Saturday, June 14, 2014

creating a/broad, June 14, 2014

This is Home Theatre
by Cameryn Moore

From where I sit, I can see everyone’s eyes in the room. Someone left their half-drunk drink on my coffee table, very close to my prop file box. I hope I don’t knock it over. The Gay guy over in the corner is tapping away at his smart phone; I doubt very much he is live-tweeting this event. I think he got dragged along on this by his very keen friend, who is watching me intently and nodding at certain points. I’m going to avoid looking at the iPhone user again until after Call 2—the homoerotic locker-room gang bang—and then I want to check back in and see how he likes them butt-seks apples. Until then I don’t want to know. The furthest away someone is from me is about 12 feet, and that is too damn close to show any signs of discomfiture.

This is home theatre, and it is hard. So. Fucking. Hard. For everyone! It’s hard for the audience because in a tightly packed room with 12 or 25 people in it, many of whom are your friends, you can’t really walk out—hooray for peer pressure—and I can totally see you. I can make direct eye contact with you. And it’s hard for me, because I have to be 130 percent on, all the time. They can see if I’m fudging with jam coverage on the mouldy faux toast, they can see if I let my performance face drop. They can totally see me.


but Phone Whore… it’s kinda perfect.

Before three weeks ago, I’d only ever done home shows twice, once in Austin with whomever my homestay host could round up in three days and once in Boston for friends who hadn’t been able to catch Phone Whore when it premiered the previous year. This time around, I had deliberately settled on home shows as the only financially viable option for doing anything in London on my own dime. The idea of being in London for three and a half weeks without performing made my skin twitch. And if there was money to be had, I had to do it.

After the complications of finding billets for London—friends of friends, as usual—actually getting a home theatre space or two was easy: I just asked my line-up of four hosts if any of them would be interested in hosting a show as well. Both hosts who volunteered had seen my show before; both had friends who they really wanted to see it. BAM! That’s two weekends of shows right there. Promoting turned out not to be a big thing, either, what with the limited seating capacity and all. I went and handed out cards at opening night of the Sex Worker Opera (did end up getting a few people from that), and that was it.

Getting money was a little harder. I had determined that selling tickets up front would be ridiculous, I would just take reservations by email and get my host to collect money, five to 10 pounds, sliding scale, at the door. I didn’t reckon on the commitment factor, or the lack thereof, in such an arrangement. When people have to pay up front, they’ve got a commitment. They don’t want to lose that money. Without that commitment, they’re free to let it slide, which meant for opening night, three people bailed, leaving us with a few seats that someone else could have taken. To combat it the following weekend, my host and I agreed to overbook that motherfucker, knowing full well that a certain small but significant percentage of people would cancel or flake, and keep a waiting list via text message. Neither approach was ideal, so I think next time I might just sell tickets.

Feh, sorry to ramble about box office logistics. Tech? Less of a problem than you might think. I worked with what I had in both locations: light switches and stereos with CD players for the sound effects. Other more tech-heavy shows might find this challenging, and I’m pretty sure my other shows would not work as well in a home show, but Phone Whore… it’s kinda perfect. It’s hanging out with me in my living room, in an actual living room. Total immersive theatre.

am I in the audience space, or are they with me in the performing space?

I learned that I can pretty much work in any home environment, as long as there’s a path through the bodies on the floor to my toaster and the 'bathroom' (yay for those spaces where the bathroom is close enough that I can flush a real toilet and skip one track on the f/x CD!). I learned that it’s okay to let the resident cat or cats wander through the space; audiences can refocus and it adds just another layer of verité. I learned that making dinner for early guests, serving up pasta sauce and clearing away plates and letting the first call start while I am elbow-deep at the kitchen sink, that is a BOMB-ASS way to kick off the show, and I will do that again as often as I can.

These are all performance details, good to know for next time (oh, yes, there will be a next time, hopefully many). My real takeaway from this whole experience is a conundrum: in a living room that in total is roughly the same size as my usual stage, am I in the audience space, or are they with me in the performing space? And what difference does it make?

I would argue, none. Whatever space I’m occupying, or whether that is toggling back and forth like a theatrical two-faces-one-vase moment, the effect is the same: we are there next to each other, looking at each other, while I say some pretty hard things, while they react to those hard things in ways that are almost painful for me to sit with. All the things that make Phone Whore 'intimate' and 'thought-provoking' and 'brutal', all that stuff… when it is happening right there in front of you, and there is no getting away, when they are with me and I am with them, then all of those things compress into something even sharper and more beautiful.

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