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Small Plots Diary – May 3, 2009 – Old Friends

May 6, 2009

May 3, 2009

Old Friends Re-Unite (#1), The Rush! Fitness Complex, 1:00pm
Friend #1: Taryn; Friend #2: Rachel

As questions and excitement continue to ripple, we move less than half a block away to see two of our more athletically gifted performers – Taryn and Rachel – meet in front of The Rush Fitness Complex on the corner of 4th and Marshall. Here, with an intense backdrop of orange, purple and green, the expanse of the audience is even more difficult to measure. Some are close by, leaning over the front rail of the Complex to see the sidewalks in both directions; others linger across the streets, hanging by the Mellow Mushroom and the Stevens Center awning. Other groupings gather by trees and chat on the occasion of street corners, never quite tipping their hand as to just how much they know about what it soon to unfold on the occasion of “old friends reuniting.

The Old Friends reunite with a secret handshake

a "chance" meeting between old friends


Walking down 4th street toward the awaiting crowd, Taryn is a sight to behold: her gray T-shirt, yellow tank top, colorful athletic shoes and combination black shorts/leggings flirting between fitness aficionado and infomercial nut. Rachel appears to be ending her workout and on the way home, dressed more inconspicuously in turquoise T-Shirt and navy sweats as she carries a backpack and car keys. When they meet – positioned at slightly different spots on the street corner over the course of 3 performances – the girls engage in a quirky secret handshake. In this exchange, in a flurry of claps, snaps, shimmies and slides, they make up for lost time and produce a range of giggles and curious glances from all who watch. With the last snap the exchange is over and the girls go their separate ways – walking around the block only to meet, again and again, on a street corner-become-stage.

exchanging pleasantries before the handshake begins

exchanging pleasantries before the handshake begins

The repeated meeting leads a Rush employee to walk outside and question what’s going on, even as his fellow employees watch the proceedings inquisitively through large picture windows. Fellow audience members share some of the details, but the handshake enters another gear when bystanders let out a grumbly whoop. At this point Taryn and Rachel unleash the “extended remix” handshake that involves a portable boombox, east Asian music, and a dance routine that slides between chaos and choreography. As the girls swirl and twirl, a man holding a baby squeezes by on one side of the sidewalk, while another pair of onlookers across the street comment nonchalantly, “It must be part of The Rush’s opening ceremonies…” The unplanned and anecdotal continues to accumulate as a traditionally dressed Indian woman and her daughter stop at the streetlight – looking on with what is now becoming a familiar mix of confusion and curiosity.

confusion & curiosity as the handshake goes into an "extended remix"

confusion & curiosity as the handshake goes into an "extended remix"

The path to the end of this handshake is more physically vibrant than its precursors, but its conclusion is very much the same as Taryn and Rachel go their separate ways. From a more intimate vantage point, I smile, snap surreptitious photos, and watch the audience slowly move from “the stage” back into conversations amongst themselves. There are a few claps and cheers, but it is a sociologist’s dream to observe the ways this audience tries to redraw its rituals for this theatrical hybrid. I count myself squarely within this equation, and continue to psychologically and socially digest the shifts these Small Plots have put into motion. Lee and I agree that they will evolve over the course of this project, but neither of us knows just where that road will lead.

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