(Photo credit: Richard Muller)
Thinking longer about a play which strikes you
by Valerie Cardinal
A few years ago when I was still interested in becoming an actress, I was asked a very interesting question in a theatre school interview; what is the purpose of theatre?
At the time, I stumbled through an awkward answer about social relevance or something. After thinking deeply about last month’s performance of the MAP Collective’s FOUR Yourself, I feel like I’m a little closer to uncovering what the meaning of theatre is, at least to me.
The piece of verbatim-style theatre has stayed with me even a month after its run, which is definitely saying something. FOUR Yourself combined filmed interviews with its three actors with references to books, movies, television shows and more. It’s a concept that was confusing, odd, a little infuriating and ultimately enlightening.
It made me think so much that after the show, my friend and I not only talked about it the whole way home, but we talked about it for at least another hour after.
First of all, it made me think. It made me think so much that after the show, my friend and I not only talked about it the whole way home, but we talked about it for at least another hour after.
The narrative of FOUR Yourself wasn’t immediately obvious, although it’s clear it was about a journey. FOUR Yourself opens with its three actors re-enacting the same dinner party conversation over and over again. Suddenly, their wine glasses fly away and they are caught in a whirlwind. One of the screens at the back of the stage projects the opening credits for The Wizard of Oz, clearly setting up that this is about a journey.
How that journey is undertaken is what is interesting to me. The show raises so many themes that I had a lot of trouble not turning this essay into a full-fledged university thesis. One of those themes is nostalgia and videotaping, and how weird it is that we would put moments on film.
At the very end, a clip from Amy Kitz’s interview shows her saying, “The camera allows time to loop back on itself, it allows us to re-live a moment, in a manner of speaking. We can’t actually go back into that moment, but we can sit on the periphery of that moment. Weird, right? Isn’t that weird? Isn’t it weird that we, as human beings, invented that technology? Like, of all the things that we could want to do… we want to go back to past moments and watch them.“
FOUR Yourself working as a narrative overall also shows that many people relate to each other through culture. Had I gone into the show knowing nothing about film and having never watched television or picked up a book, I would have been completely lost, wondering why the pretty people onstage were shouting dialogue that sounded random and sometimes jarring.
One theme that caused a lot of discussion in my apartment was that of what makes a story out of a moment in our lives. I felt that I didn’t really grasp what was happening in FOUR Yourself until the end of the show. In much the same way, we don’t realize the moments we’re living are going to be a good story until they are done. During FOUR Yourself, Jake Zabuski mentions that sometimes he starts to think of how to tell a story before the moment is even over; however, you can’t reasonably know even what your story is going to revolve around until a moment is over.
|Director di Giovanni|
Another thing I got from this show was the human love of repetition. We love to repeat ourselves. If we find a good enough story, we’ll repeat it to everyone we know until it becomes perfect. Picture that couple you probably know that’s been together forever (or maybe it’s you). Have you ever seen them tell the story of how they met? Chances are that by now it’s a well-practiced choreography because they’ve told it so many times.
In the show, this component is shown by the story of Jake’s friend Maddy, who loses his finger while climbing over a chain-link fence one drunken evening. “I remember the first time I told this story was to my friend Andrew on the telephone from the hospital at five in the morning,” states Jake as he launches into the story. The show makes it clear that the story has been repeated many times since then. One of its most effective scenes shows Iris Lapid angrily repeating the main components of Jake’s story and mocking his practiced tone and storytelling style. When Jake refers to his friend Maddy as “a loose wheel,” Iris spits out, “I think you mean LOOSE CANNON, Jake.”
FOUR Yourself, to me, centered around two ways human beings relate to each other; culture and nostalgia. It challenged me to consider how I organize my relationships to other people. It also challenged me to think, and what’s more, it did it while being entertaining. If someone asked me today what the purpose of theatre is, I might not have a full answer, but I can at least give an example of the impact of good theatre.
See Valerie Cardinal's original review
See director David di Giovanni's first-person article