last night i was invited to be a roaming performer at Supperclub SF with my friend Antastazia of badunklsista. Supperclub is this “dining experience” sort of thing where you go in for a prix fixe meal, sit in a huge white room full of huge white beds and huge white pillows instead of tables, atmospherically lit with all kinds of colorful lights and there’s a DJ and guests are entertained between courses by various local performance acts. even though it’s been around for a while and several of my friends have performed/worked there, i went there for the first time myself just last month cuz it’s pricey to just go as a customer.
i’ve now done lots of “fashion shows”/performances with anastazia, but more than a clothing constructor (which is just sort of happenstance and out of utility), she’s first and foremost a performance artist of the most devious kind. she’s on staff of supperclub as a creative contributor, and this week she was in charge of entertainment, so some of us were invited to come and costume ourselves and see what we could do; i don’t have any real specific talent like singing or dancing, so we were to just “play” with the crowd and provide distraction/ambiance.
i adorned myself in one of staz’s fabulous costumes (no photos, unfortunately) and thought about what it was i felt like doing. it wasn’t until i put on my enormous fake eyelashes that i really started to get a vibe for my character. i have pretty big eyes to begin with, and these things make them HUGE. staz encouraged us that if we were going to communicate with patrons verbally, we should make up a language. i figured that would be too hard, and so determined that i would communicate only with my enormous eyes.
the crowd last night was a private event crowd without dinner – so more of a stand-around-and-drink event than the usual thing where people sit down on the beds and are served a 5 course meal. this made it a bit difficult, as most of them were not really paying attention to the performers and just talking to eachother. you sort of had to make them pay attention to you, as opposed to regular nights where the performers are staged to go on between courses and pretty much everyone watches from their beds. that, and they were all gamers. tech nerds. who, you might think would appreciate some anime-style performance art, but it seems they didn’t really know how to engage a human form of the type of game characters they develop. many of them, when approached, would quickly turn and walk away.
i determined that, outside of just looking like a freak, obsessive and childlike object worship was the best way to create my non-verbal character. first, i obtained a glass of champagne. i then went around the room and the bar, staring widely, sort of caressing my champagne flute, and non-verbally communicating with everyone that i was EXTREMELY interested in having my glass toast their glass – as if i were an alien who had just discovered this human custom and with a bit of misinterpretation about what it is – by STARING at their glass and slowing reaching mine out toward them. once they got it and clinked me, i would look up, half-smile, look them right in the eye, and blink my false eyelashes dramatically, slowly, hold for a couple of seconds, and then immediately focus on the next glass in proximity. repeat. all the way around the room of about 100 people, skipping only those who refused to acknowledge my presence. i found that most people are pretty much freaked out simply by anyone who looks at them directly in the eye, particularly if you’re not saying anything. i also sort of had that creepy clown/mime/doll vibe, which i know a lot of people don’t really like.
after toasting everyone, i obtained the next object, which was a heart-shaped bird cage with a animal pelt inside. i proceeded back around the room, silently, holding out the cage to everyone, making dramatic eyes and motions as if this was an extremely important pet inside this cage. i petted it. i encouraged them to pet it. to touch the cage. to examine the inside.
then, i found a large silver mirror ball with the word ‘BAD’ etched into one side and ‘ESP’ on the other. i used the ball sort of like an 8-ball, rolling it around in my hands, walking up to people, looking them in the eye for a moment, and then showing them either the BAD or ESP side, or, sometimes both, nodding knowingly and blinking a lot when they seemed to get it.
at one point, the other performers had all left the room for a break/drink/change of costume and i was the only one left for a few minutes. i was a bit uncomfortable at first, being the only freak in the room and having sort of exhausted all the prop games i could come up with. i eventually gave myself a task, and that was to build a sort of altar in the middle of the room out of the various pillows and props that had been strewn around the room by our troupe, first placing the precious birdcage on a pillow, then covering it, as you do with a bird when you want it to go to sleep, then surrounding it with a pyramid of pillows, and placing some decor and the mirror ball on top. i spent about 10 minutes doing this, slowly and with great consternation and concentration, inspecting each piece and rearranging over and over again. it wasn’t anything spectacular – it was more like something you’d discover your 5 year old doing while bored in their bedroom on a rainy day – but it was doing something, and people were watching. i did all i could with building my pillow pyramid/altar, and after admiring it and looking as though i had achieved great satisfaction, i turned and left the room.
all in all, i think i did a pretty good job. i’m generally very social, but i don’t necessarily like being the center of attention. i generally have stage fright, especially if asked to speak, and so this was a great combination of do-whatever-and-do-it-silently, with little or no pressure to do much except to keep doing something weird. i enjoyed the one-to-one interaction intention i set out with, as opposed to just sort of wandering around and dancing and not engaging people, and i think, outside of the few people who looked really uncomfortable when approached, it got people more interested in us as characters and engaged in the scene instead of just treating it like another night out at the bar in SF.
i’m most likely going back again tomorrow night to do it again, although for a shorter period as i have somewhere to be by 10:00. i’m not sure if i’ll do the same, or be even braver and try to create an even more odd character for myself. we’ll see, but all in all it was a fun experience and a good exercise in both creativity and boldness for me, as opposed to being prescribed a character and put onto a stage and not having to really engage. i do however, know that i could never do such a thing night after night, as a career. performing is stressful and draining, not to mention how jaded one can get by having to interact with ungrateful and/or uninterested audiences, and i think i’d burn out waaay too fast on this sort of thing, but being a total sideshow freak now and then is really quite gratifying and an excellent outlet for all kinds of emotions and desires, and a way to let some of the weird parts of your personality out to breathe for a bit. i know some people like to do that everyday, but if you’re a permanent freak, doesn’t that just become normal for you? i like switching between modes.Filed in art, autobiographical, bay area gems | Tagged with badunklsista, butoh, supperclub | Comments (4)