Kegan Marling and his collaborators explore how to make a piece at a bar that looks at community (or lack thereof) among generations of gay men
We were three shy men (twinks?) in the midst of a ridiculously packed bar, which was already filled with artifacts of butch-realness and only amplified by the hundred-plus bears that crawled about. The back patio barely had room to maneuver. Men lined up for beers or hotdogs, or circled up in gossip groups. The bar sold dollar Rolling Rock while the folks from AIDS Life Cycle raffled off tickets and hustled jello shots. Choosing a Sunday beer bust for our first rehearsal might not have been the wisest choice.
Yesterday was exhausting as we went off on our own to talk with folks in the bar. Upon arriving, we huddled together in the corner arming ourselves with questions to ask and reasons for needing the information. For two hours, we wandered the bar trying to talk with as many guys as possible – which turned out to be 8 total. Not nearly as many as I had hoped, yet it still felt like more than I expected after having spent the first 20 minutes sitting quietly at the bar trying to figure out how to overcome my desire to wallow in my isolation. I worry that we all feel overwhelmed by being on our own in this culture. Multiple times it came up that the interviews were easier when we paired up, and I found myself constantly craving the need to be with the other two. At some point, I think we all conceded that hanging out together was an absolute necessity for our sanity.
We don’t exactly fit in. We were probably the three skinniest men in the bar (though I noted that both bar-backs were our build, and in the past the go-go dancers have been our build as well). It’s hard for me to not feel a bit childlike or effeminate when surrounded by hundreds of burly, hairy, casually dressed, drunk men. Demonstrations of masculinity and power abound – slacks didn’t seem to be acceptable wear – the place was packed with growling wolves on t-shirts, leather anything, thick gold rings and nose piercings, wrestling singlets, stark black tattoos – ink that contrasted heavily with the occasional softness of a hand on the lower back or caressing the neck of a neighbor.
And it’s hard to deny that every guy I spoke with yesterday was actively flirting with me. Lots of smiles and laughter. The occasional hand on the thigh or shoulder after a funny joke was made, a slightly wet kiss on the cheek when parting ways, plenty of sexually charged compliments and invitations, and for the first time in my life a stranger offered to buy me a drink. Three times. The nickname bear bait never felt quite so apt.
I wanted to be very polite with everyone. I didn’t want anyone to think they weren’t attractive, so perhaps I subtly flirted back. A way of saying – hey, I’m not one of those jerks who comes into your sacred space and makes fun of everyone… I’m one of you. I too have been hurt by not feeling like I fit in. So maybe I was encouraging it in others – and I’m sure it’s partly responsible for the drink offers. But then someone took it past my comfort point and I froze, uncertain how to respond and what was the appropriate way to say no. I was way out of my element, without anyone there to help me out, and it was only when the Giants scored a run and he was momentarily distracted that I was able to slip away unnoticed. What struck me most about him was that he kept saying he didn’t get along with people here or identify with this crowd at all, he just came for the baseball game. There was such disgust in his voice for the men in the bar… how did this fit into the sense of community that I thought existed at Lone Star?
Here are some things I didn’t originally want to be part of the work, but which I now feel might weasel their way into it: the fear of effeminacy and the street cred of masculinity; outsider anxiety and appropriation of a culture; and the subtle pressure to drink and flirt in a bar.
Artist-Investigator Arielle Brown is working with mothers who’ve lost children to violence, proposing to perform the mothers’ testimony at or near the site of the murder. What does it mean to a community to tell the stories of their losses right where they happened? She set out this weekend to begin to find out….
Read more at Love Balm for My Spirit Child.
Artist-Investigator Michelle Wilson invites you to become a shareholder in her Carbon Corpus project:
Carbon Corpus, is an examination of environmental issues and alternative economies. This project aims to not only examine how to make less of a carbon footprint, but also to scrutinize and critique the difficulties of achieving this goal in modern society, particularly in regards to food choices. I will begin this project by selling the animal-based carbon credits to my own body to “shareholders.” In exchange for their purchase, I will eat a vegan diet for the period of time they purchase.
A “share,” defined by this project, will be a week’s worth of time, during which I will eat a vegan diet. For this Initial Public Offering, a share costs $50.
All shareholders will receive a stock certificate, printed on handmade paper. During the course of the project, I may also invite some investors to participate in interviews to discuss their reaction to becoming shareholders, and what sort of permissions they feel such a purchase grants them. These interviews will be video recorded.
The project will culminate with a vegan meal for shareholders later this summer. There will be no additional charge for the dinner.
Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in becoming a shareholder, or if you have any questions regarding this project – firstname.lastname@example.org. And I invite everyone to follow the project on the blog – carboncorpus.blogspot.com.
Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Chief Executive Officer
Full Balcony is a crowd sourced video performance based on Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Cast from online submissions of professional and non-professional actors worldwide, Full Balcony will feature hundreds of Romeos and Juliets remixed into a single video installation exhibited online and at “the Bruns” – home to California Shakespeare Theater this summer.
Here’s how you can participate!
Using a webcam or the built in camera on a laptop, film yourself playing the role of Romeo, Juliet, or both simultaneously. Send us a copy of that performance, and be part of a unique crowd-sourced production broadcast to thousands of people worldwide.
Submissions will be accepted thru June 7th, 2013.
Full details and how to participate at www.fullbalcony.org
It’s refreshing to enter into a project with so much unknown and so little anxiety.
What is known:
- The piece is called “Cheers!”
- It will take place at the Lone Star Saloon, a queer bar in the SoMa that generally caters to bears and bear admirers. As one of the oldest bear bars in SF, Lone Star has a long history in the community which makes it very compelling for this project.
- I want to know more about two generations of gay men (separated by the AIDS epidemic) and their relationship to bar culture.
- We have two phases for the project – research in May and development of structures and material in September. There will be 6 performances in October. We will be rehearsing in the bar during business hours. Awesome!
- For this investigation, I’ve recruited two wickedly creative and wonderfully brave artists – Mica Sigourney and Stanley Frank. We enter this project with no firm ideas for what the piece will be and no structures I’m determined to explore. We will discover this in the process, either because the process demands it of us, or because we finally got to a point where these things are needed and the process was not delivering.
There are five statements I’ve been sitting with at the moment that I’m sure will inform my investigation (a shout out to Tere O’Connor who prompted some of these thoughts):
1) Being messy and disobedient are opportunities, not problems.
2) Be attentive to our impulses, though not necessarily driven by them.
3) Spend less time thinking about what might be the right answer, and more time practicing variations and seeing what emerges. Try different approaches, and let the comparisons shape the work.
4) Be mindful of product, but let the process be the driver.
5) We’re not trying to be amazing, but it’s fine if that happens.
The Artist-Investigator project seeks to support artists from a variety of disciplines—theater, dance, performance and visual art, multidisciplinary artists, and those exploring social practice—who are curious about what the performances of the future may look like.
The ten selected projects present a wide range of topics explored in various mediums, from a QR-code based, choose-your-own adventure play, to multiple responses to the ongoing problem of violence in Bay Area cities, to a crowd-sourced video of hundreds of people performing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Each Artist-Investigator will receive a $3,000 stipend, plus $1,000 for project expenses.
This site will feature an in-depth look at each project over the next few months and more information about how to connect with the different projects as they evolve.
You can read the RFP here.
The ten selected Artist-Investigator experiments are:
Black is collaborating with students from Marshall Elementary School in San Francisco to develop a dance-based, site-specific performance exploring the students’ relationships to the school’s physical and cultural environment.
Arielle Julia Brown
The Love Balm Project will curate a series of site-specific performances—based on the play Love Balm for My SpiritChild—throughout Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose featuring testimonies from Bay Area mothers who have lost children to systemic violence.
Chiang will create a short (30-minute) interactive “play” engaging individual audience members in a choose-your-adventure structure via mobile technology and QR code.
Debby Kajiyama and José Navarrete
The Anastasio Project is a mobile, multidisciplinary street performance work using the stories of Rodney King and Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas as inspiration to investigate race relations with East Oakland youth.
Kreiter is launching a site-specific performance project in partnership with Quesada Gardens Initiative, College Track, and 10 young women ages 14–18. The project responds to the transformation of one street in the Bayview District of San Francisco, where neighbors have radically remade their block from a junkie paradise to an inspired greenway that encompasses several community gardens. She will be assisted by dance artist Jennifer Chien. As part of the project, the public can attend aerial dance performances by youth on July 13 at 12 and 2pm in Quesada Gardens.
Sky Burial is a publicly installed, community-processional project composed of 131 hand-crafted, mixed-media wings exhibited throughout Oakland at each homicide site, commemorating individual murder victims of 2012. The wings will be on display at La Peña Cultural Center in April and May 2013 before they are installed throughout the city in June. There will be an opening reception for the exhibit at La Peña on April 20 from 5-7pm.
With a whiskey-ginger in hand, choreographer Marling inhabits two local queer pubs to listen to stories of bartenders and regulars about gay role models and growing up during the AIDS epidemic—all the while mining for performance structures relevant to how each community absorbs art.
Full Balcony is a crowd-sourced video performance of the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
In Carbon Corpus, artist Wilson sells the animal-based carbon credits of her body in order to scrutinize and critique environmental issues, food systems, and alternate economies.
Corner Collisions will be sounds, songs, and scenes collected from and performed on nine street corners in the San Francisco Bay Area.
UPDATE: We were astounded to receive 140 proposals in response to our call—there are clearly a lot of artists thinking along these lines! Earlier this month our panel met to narrow down the pool to 30 finalists, discovering some interesting clusters of applications like projects based around food, projects that bring performance into people’s homes, and even multiple projects that connect the worlds of opera and comics.
Stay tuned for the February announcement of the final ten Artist-Investigators.
The Artist-Investigator Project offers funding to ten artists to conduct experiments in creating new kinds of performances.
Our communities are changing, the ways we engage with culture are changing, and our art-making is changing too. We want to learn from artists how you envision the performances of the future.
You’ll lay out your experiment in our short application form. We’ll ask you to choose either a HOW or a WHERE focus. ”HOW” Experiments should explore a particular method of making work. “WHERE” Experiments should explore a particular place (real or virtual) where you’d like your work to take place. There must be a performative component to either the process or product of your experiment and your experiment should clearly articulate who (audience, community) will be part of making/experiencing the work and how that work will take place.
Artists of all disciplines are encouraged to apply. Our full RFP and short application form can be downloaded here: Artist-Investigator RFP. The application deadline is December 3rd, 2012.
Questions? Email Triangle Lab Director Rebecca Novick at rnovick (at) theintersection.org.
This fall, the Triangle Lab has been hosting a series of gatherings to bring together artists who want to create new work in new models and who work with communities as part of their process.
We are interested in building a community of artists who want to learn from each other, share resources, and new ways of working and help us in the big project of getting more people to participate in theater-making in more different ways.
If you’re a Bay Area artist who wants to be invited to these gatherings, please email rnovick (@) calshakes.org.
In August, we hosted Michael Rohd of Sojourn Theater who shared his experience with civic engagement and some of his evolving thinking about how theater artists can engage with community. Laura Brueckner at Theatre Bay Area wrote about that visit and the Triangle Lab in general here.
Next, Teresa Eyring, the executive director of Theatre Communications Group, paid us a visit and we took the opportunity to introduce her to our growing group of artists.
Teresa Eyring visits the Triangle Lab
On her travels across the country, Teresa shared, she’s been hearing more and more of a hunger from theater artists to change how participation works, and to experiment with new forms of theater-making. TCG will be launching a new program focused on methods for audience engagement this year (Audience Revolution) and she was eager to hear what we were working on in the Bay Area.
We met Anna Schneiderman from Ragged Wing Ensemble who told us a bit about their upcoming show “Within the Wheel” which will include an interactive online component as well as public performances in Live Oak Park in Berkeley.
Rebecca Schultz from Outlook Theater Project talked about their new project to explore the stories of LGBT refugees.
Kim Epifano talks about Trolley Dances
Kim Epifano described Trolley Dances, now in its ninth year. These performances use a Muni line to take audiences to different corners of a neighborhood, where a variety of different performers build site-specific work in surprising places. This year audiences start at Intersection’s site at Fifth and Mission and take the T-line to Bayview. Trolley Dances are free to the public and coming up this weekend.
Mark Rucker shared some updates about ACT’s new black box space The Costume Shop where they have funding to offer no-cost rehearsal and performance space to small companies.
Alan Quismorio from Bindlestiff
Alan Quismorio from Bindlestiff Studio talked about their excitement about connecting with more arts organizations in the SOMA/Tenderloin.