Tonight’s Agenda: The Future Show at Artists Repertory Theatre
I like an artist who pushes the envelop; shakes things up a bit. Unconventionality often breeds innovation and has given us the likes of Picasso and Dahli, the great thinkers, and stunning music. Artistic genius provokes thinking about who we are, what we believe or don’t believe, as well as exposes us to new understandings about the world we live in. I must confess, however, that while I really enjoy artistic conceptions that resonate and move me in a meaningful way, I love– even more–dissecting artistic expressions that I dislike, find unmoving, or without meaningful contribution to the human experience. Tonight’s performance of, The Future Show, at the Artists Repertory Theatre was one such performance.
According to the Artists Repertory Theatre, The Future Show, part of the Frontier Series, is one of three productions by internationally acclaimed artists from London, Vancouver, BC, and Los Angeles, who are breaking new ground in theatrical creation and presentation. Tonight’s innovator was London native, Deborah Pearson. As both the producer and lone performer, she methodically tells her life story beginning from the time she completes her current show until she dies, hence, The Future Show. The novelty or innovation of this production is Pearson’s endeavor of rewriting a new future for every performance, implying that one’s future can change very quickly-or not-depending upon daily choices that are made or events that unfold and shape our future. To her credit, I think she achieves this. I just wish she could have done this with a little more conviction.
Pearson performs her Future Show behind a small wooden desk, in a monotone stream of consciousness, lending to the feeling of a somewhat perfunctory pace. Flashbacks to the unenthusiastic grade school recitations of, “My Summer Vacation,” began haunting me. While her lack of intonation was likely intentional, as an audience member, it felt anemic and left me unmoved and uninterested. Her character just did not seem very compelling. I need characters to evoke some sort of emotional connection. Pearson’s character seemed uninspired by her own artistic intentions, even though it was her future she was foretelling.
In addition to character development, I think good theater also needs to have a good story. While one could argue that rewriting her script for each performance allows the playwright to perfect her craft in storytelling, I believe this technique undermines the playwright of her opportunity to tell a meaningful story. I can appreciate the preparation and discipline of Pearson’s labors in rewriting each script nightly, but it seems difficult to write your future life story in one day and perform that story that same evening or following day and achieve a good outcome. Pearson even admits, in interviews, that she seldom performs The Future Show anymore because it has become too exhausting for her. Perhaps some of her exhaustion was transferred to me because the performance felt a bit tired.
Even though many critics, with more initials after their name than I, have hailed The Future Show as an innovative milestone theater production, it is not a particularly sustainable concept. It reminded me of Howard Hughes’s creation, the “Spruce Goose.” The plane was considered groundbreaking because skeptics did not believe that such a mammoth contraption could ever become airborne. But I have always thought, “All the time and effort that went into a gigantic wooden plane that was airborne for only about a minute!” Same kind of thing with The Future Show. Since each performance is different, maybe tonight’s feature just did not “fly” as effectively as the others.
The Future Show
Part of being a geezer is getting too comfortable. It is all to easy to stay in a well worn groove, going to the places you know, eating the same thing on the menu, listening to Dad Rock.
Part of our goal is to get out of the comfort zone and try events that are different.
The Future Show is more performance art than a play. The premise is the author predicts her future from the moment the play ends to her death. She rewrites the performance the day of every show so that no two show are the same.
The play is read from a binder as the author sits at a desk and takes about 45 minutes. The performance itself was almost a chant, a steady reading from the turning of binder pages. Good writing saved it from boring.
I enjoyed it. For the most part. But.
The further she got into the future, the more thin the play became. The beginning is very detailed, concerning the days and weeks immediately following the show. As time goes on it becomes more general and less interesting, although the author is a nice writer who can turn an interesting phrase.
Perhaps it is because I am almost 60 and know what the arc of a life can be. The author is 30 and really can’t know what that arc is. Also, as a sci-fi fan, I have spent a lot of time in imaginary futures, so I know how versions of the future can be represented.
I try and enjoy a performance for what it is and try not to think what is should have been. You have to judge art on its merits. But this show kept me thinking about how it should have been done, how I might have done it, but I realize I have the perspective of a life lived, not a life to be lived.
While I liked the performance, the language and the idea, and was glad I went, in the end I was unsatisfied because I never felt like it fulfilled it’s potential.
After the play we went to Victoria Bar on North Albina. I grew up in NE Portland, near 33rd and Fremont, and I remain amazed at the continued gentrification of N/NE PDX.
Victoria Bar has THE best looking back bar in PDX, especially at night.
The drinks are all named from character or scenes from the Princess Bride, one of best movies ever. I had a Storming the Castle: Bulleit Bourbon, Cocchi Torino, Benedictine, Angostura and Old Fashioned Bitters.
For dinner? They have a Southern style menu and I went with the beer can chicken.
Let’s talk chicken for a moment. First there is the meat. Most of the chicken is mass produced protein and is a nice base on which to add spices and sauces to make something delicious. Usually the meat is not that special. Prior to Victoria Bar I have eaten two extraordinary chickens in my life. One was my mother-in-laws, the chickens lived and ate what ever was on the Minnesota farm. The other was in Paris, also a farm raised chicken. My mother-in-laws was fried, the Parisian roasted and both were amazing.
This chicken was third on the list of tasty chicken. The meat had real chicken flavor and perfectly moist and tender. With red beans and rice and asome fabulous greens it was as good a bar dinner as I have ever had. And as I say, in my life list of chickens, number three.
Only two issues with the Victora bar. The first is it is cold. The second is you have to order at the bar. No big deal for the initial order, but halfway through my meal I wanted a beer and it took ten minutes away from my chicken to get my beer. Oh, the agony. But my meal did go from piping hot to warm while I waited to get my order in. The folks behind the bar were great, working hard and friendly, but relative to the number of clientele a bit short staffed.
We were there on a Sunday night and the bar was only minimally occupied. On a busy night I would order all the drinks when you order the meal so you enjoy the chicken in all its glory with no interruptions. And sit far from the door.
La Fiesta Mexican Kitchen
Old West Linn is a nice place, a bit of small town USA in ambience. In the mood for Mexican, we tried La Fiesta Mexican Kitchen and like the food better than most Mexican restaurants.
They had all the standards, but just a bit tastier. I had a seafood chimichanga. Better than the usual chicken. For the rice there was the option of streamed with lime and cilantro . Better than the standard red rice. They pride themselves on being family owned and offering fresh local food. It showed
The service was a bit slow and they have a focus on tequila to the point that the waitress had no idea what a manhattan was. At least they had beer on tap. But the food will bring me back next time I want Mexican.