by carl wilson

T-Dot Thrillz: Not Remotely Lazy Sunday
(With Bonus Hidden Theatre Review)

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Top row, Josh Reichmann (Jewish Legend), Kids on TV; middle row, Ame Henderson, Eve Egoyan; bottom row, Diplomatic Immunities, Eric Chenaux.

Don't linger over brunch today! Don't plan dinner with your mom! There's just too much happening in Toronto. First, at 1:30 pm (sharp!), the latest instalment of the "Month of Sundays" series at the InterGalactic Arts Co-op in the Darling Building (96 Spadina, # 802) features performances by non-idiomatic choreographer Ame Henderson and non-idiomatic improvisors The Draperies (Eric Chenaux, Ryan Driver and Doug Tielli). Studio series like this one are a lovely opportunity to watch artists doing R&D;, exploring ideas in beta stages and testing their boundaries. (It's pay what you can, with a suggested price of $7.)

If you'd prefer to test a few boundaries of your own, at 2:30 pm is the first pay-what-you-can matinee of Mammalian Diving Reflex's Diplomatic Immunities: The End, which runs till next Sunday at Buddies in Bad Times. The latest in Darren O'Donnell's series of "social acupuncture" participatory-art projects is a documentary/live-reality-TV/talk show/performance that blurs the lines between staged entertainment and social encounter in engaging and curious ways. You can read several reviews online (as well as, in an amusingly pre-emptive bit of ju-jitsu, Now critic John Harkness's reflection on being interviewed by the cast as part of the research for the show), although due to the audience-participation and semi-improvisational nature of it, every performance will be somewhat different. I went on opening night (Valentine's Day) and had some of the same interestingly mixed feelings that I've had since the company started workshopping the format last year. (For those who've seen it, I'll detail those feelings on the jump, here, after this post.) And sometime this week we'll revisit D.I.'s excellent question: "What song do you want to be listening to at the end of the world?"

Elsewhere this afternoon, as every Sunday, the Now Lounge AIM Toronto improv series continues. I'm especially intrigued by Rob Clutton on bass in a duo with Tena Palmer on voice, but there's plenty of other treats on the bill. That's from 4 to 7 pm, and it's $6. Meanwhile, at 6 pm, the ALL CAPS all-ages series, in its own appropriately youthfully enthusiastic words, "is going to blow the roof off of [the WhipperSnapper gallery] with three amazing high energy local bands: electro rave punk troupe Kids on TV, dance punk quintet Femme Generation and electro king Woodhands." What could I possibly add to that? Only, "Woooo!"

But I won't be there to woop in person, because at 7 pm there's more alternative-talk-show madness in the Pick 7 performance/conversation series, this time (with a bit of a post-Valentine's spirit) pairing two prominent artist couples - John Oswald and Holly Small, and Eve Egoyan and David Rokeby. No hint as to what the foursome is going to do (every Pick 7 show is different, the format reinvented by the participating artists), but given the amount of creative brainpower in that group, it's bound to be compelling. That's at the Hub 14 studio at 14 Markham St., and it's $7. I'm really looking forward to this one.

And later at the Tranzac, if you hadn't gotten enough of Eric Chenaux with the Draperies earlier, you're in luck, because Eric is giving a solo performance in the Tranzac Main Hall at 10:30 pm, pwyc. I have belted out Eric's praises at the top of my lungs frequently enough that I assume you don't need a reprise, but here's the way that tune goes, just in case. Because there can never in fact be enough Eric Chenaux. (Later: Actually, turns out that Eric's fellow Draperies/Reveries/etceteries Doug Tielli and Ryan Driver are also playing solo sets at this show, which will be dandy too.)

And finally, if it's Sunday, this must be Wavelength. Its first post-anniversary edition features the fine bill of the telepathically hooky Jewish Legend (Josh Reichmann, formerly of Tangiers, as this nice Toronto Star piece explains), the Waits-ian Basement Arms and the riot-billies of Terror Lake. Which is of course at 10 pm, pwyc, forever and ever, amen.

See you here there and everywhere. Phew.

On Diplomatic Immunities: In general it was a really pleasing culmination of the year-long project. The video field-research interviews are better integrated, with much less of the sensation that the subjects are being exploited, less exoticization and voyeurism (although the video with the crack-addicted prostitute is dubious on that level). The end-of-the-world theme worked well, though it felt a bit undercooked. There were plenty of very funny, entertaining moments, some planned, some spontaneous. And I love the Q&A; format, both between the performers and in the interviews with audience volunteers - I could watch that all night.

What's still frustrating and intriguing in equal measure is the way in which these encounters are striated with evasiveness, both in the structures of the show and in the social habits that govern the audience's behaviour in response. Frustrating because for all the lip service paid to the pursuit of sincere human contact, of sharing different perspectives, what happens is a lot more shallow. Intriguing because those resistances and missed opportunities are in many ways the material of the project, so it directs focus to them and makes us question our responsibility in them. At one point a speaker in the videos comments that the deeper problem of social evolution is not "what would make people cooperate more?" but "what are the forces that prevent us from cooperating and how do we address them?" Diplomatic Immunities made me examine my own life and my own character for such answers, making me wonder how I was falling short of that goal in that very room, in the real time of the show. And any work that can achieve that effect is doing a lot right.

Yet it also feels as if the shallowness of the encounter is a product of the dynamic of the company - at least the night I saw it, they were guarded and polite and somewhat perfunctory in their dealings with one another (even when they were being very open about their own lives), and there was not an atmosphere of eagerness to have an intense experience in that room with that audience; and that conditioned what we as spectator-participants gave back to them. This is partly personalities, but I think it's also a formal issue - the devices of the show, as a machine of affects, don't have the torque to twist that dynamic. They frame it rather than changing it. And so the framing, theatrical aspect of the show often seems more like a distraction. This is a paradox all Darren's work has been grappling with - as a theatre artist, he is trying to find a way that this artform can be revitalized in its confrontation with this social material, rather than abandoning it (and I agree it's possible) but it doesn't happen here. It made me want to strip all the artificial trappings away and go deeper into the potentials of the Q&A; format, which for me is theatrical enough in its own right.

All that said, if you've not seen it and for some reason read all this, should you go to Diplomatic Immunities? Absolutely. If the questions above kept you reading, they'll also keep you watching. As will the adorable grade-schoolers. I'm going to go back again before it closes.

Read More | | Posted by zoilus on Saturday, February 17 at 11:08 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson