Inspiration and hope; In the words of another

Frequently, I have difficulty articulating what it is that we do at LRS and what I feel my place is in it all in a fashion that someone outside the troupe can readily assimilate. Often I find challenges in helping my friends and loved ones understand what they’re in for, and how different we are, when they come to see me perform, or share the experience of being a guest at the studio with me.

Recently, I became privy to a poetic, well-written and obviously heartfelt summation of a friends first experience at LRS. I feel very excited and privileged to share it with you, with permission by the author and our creative director.

REVIEW OF The Black Show at THE LITTLE RED STUDIO

The Little Red Studio is immersion theatre. I had no idea about this going in, and in fact, had thought, as I walked up to their seemingly unassuming red door just north of downtown, that I’d be seeing just what I’d been invited by theater coordinator Kerry Christensen to see: a show. You know, a show…a play. The kind where the same thing happens as has happened a hundred times before. You buy a ticket. You get program. You find your seat. The lights go out and something begins to happen on a stage. You watch whatever it is that happens. You leave. I had no idea how different this particular show was going to be.

When I walked up, the man at the door informed me that there was a reception around the corner and that I would be led back to the theatre once the space and the cast was ready. I remember one of my eyebrows going up as I looked at him, sort if in this quizzical Spock sort of way, as I thought “You mean I can’t just walk in and sit in the dark and prepare to watch something happen onstage?” Already this night was turning interesting.

I walked to the space around the corner and upon walking into what seemed to be the theater’s office space, I was asked by the first of many people that night who greeted me with a smile, to check in, which I did with two women who handed me a carnation, and offered me a glass of wine. They asked me to enjoy the string player who was filling the room with music, or to look at the art on the walls while I waited to be led to the space for the show.

The art, which I later realized were accurately painted images from the show I was about to see, were huge canvases, most definitely intriguing: nude bodies of various sizes and shapes in body paint, all with texture and feeling. This show was not going to be a tired rendition of Chekhov or Ibsen. I was getting really interested.

People milled around chatting, each carrying a flower like I was. The room felt somewhat like a cabaret, but with an edge. I could sense that I might end up being a participant in the evening…

We were here to see The Black Show, the Little Red Theatre’s second of three “color” shows, and this one in particular had caught my attention. It had been described to me as erotic, death-infused, and rich. These are themes which strike home with me, and having felt recently a need to connect with more passion in my life, and to explore my heart and mind in new adventurous ways, this sounded like a great show to go see.

Turns, out, it was a great show in which to particpate as well. What actually happens in the show? That is difficult to say. Every night is a little different. It all depends on what the participants bring to the the event in terms of their willingness and energy.

On this particular night, we were led from the reception to the theatre space in groups of three or four. My guide, in costume as emcee for the evening with face paint, a thick chain around his neck, and a billowing shirt, was Jeff, owner of the theatre and painter of the images I’d seen in the reception as it turned out. He explained with enthusiasm and sincerity, that he wanted to welcome us to the evening and then once inside, he divided our little group up, sending each of us off with a cast member to get a tour of the space.

Jeff was my guide and he started to show me around. And once inside of the Little Red Studio, a tour is appreciated, as we had entered a different world. This was no normal theatre space. The Little Red Studio did not contain rows of seats facing a stage. It felt more like a loft space designed for personal exploration and artistic experimentation.

There were rich colors, plush seats and cushions arranged all over in various configurations, as well as light and dark areas around the room and its various corners and nooks in which different elements of the performance itself laid in waiting for the night to begin. Jeff showed me the main staging area with its shadowy lighting and huge blank canvas against the back wall, a pedastal in the middle of another part ofthe room on which a perfect bodied girl in a tight latex jumpsuit wearing a gas mask stood observing people come in… you know…the usual fare for a night at the theatre.

All around the room, cast members toured other guest/participants through the space, explaining different things to them. A girl with red palm prints over her breasts walked by silently. Different other cast members, (or were they just visions of some kind….or more unsettling and exciting, other visitors to the Studio, just more engaged than I was?), made their way through the space as well, welcoming and preparing us all for the night.

It was difficult to tell who was cast member and who was spectator, but as I quickly realized, the most difficult thing for me to determine that night was whether or not I myself was a cast member or a spectator.

We were invited to take seats around the main performing area, and then the show began. It began without fanfare. It just began. Three butoh figures, came forth from the dark. If you’ve never seen butoh before, it is sort of like your worst nightmare come to life, mixed with delicate grace. The three cast members, looking like aged corposes, and painted head to toe with what looked like pale mud, staggered into the play space. They each were turned by other cast members to face the audience, where they then froze in place.

Each of three cast members who had turned them, proceeded to take a small container of black paint, and proceeded to pour that thick paint over the head of each still figure. As the paint dripped slowly down bodies to the floor, each of the cast members reached back for a martini glass, also filled with paint, and a paint brush. They proceeded to look for people in the audience to whom to hand the glass and brush combo.

This wasnt an empty gesture, or a trite way of suggesting that we might at some point break the “fourth wall”. This was an invitation, which I accepted and which we all did, and within minutes, we were all particpant performers, painting these three ghostly figures ourselves. At the Little Red Studio, there is no fourth wall, or third, second, or first for that matter.

After the body painting, we were asked by our emcee to make our way to another part of the Studio space to see two women writhing and flowing and intertwining in the middle of the floor to music. These women, erotic and sensual and not pornographic, were described by our emcee as goddesses interacting as they want to be seen.

As soon as they were done with their display, we were brought to another area of the space to hear poetry, read slam style, by the very cast members who we’d bodypainted just an bit before.

The cast then invited people to taste chocolate in the center of the space, a richness that made the sensory offerings of earlier in the night very tactile and real. The night then relaxed into an open party for a bit, with dancing, music, and wine flowing as people made their way around and through the space as if it was a nightclub. Performers and spectators interacted as one. This is the Little Red Studio’s idea of an intermission: it was a continuation of the theme.

The Little Red Studio never breaks character because there are no characters to break. Its performers are living their art and they invite you to live yours as well. Like I said, its immersion theatre.

There’s an apprehension with any theatre like this…and for the record, I want to say that there isnt much theatre out there in the world like this, and probably for that very reason: it makes you nervous, albeit in the best possible way. At the Little Red Theatre, you find yourself with that same worry that you might have when an entertainer is looking for a volunteer for his or her show looks in your direction and starts to motion towards you. Its a sense of “do I really want to be here right now?”.

But you do. Because to say no to the experience is to limit life. When it all comes down, I realize again and again that there is so much truth to whoever it was who said “I will never regret the things I have done, just the things I haven’t done.” The Little Red Studio offers you the chance to try things you haven’t done, if you have the courage to say yes to the experience. I found myself excited and intruigued, nervous and at the same time ready for anything.

We reconvened in the main performing space to watch an arial bondage piece that made me want to study knots in which a woman, tied by her partner, is swung around the space from a rig connected to a point in the center of the ceiling. It was seductive, enticing, and unsettling at the same time. He was too good with the knots he tied, and she was too easily tied. I liked it. It made me reflect on power and control, in a passionate context.

We watched the girl who was wearing the gas mask and latex earlier, be body painted on an altar of sorts, now wearing neither latex or mask. She was a vision, perfect, and captivating. All of this screamed of the themes of the night: of sensuousness, richness, life, and avoiding death by delving more into life itself.

Throughout these seemingly disjointed experiences, there is spoken text of course…but not in a traditional sense. Narrators guide us through the expeirence with thoughts death and life and the pursuit of passion. There is a tactile sense to everything, from the words themselves, to the rich red fabric which covers a naked form writhing on the floor, to the ending of the piece, which was the most tactile of all.

The cast assembles in the center of the stage and performers invite by extended hand each member of the audience to approach the cast and stand in front of them…there, the cast showers attention on the audience member, with smiles, with feathers that brush against your face, with laughter, with hands on your arms and eye contact…and you just take it in and say yes to it. It is a ritual of passage from the show back out into the world, and that touch and connection is a feeling more than anything else that you can bring into your day to day lives and continue to long for as you go through the sameness of your day.

And long for it you will, long after the lights in the theatre space come up.

The Little Red Studio offers not just this show but many others. Having had a chance to see their recent two man show on manhood and gender, I can assure you that this is a space that is being well used to challenge, inform, and to forge new theatrical ground in Seattle.

The space deserves your patronage, and even more than that, you, passionate reader, deserve to create space in your life to be there in order to experience it all. Its worth it, and so are you.

In the last few weeks, as I have struggled with my bodies sophisticated, yet debilitating compensation patterns, and face another MRI of my impinged spine, I have been tumbling with the possible reality that it may be time to leave my aerial career behind for good. I am fascinated by my body, its ability to rotate, guard, pinch, splint, and shape around whatever is causing all this purposeful chaos.

And of course, I am scared. However it’s been fun and challenging to re-think my role at the studio, were my being grounded to be the case, and how excited I am to continue branching into other outlets and energy exchanges there.

Gregs words have fueled my passion for the company, the troupe, and what we are collectively sharing with the world. I’ve replenished inspiration and drive regarding my contributions to this entity that has shaped my life so much, enriched my human experience boundlessly, and shown me what it is, for me, to hope and be free. I feel invigorated, released into broader possibilities, and hold an even higher regard for what it is we invoke, and what we are becoming, at LRS. Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Greg.

Greg can be reached with comments and questions through the Little Red Studio.



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