The Midwest

Back in NYC finally after being on the road for what seemed like a LONG time. We had what to me felt like one of our best screenings at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been doing residencies and screening stuff at the Wexner for forever (I onlined my first movie “The Rainbow Man/John 3:16” there in 1997 – tape to tape!), and I’m very fond of the place and the people who work there.  Anyway, this show really clicked – everything seemed to work – and as always with this live piece, it’s not entirely possible to say why.

The Quavers at the Wexner Center - Columbus, Ohio

The Quavers at the Wexner Center – Columbus, Ohio

You can sort of get a sense of the theater from this photo. I’ve come to feel like the dimensions and qualities of the room itself play a big part in how the show goes. This is starting to feel like a pretty optimal setup. The theater fits about 250 people, so it’s not huge, but it’s not tiny either. Somewhere in between – the kind of place you can actually talk to everyone without using  a microphone, if necessary. Also, the stage was pretty low – about three or four feet off the ground. So the effect is that it’s possible to stand up there and speak very directly to people – you can make eye contact and face contact and converse in an almost intimate way with everyone in the theater. This creates a connection that I think is important for UTOPIA.

And finally, the Wexner Center did a good of filling the place. It wasn’t sold out, but it definitely felt full, and that kind of “energy” (I hope I’m not sounding hopelessly Northern California here) — the energy of a full house – is probably more important than anything else in creating a momentum for the piece to work. If it’s full, people laugh more, they’re more engaged, and this creates a loop – almost like a feedback loop – where the audience gives me a lot of energy and I give it back, and so on.

Anyway, like I said, the show went really well. The Quavers were great. The audience was lively and engaged. And it all felt good – both during and after. I was very happy that nite to get a Facebook message from the great Bill Horrigan, who runs the Film/Video Dept there and whose smarts and taste I’ve admired for many years. He wrote a glowing note about the piece which I was thrilled about:

The effect of the piece reminded me of what someone once wrote to describe the sensation of seeing the Berliner Ensemble performing live, epitomizing Brecht’s dream of theatre: “skimming, speculative, beautiful, fun.” And to have conceived the piece as you have, precisely as NOT a conventional film but as an invitation to/insistence on having live people and music addressing live people coming together for this occasion only, is itself a vindication of the utopian impulse, to its persistence and self-justifying imperative. Lovely event; let a thousand such flowers bloom.