When moving images first appeared on screens, audiences were amazed by the illusion of a three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. (Famously a short film by the Lumiere Brothers L'Arrive d'un Train en Gare (1895) apparently caused audiences to run out of movie theaters fearing to get run over by the train coming at them from the screen.)
During rehearsals of Deep Trance Behavior one particular scene struck me. It involves Sarah jumping at the screen, as if she was trying to enter the screenal reality ( the reverse effect from the Lumiere Brothers' train). I would like to expand on some aspects of this scene here, and explain why to me it stands at the center of this new
performance by Richard Foreman and simultaneously gives one explanation of how his plays are to be viewed.
For one the scene is very violent (loud thuds and flashes as well as shrieks accompany each of Sarah's attempts to jump into the screen); this violence to me evokes a feeling of struggle and urgency for Sarah to enter the screens. Secondly Sarah seems to be checking in with the audience members on whether or not she should continue trying; between every jump she looks back at the audience with a questioning
Richard Foreman's plays, due to their lack of narrative structure, invite the audience to ask questions. Initial questions might be "What the hell am I watching?" or "What is the sense of all this?" but in my experience and especially after several weeks of watching rehearsal, I feel that these questions become more personal as well as existential (Liz commented on a similar notion in her earlier blog entry). Sarah's scene seems to stand at the core of these questions, strangely suggesting that the answers might be found within the screens.
If holding a Platonic opinion on two-dimensionality vs. three-dimensionality, one might argue that the two-dimensional world is inferior to the three-dimensional one (as in Plato's allegory of the Cave in which the shadows are only cheap renditions of what is truly real); thus suggesting that since Sarah is already part of the three-dimensional world and she has no reason to wish to be two-dimensional. However, within contemporary society is not the two-dimensional, screenal world becoming more and more superior? Computer screens, T.V. screens, advertisement billboards, movie theaters, Blackberry cell phones; all these two-dimensional illusions of three- dimensional spaces (hyper-textual spaces), are becoming crucial in our everyday lives. They provide information, communication and identity.
The possibility of short cuts in these two-dimensional places (in Deep Trance Behavior we move in a blink of an eye from Japan to England; within the World Wide Web a mouse-click gives us access to infinite information) have become central to the hypertextual, postmodern society. I would like to suggest here that Richard Foreman's
non-linear plays only represent an expanded version of these fast changing worlds. As if he were pointing at the ambiguous places in between the one piece of information and the next. (Is not the real world in between two mouse clicks? The cables, the electric signals— are these not more "real" than what appears on the screen?) Richard Foreman introduces one narrative and before the audience can start to follow it replaces it by another, which is unrelated to the first. An audience member used to a narrative structure thus feels lost and deceived (becomes aware of the gaps), as if given a promise of logic that the performance does not live up to ( strangely this kind of feeling does not seem so far removed from real life.) Sarah's attempt to enter the two-dimensional screens thus can be interpreted as a postmodern cry for enlightenment. Enlightenment to a higher consciousness, trance maybe? Sarah is hoping to "make sense", see further, see more (flashes illuminate the stage; too much light can make us see less). And so we are back at the projections, two-
dimensional illusions of three-dimensional worlds, light-beams less enlightening or more enlightening? A voice in the performance explains: " The great giants of mysticism (The Lumiere Brothers maybe?) and the ancient deep thinkers (Plato maybe?) did not say this exact thing." But they said it almost, or maybe they were just being
Anna Friedlaender is a Production Intern on DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND.