|10. Theater of Human Melting
I was not satisfied in New York City. I never broke into anything. The permanent community as a lifestyle did not spread from my New Mexico group into the workshop. In the summer of 1975, I moved with the five original New Mexico members to Berkeley to be joined by two others coming from New Mexico.
In Berkeley, I met Linda Mac, who became my partner in shamanistic crime for over 15 years. Not wearing a bra and leaning over the counter to talk to this weird guy who wheeled into the travel agency, saying she would be great in this play, sealed her fate. After two weeks, she quit her job in the travel agency. Other new people would soon join us.
With this core communal group as a base, I started developing very quickly. We set up Inter-Relations, with The Theater of Human Melting as its artistic identity.
I got a Baptist Seminary to give me a room where I could conduct workshops and talk to people. This was an unlikely setting to do shamanistic work.
Evolution is not a straight line up, or even the up-and-down line of the stock market. Instead, it zigzags all over the place, weaving seemingly unrelated things together, sort of like this article. To use evolution, the artist has to not only be willing to fail (failing is vital in creating anything worthwhile) and to risk; but he has to be willing to not know how he is getting to where he is going. At the start, my art was based on private performances such as Reed and the nonfilms. Through the workshop, the focus shifted from private to public performances to such an extent that the truly private pieces all but dried up.
But in Berkeley, that suddenly changed. A fellow, who did not want to do my workshop, demanded that I meet with him in private sessions. Being flexible, I giggled, rubbed my hands, and said, "Why not?" This fellow turned out to be a psychic teacher whose students, when they heard that he was coming to me, wanted to come for private sessions as well as do the workshop.
The private sessions were a combination of Reed and nonfilms in which I allowed myself the freedom to say and do whatever came to me, no matter how off-the-wall and outrageous it seemed. I used nonsense, blatant insults, humor, the holy obvious, nudity and eroticism to break into the altered reality of controlled folly. It was not a professional therapy where a serious listener nods and grunts, or a spiritual trance in which an americanized guru sits aloof, spinning truisms. I was a person who wanted to mingle his life intimately with their lives, using a bigger-than-life mask/character of the trickster shaman to reach this end. This intimate focus trimmed the original flood of people over a two year period down to 30 people who seriously wanted a community of intimate relationships. By combining these private individual "pieces" with the workshop, the communal spirit began to flow from my core family into the group.
Photos (from top to bottom): Mary Sullivan, Linda Mac