On the last Monday of every month, in the narrow, reddish, antique-looking theater of the Rendezvous, a performance happens that you aren't supposed to watch. On those Mondays, host Korby Sears, wearing a navy blue suit with a shimmery white scarf, invites that month's performer into an enormous box on the small stage, leaves the theater, and hopes nobody shows up.
Strikethrough reverse-advertises itself each month with posters and print ads listing the date and location, who will perform, and a notice in bold: "NO ONE ADMITTED. No public. No press. No family. No friends."
But last Monday at the Rendezvous, I followed Sears up a ladder to the light booth and asked if my friend and I could go inside the theater. "Um," he paused. "Yes." ("Nobody had asked to go in before," Sears said the next day, sounding exasperated that somebody had pierced the veil. "When you asked, I gave you the wrong answer.")
My friend and I were the only people there. The theater was dark, with one red light shining directly above the enormous box. Three electronic tones—one short like a piano note, the other two droning, like sitars—played over and over and over again. Inside the box, allegedly, was dk pan, a performance artist affiliated with Degenerate Art Ensemble, Infernal Noise Brigade, and the Motel Project, doing... something. Strikethrough demands secrecy: Performers are not allowed to talk about their performances, not even with Sears. (A week before his Strikethrough debut, pan confessed he felt nervous about performing for an audience of none, more nervous than he'd felt in a long time. "I don't have to impress an audience," he said. "I have to impress myself.")
And that was it, for an hour and a half—the box, the red light, the electronic tones. "It's Schrödinger's Cat: the Musical," my friend whispered. Four more people arrived about halfway through, then left, then returned with fresh drinks. Inside the box, dk (or whomever) jumped (it sounded like jumping) for a few seconds. Then more nothing.
Life's too short for this kind of nonsense, I thought and then stayed for the whole thing. Watching the box, with the electronic tones playing, in a dark theater, was oddly relaxing. "It's sad," someone whispered, "but this is better than most theater I've seen lately." There's something admirably—and grotesquely—decadent about a performance that doesn't want your attention, love, or money. (Sears pays $75 to rent the theater; the artists don't get paid.) People won't clamor (or pay) to watch Strikethrough, but people would clamor (or pay) to do it. Sears may have invented a new kind of therapy.
"This whole series is about the artists, not the audience," Sears said the next day. "It's for their own goddamned selves." He insists there's no irony to Strikethrough, no punch line. "It's hard to talk about it without sounding cryptic, like I'm trying to play you. But I'm not. Really, I should just keep quiet."