Barry Smith: Irrelativity
(This week, the Irrelativity “Jerks Among Us” interview series continues.)We’ve all experienced them: the couple whispering hoarsely during “The Horse Whisperer,” the running commentary given by the guy with a mouthful of popcorn, the woman laughing a little too loud during “Schindler’s List.” What’s the deal with these people?This question was answered recently during an interview with Leroy Saplansky, current director of the avant-garde theater company, “It’s A Sled!”Irrelativity: I went to see “True Grit” the other night, and about 20 minutes into it a woman comes in and sits with the man behind me. He proceeds to fill her in on what she’s missed. He’s whispering, but it was still totally irritating, and it goes on forever.Leroy Saplansky: Let me guess, you just sat there and didn’t say anything, right?IRR: Well … yeah. How’d you know?LS: You don’t strike me as a shusher or a glarer, or even a mover. But I can see you as a pouter.IRR: What makes you think I’m a pouter? What’s a “pouter?”LS: Well, rather than confront us, the pouter will just fidget and harrumph and generally make more commotion than we do during one of our performances. They’re almost as satisfying an audience as the volcanoes.IRR: Volcanoes?LS: That’s what we call the people who let their frustration build up until they finally spin around and erupt with a “Will you please!?” There’s so much pressure that it spews out of their mouth like Krakatoa. It’s the closest we can hope to get to a standing ovation.IRR: So, let’s back up a minute and talk about what you do, exactly. You go into movie theaters and intentionally act annoying, and you call this a theatrical performance?LS: Exactly. But it’s not just me – “It’s A Sled!” has over 200,000 members nationwide. And yes, our performances involves acting, as you say, “annoying.” Although we prefer “provocative.”IRR: Why? LS: It’s a much more artsy word.IRR: No, I mean why do you act … that way?LS: By adding the sharp contrast to the primary performance, we feel that we’re enhancing it.IRR: So by being obnoxious during a movie you think you’re making the movie better? And why did you think I was a pouter?LS: Contrast allows us to define the edges of our world. It’s gravity, tension and discernment; the very forces that keep our planets in orbit. When the couple behind you is talking, don’t you listen a little more intensely to the movie dialogue?IRR: Well, yeah, you have to, but …LS: Exactly. This contrast encourages you to be even more engaged in the movie, and therefore your life. Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of art? To wake you up a little? To make you really live?IRR: But aren’t there enough people talking at movies already? Why add to it?LS: You know when you hear someone talking during a movie and you think, “Who would do such a thing?” Well … nobody would. Nobody is that inconsiderate in real life. That’s why we have such an enormous canvas on which to create.IRR: Wait, you’re telling me that every loud jerk at a movie is actually one of your professional actors portraying a loud jerk?LS: Yep.IRR: But …LS: It’s been that way ever since Jerry Hopkins saw the premier of “Citizen Kane” in 1941. Hopkins was a young theater student who liked “Kane” so much that he returned the following evening with a date. In his excitement, he nudged her and said “It’s a sled” within the first 10 minutes of the film. The outrage that this created in those seated around him was so satisfying that he dedicated his life to this very specific performance genre. “It’s A Sled” has been operating more or less in secrecy ever since. IRR: Do you get paid for this work?LS: Of course not. Like I said, it’s theater.IRR: Do your actors also “perform” at intimate music concerts?LS: No, you’re thinking of a different troupe, “Freebird!” They’ve been around since the ’70s, but didn’t really start to flourish until the “unplugged” craze of the early ’90s.IRR: Interesting. So why are you so certain that I’m a pouter?LS: You can’t let that go, can you? It’s like you’re annoying in a way that’s both subtle and tenacious. You should audition for us.(Next time: You know those people who don’t use their turn signal? Well, guess what …)
Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times. More at http://www.barrysmith.com.
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