When reading a newspaper, you’ll get an inky residue on your fingertips.
The news has left its mark…. until you wash your hands clean.
It wants to cling to you, to be held in your mind and your memory.
It longs to be revisited.
A welcoming gets lost…
Memory and loss are some of the strongest themes explored in The Welcoming.
When entering the space, I was asked to take a Polaroid photo and place it on the fridge. And, while walking through the intimate space at The Jones Institute and passing performer Ryan Tacata watching Tootsie in bed, you’re encouraged to take a peek into this seemingly private moment. Met with playful and personal stories from Erika Chong Shuch about elders and other artists connected to the project (whose photos are also on the fridge), I hoped that I was entering a space that encouraged discussion—especially amongst strangers. When entering the garden for snacks and watching Roweena Richie silently digging in the garden, I felt myself wanting to make conversation with my fellow guests whether or not they wanted to talk back.
Despite its title, it’s much easier to appreciate and to be welcomed into this world with an understanding of interactive performance art. Without it, the guests might miss the spiritual connection that The Welcoming attempts to offer.
After drinks, or a meal, or a few games, or a cookie, or a goodbye, or a week of traffic tickets, or a month of old movies, or a year of digging, or a lifetime of waiting to be forgotten.
“Everything changes” sounds better than “Impermanence is constant”
And I suppose that it’s like poetry, or a play, or a game, or a laugh. It only happens first once, then it fades. …the inky smudge down the drain and everything. But it that moment, but the fading, the forgetting begins-
There is a sort of magic.
Each member of FOR YOU Productions (Chong Shuch, Tacata, and Richie) have their own stand-alone stories and moments inspired by discussions with elders associated with LBFE (Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly). Sipping spicy ginger cocktails, the group watched Richie pull out compost from her flowy pants while discussing her desire to be composted after dying.
When brought to the table, the guests were guided through several activities and moments, including eating strawberries, using newspaper as placemats, and painting their name onto a piece of paper to create their own Rorschach test. Even I got up to participate in a game of acting out scenes from Tootsie (the same film playing in Tacata’s room upon arrival).
With different courses, movement pieces, and interactive games interspersed throughout the evening, moments of real play are the strongest aspects of The Welcoming. The highly crafted performative moments with the FOR YOU performers get lost because the moments of immediate interaction, that the company is known for, are more engaging, fun, and accessible to newcomers.
With that, each beautiful moment or precious item introduced to the guests felt like it quickly faded away when moving on to the next course.
The mixture of a drink as medicine.
The crystallization of sugar on a brûléed strawberry.
The transformation of instructions into ready movements.
The feel of smoked butter on your skin, fingers, and lips.
The name of that movie you “maybe” have seen before.
The soft chew of a… a…
I forget that…
Abstraction seems to be a double-edged sword for The Welcoming.
Some guests were able to pick out little aspects that connect in clever ways, such as peeking on Tacata watching Tootsie mirrored playing the improv game using a scene from the movie.
Since the FOR YOU performers took so much inspiration from the stories of elders, it seems like the guests should have seen or interacted with these elders from LBFE, instead of just their ideas. Aside from a beautifully crafted interview with an elder artist in a side room, I would have liked to hear these thoughts about death, transition, loneliness, and connection from those elders directly.
Instead of juxtaposing interestingly, the abstracted / translated ideas felt in opposition to the intensely personalized moments. Due to this, it can be difficult to understand what the audience should pull from the piece—if anything.
However, I do know that all of those moments or circumstances or motions… they long for you.
They miss you.
I miss you.
The piece emotionally resonates when it is playful, and the overall craft of the event and each individual performance piece is quite clear. Even as I write this, I smile as I look over the gifts left over from the evening (another guest’s Rorschach-esque drawing and a Polaroid of Chong Shuch’s mother, who was also in attendance). What I long for is a deeper connective thread to the entire performance.
Still, everything seems to be slightly lacking. It didn’t feel like I had enough.
The food, while beautiful, wasn’t filling. The games, while engaging, didn’t last long enough. The poetry and movement, while engaging, didn’t showcase the inspiration—the real-life elders at LBFE.
The longing for deeper meaning seems to mirror the longing for deeper meaning in life. With this overall melancholy truth translated in each piece of the overall production, The Welcoming will drift in the back of my mind waiting to be remembered again.