silence is finally broken when DAVID begins to play his guitar stand-in. Though the words may seem not to relate to LAUREN's piece at all, everyone in the room immediately understands the connection, and they all begin to sing, snap, or clap along.]

[After the song is finished, the tension seems to be broken. People just enjoy their drinks for a moment, and forget they are part of a performance. People start having decentralized, informal conversations.]

ROBERT: [after DAVID plays a bit, all of a sudden! ROBERT begins yelling very loudly, causing others in the building to wonder what is wrong.]

LAUREN: [to TIFFANY] I guess you won’t ever do anything someone else is telling you to do, right?

TIFFANY: No, I don’t think so. Mattia, on the other hand, would hum one of his characteristic high-pitched melodies… [leans in closer, as if in confidence] But he had an another appointment and isn’t around!

LAUREN: But you are doing it now! See, that’s the magic behind it. We tend to do things that others tell us to do all the time. I mean, isn’t society just a collection of conventions we all carry out? Where it gets tricky is the moment that you start to feel the authority. I experienced this myself a lot lately – but the funny thing is, I’m having more problems with things DMA wants me to do than what the Script tells me to.

[TIFFANY replies, she takes her time and starts talking about the idea of male anarchy and female repression. ROBERT chimes in a bit. LAUREN acts as if she's listening, but starts to check her phone hoping for JEFF to get her out of this situation. If she feels like it, she texts him and he calls her back to chat.]

JOHANNA: Diego, I don’t know you that well, but you’re an interesting guy. Do you want to dance?

DIEGO: Well… I would say… [pauses] I would say that, Yyeeess, I LOVE dancing. [smiles]

[Kevin walks over to the speakers and music fills the room. It is difficult, hard music, but immediately gripping. JOHANNA and DIEGO start dancing. GAIL, ANTAL and DAVID and anyone else join them after a while.]

[ROBERT tells LAUREN what he thinks of tonight's event. He elaborates on interactive performance art. At some point during the conversation, LAUREN starts laughing, OR crying, OR depending on him, depending on how she's feeling at that moment. When she is ready...]

LAUREN: Thanks everyone for helping me out. Now let’s get back to creating our lives for ourselves. [LAUREN then says something, anything completely improvised, and bows. She relishes the renewed taste and depth of freedom that now exists wholly in her life again, that freedom that had always been there, but that, when unconscious, eludes us at times. In looking at that freedom directly, being aware of it, she is able to see that faded line between true restriction and self-imposed restraint. In a small way, she notices how bonds can aided liberation. And yet, she perceives that this is only the beginning.]

[Everyone else stands and bows. The performance is finished.]


That evening, before going to bed, LAUREN thinks about how the script said she was to take a photo of herself in the mirror holding a sign that says, “I am free.” and smile a big smile. However, her performance ended with the conclusion of the final review show at school and she is no longer bound by her project. Extremely grateful for everyone that helped her during this project, she decides to do the action anyway and pulls out her camera…