Comedy, Theater / Performance

For Your Future Guidance (The Rotunda, 07Apr15)

What they say it is:

All the way from across the globe, Binge Culture (based in Wellington, NZ) presents “For Your Future Guidance.”  For Your Future Guidance is an interactive performance to help us all prepare for the new You-topia. Much beloved in their home island nation, Binge Culture is touring the US for several weeks, and will be in Philly for TWO NIGHTS ONLY! Don’t miss it!

NEW Clay Says graphic Ernie

It all began with a tweet; for years, I’d mocked Twitter, not understanding that the service is as much a source of news and short-form email as it is a blathering hall of narcissistic mirrors and argumentative braggadocio.  Like all tools, it depends how you use it, I suppose.  Anyway, not being a reliably regular user of the Twitter, I’m still somewhat flattered/surprised when someone contacts me through the service.

On Monday, I received notification that @BingeCulture (heretofore unknown to me) had mentioned me in a post, which turned out to be an invitation to see their upcoming show.  After glancing at the link to their event, I sensed a welcoming ambience in their minimalist presentation . . . a definite sense of mysterious ambiguity to whatever was planned for Tuesday night.

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Conveniently, The Rotunda is quite familiar to us; this venue resides just off the University of Pennsylvania campus and is very near to our house.  Though we’re often lazy stay-at-homes on a rainy weeknight (such as this one), I couldn’t ignore the vibe I’d sensed in the show’s description, and convinced Tara to rise up and join me for an amazing, surprisingly excellent good time.

For Your Future Guidance (FYFG) is framed as a lecture, or perhaps a motivational presentation describing–or therapeutically exploring–the nature of time, in both personal and conceptual fashion.  Featuring a cast of two (and a good-spirited supporting technician), FYFG walks a careful line between absurdist comedy and deadly-serious self reflection.  Most of the show is intentionally funny–for instance, it’s hard not to laugh when the entire audience is made to wear each other’s confessional Post-It notes, or when a shirt-and-tie pitchman advises us, in dead seriousness and referring to a clipboard to be sure he gets it right, that we need to remember the Future is coming, and the Past can’t be changed.

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But somewhere in the mix of laughter and faux seminar presentation, this show also manifests a heartfelt sincerity that caught me off-guard.  Time–I mean, after all, it can be a heavy subject.  Even as the show’s narrator advised us to ‘keep it light’ when we describe our own future selves (audience participation is a big part of the FYFG experience), I couldn’t help noticing how the topic lends itself to stark social confessionals or painful awkwardness or even challenges our own self-images and self-projections.  FYFG demands that you examine yourself in a social space full of strangers and friends, and–not without a dash of self-effacing humor–rate, and grade, and publicly announce your own failings and aspirational future trends. Personally, I’m fine (even excited) for these opportunities to explore the naked states of my own life, but I could definitely imagine the show repelling a more conservative audience, or missing the mark with someone who isn’t comfortable with the familiarity and in-your-face approaches of indie-style DIY theater.

A particularly moving part of the evening (both kinetic and emotional) was when the audience was asked rise and walk in wide circles around the performance space. As our ‘seminar leader’ called out inquires such as “is your relationship going well” or “is your savings account going in the right direction”, we audience members were directed to turn and change direction whenever we disagreed with the current pronouncement.  Suddenly, strangely–and completely workably–the immediacy of our own intimate lives were on display for the entire audience to see . .  some folks swirling continuously (and presumably contentedly) in one direction, while others were forced to shift rapidly back and forth, disclosing their own lives’ discontentments.

Our own future predictions, as written by the audience.

Our own future predictions, as written by the audience.

Part of FYFG’s charm was it’s disarming lack of pretension; nearly the entire narrative is dictated by a single young man in tie and shirt.  He frequently riffs on his dialog, keeping it quite honest and real, creating a true friendly feeling of ‘we’re here together, now, in this space, tonight’.  The pacing and rhythm of the show seems slightly haphazard, but in an entirely good way–there are definitely moments we’re intended to experience, but the choreography isn’t strictly precise.   And perhaps that’s exactly correct for exploring our varied concepts of time, or even our detrimental obsession with it.

If I were so bold to suggest some minor tweaks, I’d probably start with music; though the presentation does feature some song and ambiance at critical moments (no spoilers), it wouldn’t hurt to include some light atmospheric background during the spoken word sections.  I’m imagining some new-age-y seminar kind of stuff, something light enough to be ignored, but in-line with the show’s overall masquerade.  Also, the troupe needs to acquire a portable speaker for the iPhone portion (this is a mandatory upgrade, IMHO); in a bigger audience, I’m betting many wouldn’t even be able hear the full text of the pivotal help-desk phone call.

In summary, I’m extremely glad I was invited to this show; it was the type of experience that fits squarely in the center of my wheelhouse, and I can honestly say that For Your Future Guidance actually managed to hammer a few cracks into my semi-cynical worldview.  My genuine thanks to the people @BingeCulture who took the time to single Tara and I out and invite us to your event.  I’m looking forward to that mystical elevator encounter down the road, be it twenty years, or a day from now.

NEW Tara Says Graphic

The evening began with a preview of a piece by Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews and Medium Theater Company called Cones.  The comedic tone of this opening presentation was quickly established when Andrews appeared in standard issue “tighty-whities” and proceeded to set up his props, leaving the audience to anticipate what this nearly naked man might be planning.  The piece proceeded with an enjoyable narrative, some audience participation, and dramatic dance.  Andrews is a thoughtful and witty host who has a strong ability to rivit our attention and play with our emotions.  Anyway, I need to admit that I am attempting to convey how awesome this show’s preview looked without giving anything away- I’m afraid that if I described the witty transitions, it might give away the surprises which contribute to the charm of the piece.  In summary–I plan to stalk out information about when and where CONES will be performed in full.

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Next up: the main event of the evening–For Your Future Guidance.  Have you ever attended ‘six sigma’ training?  Have you ever been a ‘thought leader’?  A change maker?  Perhaps earned your green belt or black belt (I’m not referring to martial arts, either)?  If you said yes to any of these–or have even passing familiarity with modern trends in business ‘culture’–then you will definitely appreciate FYFG’s light mocking of these leadership and success formulas!!  Additionally, I propose that if you enjoy Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, or if you share Dr. Stephen Hawking’s sentiment that we should know the future since we know the past and present, or perhaps if you have smoked the chiba and sat in a freshman dormitory  musing on the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything . . .  you will therefore ALSO enjoy the low-end (and highly entertaining) scientific ‘theories’ of the future guidance seminar.  If you believe time is an eggplant- you will enjoy the future seminar.  If you enjoy gathering in a group and engaging in group movement while reciting a group mantra- you will enjoy the future guidance seminar.  If you want to know what you will be doing in 20 years- you will find out at the future guidance seminar.  If you want to give advice to your past self- this too will occur at the future guidance seminar.

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We’re rushing this post to press to encourage any readers who might be in the right place and time:

Change the past, present and future . . .  RIGHT NOW . . . as FYFG is heading to Pittsburg (April 9th) and Chicago (April 14th)!

If all this doesn’t convince you . . . well, I can also tell you that the show is populated with a couple of hot boys (and a very attractive lady as well), all of whom share sexy New Zealand accents.  Enjoy!

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  1. Pingback: CONES (The Rotunda, 19Jun15) | Philly "Art " Blog - June 22, 2015

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