I’ve been thinking about time. Particularly about time, performance and duration.
But when we think about duration with performance, we often think about 6 hour epic operas, or whether a performance is long enough to be worth £10 a ticket (I myself have wondered how much you can really charge for a 1 hour performance, the length my performances seem to inevitably fall into)
Would I be willing to pay to watch something for 10 minutes, even if those ten minutes made my soul sing and altered my perception of the world? Or maybe they wouldn’t and I would feel short-changed and grumpy?
There is this weird outlook that performance length is a value for money thing, rather than a value for art. And I should point out, as a theatre student who is strongly encouraged to see as much theatre/performance as possible, I tend to see £12 a ticket as a limit unless I KNOW the performance is going to be amazing.
But I’m wondering if we’re missing something with short shows. Can you take an audience on a satisfying journey through the human condition? (I am be biased towards narrative performance and thinking towards performance with a beginning middle and end – whatever order that would be)
There was a recent challenge among social media platforms, such as Tumblr and Reddit, to write the shortest horror story possible. It may be 5-6 words or 2 sentence, but the challenge here is to keep it short but produce that visceral reaction that horror does so well. Here are some examples:
“Growing up with cats and dogs, I got used to the sounds of scratching at my door while I slept. Now that I live alone, it is much more unsettling.“
My sister says that mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don’t have a sister.
I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”
It’s almost like the structure of a joke – lead your audience up one path they find familiar and then force them to find themselves on a different path. But it’s visceral and scary and most of all short. They get to the point and they get int our heads. Surely that’s one goal of some theatre makers? But those are words on a page (or a screen more likely)
Okay, let’s think about Vines
Vines are a short video, up to 7 seconds long of complied or one sustained clip
Here for example, is my trip to Los Angeles Zoo in March (in 7 seconds)
(I don’t know how to embed vines)
In 7 seconds you get a taste of what was a 5 hour long adventure looking at animals.
But Vines are not just for showing off where I’ve been on my holidays, they also used to make short performances as demonstrated by my friend and fellow MA Advance Theatre Practice person, Thomas Jancis
And it’s fairly lucrative. There are many people who make hundreds of these short videos, some becoming ‘Vine-famous’, some even making money from them, such as Ben Phillips makes £2,000 per second making Vine-length adverts (http://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/ben-phillips-vine)
Now I understand these are two very different platforms. Vine thrives on those 5 or so minutes you have on the train to look at messages. It thrives on being available anywhere with decent internet coverage. It thrives on the jump cut. It thrives on the scroll. People can watch one Vine then immediately move to the next and the next until they need to do something else in reality. They are easily digestible, but can this kind of performance ever be applied to live performance?
So, maybe 7 second to perform is too limiting – it conjures up images of horrendous auditons – or maybe I’m being too quick to dismiss this idea. Maybe this is something that needs a bit more research. I don’t have the answers. But I have a few questions. How long long can a live performance be for an audience to feel satisfied (both emotionally and financially)? Would it have to be repeatable (much in the vein of Vines)? Is there a platform, any platform that would have a go at this?
I think there is some scope for this. I’ve personally seen 10 minute Scratch Performances that have held me and intrigued me better then much longer performances. Again, they appear to be more easily digestable and better for my attention-span (which has been a little messed up, thanks to growing up in a internet, surface-skimming world. But I remember not having the internet! I remember VHS!)
I’m intending, with my Sustained Indepedent Project, to use Vine as a way of documenting the process of making this new performance, that is short, sweet and share-able before a public performance of the full production. It would act as a form of publicity as well as documentation. But I also see it as a chance to find the boiled down essence of what we are making.
(I’ll leave you with an example of 2 seconds of documentation/performance)