This past weekend I attended Aaron Landsman’s Appointment Theater Series @ NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Appointment is a series of short performances aka “appointments” that are given in office spaces for one person at a time. The idea of creating work for audiences of one, certainly breaks all the economic rules about theater. Or does catering to one audience member create opportunities for new performance formats that actually create fresh audiences and indeed have economic viability? What about its impact on emerging artists? (Nothing like getting to say you performed to a sold out audience 48 times in a week, now is there?)
Over the course of two days I managed to have 9 of 12 possible appointments; 4 of which were created by The Ensemble Free Theater, who today begins a 12 week residency with The IAE in Chicago. While according to Aaron Landsman there are a number of ways you could run your appointments, for each performance I was assigned a number. There were a total of 14 numbers you could be assigned. Each number assigned was then rotated through a total of 3 appointments in offices that were listed A-K, plus a waiting room experience.
While it may seemed impossible to imagine all 13 theater pieces, for one, and one waiting room experience, going on simultaneously in close proximity to each other, I personally think the economic potential for a profitable version of Appointment are substantial. What if Appointment was sold to workers in corporations filling the nooks and crannies of their available time in their day? Imagine going to work and having signed up for an “appointment” in your own office? Forget “going to the theater.” How could the world of theater change if all of a sudden it came, albeit in unexpected ways, to you? Very clever really.
And what about the talented students I saw too? My first appointment was with a naked actor in a dark room who was, at first, scrunched into the corner hugging his knees. A picture of a turtle was projected on the wall and outdoor sounds were all around me. He told me the most beautiful poetic story about how vulnerable a turtle is and how little protection in life it has except for its hard shell. On another appointment I was blindfolded and asked to eat things, touch different textures and gooey substances and enjoy the smell of a fresh pot of coffee. My senses were awakened and refreshed after this appointment. On another I was about to be abducted by a green (Norwegian) alien. The entire appointment was spent hiding with the alien under a small table while I filled out paperwork for my abduction. The green aliens face was just about touching mine the entire time, while we waited for the mother ship to arrive.
Yet another, I was intensely interrogated by two undercover foreign agents about my reasons for being in their country and what my motives were for not paying a parking ticket. And for yet another appointment, delivered by by NYU’s very own Gina Stevensen, I was offered this hilarious, twisted but truth filled insight into life as an artist trapped in an office job. Here is a little more detail about how this appointment went…
“Calling Appointment #9,” said a woman in a black dress. I was number 9 so stood up and followed her out the door and down the hall. We turned several corners, past many office doors, into a dimly lit hall where we finally stopped in front of a closed office door. “Your appointment is likely to be quite late.” said the woman. “She never is on time, I am sorry to say.”
After a few moments the woman left; leaving me standing in front of the door alone.
I soon noticed that next to the closed door was another office with its door wide open. A woman was sitting in the office largely ignoring an incessantly ringing series of phone calls. Her computer monitor was turned just enough towards me to see the screen. At first, it seemed to have a “normal” screen saver but as I continued to glance at it the images on it became more strange and distinct. A rubiks cube turned into a blow up doll which then became a dating site.
” Oh, your going to be waiting awhile for your appointment I am afraid. Would you like to take a seat in here and wait?” said the woman. Quickly I found myself sitting in the office of my “real” appointment.
“Hi my name is Geena. I am Frank’s assistant for Cornerstone Equity.”
Geena’s office was an absolute mess. There was wadded up paper on the floor, and pens, paper clips, and work papers scattered everywhere across her desk. Her office looked like it belonged to someone who could hardly care or stand to be there. Geena proceeded to hand me her business card which read ” Administrative Assistant, Cornerstone Equity.” Geena shared with me, confidentially of course, that her job was going nowhere. Her boss was mad at her most of the time. He said she didn’t get enough work done, which didn’t please him.
Soon after, Geena had me helping her complete her work. Her boss needed her to complete a mortgage document. She was told to enter 4.597% in all the empty spaces on the page. When I started looking at the document, I said ” But this does not make sense,” and she replied, ” Oh, lots of things don’t, but we do them anyway.” It was then that Geena insisted that she had to show me the webisode promo she was working on. She really wanted to be an actress. This was just her day job. After clicking through about 10 open windows on her computer will all kinds of personal web surfing items on it, emerged this outrageously creative and artistically ridiculous and ingenious video Gina (the actress) created for her appointment piece:
After parroting back the words of her own video to me as it played live, at the end of it Geena asked me if I was from Quicksand Investing. She claimed to think I was there to visit her because I potentially would invest in her idea. When I told her “no I was not”, she became so distraught she dumped an entire wastebasket full of crumpled up paper over her head. There was so much paper in the basket it seemed like eternity before it stopped spilling all over her and on to the floor. I was laughing so hard I could barely contain myself. It was then her phone began to ring off the hook and the woman who brought me to her in the first place came back into the room to tell me it was time to go before Geena’s boss showed up. Right before I left, Geena asked me for my email; just in case I knew someone who would invest in her webisode series.
I received an email from Geena which is how I was able to show you her You Tube video. If you know someone who would be interested in investing in her series, I bet she would love to hear from you too! You can try emailing Gina at her day job email@example.com
What a wonderful realistic-fantasy-play-date Appointment was for me. I hope to see more experimental theater from Aaron Landsman here in Chicago in December when he comes to bring us a few more appointments to experience.
But I can’t help but also wonder, Is Gina starting a business for real doing webisodes? What a clever way to virtually launch it through Appointment. Or was this more simply just amazing theater? Ah.. the true economic potential of fabulous artistry emerges. This is precisely what we at The IAE are helping our artists create. Fabulous Economically Viable artistry.