Frank Moore’s
Reality Playings
experiments in experience/participation performance

at Temescal Arts Center, Oakland, California
Saturday, March 21, 2009


We are on a roll!  Saturday we did the second performance of our REALITY PLAYINGS monthly series at TEMESCAL ARTS CENTER in Oakland.   We are back to the core of the work…  Working without a net, playing off of whoever comes, without a plan.   Except for one performance for the campaign, it has been four years since I have done this level of improve playing.  It feels good to be back to the core!  

This one was heavy into audience participation.  It also was the first performance we have done in years [except for poetry readings and campaign speeches] without any nudity or explicit eroticism.  It just happened that way.  But I got shit when we got home from our eighty year old neighbor church going Betty.  See, Betty gives pearls, beads, and jewelry to Linda and Jen for their performance costumes when they are nude.  And she just gave us a new bunch.   But no nudity!  I had to explain why there was not nudity and promise there will be nudity next time! 

And of course the night of slipping into altered states was greased by the musical adventures of Doctor O.! 


We were early to the space, and found that spot right in front, perfect.  No one was in the space, so we opened it up, and got started loading things in!  Really fun to be back in Temescal again, and setting things up.  Gels on the lights this time, xmas lights adding more cozy color and warmth to the space ... we were all setting up, arranging the space ... really fun.  Dr. O soon arrived!  He got set up ...  We needed all the extra time!  And it seemed like it wasn't long before the first person arrived ... it was Ben again from ECNG.  Neat!  Then a few more people came in ... Frank got started, asking people how they got there that night ... and asking Ben to talk about the last performance ...  and asked him why he came back?  We can't remember exactly what he said, but he talked about it being an "authentic experience", something along the lines of that it was a space and a context in which he and others could be fully himself and real ... 

Frank went around the room ... what did everyone do for fun?  This brought up some pain, Ben said about himself ... but Frank masterfully transformed it into joy ... Ben liked to eat out ...  Where do you eat??! "Always looking for good places to eat out!"  Ben mentioned some places on Solano that he liked, since he lives in Albany ... Frank also recommended Ajanta and Cugini ... pricey, but Ben could go there for his anniversary lunch!  Ben laughed ... Frank always knew just what to say ....   He used everyone's responses to create something, to weave it all together, to connect ... it was really fun to watch.  Charles liked to dance ... Frank immediately had him dancing a short dance to the music ...  The woman with the short hair came to play, liked games, physical play ... would she do Gestures with Frank?  Sure!  The girl and her guy friend ... she liked going to see strange movies, like David Lynch ... Frank liked them too ... was the performance so far like one of those movies?  She said it was ... especially the music!  Dr. O's music was amazing all night long, and really expanded too when he was joined with people that Frank had play with him from the "audience".  The girl's friend liked to waterski and fish for fun ... you could tell he thought he might be mocked for such "mundane" passions ... like that wasn't "artistic" enough or something!  But no, Frank said he went fishing once with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans ... and their sidekick!  The guy was loving it!  Frank caught something, but it was "rigged"!  Then he went deep sea fishing later on, but didn't catch anything that time ... hard to rig deep sea fishing!  A girl came late ... she had come from a flier she saw on Monterey Ave., which Jen put up!  We talked later about how it felt like everyone came to the performance with a strong sense of resonating with something they saw in the flier, and a willingness to play, to experience ... not simply to watch, however they might have been framing what that might mean for themselves ...  Corey said later that the amazing variety of types of people, races, genders, etc., etc. drove home the fact that people were responding to what Frank is doing on a much more essential level from the very beginning ... he wasn't appealing to a certain "type" of person, he wasn't "hip", it wasn't mostly people from some kind of cultural sub-group or whatnot ... it was all kinds of people responding to something they felt in themselves ... a desire to connect, to go deeper, to push beyond themselves.  That is what the asian girl said in her own words ...  And Frank asked her if she would "go all the way" ...  he didn't know what that meant, but would she?  She said she would ... she likes to go all the way, "because she can" ... and its fun!  Frank said that he is like that too. 

And then Frank set everyone up doing something ... Charles and the waterski guy and the short haired woman would join Dr. O in the band ... He would do gestures with the asian girl, directed by the other girl in David Lynchian fashion ... Ben was the audience, at first ...  It was really interesting to feel this shift into risking, playing, unknown ...   Linda read the Gestures, and the adjectives ... the girl did a little bit of directing ... then Frank would shift things around, and now the asian girl was directing, and the Lynch girl was doing the gestures with Frank ... Frank paired Jen and Charles to do the gestures too ... the music was going along all this time, blasts of trumpet now accompanying the neverending exploring sounds of Dr. O and the other players ... it was beautiful ... and under the direction of the asian girl, it got very goofy and silly, fun!  Frank kept moving people around ... some people chose to remove themselves ... when the Gesture came up for rubbing each other's genitals, not for sexual reasons, but for body comfort, the Lynch girl quickly removed herself, and it wasn't long before she was out the door with her guy friend, who had been having a good time on the trumpet! 

Gestures was really beautiful, small, exploring ... it was neat that Ben's entry into it was through the departure of the girl ... he was willing to risk.  He and Frank rubbed each other ...  Charles too, he got the same Gesture read when he and Frank were paired up ...  The asian girl also seemed to relax and open up ... and stayed the whole time, doing all the gestures with all of her pairings ...  and amazingly, not one article of clothing came off!  Ironic that this was the performance that The Berkeley Daily Planet would not list because of Frank Moore's "detractors", because of its "adults only" nature!  The one performance where no clothes came off!

And then Frank asked Charles to do a dance to the music of Dr. O and others from the "audience".  It was an amazing dance, part of which was with Frank, which was really beautiful, intense, connected and direct ... it reminded Frank and Linda of a butoh-style dance that someone had done with Frank in a performance years ago...

And then Frank asked everyone what they thought of the performance ... which, as Linda was saying afterward, really felt like an important, indispensable part of the performance, the way in which the experiences of the performance became real, solidified ... the performance was continuing to work through this conversation at the end ...  we were blown away by the things people said.  What Ben said about his experience of this performance, doing the gestures ... how it pushed him through his fear ... how Frank followed what he said into his realizing that there really wasn't anything there to fear ... He said that he kept running away and coming back internally, but externally, physically, he was there the whole time, never left.  But he always came back inside, and Frank asked him if the running away got less and less?  Yes.  Frank said it was great to have him there again, and to come back!  He could build on "regulars" ...  The asian girl's experience echo'd what Ben had said ... but she and Frank got into a really interesting conversation about "safety zones" ... she was afraid to take her coat off, although she kept wanting to, because of some strange fear of being "invaded", which she realized was something that was from inside herself, something she was "working on" ... she said she heard the voices of her family talking at her also  ... Frank said that being vulnerable was much stronger than being rigid ... and Linda said that it was a general principle of life, wasn't it? ... that when one is all tight and protected, one is easier to be controlled, to be harmed ... but when one is open, vulnerable, everything is more fluid.  Frank and the girl talked about being a rubber ball, able to bounce back, to be flexible vs. walking on eggshells, where things are brittle and can snap.  Really amazing! 

The short-haired woman really appreciated the freedom she felt at the performance, that there was a lot of choice to do what she wanted to do ... she talked about how it did not conform to her expectations ... that she had a picture of being involved in some way, in participating, which is why she had come, but did not think it would be so much, which she liked!  And experiencing Frank too was a big part of it.  Charles, the dancer, spoke of the difference in coming into the space and being guided by Frank into these realities, and how that would compare to how things would feel if the audience members were left more to their own devices.  It felt like what he was trying to say was that Frank's direction allowed for more to happen, for more depth ... to explore more deeply in freedom and still feel safe ....he was using the word "responsibility", as if people did not have to take responsibility as much with Frank guiding them the way he was ... but it felt like he meant more that this performance was more about following than deciding ...

Frank passed the hat at one point.  It was amazing that people filled the basket at the end of the night!  Another amazing performance.  Charles the dancer asked near the end what was the video going to be used for?  It really shifted things when people ask things like that ... suddenly there is introduced a lack of trust which is really palpable. 

On the way home, we were talking about the performance, hoping the rain did not amount to much .. that it would stop long enough to get Frank inside and get the stuff unloaded!  It cooperated somewhat ...  We were talking about a lot of the things we wrote above ... we just loved how Frank always knew what to say, always connected to people, made things feel intimate, close, small, real ....  he always speaks plain, opens up the limits of what people think is possible, doesn't compromise, and uses everything, especially transforming things that one would think would be hardships into positives ... and often doing the unexpected!


It was spitting just a little but stopped when we were getting Frank into the car.  We were ready to go.  It's exciting and so much fun because we never know what's going to happen at a performance.  The people that are going to come don't know what to expect either, but we're in the same boat!   We got to the space and unloaded everything.  Then Mikee and Corey set up sound and lights while Alexi and I put up the banners.  Linda and Corey worked on the swag table, I put down the mats and blankets and then christmas lights went up which looked great.  Dr. Oblivious arrived and starting playing once he set up.  The space was transformed. 

People started coming in.  The guy from ENG who was at the first performance was the first to arrive.  It's fun to have him come back.  More people arrived and Frank talked to everyone asking them what they do for fun.  The guy from ENG said that the question brought up pain in him but then he said that one of the things he does it go out to dinner.  Frank asked him where he went and then started talking about places to eat on Solano, telling him that he should go to Cuccini's for one of the ENG anniversary dinner, and that made the guy laugh.  There were some musicians there but they didn't bring their instruments, so that was going to be put on the flyer for next month.  One guy said he liked to water ski and fish so Frank talked to him about fishing, telling him the story of when he fished with Roy Rogers.  It really made the guy relax.  Another guy said he liked to dance so Frank asked him how he would dance to the music Dr. O was playing and he did a little demo of that.  Frank introduced Dr. O and talked about how he came to be one of the many musicians that plays with us.  Some of the women said that they came because they liked to play and go past boundaries.  They saw the flyer and were attracted by the prospect of doing this.  One of the girls was full of energy and said that it's fun to challenge herself and try to find ways to get past the boundaries that she has.  Frank said that they should play gestures together with another girl directing them as if they were in a David Lynch film, while Frank has some of the other people play in the band.

Gestures is a game where a slip of paper with an action is pulled out of a bag at random.  An adjective is also pulled at random and the people playing have to do what it says the way it says to do it.  The first gesture was to curiously show each other your belly and rub it.  The girl was wearing a long dress and very quickly pulled it up and rubbed her belly, but then when she was told she had to keep doing the gesture until the next gesture was called, she just rubbed her belly without pulling up her dress again.  More gestures were called but she wasn't really doing them so Frank switched the girls so the one directing was now doing gestures with him.  They rubbed calves together and rubbed shoulders etc.  The other girl was now directing.  Then Frank said for me to play gestures with one of the guys.  We rubbed thighs together and the directions from the girl were to do it acting like monkeys, and then like it was raining.  It was fun to play!  Then the gesture was pulled to rub each others genitals for body comfort.  The girl said she wouldn't do that and very quickly went to the bathroom, then left with her boyfriend who had been playing trumpet in the band. 

Frank had the ENG guy come up and play with him.  You could feel people opening up to the play and also their fear of it, but it was a cozy place, a warm environment where you felt you could open up to it without reacting to the fear.  Frank kept switching partners and calling others in.  At one point there were 3 couples playing, everyone risking because it was totally random what gesture would be called.  Bodies were intertwined and moving together, chests rubbed, butts rubbed.  It was a lot of fun and the first time I ever played gestures.  At one point another woman was with Frank when the gesture to rub genitals appeared again and she refused to do it, so Frank said that she could then direct.  She seemed a little disappointed about it but she stayed.  Then the game ended when Frank had the guy who danced at the beginning do a dance with him while the rest of us played in the band. 

When the dance was over everyone sat together on the mats and talked about how they liked it, how it felt.  Frank loved dancing with the guy and said it reminded him of a Buto dance he had done at another performance.  The guy from ENG talked about how he was running away in his mind even though his body was here doing the gestures.  Frank asked if he came back in his mind, and he said that he came back several times.  Frank asked if he ran less each time and he said that he did.  He said that he ran out of fear and Frank asked him what he was afraid of.  When he thought about it there was nothing concrete to be afraid of but he said it had something to do with feeling like he was a bad person, like he shouldn't be doing what he was doing. 

One of the girls had the same experience and said that she didn't want to take off her coat because she would feel exposed if she did that.  Everyone enjoyed playing together even though it had challenged them and they had gone beyond their comfort zones.  Frank talked about comfort zones and how they're danger zones.  In your comfort zone you are rigid and tight, not open and flexible.  That rigid tightness is hard and fragile like an egg shell, but if you're open and flexible to anything then you can bounce like a rubber ball.  It makes it easier to dance with things and you are more protected that way. 

There was a guy who came in and shortly left when Frank said he liked rubber balls.  Then he came back with a rubber ball and a notebook.  Frank asked if he had seen the performance.  He hadn't.  He said that it was because of indecision.  Frank said it took him 2 hrs plus to decide, then the next performance starts for him at 5pm and it will already be in progress then.  He didn't have much to say after that and then left. 

Frank asked me to compare this performance to previous performances.  It felt the same in that it was a comfy cave to play in, but it was different because everyone was playing together and there was not a focus that people watched.  It felt like the first performace I went to in Brooklyn where everyone played together, and Frank was in the cave when a lot of that was going on.  All the performances have really been different in terms of what was going on and how the audience participated.  This one felt like it opened up a space for people to play with each other that is outside of comfort zones and what is deemed as 'appropriate'.  It was really deep fun that went beyond taboos.  Every person talked about how they liked the performance, including Dr. O.  It was really fun to hear how everyone took it in.

After the performance Linda talked about how gestures always fits the situation perfectly and whatever is pulled seems to be just what is needed.  It always feels like a progression into deeper play.  We talked about how each person played, and how the one girl left because Frank really hit a button with her.  We got everything packed up and then headed home.  In the car Linda talked about how it seemed like it was one of those times where what Frank is doing is intersecting with what people are looking for, what people want. 

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