The audience Friday night was about the most uptight fragile audience I have played to. This is seemingly absurd because it was a festival of edgy performance art… Of course edgy art often stays within the edges! But the festival was advertised like this:
“Among many outrageous artists, POW! POW! 2009 will feature daring and controversial performers such as Frank Moore, Keith Hennessey, Michael Namkung, and many others.” -- POW! POW! Action Art festival 2009 at The Climate Theater.
But most of the audience sat like they were in glass coffins even before the show started.
The title of my piece was AN ACT OF DIRECT ENGAGEMENT. All of this should have been a warning of what to expect. And seeing just a nude guy in a wheelchair sitting on stage, slides projected upon his body, moaning/shouting/coaxing, gesturing or whatever the fuck he was doing, and this is all that is happening for several minutes that felt like hours!... Jesus Christ, it is obvious this piece isn’t playing in normal time, but is stretching time, moving outside of the normal boxes of comfortable zones!
I wrote these top secret directions the night before the show:
“I am being on stage alone for the first five to ten minutes. If nobody comes up, I will motion to Linda. Then Linda, Jen and Erika take off their clothes fast in the audience and start bringing people up onto the stage to me to touch me, rub me. [The musicians will start playing ten minutes into the piece.] For the last ten minutes you three will start rubbing me dirty!“
And, with one exception, it went off as planned and timed as if I had planned and timed it… That never happens. The exception was that the house lights didn’t come on at first so that I could establish eye contact with the audience at the beginning. But I got the timing back on track [I watched my big clock all through the piece!]. I came in three minutes under my allotted half-hour! I packed a lot in within that time! When Linda, Jen and Erika took their clothes off in the audience and started going up to audience members to get them to go up to me to touch explore my body physically, they got very violent reactions about violating the audience’s personal space … as if this was theater, not performance art! But there was a group that developed around me … including people who at first said NO WAY! There was an innocent intimacy, mainly holding hands, pulling my body hair, including arm pit hair! But shtick cut this section artificially short. So Linda, Jen, Erika and I started our erotic play dance. Apparently this started the exit of a number of audience members, stopping at the door to give pieces of their minds … just like in the Dada days. I was glad we have not lost our touch! But I don’t think I should read too much into it because a similar mass exit was caused later just by removing chairs so that people could dance to the high energy raucous hip hop group. So it didn’t take much to piss those people off! But I will take the credit! Also after the show [while we were trying to get to the bathroom] we got surrounded by people [well, two] who loved the piece. They were able to describe why it inspired and turned them on. I am taking credit for those reactions too!
When I got to the theater Frank had just made it up the long flight of curving stairs. We set up in one of the back stage rooms filling up the room with all of our stuff. Frank had a beverage and we scoped out the theater. Soon we made our way into the theater area for the tech run. We would be on third. When we found out that the tech guy was running late we set up our picnic and ate, large sandwiches for most, yummy potato salad and delicious tabouleh. It was really fun to have a picnic in the theater. Then Jen and I were off to get coffees at Pete's. Two and a half blocks was more like five blocks but we zipped along and were soon back with the coffees! The tech rehearsal was moving along by then and soon we were up going over lighting and slides. Soon people began to come in off the streets for the show. The curators of the festival took money at the top of the stairs dressed as a nurse with lovely cleavage and a doctor. We took up two rows and Frank had a couple of truffles with is coffee. He gave me a taste of his truffles which were super yummy and hit the spot. Kene-J arrived and he sat up front acting as if he did not know us (part of the plan) with his keyboard talking to the woman who sat next to him.
Soon the show started and Frank headed back stage to undress. The first piece was a guy dressed in black with small spikes on his clothes popping a stage full of white balloons with the small spikes on his clothes. Then there was a woman who rolled out bread dough and then wore braded bread on her arms so that she looked like one of those muscle guys in a muscle show while a video of Japanese internment camps played in the background. Her movements mimicked the guys in the video.
Then it was time for some real meat and substance!! Frank rolled out onto the stage nude and the slides began to play on his body. For the first ten minutes Frank sang to the audience and motioned for people to join him. The lights came up in the audience and Linda, Jen and Erika undressed in the audience and walked around asking if people would like to come up and explore Frank. At first nobody wanted to come up and it seemed like maybe there wasn't going to be anyone who would come up. There was one guy who told Linda that there was no way he was going up and join such a spectacle! Then people started wanting to go up and they sat on the sides of Frank holding his hands. The tech guy really wanted to go up and later after the show he said that he loved how uncomfortable it made everyone and that it really made people question their boundaries. And Frank said that he did not answer the question for anyone. There was one woman in the audience who said she wasn't sure she wanted to go up, and then she just came up on her own. By now Frank had a bunch of people all around him and he said that they could touch him anywhere so people started exploring a little more. Linda, Jen and Erika joined Frank on stage for some hot, deep, juicy, small rubbing and rocking. Then Linda, Jen and Erika had a tickling fest. Our set was half an hour, with Kene-J sitting in the audience playing the keyboard softly. It felt small and raw. You could feel the discomfort in the audience and you could feel people staying with it. Some did not, and they were out of there but not without a few questions about Frank at the door before they left. They wanted to know more!!
Then it was intermission and we got some free drinks and then settled back into our chairs in the audience. The next piece was a guy dressed like a sadistic Raggedy Anne doll who explored the dark side of nursery rhymes and then there was a music video. Then came the Green Hemoglobin's who were really fun! Some more meaty substance! Everyone got on their feet and was dancing when these guys got on the stage. They were four white guys singing hip hop with fun costumes. Crazy Pickle was in a big pickle costume with a top hat and a big gold rapper necklace that said "Crazy Pickle". BB Gun had green hair and an orange boa, Lubricated Goat was bloody and wearing a depends diaper with a loaded bulge in the back and then there was pink lemonade. These guys were really fun, musically tight and with unforgettable raunchy lyrics that stick with you like songs about bitches and hoes and nut sacks. They enjoyed each other and you could feel that. They followed Frank and invited the ladies to come up on the stage to explore their bodies, and we did! They came out for an encore and crazy pickle danced with Frank. After the show Frank invited them on the Shaman's Den. Most of them are from New York but they will keep in touch. After we all had a trip to the bathroom and we gathered up our stuff some of the Green Hemoglobin's helped carry Frank down the stairs. Then it was time for Mikee to get some smacks on his ass for his birthday. We loaded into our fleet of rainbow cars and headed home for pizza! It was a really fun night performing, seeing Green Hemoglobin, picnicking and hanging out in the theater, being together!
Meanwhile, we loaded up the car, and it wasn't long before Jen was heading down and we were closing things up and setting up in the car, and caravanning off to SF!
It was a fun adventure climbing up into the Climate Theater with who we would later find out were the green hemoglobins ... the crazy pickle himself! Erika was there as soon as we arrived .... there was quite a load of stuff to bring in ... our picnic! Pretty soon, we set up out in the theater, waiting for the tech check ... Since Travis, the tech guy, had not arrived yet, and there was an ETA on when he would arrive, you guys decided to just go ahead and eat first. It was fun having all of this great food that Alexi had made, and sitting in the empty theater ... various people associated with the performance festival popping in from time to time .... Then after lunch, Jen and Erika went down to Peet's for coffees, a trek!
When Travis arrived, he was very apologetic, and hustling. He was great! He jammed through the acts, from bottom to top, and was really great with everyone, making it all happen.
Corey set up the camera, there was a plan for when to wheel Frank backstage ... basically any time! The first two acts were 5 minutes a piece, and then Frank would go on. Kene-J had arrived, and already had his keyboard, and he "didn't know us" ... he was just an audience member who had happened to come with his little casio keyboard! We saw him start chatting with the cute girl sitting next to him!
Before you knew it, Frank was on! He sat nude on the stage, calling out to people ... the slideshow played on his body .... nobody in the audience budged ... Before the performances started, Corey had heard these two girls in the row behind us. One of them was noticing the empty seats up front, and wanted to go sit in the front row. But her friend didn't want to ... she didn't want to get "dragged in" to a performance. Corey told Linda and Frank this before it all started. Now, no one was coming up to interact with Frank .... at some point, Linda, Jen and Erika took off their clothes and came up to Frank ... then they went out into the audience and invited people up onstage to touch Frank. People started going up ... it looked like a bunch of people declined ... Linda later said that one person, responded with a loud, "No!" and said something about this being a "spectacle"!
You could feel the tension in the room, but then the people who did come up to touch Frank were great, and there was that familiar feeling of transformation, of those people entering a different reality .... they really liked it! That same girl who had wanted to sit up front, came up to touch Frank, but her friend declined. She thanked Frank when she left the stage ...
At some point, Alyssa and Guillermo came up to participate, but they did it as their doctor and nurse shtick. Frank told Guillermo to take his gloves off ... he did, but they continued to just put their stethoscopes on Frank ... It felt like it broke the feeling of what was happening, broke up the intimacy. Most of the people who had been up there left the stage after Guillermo and Alyssa showed up ... a few stayed. Later, you were talking about how they were not comfortable with the intimacy, the openness of what Frank was doing ... they had to do something to lessen its intensity ...
So then Frank had Linda, Jen and Erika come back up and play with him intensely and intimately ... he called them up early! It was the longest 27 minutes! The air was thick with discomfort and judgments ... people started nervously, aggressively laughing ... people left the theater, you could hear people talking to each other uncomfortably ... it was intense, palpable. Even when Frank had Linda, Jen and Erika tickle each other, this feeling in the audience did not lighten! Linda said afterward that "we did good!!"
It was amazing to hear later about your conversation with Travis and another woman who had come up in the beginning to touch Frank. Travis was also one who had come up to touch Frank. He had totally gotten what Frank was doing. He said something along the lines of that Frank's performance asked an open question about where people's boundaries, limits are? Frank said, "And I did not answer it." Travis said yes, yes! He loved it. He loved that people were so uncomfortable, and that it seemed so uncomfortably long! He said the part where Frank, Linda, Jen and Erika were playing together was great because one didn't know what they were doing... More questions without answers! The woman said that at first her response to Frank, to coming up and touching Frank was "empathetic" ... it was something of a "crip" thing ... empathizing with Frank's "condition" perhaps. But then she saw Frank surrounded by Linda and Jen and Erika, playing deeply and intimately with him, and thought, "He is lucky! I wouldn't mind three naked sexy women rubbing into me!" Frank invited Travis to the "Reality Playings" series, and he was excited to come, especially to an even longer performance!
The last performance of the night was Green Hemoglobin, a great rap quartet, including Lubricated Goat, a big beefy guy with tattoos and a beard wearing a tiny smock and Depends! Crazy Pickle, a guy in a huge pickle outfit with gold chains with his name "Crazy Pickle" spelled out ... Pink Lemonade was another guy, and BB gun, the short guy with the green hair. They were a lot of fun! Alyssa started clearing away chairs for their set, so people could get up and dance. Their raps were really funny, absurd, surreal! High energy! Frank invited them onto the Shaman's Den afterward.
We were on our way! Linda told me about Chinga Chavin from Country Porn, how Frank had contacted him again from all these years ago. Really cool! We got to the space and found a parking spot not far away. The boyz were right in front.
When we got to the door, Allyssa from the Pow Pow greeted us. She said that the carriers to help bring Frank up the stairs were not there yet but were expected at any time. While we waited, Corey Alexi and I took the stuff upstairs and put it in the backstage room. The people who were going to help carry Frank up the stairs arrived and they helped Corey and Alexi haul Frank up in his chair. Linda was right behind them and I pulled up the rear with the toilette chair. When we got upstairs, Erika arrived. We got comfortable in the back stage room and then figured that we would go out into the theatre to wait for the tech check. The place was a little maze with hallways and doorways everywhere. The toilette chair was hidden under a blanket and tucked out of the way. We got comfy in the theater seats. There was another little glitch in that the tech guy, Travis, hadn't arrived yet, So we pulled out the sandwiches, potato salad and tabouleh and had a picnic. After eating, Erika and I went to Peet's to get coffee for Frank Linda and Mikee. I got a small as well. We got back and the tech check started soon after that.
Travis was great. He set up the projector and then marked it off. Marked off where Frank's chair was going to be as well. He covered all the details and was very accommodating. After the check, Guillermo came by with the release forms for everyone to sign and said he had been bad so this was his punishment. I rubbed Frank while the place packed up. Kene J made it! We gave him the little keyboard to use from his seat in front of us in the audience. A girl sat next to him and was chatting him up the whole time. Then we had a bathroom adventure using the toilette chair. Linda and Mikee transferred Frank into the toilette chair at the top of the stairs - yipes! Then wheeled him into the bathroom and we waited while Linda brushed her teeth. When we got back to our seats, Linda looked at the program and asked how long the first 2 performers were going to be. They were only 5 minutes each! That meant that we had only a little time to get ready to go on! We wheeled back stage and got Frank undressed. When the time came, Corey pulled Frank up the 2 steps to the stage. He got placed in position, mic on, clock set at the front of the stage, and our performance started.
Frank sang and wailed for a few minutes. Kene J played the keyboard but it was very low, barely audible. After a while Frank gave Linda the signal, which meant she Erika and I, who were sitting in the audience, were to undress quickly and then start bringing people up on stage to explore Frank. Erika and I followed Linda for a while and then we split up, asking whoever we could. Most people said no. They were really refusing. Some people didn't know if they wanted to come up. There was a girl in the back that wasn't sure but eventually took my hand and came up. Travis told Linda he really wanted to go up. Others were inspired by the few that went up, so they went up on their own. Pretty soon Frank was surrounded and he said that they could explore his whole body. This blew all kinds of boundaries away and opened up so much. People started caressing him all over. The intimacy was there until Alyssa and Guillermo, dressed as a nurse and doctor, came up and started putting their stethoscopes on Frank. Guillermo had gloves on but Frank told him 'no gloves!'. It broke the intimacy that was happening with the others on stage. They were shticking. Then Frank gave Linda the signal again which meant for her Erika and I to start dancing and rubbing him dirty.
We three crept up on stage and started rubbing Frank. Everyone else dispersed and went back to their seats. We rubbed Frank dirty. Arms and hands were all over. Linda's head was at Frank's crotch and then she got up and I sat on Frank's lap with Erika rubbing him. At one point I looked at the clock and only 19 minutes had passed, but it felt like forever! Then I looked again after a while and only 3 minutes had gone by! It was like time standing still, and you could feel the awkwardness of the audience, people shifting, laughing, leaving. We rubbed and danced like that and it felt good to focus on us, on what we were doing, because it felt good. Then Frank said for us 3 to tickle each other. So we did that and it was fun! We laughed and tickled each other all over. But again, it felt like it went on and on. I just kept having the thought that we were doing what we do, what we were there to do. We did our job. We really freaked the audience out. Took them to the edge and beyond.
When Frank said 'the end' we were 3 minutes under the half hour mark. Corey helped take Frank down the steps and we wheeled him into the back stage room. Whew! I got dressed and then went back to the seats to get Erika's clothes. We located Linda's top while Mikee got clothes out for Frank. Then everyone got dressed and Erika and I went to the bar to get our free drinks. Mango lime soda, loaded with sugar. But it was cold and the space was really really hot.
We all got back to our seats to watch the next performances. The intermission was over and the next act started. It was a guy dressed as a big nasty doll doing nasty fairy tales. Then there was a video of a girl singing. I was starting to fall asleep. Travis introduced the last act and you could feel excitement building. Alicia came in and cleared the chairs for space for people to dance. A rapping crew came out consisting of a giant pickle, a lubricated goat and a couple of other dudes all dressed up in outrageous outfits. They were good! We moved Frank closer to the stage and we all danced to the raps of bitches and ho's. They reminded Frank of Country Porn! Really fun to dance to them, and they were rocking out! Then they invited all the ladies to come up on stage and explore their bodies. That was great! We all went up there and caressed them. It was a lot of fun!
When the show was over, including an encore, we wheeled Frank to the bathroom. On the way there, Travis came up to us to give Mikee the dvd of the slide show, but then he told Frank that his piece was amazing. Frank asked him what he liked about it and he said that it raised a lot of questions. He said it went beyond boundaries and everyone on stage could do whatever they wanted. This made people very uncomfortable and he really liked that. Frank said that he didn't provide any answers to those questions, and Travis said that he liked that too! He really got it! It was amazing. Frank also asked Travis what he thought when the three of us were dancing with Frank. He said it was arousing, but that it was difficult to tell what was happening. Was it sexual? Was it not? It raised questions too, and it made people very uncomfortable. Said that it seemed to go on for a long time, and Frank told him that we even came in under our time limit. It was the uncomfortable feeling that made it seem so long.
Frank told Travis about his longer performances, including the Temescal series. I went and got a flyer for him and he said that he would come. He really loved what Frank did. A woman was standing there and Frank asked her what she thought of the show. She said that it stirred a lot of feelings for her that changed as the piece went on. Like when it first started she had a lot of empathy, but then when she saw Linda Erika and me dancing with Frank she thought 'what a lucky guy!!'. She said that she would love to have 3 ladies rubbing all over her too! Frank gave her a flyer and told her to come to the Temescal performance as well. It was amazing to have these encounters, and it showed that there were people there that got it, that really enjoyed the direct experience of it, the open boundary erasing unknowable intense power of it. We did our job.
After pissing, we went back stage so Frank could talk with the rap group and see if they would be guests on his show, The Shaman's Den. They were mostly from out east, so anytime they were back and had time they could come on the show. They exchanged contact info. Frank told them about Chinga and Country Porn, and said they reminded him of that and that they were really good. Country Porn had inspired Frank back in the day to do OBR. Then Alyssa thanked Frank for enhancing their festival, the Pow Pow festival. She asked how we thought it went and Linda said we thought it went really great! We had a lot of fun.
Then it was time to get Frank back down the steps. Two of the guys helping were from the rap group, Green Hemoglobin. They helped Corey and Alexi carry Frank down and once he was back on the ground we could safely call it a night. Erika walked with us to the car. It was a warm evening. She gave Mikee a nice smack on the ass and then we were off, bouncing down the freeway to Country Porn. When we got home we adored the kittens, then Frank came in and had some water. Corey came in after unloading everything and we talked about the performance. Then we all hugged goodnight and Corey and I gave Mikee some good slaps to the ass. Happy Birthday Mikee!!!!