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Small Plots Diary – May 3, 2009 – Big Break-Up

May 6, 2009

May 3, 2009
Big Break-Up (#1), Nissen Building, Noon
Break-Up Woman: Tricia; Break-Up Man: Vinnie; Ipod Girl: Lauren

Nervous anticipation makes its way down 4th street as we gather to witness the first performance in the Small Plots series – The Big Break-Up. Lee paces in the Brew Nerds vestibule, I check my watch, and if “opening night” jitters aren’t enough, upon arrival I learn that one of our lead actresses would be late, and another can’t make it at all. Thank goodness that Lee and I had discussed understudies a few days earlier, and had made the necessary pleas to another group of public art patrons! One of these talented, infectious, generous people (yes, I’m thankful!) – Lauren – switches seamlessly from “IPod Girl” to “Break-Up Woman,” and does a wonderful job in the role. Vinnie is charmingly casual as the argument grows progressively more heated, countering every quibble with the social agility of a hummingbird. Lauren, on the other hand, is animated, emotional, and initiates the first in what is sure to be a series of profoundly anecdotal moments in the life of Small Plots.

The Big Break-Up draws an audience

The Big Break-Up draws an audience

As Lauren waves her hands about and expresses outrage at Vinnie’s insensitive “online commitments,” a young couple walking their dog turns around and begins to watch as inconspicuously as they can. Their perspective of the event, however, includes a group of especially attentive Small Plots fans who have moved within earshot of the arguing couple. Seemingly in violation of personal space, this group stands closer to the action than social etiquette would ever imaginably allow if this were “real life.” In this moment of realignment, I begin to appreciate the layers of audience this projects creates: between those “in the know” (specifically here to see the performances), and those who have stumbled upon it unknowingly. As the couple breaks up and Lauren storms away down 4th street, the dog-walking couple grows even more bewildered when Lauren returns to the “break-up bench” minutes later. Upon Vinnie’s return, and a befuddling recommencement of the Break-Up, the lines between life and theater are redrawn.

Bewilderment at The Big Break-Up

Bewilderment at The Big Break-Up

When a flower is placed at Lauren’s feet during the second run of the performance, she and Vinnie reconcile their differences and walk happily, hand in hand into as much “sunset” as 4th street could provide on this blustery day. The bewilderment this scene produces amidst a growing audience grows all the greater when Tricia arrives and assumes her position as “Break-Up Woman #2.” A number of heads poke out from the Mellow Mushroom to see what’s going on, waitresses are confused, and cell phone cameras begin to click. Lauren slides back into the role of “Ipod Girl,” and delivers another command performance as she sings “Hit the Road Jack…” during the Break-Up. When an elderly man puts down his sub sandwich to hand Tricia a flower, a truce is once again found and Lauren belts out a few stirring verses of “I Will Always Love You.”

Lauren sings and the couple reconciles

Lauren sings and the couple reconciles

Throughout this first plot, I’m captivated by the way both the actors and the audience are working together to make a “scene.” Without this ring of people surrounding the feuding couple, would it have attracted public attention on a busy downtown street? Did they collectively make “theatre,” and just how far does the scene extend when onlookers become part of the cast? After the scene ends, a SECCA board member comments on how he began to look at everything and everyone on the street more closely, wondering who were actors, who were audience members, and who were unknowing bystanders. At this ambiguous intersection between drama, curiosity and improvisation, the only thing I know for sure if that Small Plots has truly begun.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 3:14 pm

    As I watch the Small Plots unfold, I find myself increasingly aware of the position of each spectator. I’ve discovered a situation where the spectators take over the scene and their presence separates the ambiguity between “real” and “not real.” Spectacle is amplified. Keep in mind, I am watching this from afar – like many other unsuspecting passersby. From this vantage point, the actors and spectators become one; an inclusive situation seen from the outside.

    Because of the confusion and slight formlessness of the art, from an unknowing passerby, the situation is difficult to figure out and exactly what is happening is unclear. The actions are not grand enough to be immediately recognized as a coordinated public performance/spectacle, but then again the the audience’s captive gaze signifies that something is going on. Of course, the spectators also look unsure – which adds a bit of momentary confusion to passersby attempting to make sense of things.

    I am not sure how I feel about all of this. Each plot has unfolded differently thus far. The first day of performances were odd because the spectators were within a few feet of the performers. With the Big Break Up, I remember seeing an elderly lady watching the couple break-up from about 3 feet away. This is an unnatural distance to eavesdrop on a couple as they break-up. During this performance, an unknowing couple passed by and just knew something was up, but was very confused and watched from afar.

    The whole thing became a site to figure out. What was this?

  2. June 4, 2012 2:21 am

    Despite some misgivings about her bounty hunting skills, she blackmails Vinnie into giving her the job.

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