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Their responses represent the ways that artists can present or suggest alternate worldviews; they seem to literally say, here’s a different way to look at things. By entering into their performance, the viewer is given the chance to, like Kempson, enjoy their ignorance in a foreign land and to escape the back and forth—to listen and observe more closely because of that lack of familiarity. In some sense it seems that Parson and Lazar’s interest in being a kind of “tourist” to the subjects they explore in their work is precisely the stance that they invite audiences to take in approaching their work. And, as someone who often attends and writes about abstract or non-narrative work, that explanation, at least in part, explains my own excitement in experiencing this kind of work: it allows me to step outside myself for a bit, to enter a new world for a brief time, and look at the familiar as if it was strange. Abstraction or deconstruction are not necessary, by any means, but if you’re open to them, the new perspective they offer can be a big part of their value.
Both Big Dance Theater and Sibyl Kempson are quite good at this kind of work when it comes to performance, and they do it with humor and real talent, so it’s worth a try if you’re still new to it or feel less inclined toward it. And it’s not all unfamiliar. The work is set in the Middle Ages in a largely barren land that seems to produce nothing much except for copious pumpkins—a number of which get smashed during the performance. And what culture doesn’t love a little pumpkin bashing?
In case you can’t make it to the show, you can try to experience the foreignness on the page as well: the play is now available in print.