Comedy, Theater / Performance

Society of Civil Discourse (Team Sunshine Performance Corporation), 13Apr2017

Hello loyal readers,
This entry may (?) mark a shift for the artblog. You might have noticed the entries have dropped off significantly. I’ve previously remarked that I (Clay) have some problems with keyboard-related hand and wrist pain, and these problems make typing extensive entries a bit of a chore. Combined with the challenge of editing our posts into a cohesive legible piece of art review, I’ve found myself disinclined to even bother writing up some of our adventures. It’s time consuming, and coupled with physical pain, well, you can see, the blog has become dead in recent months.
Therefore—and this is a struggle for me—I’m going to try writing my entries in a less formal, structured manner. The whole point, originally, of this blog was for Tara and I to record and remember the amazing fun we’re so lucky to enjoy. In the interest of literacy and quality, I’ve made an effort to at least ensure our posts follow a sensible and readable format. But this takes more time and effort than I have available, so from now on, in the sheer interest of getting something down on paper, I’m going to write up the events in whatever form I feel like, and (try) not to spend a lot of time editing myself. This is something of a difficult challenge for me. I don’t like putting half-assed art reviews out into the world. But this is a blog—like an online journal/diary for Tara and I—so be forewarned, it might be more like reading incomplete or underdeveloped thoughts from now on—something for Tara and I to reflect and document our lives….even become more of a personal reflections/private lives kind of document….but not necessarily your Art Blog of choice. One thing is for sure: I probably wont spend NEARLY as much time explaining the artwork, format, structure, etc—this is the part that takes the most time, and although valuable to the outside reader, isn’t all that fun to write up. And the editing/proofing will drop significantly. I think. Or maybe you wont spot any difference at all! Who knows. You’ve been warned. Bad writing ahead! Ahoy hoy!

NOW ON WITH THE SHOW
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What they say it is:
Enjoy debating passionately about inconsequential matters with someone equally obtuse? Is it more important to win than to actually agree with your own argument? Titillated by the irrational spectacle of heated debate?
The Society of Civil Discourse wants YOU to participate in an interactive and fun night of passionately listening to and talking about things that don’t matter.
Participants try their hand at different kinds of soapboxing and debate. Then the most dexterous practitioners of verbal warfare are chosen for The Great Debate, a battle royale of hype, philosophizing, pseudo-intellectualizing, pop psycho-analyzing, and misplaced righteous bravura with zero regard to truth and dignity—all to the delight of a fevered audience.

NEW Clay Says graphic Ernie
Man, I’m so glad we went to this one. I’m not sure how I first heard of this troupe (Team Sunshine) but I’m apparently on their mailing list, and coupled with the advertisement in a FringeArts brochure, I wanted to hit this show as soon as I saw the “audience participation” aspect. I’m a sucker for stuff like that, no lie. We see enough events that require us to sit in our seats and think—and I love that stuff, don’t get me wrong—but my inner yearning to perform (a little), be part of the show (again, a little), and see arts that stretch traditional boundaries—I’m always down. Plus, Tara (and anyone who knows me well) can confirm: I love a good argument. LOVE IT. This looked like a decent format for me to test my own skills in both on-stage mannerisms and civil dialog, plus get out of the house on a Saturday night. What’s not to love?

Tara’s been working a TON lately—crazy schedules, 9 days straight, etc—so I wasn’t sure if she’d have the energy to come along. I was super glad she agreed to push her own limits and come along for the fun—it’s just not the same without her. Show was at 8, we arrived in time for a quick drink at La Peg bar, then into the show—where a bar was open on the floor. HEYO if I like one thing, it’s a beer, no doubt. Wasn’t planning on having another, but don’t mind if I do. Tara too. The whole room is filled with people mixing—more folks in attendance than I expected, probably about 70 or so? The seats are actually blocked off, ‘forcing’ us to move around. Nametags are available, asking us to display our name and something we’re lately passionate about (mine is currently Upscaling, the tech allowing one to connect older video game systems to modern televisions). Tara struggles a bit with this—her passions seemingly more dilute and ambivalent (she flatters me to the floor by suggesting that I, Clay, might be her answer, God I love this girl) and eventually settles on Food And Healthcare (although not necessarily combined or in that order). We mix, I have some awkward conversation with other members of the audience, and eventually we’re thrown into an icebreaker where we ‘speed-date’ with other audience members.

Then, after a few minutes, we’re called to order, and the stations (4) around the room are explained. Each is a different spot for proclamation and self-announcements. The general idea is that a topic is pulled from a box by one of the hosts, and then audience members volunteer to act out the instruction. One station is Hate, one is Love, one is ‘Data Dump’, and one is a classic debate. The twist to all of them is that you can bullshit and lie as much as you want—encouraged even—and really, ultimately, play to the audience. Data Dump is a little weirder—3 contestants are simultaneously given a topic and asked to quickly spew nonsense facts to the audience, who then vote (quite informally) on the winner. The only prizes are star stickers. That’s it. Comedic fun without any real stakes—play along or simply watch from the sidelines, your choice. Tara, I thought, was adorable when she tried the Hate station and was asked to pontificate on what she hates about Forts—she went with the difficulty of constructing a decent pillow fort to my gleeful approval—and she mostly stuck to the audience for the other stations from what I saw, preferring to vote and cheer for contestants than actually shout crazy nonsense herself.
I was all about getting up on those stages, but knowing my own rambling nonsensical way of speaking, certainly conscious that this could go poorly. I thought I handled Data Dump fairly ok, but the reigning champ got more votes and I gracefully stepped down. I’m actually struggling to recall what topic we were given (Tara reminds me: it was ‘Towels’)—I suspect the unique stress of performing actually causes me to ‘blank out’ a bit while I’m talking, sticking closer to the momentary nature of monolog than any deep consideration of the topic at hand. Plus, I have an awful memory, and was drinking beer taboot. Anyhow, it was fun, and I don’t think I completely made a fool of myself.

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Thats not me.  But he was pretty good!

The real prize of the 4 stations was the big debate where 2 contestants face off to defend 2 ‘sides’ of an argument. For example, one hilarious pair of players debated Lions vs. Sharks, and had the audience roaring with awful puns and ridiculous claims. My own turn in the spotlight required me to defend Swimming against the opposed Walking—and though I thought I raised some strong arguments (i.e. you pay for swimming, it’s a feature of vacations and dream lifestyles, while walking is utilitarian and typical), SUPPOSEDLY, the votes ultimately went against me. It was, frankly, so much fun. I was laughing out loud on stage at the absurdity of the topic, at the good time my opponent and I were having, of using arguments like “my adorable Yorkies go swimming with me” as (allegedly reasonable) fodder for convincing people. It was exhilarating and I could have done this for hours. Tara, a freeze-frame memory: she’s kneeling in the front row, violently cheering me on with giant swimming arm motions. So great.

The final portion of the show was outlandishly funny—far better, I suspect, than the performers even expected it to be. The audience now took seats in the theater and two teams of 5 players sat onstage, were given a topic, and fought to the death through 1:1 quick debates over a half hour. The topic, randomly drawn: Superglue vs. Unicycles—which has had more impact on society?  Literally, you could hear audience groans and disbelief—Unicycles were about to get slaughtered. Good luck, good night.
And then…… a true Fringearts miracle happened. Perhaps we humans are biased, and tend root for an underdog…or the pressure of being in the more difficult position gave them a stronger urge to win…but the unicycles, it turned out, came out swinging so hard it was almost unbelievable to witness.  First debater sang a song intoning the excessive virtues of ‘One Wheel’ (he was an excellent singer), one woman invoked racial inequalities and Martin Luther King (?!?) to defend the grandeur of unicycles, another female contestant got down on her knees, imploring the audience to sympathize with her childhood of conformity (and thus her adult love of the nonconformist unicycle)….Superglue simply couldn’t keep up. They tried, but with a few weaker links in their chain of debate….(not to say they were bad, but simply, not as good)….Unicycles SWEPT it. When the audience voted, I’m almost positive, it was fucking unanimous—the whole room was roaring for Unicycles. I’m almost getting teary-eyed as I write out the memory, it was so insanely hilarious and nutty and successful.
Sign me up for more, Team Sunshine.

NEW Tara Says Graphic

I had no idea what to expect for our adventure at FringeArts.  I was informed it would be an interactive event- but was not certain of the format, or formality, of the event.  Because the evening was going to be interactive, Clay and I warmed up at the bar with a beer prior to the nights main event.  (Evidently, so did others-the only seats at the bar were a mess of mostly empty beer and shot glasses).  Upon entering the main theater, we were directed to a table to fill out a name tag and include a statement of ‘what we are passionate about’.  I was frantic to determine, am I intended to be funny, or silly about this?  Or will we be having a serious debate, and I should represent myself as passionate about serious social and political issues?  Anyway, I finally decided to please both my serious AND silly sides by stating my passions are food AND healthcare.  I then built my courage further by visiting the bar within the venue.

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Finally, the presentation began!  I soon understood that this show was intended to be an evening of fun and silliness, rather than serious debate.  We were encouraged to behave like the true politicians of our day, and therefore ignore actual truth and facts in favor of fanciful, crowd-pleasing statements.  There were multiple areas within the venue.  I started the evening at the appreciation station, where my first experience was to witness another guest being asked to sing the praises of pickles–an easy topic!  I next moved to the haters station.  It was here that I gathered my courage and stepped into the “debate” box, was granted the topic of “forts”–and accordingly made a small speech describing the weak nature of homemade indoor forts (i.e. couch cushions, and the like) and their utter inferiority as structures of defense.  The rest of the evening, I mostly just stood back and enjoyed the entertainment of many talented and funny audience participants.  Clay also had a number of wonderfully silly debates–I watched him in the “data dump” challenge as he attempted to laud the rough, exfoliating potential of bath towels dried on an outside line.  I also enjoyed watching him participate in a one-on-one debate where the opposing topics were swimming vs. walking.  I thought it was smart of Clay to point out–we do not pay to walk on our vacations, OHHH but do we EVER pay to swim!  (I suspect that he may have only lost the match due to a well-timed emotional plea from his opponent, reminding us of how cute it is to see a tiny human learn how to walk!!!

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Finally, the grand finish of the evening was a debate featuring two teams comprised of the facilitators of the event along with four audience guest debaters.  The topic was unicycles vs superglue.  Clay and I thought these were not quite fair debate topics to pit against each other– superglue is obviously a utilitarian product beneficial to clumsy humans everywhere.  Unicycles, meanwhile–pure whimsy.  Certainly superglue was going to be the easy winner, we thought.  This debate cycle featured a “mime” section–which was my absolutely favorite part of the facilitator debate.   Clay did a great job describing this event- hey clay can you say more about the mime parts you describe it better…..

Clay interjects: Sure. One of the members of team superglue, rather than opting for verbal argument, went ‘full mime’ for the entirety of her argument.  Standing silently, she enacted superglue application to her hand, then forcefully grabbed the hand of an opposing team member, who, it must be noted, playfully played along, reenacting the frightening prospect of being completely glued to another person, unable to extricate their hands from one another.  Her face told the tale better than any words might have–this superglue shit totally sucks–please vote unicycle.  We howled with laughter, and at that moment, you could feel the momentum shift, seeing the match slip away from the glue, to everyone’s favorite one-wheeled entertainment device.

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