“I Didn’t Get It”: But Did Anyone? Oink Oink Oink. SILENZIO!

A few days ago a friend and I met at the coffee shop directly between our two buildings and I bought a hot chocolate which said on the coffee sleeve, “Caution: The future you are about to explore is very hot.” This week I have realized that the future is indeed very hot and one must take caution with it. And I’m not just talking about that cup. So, what happens when the past and the future collide in the now? ScrABrrRrraaNNg.
One hundred years ago Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote the Futurist manifesto and the students of the University of Toronto’s Graduate Centre for Drama sought to use their understanding of Marinetti’s time, place, means and intentions to recreate and re-interpret the Futurist performance art. By its very existence, ScrABrrRrraaNNg is a contradiction as the Futurists were adamant that they held no connection to, and had no interest in, the past. Can graduate students reinterpret art that was created to glorify war, speed, abolish all techniques of the passéist theatre, and promote contempt for women, if they don’t believe in any of these values? How does an audience respond to a mixture of theatre and academic experiment, and a piece that is so abstract sometimes the actors don’t even understand what they are saying or why they are doing what they are doing. Who is this audience? Why do they yell out and what do they yell out? Are they doing it because they feel like they’re “supposed” to? Or do they just revel in opportunity to have the Rocky Horror Show experience?
The standout “performances” in ScrABrrRrraaNNg were, I think, the most theatrically accessible, which raises the question of how purely we are invested in the Futurists’ ideals. “Glorify Contempt For Woman” was poignantly and beautifully performed by Moynan King, Sasha Kovacs and Natalie Mathieson and used Futurist aesthetic to subvert Marinetti’s misogynist principles. Amazing aerialist Rebecca Leonard performed a salute to speed and contemporary industrial life that was awing and beautiful. Art Babayants treated everyone with his amazing piano and tap dancing skills, Brendon Allen’s acting chops shone through “Nose Diving On the City” which created a strong connection between the futurists’ “absurd energies” and the kamikaze pilots of World War II. Joe Culpepper is a magnificent magician and performer, bursting with charm, stage presence and talent. Paul Babiak and Alex Lent stopped the show cold while they danced on stilts, and I wonder how many people in the audience felt uncomfortable with the allusions to domestic violence within this sintesi, or whether they were simply awed by the beauty and skillful talent on display. Dalbir Singh’s “Troop Train” created a striking allusion to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq- leaving the audience to fill in their own blanks. Something tells me that this audience has very little glorification for war. As always, Sasha Von Bon Bon resists being summed up in a pretty little paragraph, so I won’t try. Sasha Kovacs provided amazing and hilarious commentary throughout to insure the audience was never bored. But it was Moynan King’s pig that stole the show, simply because his little oinking snout and tail are just too adorable.
Familiarity shone through the abstract in ScrABrrRrraaNNg and it was that which I connected to so strongly and appreciated so much. What does that mean in terms of the academic experiment? Am I a futurist failure because I didn’t shriek “EUREKA!” when I heard “Briccatirakamekame!”? I saw more of the graduate students’ intelligence, wit, and talent than I saw of the futurist ideals Marinetti championed throughout his life. I saw their resistance to these principles- if even in a repressed sense. As Sasha Kovacs alludes to in her final address: the future is scary. Caution: the future you are about to explore is very hot. There may be flying ceramics and someone has pre-set a hatchet… but one thing I take comfort in, is that no matter how much graduate students submerge themselves in research, and saturate themselves with the past, and as they try to fling themselves headlong into the future- their supremely intelligent and perceptive view of the tumultuous world we live in and the challenges we all face shines through. I’m glad Marinetti did not succeed in burning the libraries or killing the theatre. Because then we would all be out of a job.

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