Soft light creeps in from stage left. Tense plastic nets that caress and receive. (We recited possibilities aloud. We made charts.)
Live performance with text, video, and audio
Festival of Language, UW-Madison Theatre Department, Madison Public Library
This multimedia performance mashes up philosophy, religious cults, jellyfish imagery, and Meatloaf music to explore resonances between desire, obsession, intellectualism, and religion. Reverend, a sinister snake oil salesman, and Snake, a seductive mesmerist, give a lecture that slowly transitions into a nightmarish enactment of cult culture.
The scene: two podiums; projection of jellyfish imagery behind the podiums; soft, dreamy light. Binaural beats play throughout the performance, slowly increasing in volume. Throughout the duration of the piece, the two performers seek to hypnotize the audience.
In Part 1, “The Pleasure of the Text,” Snake and Reverend each stand behind a podium, addressing the audience. Their academic lecture performance about desire and textuality is a mashup of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Will to Power, Roland Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text, and Helene Cixous’ The Laugh of the Medusa.
In Part 2, “Your deepest desires are thick and textured, resonant and tender,” Reverend and Snake leave the lecterns, moving throughout the entire space of the theatre, transitioning from academic lecturers to religious cult leaders. They run throughout the space, increasing the energy in the room. Occasionally they jump on an empty auditorium chair for emphasis. They position themselves in close proximity to and speak directly to individual audience members. Their text is a mashup of Jim Jones’ suicide tape transcript from the Jonestown Massacre (1978), Shintaro Katsu’s film Shogun Assassin (1980), and original SALYER + SCHAAG text.
In Part 3, “Anything for Love,” Meat Loaf’s song “I’d Do Anything for Love” begins to play. Reverend and Snake begin to dance, in a deadly serious, fluid, graceful style. When the song is over, they return to their lecterns and make concluding remarks.
We first performed this work in November 2013 in Milwaukee, WI, during the Midwest Modern Language Association convention as part of the auxiliary conference organized by Jane Carman, Festival of Language: The Art of Hybridity. We next performed at University of Wisconsin-Madison Theatre Department’s Graduate Conference, Embodiment, in March 2014. Finally, we performed this work in April 2014 at Madison Public Library as part of MAD THEORY: A Performance Philosophy Symposium.
The performance script converted into a play script is viewable here.