Oh well, I am writing this the night after Saturday’s performance. So I am doing reasonably well. There is such a thing as pre- performance syndrome [P.P.S.]. Often before a performance I start feeling funky physically. This usually fades either during or after the performance. Before the show on Saturday, I had a somewhat intense pps. We have developed a theory that the pps forces the performance to be slower and deeper. This was true Saturday. And the symptoms of pps have disappeared today… leaving this intense head /face sinus ache… apparently not a part of pps, but a seasonal curse! Darn! But I am able to write this, so…
Pps did combine well with having a core group of Linda, Mikee, Jen, Erika, DA BOYZ, Kene-J on music, Unrulee and Nellie as experienced regular players of the series. All of this created a soft dreaminess into which the people who came….. and especially someone like Nicki, a practical playing enjoyer of life… can jump lustily into. All of this makes exploring playing, art, healing, erotic freedom, intimacy, and so on happen in new ways easy… or at least in a trance of fever within which not going all the way [whatever that means] just seems silly!
And Martha… you were here/there!
Now it may be time for my meds! So if you will excuse me…
ERIKA: We got everything set up for last nights "Reality Playings," the backdrops, the lights, the display of jewelry (costumes) and at 8:00 pm there was one person there. Frank had been under the weather all week but did not want to cancel the performance. Linda said that his will is too strong! Frank said that we would wait for 15 minutes. We had documented the set up on camera and maybe that would be it! Just after he said that Unrulee came in, then a woman named Nicki and after that a couple others and Kene-J slipped in onto the keyboards. It was a small cozy evening.
Frank and Linda talked about the Pow Pow performance last weekend. How the festival had been advertized as featuring outrageous, daring and controversial artists. Then one of the curators was uncomfortable when people started to leave during our performance saying they did not understand how it was art. After the festival was over the curators were happy to report that people liked the festival. Frank had said that he doesn't try to make people like or hate whatever he does. He does performances to go outside normal boxes which creates uncomfortable edges. He is after effective change. During the Pow Pow performance when we had gone around to get people up to explore Frank's body many people were at first offended to be asked to come up as if they had come for a night of safe entertainment.
Frank asked Unrulee to talk about how he came to know Frank. He told the story about reading Frank's writings in the early 1990's and then he and a group of people tried out some of the performance things that Frank was doing. When they were traveling out to the bay area they came to some of Frank's performances at the 848 performance space in SF. Frank asked Nicki what she does and she said she is an Expressive Arts Therapist. She said that creativity helps to heal trauma and to explore the unknown. She said that she was drawn to come to the performance to explore the unknown, to be spontaneous. Throughout the night she said yes to everything and was very willing to play and step into the unknown. Frank asked her if she would do something now with us and she said ok. She had us toss the pillow dice around to each other and say something that we were grateful for. Frank asked Nicki to come up and read from his writings as Barbara Bush because Martha Wilson had said that she had wished she could be here tonight and she had done performances as Barbara Bush.
Nicki sat next to Frank and read "Mainstream Avant-Garde," while a group of five of us did gestures together. Linda would pull out of the bag a gestures and an adjective, like touch each others butts playfully, shake our bodies peacefully, hold hands desirably, rub each others bellies, belly to belly. It was a lot of fun! We did gestures while Nicki continued to read. Linda talked more about when she and Frank went to the book store to hear Karen Findley read from her book inspired by Martha Stuart and how it was dull and lifeless because she was going after a book deal rather than doing real juicy art for change not for anybody to like it or dislike it but for real change. There were all these girls there clamoring over Karen and Frank asked Karen if she would read her Black Sheep Poem. She did not have it with her, but Frank did! She read it and that is when the life and juice came out of her. Nicki went on to read "The Numbers Game", being attached to how many people one reaches through their art, how Frank could calculate how many people he reaches if he was interested in that, that it is not about the numbers! It all tied into the Pow Pow performance last week.
Kene-J sang a couple of songs while Frank went for a piss break and then Unrulee, Nicki and another woman undressed Linda, Jen and Erika and dressed them in jewelry and scarves. Frank said that he would be in big trouble with Betty if we did not use the jewelry that Betty, church going and in her 80's had given us!! Once they had dressed up Linda, Jen and Erika Frank asked if we could undress and decorate them, Unrulee and Nicki said ok but the one other woman said that she wanted to keep her clothes on. It was really fun dressing everyone in the jewelry and scarves. Frank said that he was under the weather but he wanted to known if he wasn't under the weather would Nicki and the other woman go all the way with him. They wanted to know what all the way meant and Frank said to play with him physically. Nicki asked if Frank would go all the way and he said that he always goes all the way! The other woman said that she was not going all the way with anyone right now and Frank said ok. Frank asked Nicki if she would like to do a private play performance with him and she said yes, and they exchanged contact information after the show. People said that they really felt inspired by the evening, exploring the unknown and being together, playing together. It was a cozy fun night!
DA BOYZ: Linda or Frank remarked that the set-up was going quickly, and it really was! Linda said it was getting quicker and quicker as we did more of these performances. We had our routines ... It was always fun to transform the space ... the various stages ... the last quiet stage before the performance "started", putting the gels on the lights, and getting the levels set ... As 8pm approached, there was a feeling of quiet ... one person had come early, Mark, who cooked for Food Not Bombs with Erika, but otherwise, there was the feeling that no one might come. Frank was feeling funky, and had already hinted that this one might end early ... he had his meds all lined up! Linda was saying his will was too strong ... no one was there! Would this be the night that no one came?
But then the door opens, almost on cue ... Unruhlee comes in ... and then a woman who it turned out Erika had invited to the performance when they danced at Dance Jam, Nicki ... then Nellie, Kene-J, and then a woman who was obviously close with Unruhlee and Nellie ... a small intimate group ... Frank asked Unruhlee to talk about his history with Frank. At this point, it was really only him and Nicki and Mark, aside from all of us. He talked about coming upon Frank's writings in a magazine called SchizFlux, and being really attracted to Frank's ideas, and then getting his hands on everything Frank wrote that was available ... and how he and his group of friends did things where he lived in the midwest inspired by Frank's writings ... eroplaying with each other, and even doing public performances ... like "Erotic Stumbling" in a mall ... Then he talked about how he traveled to the Bay Area with a traveling group of people, and Frank did a performance with them ... and then he also attended several of the all night performances at 848 Divisadero space in SF. Frank said that he was at the last of those performances, because Frank had stopped doing the all-night structure performance. Unruhlee asked why he had stopped? It was because people had gotten casual/social with the structure ... they had come to know how it went, and used the performance as a place to pick-up people. Unruhlee remembered that he and his friends had come to this last performance, and had been jumping up and down on the bed, getting rowdy ... and there had been some motion to him to calm it down ... he felt like he had not been following the feeling of the performance in some way, and he knew now that Frank always has reasons for doing things the way he does ... he apologized now for doing that so many years ago ...
Now Frank talked with Nicki ... what had drawn her into coming tonight? She said she had been invited by Erika, and it was feeling of going into the unknown, and the suggestion of playing that she was attracted to, as she does expressive arts therapy with people, and likes to play. Frank asked her to show us what she does. She jumped right into it. She said that she would throw one of the word pillows to someone there on the floor, and that person should say what they are grateful for, and then throw it on to the next person, who should say what they are grateful for, and so on ... They did that ... One person said that they were grateful for friendship, Erika said she was grateful for relationship, Unruhlee was grateful for intimacy and sex, Jen was grateful to be alive ...
Nellie and the other woman ... the friend of Nellie's and Unruhlee's, arrived ... there may have been some talk about the Pow!Pow! performance at this point ... Frank talked about it at various points throughout the night, having Linda describe the correspondence between Frank and Guillermo afterward, and then more about how the whole thing later in the performance ...
But now, Frank asked Nicki if she would read something he wrote, as Barbara Bush! Nicki said she didn't know if she could do Barbara Bush, but she would give it a shot! Meanwhile, the rest of the group on the floor would do gestures, and Mark joined Kene-J in the band ... Frank had Linda give the background for the piece he would have Nicki read, "Mainstream Avant-Garde?" about Martha Wilson and Franklin Furnace, and their position through the years as a place for experimental, underground, controversial art. How they were one of the few spaces in the 90s when Jesse Helms started targeting "obscene" artists that did not try to distance themselves from the artists, and who were proud to have had all of those targeted artists perform there, including Frank. Then they were shut down, for supposed "fire violations". Then there was the history of Karen Finley, and Frank's relationship with her, and how at the time this piece was written, she had embarked on a book tour for a spoof on Martha Stewart, and Frank, Linda and Mikee had just attended one of her events at a local bookstore, where all the young people, the young women who looked to her as a model for exploring outside of the accepted limits, were hungry for "that" Karen Finley , but she was giving them a spoof on Martha Stewart! Frank had always made her nervous, and now he had brought along a copy of one of her poems, deep and transformative ... called "Black Sheep", and when she asked the audience if they had any questions, he asked her if she would read it!
It was really neat to just hear this introduction, these slices of history that seemed to bounce around through so many layers in the present, and in the context of the performance itself that night ... Nicki was curious why Frank worked hard not to become famous? They had brought this up in the context of talking about Karen Finley ... Frank made her uncomfortable especially because he was not interested in being famous, and she did not get it. Frank said that Nicki's question would be answered in the piece ...
So Nicki started reading "Mainstream Avant-Garde?" and Linda called out gestures, and Erika, Jen, Unruhlee, Nellie and the friend did the gestures as a group together. There were a lot of gestures that came up that had to do with exploring each other's butts! There was a lot of butt rubbing! Later, Erika and Jen said there was some farting going on too! One of the gestures that was called was to open legs wide ... Erika and Jen of course had loose skirts and no underwear! Too bad Corey had moved to the wrong side of the room to get the video!! Later, Jen said that Linda had noticed that as soon as the next gesture was read, a lot of legs snapped shut ... not Jen and Erika's, but it was almost as if the others were uncomfortable seeing Jen and Erika's pussies, and were wanting to move on. You didn't even need to shut your legs to do the next gesture. Corey remembered thinking that, and noticing too that people shut their legs when they didn't need to.
It was an amazing combination of things ... the piece, "Mainstream Avante-Garde" read while the group played with each other, rubbing together in the gestures ...
After Mainstream Avant-Garde, Frank asked Nicki what she thought? It inspired her ... it addressed a bunch of questions that had been coming up in her, about what she is doing ... Somehow their conversation lead into Frank having her also read the numbers game, which was a lot of fun, and totally outdated! Nicki really got it. Afterward, Frank and Nicki talked about what it made Nicki think about ... she said something about wanting to do certain things with her work that she didn't have the money for, and this felt like it was a block, not having the money ... Frank said no. Frank said that a key was to always do what you can afford, and everything opens up from there. Linda talked about how that has always worked that way for Frank and us ... over the years, everything that they have been able to do, with very little money. LUVeR for instance ... and how other groups have approached Frank over the years, wanting to know how he was able to do LUVeR ... but they didn't follow his advice ... were looking for things to be big and expensive ... and didn't end up doing anything!
About this time, Frank asked the friend what she thought? She had liked doing the gestures ... was exploring greater intimacy in her own life ... Frank asked her what she does, and she said that she is a writer, and a teacher of creative writing ... Frank said that this was always one of his favorite classes, and he got the opportunity to go back and perform at his old creative writing teacher's classes in San Bernardino ... when he was first there at the college, he got permission to do an all nude play, but couldn't get the people to do it! This was his way of finally doing it! She asked what the play was ... it was about four people living in a cube universe ... at some point, baby food is introduced into their universe, and they eat it and paint each other with it ... The writer suggested, kidding, that maybe he would have gotten people if it had been chocolate ... Frank and Linda talked about how Frank later did do chocolate ... "In the Mess", the human hot fudge sundae ... The writer was asking if this was before or after Karen Finley ... it seemed like in reality it was both ... Karen had actually come to the OBR when she was a student in SF, and Frank was doing things like this even then, and Linda described Steve Hoffman's candlelight dinner mess with spaghetti, sauce, chocolate, wine everywhere! Later, when Frank could not get someone to do a version of this with Mikee in a performance they did in Chicago (the woman that the bookers found for Frank would have sex with him on stage, but wouldn't rock on his lap ... was not comfortable with the personal intimacy), Mikee had to do it to himself! Covering himself with chocolate sauce and whipped cream and glitter and then whipping himself! A hilarious image!! And people questioned whether Frank was doing a parody of Karen Finley!!
It was about this time, we think, that Frank took a piss break, and had son Kene-J get up and do some of his songs. He did two of his raps, which were great. Nicki was dancing!
Perhaps this was when Nellie left ... When Frank was back, he asked Unruhlee, the writer, and Nicki if they would undress Linda, Jen and Erika and put on Betty's jewelry? He told everyone about Betty, and her jewelry ... Kene-J and Mark provided the musical accompaniment ... Corey said later that it was really fun to video this, to get close ups of the bodies, Betty's jewelry ... he was doing it with Betty in mind!
After Jen, Erika and Linda were all bedecked, Frank asked if Linda, Jen and Erika could then undress the writer, Nicki and Unruhlee and put jewelry on them? Unruhlee and Nicki said yes ... the writer asked if she could leave her clothes on? Frank asked her, "Did they?" (meaning Linda, Jen and Erika). The writer replied, "Can I leave my clothes on?" "Did they?" This went back and forth several times ... Finally, Frank asked her if she was saying "no". He said "no" was ok, but he needed to know if that was what she was saying? She said she needed to think about it. Frank said to let them know! Meanwhile, Linda, Jen and Erika undressed Nicki and Unruhlee and put the jewelry on them ... it was again very magical and beautiful ... and then to see all of them sitting down again on the floor in their jewels ... it felt like softened everyone, transformed things ... soft, cozy, sexy ... Nicki laid out on the floor, relaxed, enjoying ... a very neat feeling.
We think that soon Frank was asking folks what they thought of the performance ... Kene-J really liked it ... he talked about it in terms of his performing his songs ... that he was feeling these days that he really liked performing for people he didn't know, in situations that were not necessarily comfortable for him, much more than performing for people he knew ... he said that he was starting to feel more comfortable with the uncomfortable, and vice versa. Really neat!
Nicki said that she felt inspired and curious ... She described the feeling of coming into something that she did not know, the unknown, and really liking it. She felt a comfort in being naked around other people, "strangers", which she had not felt in the U.S., had not experienced since she was growing up in Germany. She said the performance was a "paradox", and when Frank asked her how so?, she said that you just had to experience it ... like life, Frank said ...
Frank asked her, if he was not feeling funky, would she be willing to go all the way with him? What did he mean by "going all the way", she asked? He asked her what did "going all the way" mean to her ...? It was a great back and forth, and we probably cannot do it justice here, but basically Nicki said that it was being willing to go into the unknown ... and when Frank said, exactly, and asked her what that would be, she said she wouldn't know until she did it! Frank said that, like him, she wasn't reacting ... but just flowing with Frank. He asked her if she would do a private performance with him? And when she asked him what the private performance would be, he said that basically it was entering the unknown, and she said, "Of course!" She would be up for doing it before the next performance too. They would exchange contact info, and Frank said, "The End"!
What had looked at first like it might last only 15 minutes, turned out to be just shy of the normal 3 hours ... amazing and inspiring! We started breaking down the set, and Nicki and others were talking with Frank and Linda ...
Later, Jen told us some of what you guys had said on the drive back ... how the whole performance had seem to take on Frank's energy, which was slower, cozy, soft ... that everything seemed to roll off ... any blocks seem to soften and melt ... Nicki brought up the cameras, but it didn't feel like a problem, and she ended up coming up and hugging Corey and Mikee, the "camera" people, goodbye at the end ... it was a really soft and deep feeling overall in the performance ...
We got Frank into the car and soon were on our way to the Temescal Arts Center. Frank wasn't feeling well and was looking forward to his meds at the end of the night. Linda told him not to push it. She knew that he would feel better once he got there, but he should take it easy tonight because we didn't want him having to go to the doctor's or the hospital. He would have a week to recoup so hopefully he could just sleep it off and get better soon.
When we arrived, we parked and got Frank all bundled up for the walk to the space. The boyz had already loaded everything in. Erika wasn't far behind with a guy she knew from Food Not Bombs, Mark. We started set up which seems to get faster every time. Blankets on the floor, coloured lights, swag table, musical instruments, sound system, and all of Betty's jewelry along with the costumes. It's a really wonderful space. Frank asked Mark if he would play an instrument as no musicians had arrived yet. He picked up the harmonica and started playing with that. We didn't know what to expect, as always! Frank was feeling under the weather so it could be a short night. But then people did arrive. Unrulee arrived and talked about his history with Frank. Then another woman arrived, Nicki, and she had been given a flyer from Erika. The unknown sucked her in and she was intrigued. Frank asked her what the unknown was and she said it was something you couldn't plan for or have goals about. You just had to jump in and experience it whatever it was. She is a creative therapist and Frank said to show us what she does. She grabbed a little pillow and said her name, then threw it to each of us as we said our names. Then she said let's say something that we're grateful for. She was grateful for friendship, then passed the pillow to Erika who was grateful for relationships, then Unrulee who was grateful for intimacy and sex. I said I was grateful for being alive, and Mark said he was grateful for being alive and being here tonight. Another woman arrived who was with Unrulee, then Nelly arrived. A cozy group that was ready for anything. Frank dug in. The feeling was deep and slow, gentle but powerful.
Frank had Nicki come up and read “Mainstream Avant-Garde”, something Frank wrote in 1990 for the Drama Review. It is a piece that talks about the absurdity of mainstreaming art that pushes boundaries. Linda explained the context of the piece regarding Martha from Franklin Furnace wanting to mainstream performance art, and Karen Finley going mainstream with her own art. Nicki was to read the piece as Barbara Bush, in homage to Martha of Franklin Furnace. While she did that, the rest of us played gestures with Linda calling out the actions and adjectives. Kene J had arrived and was playing music with Mark.
Touching and exploring butts predominated the playing as that action came up a lot. We also held each other and rocked together, touched foreheads, rubbed heads with our heads and bellies with our bellies. It was fun! The action to spread our legs wide open came up. Erika and I were wearing skirts with no underwear, so when the next action was called some of the other people closed their legs quick as if they wanted us to close ours. But the next action was to open our hands up desiringly and didn't require us to close our legs. It was powerful to have our legs open like that. When Nicki finished reading “Mainstream Avant-garde”, she then read “The Updated Numbers Game”.
When the reading was done, we stopped playing gestures and Frank asked Nicki what she thought of the pieces she read. She said they were inspiring, and they brought up questions in her about what she did and how she could do the things she wanted to without any money. Frank said not to focus on money but just to do what she did with the money she had. That's what he's always done and it opens up everything. For instance, Luver was started with no money, and Frank always tells people how doable it is to start an internet radio station. Then Frank asked the woman who was with Unrulee what she thought of gestures. She said that she was trying in her life to get to a place of gentle innocent playfulness, or something like that, and that the playing felt like that. She was a creative writer and teacher, one of Frank's favorite classes in school. He described one of the plays he wrote in high school in which the characters were to be nude and trapped in a cube world. Suddenly baby food appears for them to eat, but they also paint their bodies with it and then find a way out of the cube world. The school let Frank do the play but he couldn't find anyone to be nude on stage! Years later the school invited him back to do a performance. The woman said that he may have gotten people to be in it if it was chocolate that the characters had to play with, but Frank talked about how he had done that too with his performance In The Mess. She asked if he had done that before Karen Finley. Frank then described another performance in which Mikee had to dance erotically by himself, because they couldn't find anyone to dance with him, and pour chocolate sauce etc. on himself. They had tried to find people in Chicago where the performance was taking place, to be in the performance with them but the sex industry people that had been possibilities were freaked out by the intimacy of the performance. One woman said she would have sex with Frank on stage no problem, but she couldn't rock on his lap. That would take away her mask. At any rate, some audience members were upset with Frank because they thought that Mikee was being a parody of Karen Finley. But Frank had done art with food smearing during the OBR back in the 70's and Karen had been to one of those shows.
At some point Nelly left, and then Kene J sang a few songs while Frank went to the bathroom. When he came back, Frank asked Nicki, Unrulee and the other woman if they would undress Linda, Erika and me and then adorn us with Betty's jewelry. They did. It's a lot of fun to get decorated! Then Frank asked if Linda, Erika and I could do the same to them. The woman asked if she could keep her clothes on. Frank didn't take this as a no. He asked her if we did that. It went back and forth like that until Frank said that if she was saying no then that was ok, but then she should say no. She said she didn't know yet, so Frank said to let us know when she came to a decision. She sat next to Frank and talked to him while Linda, Erika and I undressed Unrulee and Nicki and put all sorts of jewelry on them. Fun! Really softened up everything even more and brought it down deeper.
We were all sexy and soft in our costume jewelry from Betty. We sat down and Frank asked Nicki what she thought about the performance. She said that she experienced the performance as being comfortable with others, being nude with strangers that she hadn't done since living in Germany as a kid, and she said the performance was also a paradox. Frank asked about this paradox and she said that it couldn't be explained because it was life, it could only be experienced! He asked her if she would go all the way with him and she asked what he meant by that. He said going all the way was going into the unknown together, not casually, not socially. This has protected him much more than putting up defenses. She said that she would have to do it in order to see what going all the way was. Frank asked her if she would do a private performance with her and she asked what that was. He said it was going into the unknown together and she said of course!
Frank asked everyone what they thought of the performance tonight. Kene J said that he feels more comfortable now playing in front of people who don't know him. It's comfortable being uncomfortable! Unrulee said that it was not as intense that it has been in the past but he really liked it because he was sleepy tonight, so it took on that feeling. Frank said he was sleepy too and then revealed that he had not been feeling well lately. He talked about the Pow Pow festival, Linda describing how our performance went and the reaction it got from the audience. Frank had been recovering since then. Tonight's performance was great though, Frank weaving everything together in a beautiful warm playful experience. Really enjoyable.
Frank said 'the end' and we got up and dressed. He exchanged contact info with Nicki, who then went around and gave everyone a hug. After we had our way with the popcorn, it was time to get going. Everything was packed up and ready to get taken out to the car. Frank got bundled up again and we walked to our vehicle. Linda talked about the performance on the way home. It was great how it was slow and cozy, like it had taken on Frank's physical feeling. It felt like being cuddled. She said that anything that may have appeared to be an obstacle was just washed over. Frank did such a wonderful job. It felt really good.
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