Arts Scathing Words and Shaman/S&M Chic
Critical writing about local theater is always a hate magnet, but the mail response to last week’s feature story sparked an international email response, with people from Berlin to Jersey weighing in:
From Kerri Christie, a hotel manager in Tucson, Arizona: “So, finally a theatre project that has worked tirelessly for the last 7 years (though conceived by centuries) is getting some of the funding it so richly deserves, and you write a long, scathing article about how you didn’t like their show and so therefore it is not deserving of the funding it received? Are you working against the arts?? Is this your goal?â€ť
From somebody named 2madtruth: “You come off as a bigot and white supremacist, elitist… You should have put your article in last week’s edition because the cover picture looked like you on your knees assuming the position—doing a lot of sucking up! Face it dude—you’re a punk—what kind of art is that?â€ť
From a “rhymescape philosopherâ€ť from New Jersey named QueenMamaSapien: “Kudos to you for successfully striking a balance—I feel your tone is respectful and productively critical.â€ť
From Berlin: “Theater is like a good wine—it needs time to breathe! Give it the time and the money to breathe. Then the U.S. may grow a theater scene that is worth mentioning.â€ť
And, at the Guillermo GĂłmez-PeĂ±a show at ConWorks, a critic from another paper walked up and whispered, jokingly, “What the hell are you doing here? I thought you didn’t like political art.”
Of course, that isn’t true. I just don’t like bad political art that gets a pass from funders and critics just because its creators profess some good intention or officially sanctioned political platform. GĂłmez-PeĂ±a and his company La Pocha Nostra, in fact, are pretty exciting as political performance art goes. Mapa Corpa, the piece he and collaborator Violeta Luna performed involved a Muslim body-robe, dance with barbed wire, rifles, nudity, bullhorns, live acupuncture, and a general techno-shamanistic-Mexican-paramilitary-S&M aesthetic that looked like this, this, and this. It was clearly political, but it was also complicated, troubling, and visually rich. Like Goya. Or Ebola.