It took a while to come around to this new show/thing. (It’s too early to know if it’ll actually be a show.) It’s a piece though, a piece of work.
I was gonna have a new project called SHTGZ THTR. (You have to supply your own vowels.) The idea came from watching one of Columbus’s so-called “shitgaze” bands. The band was called Times New Viking. It was not the first time I saw them, but it was the last. It was their farewell (for now) show.
This band played 26 songs, and they announced it. “We’ve got 26 songs for you. Here we go.” Boom. They played a song. It was fast, short, direct. “One down, 25 to go.” Boom, another one. “Two down, 24 to go.” And so on. They didn’t keep track after every song. In fact, they probably forgot about it after a while. But every song was short and direct. No frills at all. No drama, even. They weren’t songs about being songs, there was no commentary. It was just sound in that room in that time. No superficial action.
It reminded me of the Dogme 95 movement, which was meant to strip the bullshit out of films and film-making. And I was trying to figure out what it would be to do that in theatre. What, I asked, were the essential elements of the Times New Viking performance that made it so energized, so inspired?
- short songs
- emotional detachment from the material
- workman-like delivery
- no bullshit
- no frills
- no costumes, no set, no props, no colored lights, no smoke
- no pretense
Everything just was what it was. And they didn’t ask you to imagine anything, or even get lost in the rock show. You didn’t forget you were at a rock show. It was, yes, a Brechtian rock show.
(I do realize that this doesn’t sound particularly revelatory. That’s part of the magic, I suppose, part of the alchemy that happened for me when I was there.
So then the idea was SHTGZ THTR. It would have:
- Lots of little, short plays.
- Just two or three actors.
- Maybe someone playing drums.
- Scripts on black music stands.
- No set, no costumes.
- No SCENES.
There would not be dialogue played out in front of the audience while the playwright asks you to imagine a dining room or what the fuck ever. None of that. Theatre with no theatre.
I wrote about eight of these little plays before getting sidetracked. The first collection was going to be called Twenty-Six Plays About Why Sheila Left Me. Here’s a sample:
LEMON: This one’s called “Do the Dishes.”
LEMON: I said, “Sheila, you never do the dishes.”
SHEILA: That’s not true.
LEMON: Yes it is.
SHEILA: You shouldn’t say “never.”
LEMON: Nine down, seventeen to go.
LEMON: This one’s called “You Always Do That.”
LEMON: You always do that.
SHEILA: You shouldn’t say “always.”
LEMON: (TO AUDIENCE.) That’s it.
LEMON: Ten down, sixteen to go. This one’s called “Let’s Just Get Pizza.”
LEMON: I say, “Let’s just get pizza.”
SHEILA: I don’t want pizza.
LEMON: Well, what’s your idea?
SHEILA: I just don’t want pizza.
LEMON: Goddammit. Let’s just get a pizza. (TO AUDIENCE.) That’s the end.
You get the idea, maybe.
I thought this was a great idea, a brilliant idea, this was going to change everything. Maybe I’ll still do it someday, cause even just typing that out got me excited about it again.