We got a real weird thing going on.
By David di Giovanni
When I tell people I work for a theatre troupe, The MAP Project, I am then asked, do you do comedy or drama? I always feel stuck at this question - what was passing small talk must now become a bit more than that. An explanation is needed.
...it is very very weird stuff.
And on this blog so far, we’ve provided quite a few explanations of what we do, so I won’t go too deep into this. Back to the question! My answer (the one I feel good about now) is something along the lines of “oh, it’s weird.” This seems to peak their interest, and I assure you, it’s not a cop out. Because it is very very weird stuff.
We’re all busy people in the MAP Project. We each have a few jobs, some of us have lovers, other projects. Sunday night is scheduled friend ‘hang-out’ time. I know that even if I go the week without seeing a friend, I will see them all on Sunday. It’s a great little ritual that has been happening for two years now. We play games, we drink, watch tv, chat. And, as you may know, we also film ourselves.
Just to make this a bit clearer - I don’t have very many friends. And my only scheduled friend hang-out time is filmed, always. Our relationship (and this has somehow become normal!) is that some of us are holding cameras, and when we want to piss, sometimes we ‘confess’ to the bathroom confessional. We’ve created a self-operating ecosystem. There’s a ‘pecking order,’ there’s a ritual, and there have been set norms (the intervention of cameras in a social situation).
We’re looking for moments with emotional stakes.
And after this strange ritual, a part of my job, alongside Rio, is to review the footage, and find ‘good material.’ We’re looking for moments with emotional stakes. This, at first glance, is a very tough thing to do. The ritual is that we sit and drink, not cry to one another. It is a social situation, which comes with its social regulations- everyone is there to have a comfy good time. So how in the world is anyone supposed to find comedy or tragedy in this ultra-banal naval-gazing scenario?
We do find good material. And as much as ‘my generation’ is criticized as being self-involved, apathetic, self-entitled copy-cat hipsters, there’s evidently more to the material than that. And this is something I’m still figuring out, and also the reason why I think we can find rich emotional moments. People are like Canadian weather. It’s scorching hot, oh wait now it’s snowing, uh-oh my lover did this, this person died, I just got a free coffee. Our emotional state is engaged in every action we do. The wonderful (weird) thing about the MAP Project is that, because we’re filming, we can pick one small interaction, and unpack and explode it in the theatre. How does the great mythology of Oedipus, Hamlet, and Simba find their way into a passing conversation? Because they do somehow.
It’s no wonder a group of self-entitled hipsters have conceived of a project where they get to film and watch themselves over and over again.
Yes, sure, I get it. It’s no wonder a group of self-entitled hipsters have conceived of a project where they get to film and watch themselves over and over again. And maybe this is precisely the point. Look how quick Facebook has altered the way human beings interact on a daily basis. It’s the same with our Sunday night ‘Social Lab.’ The actors, my dear friends, try to communicate something to me, to Rio, to a future audience through vulnerable and honest bathroom confessionals. I then can listen to their ‘confessions’ in the intimate privacy of my home. I know them in a different way now, so much more different if it was Sunday night therapy session, or a regular hang-out at the local deli. This weird thing, this ‘Social Lab’ is a prototype for a new kind of socialization, and a new (or perhaps most primitive) form of social media- a self-sustaining tribe (without Jeff Probst) working together to preserve our stories.