Anja and I adapted a mask scene we made in school into a street performance. We always called it The Box or Identity Card. But now that we’re playing it in Slovenia we’re calling it Osebno, Prosim!! (Papers, Please!!)
We’ve changed it in a few other ways to get it right for the street and it’s been an interesting and challenging project. Here are a few photos from the very beginning of our first show in Maribor, Slovenia. I’m checking IDs and Anja, “Rosie,” is slowly approaching the stage, where things are about to go not very well for her.
This was my first time performing on the street. And it taught me something about performing in a theater. Someone once said that a building is a kind of machine, but I never understood that until now. Now I see a theater as an attention machine.
A Theater is an Attention Machine
The box office part of an attention machine selects just the audience who know that they want to see the play. The usher part is to organize people further: audience who want to see the play the most get to sit closest. The seats face the stage and are bolted to the ground in long rows to make it inconvenient to get out again, no matter the reason. (Boredom, pee pee, fire.)
Then there is the stage! When the auditorium goes dark, the stage is the only thing you can see. All the lights are pointing right there. And in case you miss it, there is a big frame around it. Everything within the frame is a part of the performance and everything outside the frame (usher’s flash light, the M&Ms being munched, cellphones, etc.) are to be ignored.
You can’t take an attention focusing machine like this with you to a street performance. It’s against the rules.
Instead the performers have to do the work of grabbing an audience, lining them up, focusing their attention, and framing the performance themselves. And to do it all without a pretty red curtain or blackouts? It’s pretty exposed out there!
So far so good.
Anja and I are lucky because we’re playing in a festival where people seek out out our show. The audience grabbing part is done for us already. But focusing that attention and framing the performance is up to us. So we’ve tweaked the show here and there, making improvements all the time. Today we’ll play our peice here in Ljublana, so wish us luck.
We got some publicity from our first show in Maribor. Check it out by skipping right to 14:45 on this video.