I have had this nagging suspicion for a while now. It seems to me that the ACT Theatre (originally the Fraternal Order of the Eagles' Aerie #1) was designed not by a human architect who attended human architecture school, but by an antlike alien queen who attended the Needlessly Intricate and Creepy Martian Insect Hive Academy. Every time I go there it's like, "Okay, to get to the theater just walk 20 paces down this hallway, take a left, go down the stairs, turn right into the elevator, go up three floors, across the hall to the other elevator, down two floors, and make a right. At the end of the hall, you'll come to a ladder extending down into a dark pit. You're going to want to climb down the ladder, and eventually you'll see one of those wheeled carts on a track—you know, that coal miners use? What are those called? Anyway, I'm going to need you to hop in there, and head down the track in a westerly direction. You'll pass some flames and experience some trials—you may find yourself submerged in a bloodlike but not unpleasant-smelling liquid at some point—but just sit tight, the ore car will tip you unceremoniously into the Ivar Haglund Memorial Lobby. Pay the magician four copper coins, roll down the Welcome Ramp, and sit anywhere you like. Enjoy the show, you guys, okaaaaaay?"
Holy antlike alien queen, y'all, that was a long paragraph. It felt for a minute there like that paragraph would never, ever end. And speaking of things that need editors, I've been to a lot of short-film programs lately! (Do you see what I did there!?) Nothing feels quite so interminably long as a series of shorts. I guess it's partly because watching 10 or 20 small stories takes more energy than one feature-length narrative: You have to reinvest and reorient yourself every few minutes. But beyond that, every short-film program I've ever attended has had curatorial problems. Edit that shit down, people! Too long! Toooo loooong!!
I attended Rawstock at ACT Theatre last weekend (see, full circle!) and, true to form, it was too long. Fortunately, there were only a few excruciating grinders (The Toaster That Toasted the Golden Toast, barf; Engagement, doublefuckbarf). And the standouts made the whole thing worth it. Welcome to My Study might have been my favorite—a quick piece of bizarre fluff from comedian Mitch Magee: "I'm lonely and I collect things... What else is in my study drawers?" (Answer: snails!) David Lowery's A Catalog of Anticipations is a macabre little marzipan fairy tale about childhood and dead things. And The Rambler, the latest from local filmmaker Calvin Reeder, offers this bit of dialogue: "It records dreams to VHS." "Does it work?" "It has before." Also, vomit porn! (The good kind.)
So kudos, Rawstock. I hope to see less of you next time, and love you even more.