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Thursday, 15 July
Towards A Poor Toilet

Lately I've been sacrificing most of my free evening time rehearsing for the show I'll be doing in August. This means I've been hanging out at a certain theater--home to a company that I once was a member of, but have since amicably parted from, officially--and it bears some describing.

When most people think of theaters--live theaters--they probably think of things like velvet seats, or polite bartenders in well-appointed lobbies, or maybe just the cheerfully low lull of erudite conversation. (Some people, when confronted with the phrase "live theater" might just think of strippers. Which, depending on the play, could also be true.) The point is, the concept of "going to see a play" carries certain cultural connotations, like casual wealth and slight ostentation.

Fringe theater, most of the time, carries no such cachet. Least of all in this one. It is, without doubt, the dingiest, dankest, bacilliest theater that ever existed. It is, in fact, less a theater than it is an abandoned garage with pretensions. It is an enduring wonder to me that it has never been condemned, most likely because any sane inspector would flee from its haunting decrepitude in fear for his safety (stumbling perhaps as he crossed the noxious sewer grate that decorates its streetfront, and routinely emits horrifying, Plutonic odors).

Let's just start with the bathrooms. The men's has a door of sorts constructed of 3/4" painted plywood, and a yellowing printer sign above the crapper with the cautionary message: "I'm an old, cranky toilet!" An ominous plunger crouches near the bowl, presaging dire visions, such as you dancing anxiously in pisswater overflow, or worse. If one is feeling really courageous, he can cautiously lower his ass down onto the seat (trying not to think of how many varied asses this Methuselan receptacle has patiently met over the years) and then be treated to a strange kind of circus ride or well-rendered video game: CLUNK! What the fuck? The bowl just listed to starboard! Hey, I'm a sailor and I'm taking a dump! Woo woo! GANK! Now to the other side! Most of it's getting in the bowl! What the hell is anchoring this toilet? Safety pins?

It's really very strange. Then, just like in video games, there might be a bonus round for the lucky player, and the toilet overflows onto your feet, and you grab at the plunger to stab at the beast, but nobody ever gets many points in bonus rounds, and you count yourself lucky that hey, you never liked those shoes anyway.

The main theater itself--again, it's just a reconverted warehouse space, resplendent with the kind of invisible black grit that only lives in your hair or, more happily, insistently under your fingernails--is a dismal place with primitive electrics and an utterly unsolvable humidity problem: it is always either (1) gaspingly arid and intolerable or (2) so thick with mugginess that ones lungs feel like wet wool. On some amazing occasions, it can be both within the same day. I call those days "weekdays."

The whole place deserves to be hung with colorful banners, reading "DISEASE VECTORS WELCOME HERE!"

There is also the shop area, where in addition to dozens of cans of donated paint ("REJECTED COLOR: 'Rancid Come' "), there is also a horribly undifferentiated pile of donated "wood": that is, boards. Unfortunately, these boards were merely the result of deconstructed pallets that someone had assaulted with a hammer; nobody had bothered to remove the dozens and dozens of staples. Great! Someone donated a bunch of horrible garbage that even hillbillies wouldn't deign to either (1) snort, or (2) burn.

This is how classy fringe theater can be. And for all that, I continue to do it. I have no explanation.

I'm tired. I'm making no money doing this. The hours and the unbelievably draining schedules suck. I'm 35 years old and still playing make-believe. I'm still frantically battling recalcitrant toilets.

And I tell myself, again: Here we go again.

It's not so bad.

XOXOX | Skot | 15 Jul, 2004 |

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

"an abandoned garage with pretensions"
brilliant. if nothing else, it provides you with fodder for this blog.

love your wit.

AL

Comment number: 003595   Posted by: annielaurie on July 15, 2004 05:39 AM from IP: 216.209.247.99

The worst toilet I ever used was missing the front half of the seat. Yes, I'm a girl, so I had to sit down. It was somewhat alarming. But yeah...either you have an interesting life or a boring life I guess, right? And if you were boring I probably wouldn't be writing this...lol...sorry, this probably isn't very nice.

Comment number: 003596   Posted by: yensen on July 15, 2004 07:54 AM from IP: 141.154.155.185

I find it an unfortunate circumstance that finds any blogger face to face with a toilet like that. Do what I do when confronted with said being, get completely obliterated and vomit freely upon said toilet to make it feel as bad as you do that your talents are spoiled on worthless, back-alley venues. Though I've never been to one of your "shows" and do not plan on it since I live nowhere near you, I feel your pain. Or, as Kotzwinkle may have said "Pull the flaps of the anti-Puerto Rican music hat over your ears, and take a crap, man, in this beautiful Horse Badorties toilet, man. It is LIFE!"

Comment number: 003597   Posted by: Fissell on July 15, 2004 11:04 PM from IP: 65.71.212.119

Oh, and hillbillies are always about snorting pallets. I know. I've dated one of them.

Comment number: 003598   Posted by: Fissell, again on July 15, 2004 11:06 PM from IP: 65.71.212.119

You're just in it for all the glamour, right Skot?

Comment number: 003600   Posted by: DaveP on July 16, 2004 10:00 AM from IP: 208.210.144.28

funny you should mention the garage thing...there's a popular improv-theater company here in Atlanta called Dad's Garage. And it's called that pretty much for the same reasons you listed.

Comment number: 003601   Posted by: myra on July 16, 2004 05:57 PM from IP: 130.218.254.170

If you wonder why you do something, especially something hard and uncompensated...well, that might be the road to a gradual sense of futility because for most of the things we do the answer is 'just because' or sometimes 'just because I like it.' I try to avoid that question whenever possible.

OK, so far I've gotten all the references in your titles since I started reading but don't get "For a Poor Toilet." Can you tell us?

Comment number: 003602   Posted by: Miel on July 17, 2004 11:30 AM from IP: 151.203.67.119

Miel -- The title is a pun on "Towards a Poor Theatre," Polish director Jerzy Grotowski's book. Grotowski took 6 actors into a room, had them do physical & vocal training like ballet dancers do the barre until they were practically luminous, and started achieving a spiritual transcendance on stage -- he called it the actor's sacrifice of themselves -- that had never been seen before. In Seattle, Akropolis Performance Lab is in this lineage. if you've ever seen Suzuki-trained actors, it's that kind of radiant physicality.

Probably more than you wanted to know, eh? It is close to my heart because I spent this spring living in Grotowski's room at the Odin Teatret in Denmark. Eugenio Barba, who runs that theatre and worked with Grotowski when they were both in their 20's, is a bright-eyed sage.

Comment number: 003603   Posted by: rachel on July 17, 2004 11:44 AM from IP: 198.81.26.45

Whoever said that bathroom humor was overrated?

Comment number: 003604   Posted by: CG on July 17, 2004 11:29 PM from IP: 172.154.20.20

I think you should consider this particular phrase for your "Best-Loved Quotations of Izzle Pfaff" retrospective autobiography's title:

Hey, I'm a sailor and I'm taking a dump! Woo woo! GANK!

Comment number: 003605   Posted by: jo on July 18, 2004 12:56 PM from IP: 64.121.4.176

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