I spoke to the writer/performer briefly before the show. “Are you a performer?” she asked me.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m opening right after you. Are you ready for your opening?”
“Oh, absolutely not,” she laughed, and went about setting up her show.
Man, I can identify. Her anxiety was visible at the beginning, and her performance got off to a rocky start — she stumbled over her intro in a couple of places, and her opening “interpretative dance” left me a bit cold, I’m afraid — but as she got into her stories and the adrenaline hit, she visibly relaxed and grew more enthusiastic and engaged.
A couple of quick observations. First of all, I suspect that I’m not in her audience — she opened with a piece that largely revolved around the humor of her being shocked at pole-dancing lessons, and, meh. I think that this probably reveals a lot more about me than it does about her — but I’ve become truly jaded when it comes to my entertainment; so much of the appeal of first-person storytelling is, for better or worse, voyeuristic, and a lot of what appeals to me about the genre is the opportunity to hear about weird shit. This piece falls flat if you don’t have a similar reaction to pole-dancing; and I don’t, and it did.
More engaging is when she gets more personal — and it’s hard not to feel like the core of her story is a bit of a missed opportunity. She talks, briefly and tangentially, about her abusive upbringing — and stands before me preaching openness and unity. The transition from point A to point B seems like it must be a fascinating one — and although she gives it to us in broad outlines, I miss the details, the countless revelations that must have occurred along the way. I can’t escape the sense that she’s somehow tip-toeing around the real story that she has — and there’s no doubt that she has one.
So ultimately, the sense that I walk away with is that this isn’t by any means a bad show — but it is a frustrating one; I walk away wanting to hear more of her story than I got. This may be attributable to another generational disconnect — I want her to provide something that most her audience won’t miss — but then, the only experience I’m qualified to report upon is my own, so.