Thursday, January 27, 2005

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent... 

Performance centerpiece the World Tree

Tonight the prep school hosted Paul Winter' The World Tree, which is described on Paul's site as a totally new participatory music and dance celebration, in a unique performance environment in which the musicians encircle the audience. The 12 movements of 'The World Tree' follow the wheel of the year, from January to December, celebrating the creatures and cultures of the whole Earth, and is otherwise indescribable.

Clearly, one purpose of the event is to shift the traditional spectator/spectacle dynamic, embedding the audience physically (and, presumably, actively) inside the performance far more organically and totally than the more common fourth wall breach could ever hope to accomplish. With a more mature audience, this might work smashingly, but alas (and duh), in typical prep school "it don't leak when it ain't raining" form, no one ever bothers to teach these kids how to spectate.

The results were predictable in hindsight. Though a few were into it -- some sincerely, and some in the spirit of pure camp -- most students didn't get it. Those who didn't sneak off from this required event chatted loudly through the whole thing instead, lending a dull roar to the proceedings, and seriously screwing up the spirituality. Oh, and a few managed to have sex behind the bleachers, apparently, which must have been pretty odd given the soundtrack.

The event, which took three days to construct, completely filled our usually ginormous gymnasium; expect some half-swallowed arts vs. athletics fingerpointing if the basketball team loses to Andover tomorrow.

That said: the performance itself was mystical, kind of like being caught up inside a new age mix tape; the performers were engaging; the program was bold and fluid at two hours on the dot. Willow spent the evening dancing wildly on the gymnasium floor, enjoying every minute of it.

And I? I stayed for a while, watching the community I love misuse and abuse a great opportunity, and thought about how, wherever next year's job search may take me, I will never again be privy to so much of the highest of high culture. I avoided administrators, and cut short far too many conversations with faculty peers and parents in which I was offered sympathy for my impending jobloss and assured that "a man of my talents will surely find great things to do out there." I got lost in the music. I watched the two year old dance gleefully with her facbrat peers and felt painful, heartwrenching guilt that I would soon take her from this wonderful place.

Finally, lost in the mournful tones of live surroundsound tenor sax and cello, I crept unnoticed in a darkened corner and let the tears come unabated.

If you ever get a chance to see Paul Winter's World Tree, do so.

But not in a place that doesn't love you back.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:53 PM |

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