Minnesota Fringe Festival: Story Ate My Life

SHOW TITLE: Story Ate My Life
PRODUCER: kara margaret
HAILING FROM: Minnesota
SHOW DESCRIPTION: A choreographic product of personal research and storytelling, an ensemble of movers and musicians re-enter memory in moments of intimate contact, polished unison and raw physicality partnered with live music.

I believe, strongly, in using Fringe time to get adventurous. I’d left this slot open, and plunged into the theatre with no knowledge of what it contained. This…turned out to be a very odd show for me to do that.

It started out with two women on a see-saw. Then they carried it offstage. Then they thrust their heads into a tub of water for a while. Then they stripped. Then a song was happening. Then I gave up on trying to extract a narrative from this.

I certainly don’t require conventional narrative from dance, but in its place I need something else to arrest my attention: compelling images, impressive athleticism. I saw themes, surely: there seems to be an obsession with youth and juvenilia, and their assorted rituals. The performers are young and attractive and not without skill: I admire their training and athleticism. I wish they had been more interested in helping me follow their ideas.

(The fact that I’m making that criticism, as a writer often criticized for inaccessibility, is not lost on me: but I’m unconvinced that there are layers here beyond the surface, that this would reward repeat viewing.)

Perhaps unwisely, I perused the audience reviews while writing this, while struggling to articulate my thoughts; and I found the arguments of its defenders to be wholly bewildering. I’m too young to have witnessed a “happening” in its prime, but I’ve been reviewing theatre for long enough to know that every show I see that’s compared to one is one that I find somewhat repulsive — which suggests that this kind of thing has an audience that I’ll simply never be a part of.

As for the implication that this is simply too “avant-garde” for the rest of us — look, this ain’t my first rodeo. I’ve seen a lot of work like this before and I’ll see a lot more again. I don’t deny for a second that this was sincerely compelling stuff while it was being workshopped. But while there’s no denying the fact that it’s insanely well-polished, it’s also unfinished. I don’t mind work that’s complex, that invites an audience to struggle with it to achieve some deeper and more gratifying result; but I do mind work that seems to pride itself on being opaque.

Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!

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