Barry Smith: Irrelativity
September 21, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO – Here are things that could be going through one’s head as they blatantly look at their watch during the big dramatic moment of my performance of Jesus in Montana – you know, the part where I’m yelling:
1- “Man, is that all the time that’s elapsed? Amazing.”
2- “Oh no! It’s already halfway over! If only this show could last forever.”
3- “Ah, OK – so the big dramatic moment comes at exactly 32:46. Noted. I’ll make sure I tell this to all of my friends, just so they’ll be alert and not miss this part.”
Ordinarily I’m pretty good at convincing myself of such things. A lot of quick rationalization has to go on while one is on stage, ’cause you don’t really have the option of taking a casual stroll with your insecurities.
But in this case the correct answer is number 4 – “No! Half an hour more of this?! Please God, make it stop! Why? WHYYYYYY?”
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And I felt bad for the guy. Especially since I’m the one who convinced him to come see my show in the first place.
He came into the little fringe cafe with his girlfriend, grabbed a program and sat down, obviously with the intention of finding a show to see. I snapped into action, because I do not fear self-promotion. I told them about my show – specifically that it was going to start in half an hour – gave them a flyer, and went on my way. When the show started I could see them in the front row.
The guy started realizing his error early on. I could see him squirming. I’m not sure what he was expecting from my show, but it was obvious that it wasn’t doing it for him. The squirming turned to fidgeting. His girlfriend nudged him, trying to get him to settle the hell down and act like an adult. Then came the watch-glancing. Then some heavy sighing. Then he leaned forward and put his face in his hands in obvious defeat. Then the show was over. I’m sure he was about 5 minutes away from doing some texting.
Did I mention that he was sitting in the front row? Like 5 feet away from me? Yes, of course I did. Awesome.
Did I also mention that he was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Jesus on it? A black-and-white profile of Jesus with his hair done up in corn rows. Under the picture it said, “Jesus Wore Corn Rows.” OK, not particularly clever or subtle, but I thought that his wearing of this shirt meant that somehow we were on the same wavelength. His T-shirt choice meant that he would absolutely love my show. I think I even said something along those lines to him while pimping my show. If you like this shirt, you’ll LOVE my show. And I meant it.
Could it be that making judgments about people based on their T-shirt isn’t reliable? Damn. Just when I thought I had this whole judging and assessing thing neatly wrapped up. Guess it’s back to judging people by their hat choice.
I’m almost finished with my run here at the SF Fringe, and even with the watch-looking incident it’s been going great – wonderful audiences, some sold-out shows, good reviews, etc. All is well here at Jesus Central. But that stuff’s not very interesting to anyone but me. So, moving on …
I’m performing in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. It’s kind of a sketchy neighborhood, to put it mildly. After pondering how to describe it without being too judgmental (see above) I decided to just lift a description from Wikipedia: “Squalid conditions, homelessness, crime, drug sales, prostitution, liquor stores (more than 60) and strip clubs. …” That pretty much sums it up. When the CIA is ready to test their new crack vending machines, they’ll do it on this block.
The theatre where I’m performing is a little oasis of art run by cool people in the midst of squalor. I get to finish my show each night and spill onto the street carrying my backpack and pulling a wheelie bag full of projection equipment and go squeaking down the puke- and litter-coated sidewalk to the MUNI station. I’m not sure how I could stand out any more than I do. I make Clark W. Griswold look ghetto. Each time the train doors close behind me I breathe a sigh of relief of having survived another day of art.
Who said theatre isn’t dangerous?
(Next stop: New Jersey, Virginia, Rhode Island and more …)
Barry’s column appears Mondays. Read more at http://www.barrysmith.com.
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