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Small Plots Diary – May 9 – Lost Businessman

June 11, 2009

May 9, 2009

Lost Business Man (#1), Grassy lot at 4th & Trade, 3:00pm
Businessman: Carlos;   Friendly Citizen: Jeremy;   Father & Son: Curtis & Jabari

Following the beautifully (and serendipitously) color coordinated backdrop of Too Many Oranges, we find ourselves in another fitting stage for the first performance of Lost Businessman. Just south of the intersection between 4th and Trade, smack in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem, an unexpectedly verdant green carpet of lush grass extends before us. Rolling out all the way to 3rd street on a gentle slope, this manicured lot seems to function as the prized front lawn for a condo development immediately to the west. Upon our arrival, a woman and three children sit on a blanket at the top of the hill, while a small group of men and woman on bicycles meander by the concrete path and overpass to the east. We take a seat at the northeast corner of the lot, luxuriating in the grass and hoping that our cast will take full advantage of this urban oasis. I’m not sure what to expect from the actors, but I already know that this is an archetypal place for a businessman to get lost, and enjoy his plight.

a grassy carpet of green

a grassy carpet of green

In what may be the most picturesque “curtain-opener” of any Small Plot thus far, Carlos appears at the southwest corner of the lot, emanating confusion and bewilderment with fold out map in hand. His outfit is perfect. If you were to visualize the classic Hollywood costume for “anonymous businessman,” Carlos would nail the role in a navy suit, lemon shirt and boldly patterned power tie. As he wanders out despairingly into the sea of green, looking around in obvious confusion as his map flails in the wind, I marvel at how theatrical life can look.

an iconic entry; a tragic plight

an iconic entry; a tragic plight

It is a storyboard come to life and Carlos is simultaneously charming and convincing in his humble role – evoking both laughs and sympathy as he searches for direction. He sets the stage for his three fellow actors in this vignette, all of whom are unwavering in their repeated execution of this scene. Carlos, Jeremy, Curtis & Jabari congregate in the middle of the green lot like a theatre troupe that that’s been rehearsing for years. Jeremy offers help; Curtis & Jabari heed the call, and while Carlos remains lost at the end of their seemingly ad hoc meeting, this plot has found its ideal place.

lost together; the group gathers

lost together; the group gathers

I shoot over 100 photos on my cell phone by the time the scenario has reached its fifth go-around, intently watching both the actors and their setting as passersby giggle softly at our hopelessly lost businessman. They mimic his distressed wander, but no one comes to offer “real” help. Even if they did, I wonder what Carlos would tell them he was looking for? I haven’t tired of watching the scene, but give Carlos a call on his cell phone to offer the intervention that will free him from this theatrical purgatory. He stays in character until the very end, expressing exasperation as I offer half-hearted apologies for giving him wrong directions.  With the scene “wrapped” the actors rejoin the friends and family who have been watching at the perimeter of the lot. In this process, we learn that the mother and children at the top of the hill are Carlos’ wife and kids. It shouldn’t have been a surprise: they played the “role” of silent, unflinching spectators perfectly.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Hillary Ellis, Art Conservator, Durham permalink
    June 17, 2009 1:15 pm

    The second photo is stunning. I am glad to know that there are hundreds of more photos of what happened to document this.

  2. June 24, 2009 3:00 pm

    Interestingly, the Lost Business Man seemed to blur the line between real and not real most successfully. I believe this was due to the location; because the Lost Business Man was standing in the center of a massive grass area, the audience was forced to observe from a distance. Passersby did not notice any audience and thus, wondered about the Lost Man with a giant map literally in the middle of nowhere. I actually saw a few people talking about the man and imitating his commotions to one another. Laughing, commenting and wondering about the desperateness of this man – all alone on a Saturday, lost and confused with a good old-fashioned fold out map.

    By watching from a distance, it seemed to that the beauty of this “believable” situation was noticed. The landscape became part of the scene. The passersby and rhythm of the city could be observed. The audience and unknowing audience became indistinguishable.

    Ironically, the Lost Business Man’s family was sitting there the whole time watching the performance, and I, among others assumed they were just “unknowing” onlookers enjoying the sun and the grass. It wasn’t until afterward that we all realized that they were the Lost Business Man’s family.

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