Saturday, February 22, 2014

creating a/broad, February 22, 2014

Home Theatre
by Cameryn Moore

If everything goes the way I hope with fundraising for my UK tour this summer, I will be doing four Fringes: Brighton, Ludlow, Buxton, and Edinburgh. Though the UK style of Fringes—open access, or all Bring Your Own Venue, in CAFF-speak—is still challenging for me, there is a deeper way in which it is very familiar. This is theatre-based theatre. These shows are happening in spaces where performance space and audience seating and a box office and a tech booth all mean roughly the same thing, no matter which theatre space they are happening in. One stage may be roomier than another, or the box office may be off site, or audience seating may be on risers and/or in the round and/or occasionally blocked by pillars, but this is all happening in a space designed or specifically converted for performance.

Even with all that Fringing, though, I still have a lot of open space in my UK schedule, and not enough money or enough contacts among independent venues to fill those in with standard bookings. Particularly for London, where I simply cannot hack rentals on my own right now, but still have about a month to fill. I’m going to be dragging out the Smut Stand as often as I can, but I’m also going for it this year: I’m going to register for the Home Theatre Festival. It’s the best bargain running. It’s TOTALLY FREE.

In an actual house, the space for puttering is obvious and clearly delineated.

I mean, the international program is strictly online, and most people don’t know about it, and I seriously doubt that most reviewers would even bother, and the tech specs are crap for the homes where I’ll be playing in London, because HELLO HOME THEATRE. There are no tech specs. All I can ask from people is a comfy chair and a place to plug in the boom box for sound F/X, and ideally the main light on a dimmer, but even that bit is not a sticking point. So you get what you pay for, which is nothing.

But I have already got my billets lined up in London, and two of those places have offered to host a home show and have said that they could round up 8 or 10 of their friends for said show, and you know what? Home shows are pretty fucking amazing, in many respects, and I’m not going to miss out on that. Home shows for Phone Whore, in particular.

Not many people have had the privilege of seeing Phone Whore in a living space. I think I have done it that way… twice. But even if you’ve seen Phone Whore in the theatre, you can imagine, right? I’m supposed to be hanging out while I’m on call, puttering around my house. In an actual house, the space for puttering is obvious and clearly delineated. I can actually flush an actual toilet (maybe I’ll even stash a squirt bottle in there for extra verité during the off-stage pee break monologue). If they’ve got a toaster, I will use that and actually toast bread, ditto for a coffee maker. I can fuss with throw pillows, recline differently on the couch.

We believe that no one is coming to save us.  We have to save ourselves.

I am moving all around and through the audience; they have no place to hide their reactions, no bright white lights to mask their expressions. It’s all right there, four to six feet away from me. There is no remove, either in terms of seating or ambience. The feel of hanging out with me is strong. We are all hanging out under the glow of the same three lamps. And the conversational tone that I strive to maintain in theatrical presentations? Psht, it is so easy when I am close enough to actually have a normal-level conversation, in a normal-level voice. It makes the play quiet, homey, the way it should feel always, but is not easy to achieve in a professionally lit, acoustically powerful theatre.

I get really excited about the minimalist technical/artistic reality of home producing Phone Whore. But the fine folks at Home Theatre Festival have articulated in their manifesto some other excellent reasons to go this route. An excerpt:

We believe that we can and must have direct relationships with our audiences, our work, and our means, without conduits, just like we can have direct relationships with God without the fucking Church.

We believe that we can work successfully with institutions only when we realize we don’t need them.

We believe the best cure for depression, stagnation, and suicidal ideation is sure as fuck NOT waiting for some theatre or bullshit foundation to deem you legit enough to work with.

We believe that no one is coming to save us.  We have to save ourselves.

(remainder of the manifesto is available here.)

Read it. Especially fringe artists, and I don’t mean necessarily artists who tour the Fringe circuit. I mean anyone else who is creating and living on the fringe of the performance world, for whatever reason. This is one way to make it happen on our own; it’s good to have options, you know? Because I have said it more than once: I can’t wait around for legitimacy to get my work out to people. I can’t wait.

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