22 May 2010

Performance Hangover

Last night's performance of Salvage was a tremendous success.

Even with my tiny role--performing as an actor, reciting a poem with Katie Pankow, joining an improvisation (all of which meant about eight minutes of stage time)--I'm experiencing the usual post-performance hangover.  And obviously what I'm experiencing is not nearly as intense as it must be for the dancers, including Gerri Reaves, Mariquita Anderson, Jennifer Reed, Kelley Natella, and Lynn Vosloo, and certainly not so as it surely must be for choreographer Alyce Bochette.  All so much work, since October for Alyce and January for the dancers, for just over an hour of performance, and then a half hour later, the striking down of the floor, the props, the lighting, and nothing but space and time and memory--which is precisely what the dance itself was about.

The event itself was wonderful.  The venue was sold out, and that was a worry given the price of the tickets--Alyce did insist on student pricing, which made it more affordable for many in the audience.  And the audience was exceptional.  I am accustomed to going to the Florida Repertory Theater or to other art venues, and having to deal with a restless and sometimes disinterested audience.  The performance arts have made me a snob about audiences--most aren't worth a damn.  But last night's audience, typified by the lovely Berne Davis (more on her later), was a gem, really worthy of the performance. 

The last piece of the performance, a demanding, hypnotic, 24-minute orchestration, "A Ray of Light," captivated the audience.  Here, the open, intimate staging was so appropriate.  We had floor mats about two feet from the dance floor, where children mostly sat, and the audience seating was just behind the mats.  During one part of the dance is a sequence of improvisations for the dancers, each dancing against a column that framed the stage (these are real support columns for the building, no prop columns), and one dancer improvising with a forty-foot length of fabric suspended from the ceiling.  Before the performance, I was a little worried about the proximity for the audience, that they might lean back in their chairs, evade the closeness of it all.  But they kept true to the performance itself, and so they were ready for the final segment in which the dancers gather, arm in arm, with sweeping runs and fallings, with an athletic set of jumps and arm swings, and culminating in final climb by Kelley up the fabric to nearly the ceiling.  The piece was dedicated to Alyce's dear uncle Ray, who had passed away this winter, and the ending image was of this impossible climb up a cloud of fabric, and a final seizing, held in light, and then shut in darkness.

The audience, spellbound, sat in a three-second span of silence--was it a collective gasp?  And then genuine, happy, happy, and wild applause.  Me?  I was watching in the back corner, behind a piano, and I was quickly walking toward my entry for the final bow, at the moment between silence and applause.  The dancers were exhilarated, exhausted (and after the show, they were each so typically self-critical about lapses in timing or missed steps--ah, that perfection thing), and it was thrilling to hear the audience get it.

And then the quick disassembling.

But between that, we had a half hour to visit audience members and dear friends (Kat, Barry, Phil, Brittney, Jerry, Suzanne, and more!), and in attendance was Fort Myers' grande dame of the arts, Berne Davis.  She graduated from high school the year the building was finished, a WPA project of the new Fort Myers Post Office, and she is the principle benefactor of the building that bears her and her late husband's name.  I talked with her briefly, telling her I would fetch Alyce for her, and leaving Alyce with her, I later got to hear some snippets of their conversation.  Berne expressed such impassioned joy in her appreciation for the performance--and it was genuine, with tears in her eyes.  Here was something of a marvel in Fort Myers.  No, not cutting edge, high-end post-modern art, but something very good along those lines, with a competent and brave set of dancers, with a choreographer finding her own place, and to see all the pieces, however momentarily come together, was enthralling and humbling. 

And so this morning, after the late night striking, after a couple of hours with friends and artists at a local outdoor bar, it's the performance hangover.  Now, with bucketfuls of time, of idleness, wanting what?  And thinking about why wanting anything more than that moment, which is gone, a happy. humanly crafted little thing, almost nothing. 

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