When I get enthusiastic, I use a lot of profanity. Can I just fucking say that I fucking love On the Boards? And that this is going to be a long-overdue blowjob column? ("Please stop saying blowjob column," the copy ladies asked politely. "How about a rim job column?" they suggested, if you can believe it, demurely. "That's gender neutral.")
There's an old On the Boards chestnut, attributed to a founding somebody, that if a show is successful, a third of the audience walks out, a third bursts into standing ovation, and a third just blinks, baffled. I'm hoping—I'm expecting—French "body artist" Christian Rizzo to polarize his audience this way. In America, Rizzo's work looks like an arch-stereotype of European performance art, but it's dance in France. ("Dance in France, dance in France—you should say 'dance in France' as many times as you can," suggested Lane Czaplinski, artistic director of On the Boards. I fucking love On the Boards.)
He begins his piece autant vouloir le bleu du ciel et m'en aller sur un âne (or: I might as well want the blue of the sky and ride away on a donkey) by doing something indeterminate in the dark. There are intermittent lights, a table, a metal box, panting and mewling into a microphone. A DJ remixes live sounds from the stage, looping and layering them into a miasma of noise. Rizzo bends slowly to pick up an animal hide, drops it, and bends slowly for it again. He rubs his face in glitter and grease, he screams into a microphone. It looks a little ridiculous and a little profound. (It's hard to tell which, since I saw autant vouloir on videotape. From Ian McKellen doing Macbeth to Kiki and Herb doing drugs, theater never, ever looks good on film.) In a recent article titled "How New York Lost Its Modern Dance Reign," the New York Times wondered when Rizzo would come to New York. He's making his American debut here. At (I fucking love) On the Boards. The theater just announced its next season, with Berlin dance freaks Dorky Park (and pop-culture "trash queen" Constanza Macras), a theater/music hybrid by New York's Cynthia Hopkins called Must Don't Whip 'Um (such a title!), and cellist Maya Beiser's recent Carnegie Hall concert with video by Axis of Evil native Shirin Neshat.
On the Boards, which I fucking love, is one of the only theaters in town that consistently provokes its audience and has cultivated one curious enough to enjoy provocation. United crowds bother me—they're dangerous, ready for a putsch, deluded or dishonest. This place is chaotic, muddy, and ambivalent; a legitimate audience should be the same way. I fucking love that Seattle has a theater that aspires to argument instead of agreement. I just fucking love On the Boards.