Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s “Strange Democracy: Border Wars”

Friday, 28 June, 2013
Pigott Theater

Blog Response by David Preciado

(See also Megan Hoetger’s Blog Response here.)

Photo by Jamie Lyons


“Radical discrimination!” yelled the woman, who resembled an Aztec warrior in an eagle headdress, fishnets, steel underwear and holding a sword. The woman came out of the theater around 7:30pm and addressed the crowd who anxiously waited for the performance outside by the stairs, much like a master of ceremonies. “Radical discrimination!” she kept yelling. The woman had power and did not hesitate reconfiguring the rules of theater. She prompted people without tickets to enter the theater first and suggested that those with tickets “fight” for their seats. “Radical discrimination” she called it, and those with tickets, those who spent money to view the performance were not guaranteed a space within the theater and those who did not purchase a ticket, either because of financial constraints or because the show sold out or because they left it to the last minute or some other reason, were granted access first.

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“Variazioni su un Oggetto di Scena/Mr. Quill Let There Be Light/Louganis” by Luciano Chessa

Friday, 28 June 2013
10:00 pm
Pigott Theater

Blog Response by Yasmine Jahanmir

Photos by Jamie Lyons9210386981_99d32bbdfb_o

The bare stage was dark except for a pool of light focused on a center stage  grand piano. A stage hand placed what may or may not have been sheet music onto the piano and exited the stage. After a moment, with the ceremony of a concert pianist, Luciano Chessa  entered the performance space and faced the audience to present himself. Then just at the moment where this familiar symphonic scene would have him sit at the piano, he seemed to be struck by a thought, left the stage and re-entered with a large stuffed toy cow, returned to the moment in the conventional symphonic script and sat at the piano with the cow on his lap. But with another disruption in the flow of this event, Chessa manipulated the stuffed cow’s clumsy limbs over the keys of the piano. The rotund paws of the stuffed beast sloppily pounded the keys producing a cacophony of noise.  Yet, perhaps it was the sincere connection between the animate and inanimate or the joyful absurdity of memories that the childhood toy recalled, or perhaps it was the sheer exhaustion of having heard words all day, but after about thirty seconds, my ears began to hear differently and suddenly I began hearing, or perhaps imagining, a melody within the cascade of notes.  This melody which may or may not have existed became a calming meditation in the otherwise chaotic aural present of the moment. This scene opened “Variazoni,” the first part of Chessa’s larger performance entitled “Tre.” Like the larger piece, “Variazioni” dealt with themes of transmission and the painful or chaotic errors noise that arise in any type of communication. While I fear this performance trace may fall into pitfalls of cross-disciplinary analysis, as experimental music and noise are not my area of expertise,  I hope that, in the spirit of this piece, that my misreadings will at least prove productive.

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“Tomorrow We Will Run Faster” by Katharine Fry

Saturday, 29 June 2013
9:00 pm
Prosser Studio

Blog Response by Kellen Hoxworth

Photo by Jamie Lyons9210447387_0850572dfa_o

Lights come up on two women wearing blue dresses, each standing behind a microphone. Behind them, a screen image of a pristine clock at 12 o’clock looms. A fan produces a soft breeze, rippling blue fabric and the water half-filling plastic cups on a stand between the pair. Alexandra “Sasha” Kovacs, stage right, begins to sing “tah” on a long tone, ending with a gutteral “kuh.” Natalie Mathieson, stage left, immediately follows with “tih” on a slightly shorter tone, ending with the same “kuh” sound. The second hand moves minutely.

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“Paperwork: The Department of Dreams, Hopes and Fears” by L.M. Bogad

Friday, 28 June 2013
10:00 – 11:45 pm (observed intermittently)
Roble Studio 25 (Performance Gallery)

Blog Response by Dr. W.C. Meier

Photo by Jamie Lyons9209924679_738ed1aa71_o

As soon as I happened upon The Bureaucrat sitting behind his regulation metal desk, dressed in a polyester suit, silently grimacing, gesturing intently for me to sit, and surrounded by all of the props a busybody who works for something called The Department of Dreams, Hopes and Fears would have been issued by the unknown higher authority he comes from, I knew I was in trouble. With trepidation and unable to stifle my giggling, he turned a bright desk lamp so it shone directly onto my face as I sat down in the chair and squinting, connected with his eyes glaring back at me with glee. Watching, his finger tapped the desk impatiently three times. He was waiting for me to pick up the pen provided and write on the white paper…my fears. The Bureaucrat has three plastic signs which he uses to silently instruct an audience member brave enough to answer the call of his desk bell what to do. As I handed him my confession, he took a large feather out from a drawer of his desk and tickled my nose, quickly hiding the instrument of my olfactory torture when he was apparently satisfied with my recoil. He then carefully examined my document, highlighted one word, stamped it with the words ‘Return to Sender’ before promptly crumpling it up and handing it back with a smug grin. And with that, the Bureaucrat was indicating that he was begrudgingly ready for the next client to hand over to him their dreams, hopes and fears. And while I was only a part of this performance for a few minutes, I watched L.M. Bogad in character with absolute delight on and off for a few hours. And I swear, paperwork was never so much fun.

“Honey” by Stosh Fila and Julie Tolentino

Friday, 28 June 2013
7:30 pm
Roble Courtyard

Blog Response by Sampada Aranke, PhD Candidate, UC Davis Performance Studies

Photo by Jamie Lyons9209945645_e9a90d01f5_o

Truthfully, I didn’t go to the performance gallery expecting to see HONEY. But it captured me. As I walked through the performance gallery courtyard on Friday night, I noticed a tall, black tripod structure towering over a woman. As I walked toward her, I noticed a glistening golden trail leading from the top of the black structure towards her face. It was excessive, extravagant, velvet, and moving like sand through an hourglass — slow, layered, purposeful, directive. Honey. Honey slithering down a wire catching the evening light with it’s fleshly materiality. Atop the structure crouched a man, white wearing all black. He poured the nectar from above. She stood underneath, wearing a garment made of what looked like a white tarpy vinyl, and caught the honey in her mouth. Tediously keeping her mouth open, she writhed from ease to discomfort, joy to crazed fear. Fear of choking on honey. What a luxurious murder.

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“Falling Into Place,” by Gretchen Schiller

Friday, 28 June 2013
12:00 pm
Roble 33

Blog Response by Rebecca Chaleff

Photo by Jamie Lyons9209914477_23ee68699f_o

For the past few days, Roble 33 has been a mystery to me.  I heard whispers about it: those who had volunteered to set it up expressed incredible curiosity, and those called upon to photograph the space exclaimed, “I don’t know what she’s doing in there, but it’s beautiful.”  I got several text messages telling me that I absolutey had to see it.  My interest was engaged, to say the least.  I tried desperately to find an appointment—the books were full, and only one spot remained.  I nearly sacrificed a friendship ensuring that I was the one to take this appointment.  I was lucky (and yes, we’re still friends).

I returned the next day to check in at the front desk of Roble, disguised from its usual function by a lace tablecloth and stacks of archaic-looking books and scrolls tied with ribbon.  I was checked-in, led down the hall to Roble 33, and told to stand in the threshold until instructed to do otherwise—until the “librarian” came to fetch me.  All I could see was absence.  Thick curtains sucked space and time out of the room.  I felt as though I were standing in a vacuum, a black hole in the middle of the Stanford campus.

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“John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing,” (re)performed by Michael Hunter and Derek Phillips

Thursday, 27 June 13
10:00 pm
Roble Studio 52

Blog Response by Rebecca Chaleff

Photo by Jamie Lyons9209879003_9e75a04662_o

In the center of Roble Studio 52 are four stools.  One of these stools is for sitting, and the other three support the few lamps that provide the only lighting sources in the room (this smart and minimal set design, it should be noted, was advised by Angrette McClosky).  Perched atop the central and tallest stool is Michael Hunter, calmly reading John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing.”  His face, lit by the surrounding lamps, is illuminated as though he were reading a ghost story.  We, the audience, are gathered around this campfire setting on an inconsistent array of floor mats, couches, and chairs, all curving around the central figure.

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