REACTION: This time, you are the performer.
Etiquette by Rotozaza is the smallest stage I’ve encountered at this year’s festival; the entire piece takes place on a tabletop. I’ll admit I was reticent about the piece when I heard that my chosen partner and I would be acting aloud in a high traffic coffee shop. Nevertheless we arrived at Last Drop to perform the piece on a Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the performance space is located in a far corner of the shop. I had to look twice to find it.
<%image(20080902-etiquette arm wrestle web.jpg|350|238|Photo: Elizabeth Hershey)%>We sat at the table across from one another. My partner had chosen character A and myself, character B. Before us were set neatly two figurines, chalk, a pen, cups of water, two pairs of headphones. We were instructed that we would be listening to separate scripts, but acting together, so we would need to pay attention and do as we were told.
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I put my headphones on and braced myself. The voice that came through the phones was that of a woman; calming, perhaps British. Rather than hearing some instruction to act embarrassingly as I had dreaded, we were instead transported into an alternative theatrical reality. The woman’s voice explained that we were no longer in a Philadelphia coffee shop. We were surrounded by the bustle of an imaginary European café. She described our character: I had stage fright (how did she know!), but had to perform nevertheless. It had barely been two minutes and already the play had expanded far beyond its physical dimension. We were soon in the boundless realm of the creator’s imagination.
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It continued on in that fashion. The script weaved together several stories that my partner and I performed. The most exciting thing about the piece was how well the piece obscured performance, imagination, and reality. You might embark on the experience self-consciously, but throughout the twenty-five minutes it is difficult not to sink into this new reality that you construct with your partner.
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For those who, like me, are not excited by the prospect of acting in public, have no fear. This interactivity is pure delight and is executed with subtlety. For those who love the thrill of performance, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to engage your dramatic tendencies over a half hour of excellent scripting. Etiquette is great fun.