Thanks to a sabbatical from my teaching position at Colby College, I am smack in the middle of a two and a half month stretch of research travel. Which is one way of explaining my blogger silence since late December (another is that I’m having too much fun to stop and write). I hope to fill in the gaps here and there as I continue my investigation into the audience experience while traveling across the United States.
In January New York City becomes an active arts laboratory, hosting five festivals (Under the Radar; Focus; COIL; PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now; American Realness) dedicated to testing new work in front of adventurous audience members. I’m happy to report that I was among the audience guinea pigs: over the course of three+ weeks I saw seventeen performances (plays, dance works, devised multi-media performance works, installation art performance works, chamber operas, monologues, and a few truly indefinables) in ten different venues. The hyphotheses being tested ranged from questioning what defines genre, to querying the role of digital technology in shaping the quality (indeed the very definition) of liveness, to messing around with the storytelling process/voice/action/intent/goal, to questioning the ontological status of categories such as “performer” and “audience member.”
As in any laboratory environment, these experiments will be been mined for evidence. A lot of what I saw will be discarded, or forgotten. Some will get re-imagined and re-worked. Probably most of it won’t continue in its present form. But the findings from the New-York-in-January laboratory will continue to contribute to the knowledge of the field.
Science can’t advance without spending money, time and human will in the lab.
It’s the same for the arts.