I like edges. Edges of parades, edges of parties, edges of cities — the murky spaces where it’s hard to tell where one thing stops and the next begins.
At SuperGroup’s open rehearsals this week at Public Functionary I was thinking about edges. An open rehearsal is the edge between a performance and not-a-performance. It can be an uncomfortable space. The people who wander into the gallery not knowing that the rehearsal is taking place feel that they have intruded on something, the people who intentionally come to watch wish that more of a show was happening, and the performers themselves might wish that they had more of a show to show. I assured each person who came through the door that they were indeed welcome in the space. If they needed a concrete task, because the usual audience task of watching a fully polished show was absent in this setting, I invited them to write about their experience and add it to our archive. A few people watched for awhile, a few people wrote, but most people left quickly after taking a loop around the gallery.
I invited one visitor to write a play with me collecting lines from the rehearsal, or from conversations happening between other people in the gallery, and weaving them into a dialogue. We would not have been able to do this activity in a standard performance setting. It felt good to turn the rehearsal space into a creative laboratory not only for the piece being rehearsed, but also for other creative paths along its edges. It made we wonder, why is this not something we are invited to do in most performative settings?
Another visitor wrote about her experience as an act of “gathering information” or “reconnaissance.” I too think that, as an observer, there is something more of gathering in a rehearsal setting while in a performance setting there is something more of receiving. For example, another visitor wrote, “I am more affected by dancers singing than I am by dancers dancing.” Nobody told him that the circle of dancers rehearsing a song multiple times without its accompanying movement was something worth noticing, he decided this for himself. Does the knowledge that we are watching something unfinished make us more likely to actively decide what we want to take from the experience? What is different about watching people make performance and watching performance? Why is an edge an edge and not the same thing as the thing itself?
Despite the discomfort, there’s something to be said for lingering in these edge spaces. Want to see for yourself? Join us for SuperGroup’s open rehearsal this Thursday, March 19th, from 4-6pm at Public Functionary.