Performance duo Findlay//Sandsmark have worked with some of the best experimental theater companies around (e.g. The Wooster Group, Radiohole). This weekend they're presenting "biograph, last year was pretty//sh*tty," in collaboration On the Boards' first writer-in-residence, poet/critic Claudia La Rocca.
With this piece, Findlay//Sandsmark & Co. explore the ways in which we try to frame our experiences. The nod to Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape (part of the performance involves an older gentleman sitting on stage and listening to a reel-to-reel tape machine, as you can kinda see in the above photo) points to nostalgia as the engine of our constant need to frame, document, and collect experiences that we might otherwise just try to, you know, experience.
In an effort, perhaps, to work against the impulses that lurch us away from the present moment, this production of biograph offers the audience a lot of agency. Guests enter the theater and then eventually make their way through to a large room where La Rocco's text is displayed. The performance on the main stage begins, and members of the audience can choose to continue to enter the main theater when they wish. (This process isn't how the piece is always done, but that's the way it's shaped up given the theater's space.)
The other day I snooped around the theater and, as I was interviewing La Rocco about her contribution to the performance, Findlay walked by in a rush to set up the show. I caught him and asked him what the show was about. "I think it's up for the audience to decide what's it about," Findlay said. I told him that was a cop-out answer, and then asked him about what it was about for him: "For me it's about memory and nostalgia, about how these ideas and technology frame events, and how those events can be completely distorted and manipulated or not. It also relates to the ephemeral nature of performance, and what one takes from a performance."
La Rocca's contribution to the performance is prose that pairs with part of the performance. The art she's responding to "brings up a lot of male bad-boy tropes, which are alive and well in contemporary theater," La Rocco said. "So I was thinking about certain themes around gender and gender politics, and certain sorts of bad-boy behavior that is both frowned upon and romanticized."
She's quick to point out that the connections between her text and the video are her own, and that others may not see those connections at all. THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT. Go see this thing and tell me how you put all the pieces together, what filters you used, how much freedom you allowed yourself to have.