We recently posed a series of questions to all of our Pretentious shows, so you, the readers, can get an idea how to mentally prepare yourselves for the artistic onslaught they will endeavor to provide. The following responses were provided by the estimable Mr. Trav S.D., author of the vaudeville history No Applause, Just Throw Money and the inventor of quoits. His show Nihils will open on June 16.
What exactly makes your show so damn pretentious anyway?
To paraphrase the blind lounge singer in Airport ’77, pretentiousness is “in the eyes of the beholder.” The Latin root from which the word springs means literally “holding [something] in front of oneself.” In a sense, all speech, all representation, is a similar feint, or dodge – a “shield” of (non)communication behind which to hide. Falsity and mask are the nature of the beast. The pretentiousness (or unpretentiousness… tentiousness?) of the current work is a matter of degree, then, not of kind. To grossly misrepresent a remark of Bertrand Russell’s: “If I am not pretentious…what am I?’
Name some obscure influences on your work – extra points for unpronounceability.
Baudrillard, Foucault, Bazin, Kant, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, Becket, T.S. Elliot, the Beats, Jim Morrison, Gertrude Stein, Sartre, Kierkegard, Nietzsche, Byron, Blake, Heidegger, Artaud, Adolphe Appia, Marshall McLuhan, Christian Metz, Stephen Hawking, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Robert Oppenheimer, Lenny Bruce, the Velvet Underground, Jerry Lewis, Brecht & Max Reinhardt.
The late Roland Barthes once wrote “For the theatre one needs long arms; it is better to have them too long than too short. An artiste with short arms can never, never make a fine gesture.” Explicate.
Theatre must not only address man’s primal nature, but his primate nature. Before man was pretensile, he was prehensile. The first theatrical audiences were austrolopithicenes, circa one million B.C. Savannah-dwellers mainly, they would periodically return to their Edenic mother, the arboreal habitat from which they sprang. Ensconced in the canopy, they would munch fruit and watch specialized members of their community enact rude frolics not substantially different from modern rock concerts, wrestling matches, and situation comedies. The long arms to which Barthes refers apply not so much to the performer as to the audience, who must rely on these appendages to ascend and navigate the branches…and (being prelingual) gesticulate their approval or disapproval of the performance. (This, too, some speculate, is the origin of clapping. Thalidomide babies and others can attest – when your arms are too short, you cannot clap.)
In what ways do you plan on alienating your audience? Cite an intentionally opaque or confusing moment within your production.
If I have not already alienated the audience with my last sentence, then there is nowhere to go but down. As for the performance, I don’t wish to tip my hand too much. Suffice it to say that the entire piece is composed of “cells” or “units” of alienation, based upon the principle of the Hegelian dialectic. From first to last, from Alpha to Omega, there is no theatrical moment within the piece that does not fold in against itself, in implied or self-evident replication of the Curved Space Theory.
Which other Pretentious Festival show will you declare as your sworn ideological enemy, and why?
Myself. Those who see the piece will be the first to agree – surely I am my own worst enemy.
Please give us the gist of the acceptance speech you would use were you to win one of our Pretentious Awards.
I intend to send an American Indian in my stead, who will give a brief speech about the historical mistreatment of his people.