3,4 / SIX STEPS
EMMA STIRLING / SOPHIE SEITA
“3,4 / Six Steps” were two short plays performed as a pair. Both plays had three roles, with Sophie and Emma reading in both. We were engaged in the prospect of narrative crossover, which was prominent because “3,4” was less character-based than “Six Steps.” We played with audience’s perspective by moving the performance space from one side of the rectangular room to the other. The plays could be considered independently, but also in dialogue.
“3,4” explores miscommunication as a result of linguistic and inter-social failure, and also the overabundant interpersonal demands and social strictures placed on an individual, from desire to performance to an adequate description and expressibility of one’s experience. Interested in sound, rhythm, counting and control, the first part of “3,4” was performed live. In the second half, the performers held their last positions and a pre-recorded German version of the piece played over loudspeakers. The backdrop of heavy curtains suggested conventional theatrical limits, but also the home-as-public, creating a sense of intimacy, distance and restriction. This spoke to the theme of self-disciplining, the attractiveness of trespass and of the possibilities of making oneself vulnerable. I called “3,4” an “exercise in rhythm” because of its links to musical recitation; it is a performance score that is being activated in “playing,” but can also remain resolutely textual and readable, lodged in a conceptual frame that only theoretically instructs how to feel or do something.
“Six Steps” was a performance based on “Paradise Project,” an ongoing immersive performance project investigating the theater audience as a cult. “Paradise Project” first happened in a warehouse, but this time my interest in memory, religion and community were scaled down to a small room. The script was a cut-up of “Paradise Project” conversations and new material about Mesmerism. Three characters—a leader, a follower, an assistant—suggested the different roles that people play as audience members. Andy Sterling’s performance as the leader explored an archetypal American male cult leader somewhere between conman and idol, contrasting to my and Sophie’s English accents and the femininity of our dresses. Entangled with the pseudo-science of animal magnetism, these gender roles were repeatedly (dis)obeyed. The room was illuminated by flickering images of dead insects which were projected over the fireplace. This became our altar and music stands were used as lecterns. The sound of crickets and warped soprano singing evoked a deviant religious soundtrack. Custard creams were offered.