Post-post-irony in EVENTS

Issue Three: Events
Laurel Atwell
December 16, 2022
Laurel Atwell

Laurel Atwell has been performing and making work since graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in 2008. Her work and collaborations have been presented at MoMA PS1, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Danspace Project, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, Center for Performance Research, Gibney Dance, Abrons Arts Center, Dixon Place, as part of Sundays on Broadway and Performa ’11, as well as in Los Angeles, CA, Marfa, TX, and Minneapolis, MN. She has worked with luciana achugar, Phoebe Berglund, Kim Brandt, Milka Djordjevich, ryen heart, Ursula Eagly, Nikima Jagudajev, Melanie Maar, and Melinda Ring, among others. She recently returned from a seven-month stint in Lisbon, Portugal where she attended the 2022 Maumaus Independent Study Program. Laurel runs an apothecary out her apartment where she teaches qi gong, practices reiki, administers tattoos, and offers divination readings. @spooky_action.tif

Events toggles between two places that are both offices and have desks and sticky notes and bosses, but exist in different realms. Events is also a play written in the post-post-irony, post-postmodern, 21st century, internet-means-infinity, hyper-informed, hyper-educated environment of art-making so there is a plot without a lot of story. Concept and philosophy are being embodied in the 3D. This felt apparent as I sat listening to Will Smith’s “Miami” at least twice in a row before the show staring at a set where many objects were painting a singular color: were going to be shown ideas, people would represent archetypes, and satire was going to be had.

EVENTS featuring Brian Bock and Claire Siebers. Photo credit Travis Emery Hackett

One office space has one person who is convinced their boss is trying to poison them so they begin to counter-poison their boss. They share the step by step events and logic that has brought them to this place. They live in physical discomfort and are sure their workplace is literally toxic. They itch.

The other office space has three employees competing for their bosses’ (there are two of them i.e. Mom and Dad) approval. One of the employees is the counter to the itchy other. They are in the same role, the poisoning being psychologically in this office world, but this employee internalizes the workplace mistreatment and becomes distracted by their personal grief. We see the other two employees in meetings competing to come up with the chosen ideas for an unknown event. We have a meta moment where the archetypes discuss the archetype of the egg. We learn that there’s a pill for immortality. By the end everyone’s taking it in this office realm. 

The main boss is thought to be dead at one point, reappears as a more evolved level of immortal, casts it all side to become a chair, and disappears. At some point a new person shows up to become the office manager and brings with them a new corporate structure. After the first boss becomes a chair and the second boss chooses the fulfilling life outside of the office, this office manager is able to fully introduce a more feelings-driven working environment where the group checks in about vibes and puts words to their own accountability. 

The only time the two offices interact is the final scene where the group questions the singular person about the poisoning. Everyone is very professional and very cold. The poisoner’s story doesn’t hold up as well under this style of questioning. It becomes apparent that their future doesn’t look good. None of the other people seem to care about the poisoner’s well-being. Corporations prevail, survival mode calls people into action, immortality creates indifference to life itself, money pays for the “real” life beyond work, and actions have consequences but it’s not always so easy to see.

EVENTS featuring Zuzanna Szadkowski. Photo credit Travis Emery Hackett

Events is a reminder that we are being monitored and participate in the monitoring of others. Yes, the omniscient camera, but ourselves and others in our immediate environments often take on the task of creating the panopticon. As I watched the final interrogation scene I was aware of the other half of the audience across from me. As I watched humans hunt one another via lawyer-turned-corporate jargon blended with hashtag internet speak, I felt the porousness of the work seeping into the entire space. Everyone here is complicit, even if we’re wearing our masks that we were emailed about prior to entering the space. We’re all seated, obedient, silent, and then it ends. 

The characters do not yell at each other. Yes, there is yelling, but it’s yelling as an attempt to express a texture in the textureless landscape of an office. Yelling into the void. Characters come close to losing it, but reel it in, get distracted, or are told to do something else. 

The weird (and eerie) churning of no catharsis is so relatable that watching a different version of my lived experience furthers that tension. I do not feel better or heard or more informed by the end of this show. I go back to chatting with my audience-neighbor and turn on my phone and watch homeless people ride the train next to the people who are talking about micro-micro-dosing. 

If life is becoming theater, what is theater doing? I don’t know and I don’t want to put that towering task on a singular show that clearly labored hard and had talented people participate, but what is supposed to be happening in the creative arenas where we build the frames and fill them? While watching this show I felt very aware of the amount of work put in to make a cohesive world full of moving people, objects, and ideas.

I felt like I was watching something that was trying to discuss how the ends of our constructed ways of living are starting to unravel, but the play itself had such nicely tied up bows. There were no mistakes, which is great, but there were also no mistakes. Everything happened that needed to happen. The list was checked. The chaos occurred up to a point and never interrupted my existence. Events wants to expose how consciousness and emotions can be manipulated to feed the nebulous concepts of hierarchy and power, but it never tried to manipulate me. Why not? If you have a hypothesis, why not conduct the experiment? Even the task of attending an event that was a play called Events was accomplished.

EVENTS featuring Dee Beasnael, Brian Bock, Julia Greer, Derek Smith and Haley Wong. Photo credit Travis Emery Hackett

It’s my own fault to feel disappointed by the show. Like I said, everyone involved did a good job. Why does that distress me? I want art to obliterate the concept of a job entirely. I want to be in front of something that I can’t look away from and demands something of me because of the demand it made for itself. I want to watch something fail because the stakes were so astronomically high.

Instead I filled some time with an activity alongside some other people playing out our roles. Afterwards, I wandered back into my little life-office as my own archetype with my curated algorithm of colors, songs, poisons, and humors to keep me feeling engaged with just enough distraction-information. I’ve written this review, completed my tasks.

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