Monday, March 08, 2004 · posted at 11:29 AM
The wave stops here. On Thursday I got to see the UCSD’s spoken word collective, freedom writers* along with the Long Hairz Collective. It’s trendy to be a collective. Perhaps I should rename this blog The Couch Banshee Collective, but alas collectives cannot be when you are a party of one

I haven’t had much experience with spoken word. The last “spoken word” performance I had seen was at a certain Asian American Film Foundation’s show and I wasn’t terribly impressed by the reading to the tune of Kenny G. He is the epitome of why I think I wouldn’t enjoy spoken word. Everything you see about spoken word artists in movies, books, tv shows, etc. is so stereotyped…but then again stereotypes always have some basis. Example: My roommate told me today that a customer called demanding a full refund for his curtain rod that he had been using for 5 months. Guess the ethnicity. Anyone? Anyone?

I feel like I should really like spoken word because you need such a command of words. Every word must be strategic and melodic (which might be my fatal flaw as a poet because I have the rhythm of a white drunken frat boy**). Because so much skill and mastery is involved, spoken word has enormous potential for hit or miss.

But I digress. I actually have no intention of writing about Thursday’s performance. I have neither the skill nor the experience to judge on such matters. Instead I bring to hand another issue generalized to all shows and performances… What does it mean to be the audience?

I am a voyeur (but not like Video Voyeur which I watched this afternoon– that was just creepy). I love reality tv. I love gossip when it’s not about me. I love drama when I’m not the one crying/yelling. I love to watch people do stupid stuff while I sit back and laugh. I judge from the safety of my high horse. Oft I am a spectator, just watching not really participating.

And that’s the definition of a spectator right? “An observer of an event.” Well an audience is “an assembly of spectators at a performance.” Sure, these are words we learned in third grade or so, but the meaning seems to get lost from time to time. When I go to a show, I am not lifting a finger. I may open my mouth to laugh, cheer, or jeer, but this is all voluntarily. I avoid sitting on the front and sitting by the aisle (and thus give away my chance to easily escape – it’s a trade-off). I avoid the edge – any place where the audience may come in contact with the performers.

So I hate when performers call for audience participation; it’s not in my job description.

I will not rhythmically clap. I will not rock you. I will not say hurray when you say hip. I will not stomp clap, stomp stomp clap. I will not sing along (with the exception of Dave’s Son and possibly Dashboard Confessional). I will not turn and hug my neighbor. I am not a “swaying to the music” type of gal. I do not hold hands and chant. I do not join the circle. My arms will not wave. If you point the microphone towards me, I will amplify silence. It’s nothing personal.

Don’t put me in that position where everyone else is singing along/clapping/stomping/hugging and I stick out for not participating (see: Nick Nolte during the presentation of Elia Kazan’s Lifetime Achievement Award). Don’t be offended by my reluctance to jump to my feet and holler. Don’t take my refrainment as a sign that I’m not enjoying myself, that’s just what I do, it’s who I am. Don’t penalize me for upholding the true meaning of the audience.

Two words: fourth wall. Respect it. Touch it, nudge it, push it, rub it, stroke it, but do not, do not break it.
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* See this the problem with using proper punctuation, I never know if I should be capitalizing certain proper nouns or not… and what if it’s actually Freedom Writers and I’ve now inadvertently insulted the group with something so simple that could have been fixed with a shift button…
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** For those of you who are reading this and don’t know me, this is a reference back to the stereotype thing and not intended as racist remark. Oh who am I kidding, who else but the 3 people I know would be reading this?
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Like cheerleaders, can't people just cheer on their own, like, to themselves.
      - Angela, My So-Called Life #01, Pilot
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Words and phrases to banish (due to triteness, grown-upness, or just ick factor): hear my cry, heed my warning

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