Brooklyn Audience Provides The Entertainment At Future Host: A Speech Opera
Last week, a friend asked me to attend an experimental theater production at the Knockdown Center in Brooklyn called Future Host: A Speech Opera. Coming from Westchester, the number of locomotives to be boarded is tiresome to even think about and actually executing the manifest feels like punching a ticket for Mars. But the company good, I accepted the invitation and put on my theater lab coat.
MetroNorth, the 4 train and the L, I made it to Jefferson Street without a hitch. Decidedly short of the red planet, the riverfront neighborhood still seemed on the edge of the earth.
Nonetheless,the factory setting right in NYC took me aback and finding the theater hidden behind an aluminum siding type arch was in keeping. But the actual building was modern and the slick looking bar rounded the rough edges from the outside.
The center also had the nicest, most spacious bathroom I have ever seen. Around 15 stalls and sinks that went on forever, enough room exists to hold a play of its own or fit three or four Manhattan studios.
Still, I knew I was in for something unusual and was surprised as the audience entered the huge theater space with no chairs in sight. On our feet, I guess it worked with Bunsen Burners in chemistry class so why not?
As such, Tingying Ma’s hypothesis featured digitally remastered poetry and intended to sedate minus any illuminate scent of sulfur. “Absent of actors, Future Host is spatialized to activate an ambulatory experience whereby the audience freely inhabits the space of the performance,” the Knockdown website states.
And if you can interpret that, I guess you’re a step ahead of me.
But despite the techno-babble and open space that accompanies the discourse, the opening stanza is compelling. “We are here to take the oath/We solemnly swear/We shall take our collective leave/We shall abstain from every and any existing issue for now.”
Apparently making some statement in regards to socialism, this still left me little incentive to deconstruct the manifesto - especially since the entire presentation was in Chinese and I just read the offbeat verse on the playbill. However, this is not say that an English version would have mattered because the tone and delivery was probably meant to be universal.
Unfortunately, the universe the house was shooting for wasn't very clear, and four violinists eventually joining in to mindlessly drone their bows exponentially heightened the lunacy.
But you shouldn’t confuse where I’m leveling my disdain. I heard that Ms. Ma loves her art and doesn’t care what others think. God Bless her. If it makes her feel good, go for it. (And Future Host is apparently heeaded for Japan so what the hell do I know).
What struck me was the audience and observing them would have to suffice for the $10 the Knockdown Center bilked from me. Most people eventually taking to the floor, one opened minded young women sat in the lotus position - deluding herself that she was activating the ambulatory experience alluded earlier.
Others watched intently as the musicians methodically laid out their chairs, took an upright position and painfully made a screech of their strums. But my favorite was a wanna-bee poet who went all out from his seat and stretched out on his back. Apparently reaching a different plane, his absorption let him slip the constraints of the third dimension and left us all wanting as the fourth and fifth awaited him.
Of course, there had to be those as perplexed as me (or they were just waiting for something to happen). On the other hand, not a single person left early, and it made me wonder if Future Host was a study in social hysteria. How many people would see scoff at this intended silliness and take refuge in the bar?
In the end, I was encouraged as the applause was mostly polite. Still enthusiastic overtures did get voice as if to say, “I get it, and points unknown lay ahead for my trans-dimensional insight.”