The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun - February 2010

Frank Moore’s
The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun
experiments in experience/participation performance

at Temescal Arts Center, Oakland, California
Saturday, April 24, 2010


PAUL KRASSNER: “As a performer, George Carlin was uncompromising, knowing that his audience trusted him not to be afraid of offending them. “

The so-called comfort zones are really the opposite of real comfort.  The zones are rigid prisons of fragile gated limits of eggshell fragility of fear and weakness.  They create isolation, separation, and fascism.  Real comfort is the relaxed ability to absorb, adapt, and play with anything that comes up in life and work with it in creating fun.  This is outside the fragile zones.  What people mistaken for uncomfortable as they leave the zones is really freedom.  But going in and out of the zones is addictive and drains possibilities away from not just you, but from everybody.  This is why it is extremely important to accept personal responsibility to keep pushing beyond the “comfortable zones” into what at first appears to be difficult but which will melt into the doorway to the next dimension of pleasure!  Well, after all, isn’t that why you came [and keep coming back] in the first place?  

And rub deeply below the surface to the core to arouse heat of pleasure! 

We had everything set up for the performance early and we wondered if anyone would come.  Just after 8:00 people started arriving.  The first group of people were housemates who had come together.  They brought their musical instruments with them to play. One of the guys had been seeing flyers up for the performance for years and he had wanted to come but this was the first time that he made it.  Frank asked him why he had not come before and why he had come now. He couldn't really articulate it but the name change of the flyers had been part of it.  He said that he liked uncomfortable and he liked fun.  His friend brought his trumpet and was ready to play. Frank said that they could do a duet, Frank would do vocals.  Later he said that he had to leave early about 9:00 and Frank said they could see if they could do a duet.  He ended up staying well after 9:00.  It had all been a pile of poop!.  They had all watched a clip on U Tube of Frank but the woman who was with them had not actually seen the flyer so Frank had her read it and then asked if they all did nudity.  One of the guys said that they did not usually do nudity together.  The woman said that she did not feel comfortable being nude. 

There was a woman who worked in retail who came saying that she too had seen a flyer up.  She did not usually go out in the evening but she was attracted to the things on the flyer especially shamanism.  Frank asked her how uncomfortable she was willing to be and she said that she wasn't sure.  She was willing to be a little uncomfortable.  There was another group of people who came together.  One of the women had been seeing the flyers up for a long time and then her friend invited her to come tonight not knowing that it was for the same thing that she had seen seeing the flyers for. She was a student who was studying international relations and part of a women's group at school that explored art and sexuality.  Frank asked her to talk about it and she talked about how she had been having sex for years but that it was only recently that she was having real sex because she was not really being herself before.  It was through doing art that she had found the layers that she put on herself and the hiding she had done behind being sick for a long time. She had been hiding behind masks of who she should be rather than who she really was.

A couple of people from the SF performance last weekend were there and Frank asked the woman Katie if she would be Frank's magical cave lover for the night and she said yes.  It was right after that that the woman who talked about art and sex left with the group of people she had come with because some of them felt uncomfortable.  An Indian woman had come because she found a flyer for the performance on her car.  She was on her way to the movies when she found the flyer and decided to come.  She said that she was not comfortable with nudity. Frank asked her if she would go up and play the keyboards and she said she did not know how to play but yes she would try.  Mikee got her set up at the keyboards and she began to play.  Her friend who was a yoga teacher had come along with her.

Frank asked the people who were at the performance last week in San Francisco if they would talk about what happened.  The woman said that Frank had gone around and talked with everyone.  He had asked her if she was a plant and she did not know what he meant.   She thought that he meant was she a vegetable or a mineral and she said that she was more like an alien.  She told about the woman who was there who was a photographer, how everyone had gotten naked and she had done photo poses with us.  Then we had done gestures together in small groups touching and exploring each other.  She said it brought people together in a soft and comforting way.  The guy that had also come to the SF performance said that he felt closer to the people at the last performance, people that he did not even know than he does to most people in his life. 

Unruly who has been coming to Frank's performances for years came and brought a friend with him. Frank asked him to talk about what Frank does, see if he could scare everyone. Unruly said that something amazing always happens at each performance and that it usually includes being nude and touch.  Frank brings people together intimately in ways that are outside of the normal contexts. Frank asked the single mom who was back from the February performance why she was back.  She said that last time she had come when everyone had done gestures she had not participated.  She had stayed on the sidelines and had a whole dialogue going on about why she had not done it.  She said that it was lame and she was back to participate.  She had brought her poems to read.  Frank asked her if she would come up and read her poems and that the people who brought instruments and anyone else who wanted to could come up and play as she read her poems.  She said that her poems were dark.  Frank said that we can handle dark but they were not that that dark. Frank talked to her about why she had come back, that she had come back because she wanted to roll around on the floor and be with people in that way, but had kept herself on the sidelines.  She had all these ideas about how she was willing to be somewhat uncomfortable but not completely.  She had worn a nice tank top so she could talk off her shirt but did not want to take off all of her clothes.  She wasn't sure about rolling around with everyone on the floor because she was a single mom and she had sworn off men for the year.  Frank said but it isn't just one man here and tried to break through her logic but she would not budge.  She was holding onto the idea of levels of uncomfortable and how far she was willing go. The single mom read Frank's poem "Tortures," while the band played music behind her reading.  Everyone really enjoyed it.   

Frank said that half of the room could undress each other.  The woman who said that she did not go out much lately but was attracted to the shamanism on the flyer took her jacket off but then decided to put herself with the side of the room who was not getting undressed. 
Katie came up to sit with Frank and read "The Magical Cave Lovers," in a very fast way and a lot of it was lost in her haste.  She was to explore and rub Frank's while she read. The group of people who was nude did gestures as one group. Linda read off the gestures.  It was a sea of bodies moving together, intertwining in each others bodies, licking each others ears, rubbing belly to belly, touching each others thighs.  The single mom joined the group keeping her panties and her tank top on and then when the Magical Cave Lovers ended she and one of the other women left gestures, sitting down and eventually getting dressed again.  Things buttoned up after gestures not the usual melting into each other afterwards. 

Frank asked Katie about reading the poem and she said that she liked it and the woman who did not go out much said that she was doing good, that she was enjoying the evening and she was not too uncomfortable.  Frank asked her what would make her feel uncomfortable and she said that taking her clothes off would make her feel uncomfortable and she didn't want to feel that uncomfortable.  Frank asked the woman who had come with Unruly if she would create an erotic piece with Frank and she said that she needed a little time.  When she came up to do it with Frank she was half dressed already and her piece was short.  She got up onto Frank and had him lick her belly.  Frank then asked Katie if she would come up and dance, explore erotically with, touching him.  Linda created an erotic piece with Frank and Katie.  Katie would be a snake and slither on Frank.  Many people joined the band with toy instruments to make music while she moved like a snake.  Then the lights when down and then slides came onto the naked bodies of Frank and Katie. Frank, Linda and Katie rocked.  There was chatting going on with the people who were watching and people did not seem to be melting into it with juiciness. 

There was a couple who arrived later from Canada.  The woman was a massage therapist and Frank said that what we were doing was like what she does.  She said, "only there is a sheet," for modesty or comfort.  The guy really enjoyed the slides being projected onto the bodies and talked about exploring many types of improvisation in his life.  Frank asked people how they felt about the night.  The woman who was the massage therapist really enjoyed seeing the nude bodies and being together in a performance that was very different from what she usually experienced at performances.  Many people in the end talked about how they enjoyed the night, but they talked about their zones of comfort.  Frank and Linda talked about how there really aren't zones of comfort, you don't do something part way or a little at a time, you go into what is uncomfortable and you stay there.  Frank and the guy from Canada talked more about improvisation and comfort. Frank said that real comfort is flexible.

After the performance Linda said that we have been on a roller coaster.  There have been performances where people jump in and explore and then there have been performances where people are talking about their zones of comfort but want to stay in their zones of comfort.  After the San Francisco performance people were talking about how it was hard to connect with people, that the connections they made with people they did not know during the performance was deeper than the usual connections they were making with people on a daily basis.  What we were experiencing in the performances is what was going on a larger level. It used to be that there was a common reality, that people could call each other on their stuff, and now people had their own personal realities.  People having their own personal realities creates all of the isolation that people are feeling. People are coming to the performances because they are wanting uncomfortable zones of fun but then not taking responsibility for what they are wanting, seeing that it is up to them and they must be active participants to have the experience that they are wanting to have. 

After the challenging setup for Erotic Friction, it was a luxury to be back in our familiar space, with the tried and true set-up, and we were all ready to go just before 8pm, and just sat and waited for people!  Would this be the one where no one showed?  Linda was talking about the performances from the 80s UC series when no one came ... one time, they just stayed and played cards! 

But people started to come in a little after 8, and soon there was quite a crowd.  The first to arrive were a group of 4, all housemates, early 20s ... one had a trumpet, another a drum ... the drummer said he had seen Frank's fliers up around town for years, and had finally decided to come check one out, but he really wouldn't talk about why he had waited so long, or really express what had made him finally come... Frank tried to engage him, but it didn't go very far ... his friend with the trumpet kept mentioning that he would like to play trumpet, and even said at some point that he had to leave by 9pm, so would love to get to play before then ... Frank had told him that they would do a duet later.  Now Frank told him "We'll see".  When they did get to the music, the trumpet player ended up staying long past 9pm ... obviously that stuff about having to leave had been poop!

Their two housemates, a girl and a guy, had come along for the ride ...  Frank asked them if they did nudity?  Well, they said, not really together as housemates ...  Frank asked them if they would do nudity there tonight?  The girl said she would not.  Frank asked her why?  "Because it would make me uncomfortable," she said matter of factly.  "Well," Frank said, "this is the Uncomfortable Zones of Fun".   It turned out that she had not seen the flier, her housemate had not showed her ... they had only seen a video online of Frank, "Doghouse" ...  Frank had her read the flier. 

Meanwhile, another group of young people came in, two guys and two girls ... and Katie and her friend from the Erotic Friction performance arrived, and Unruhlee and a girl came in too ...  and it wasn't long too before another couple came in, and several others, with a dog, who Frank didn't really end up talking with ...  There was also a young woman who came in by herself, and the single mom, who had come to the February performance.  Frank talked with the young woman ... she had been attracted by the mention of shamanism, and the language of the flier ... she wasn't real specific about why these things attracted her ... but she said that she had not been out at night for a long time, and it felt like a good thing to do on the first night she had decided to go out again.  Frank asked her how it was so far?  She said she was enjoying herself ...  Was she uncomfortable?  Not really yet ...  

Frank next talked with the other young group ... everyone had come from fliers!  He talked to one of the young women ... her friend there had told her about it, and it had sounded interesting to her ... Frank asked her what she did, and she said that she was organizing and educating people through a women's studies program, about sex & art ... she was trying to get on the radio to talk about it, and might have an opportunity soon to do so ...  Frank asked her to talk about it now.  She described having been very sick for a long time, and basically trying to cover her sickness with masks ... we're not sure exactly what she meant ... but she talked about how you sometimes can make things better by putting up an illusion for a while, but in other cases, what is really needed is to simply face the reality, to be yourself completely ... and she said that it was impossible to really have sex with another person if you are not yourself.  She said that she was having sex with people for years, but it was not healthy because she did not know herself. 

It wasn't too long after this that Frank asked Katie if she would be his "magical cave lover" for the night, and promptly that last group of young people, including the girl who had just been talking, left.  The girl who brought them all, by the name of India, apologized, saying that her two male friends did not want to stay, and so she had to leave.  She would have wanted to stay, and so she will come back.  For a moment, her sex/art friend looked like she might stay anyway, but then they all left. 

Frank then turned to Unruhlee and asked if he would scare more people by talking about what Frank does!  We think he said something along the lines of how Frank uses nudity and touch outside of the normal contexts ... bringing people together in ways that don't usually seem possible ... Frank asked the guy who had come with Katie to Erotic Friction to talk about his experience too, and he echoed what Unruhlee had said, adding his experience of feeling so close to people at the performance, perhaps closer than he did to people that he already "knew", and how Frank did this with nudity and touch ...

An Indian woman who came from a flier that had been stuck on her windshield, had been on her way to see a movie, and decided to come to this instead!  She said it sounded really interesting ... like others, she was attracted by the "uncomfortable fun", but she said right away that she would not take her clothes off ...  Frank asked her what she did?  Then he asked her if she would play the keyboards, because his band had not shown up!  She said she didn't know how to play, but sure she would give it a try!  She ended up playing for most of the night, and it was great! 
Frank asked the single mom why she had returned?  She talked about how she had come to the February performance, and had stayed for the whole performance but had not participated, and had regretted that, and decided that she would come back again, and Frank had written her from her blog, inviting her to come read her poetry, so she had brought it with her ...  

So Frank asked her if she would come up and read it while one half of the room took each other's clothes off ... this was the half that included Linda, Erika, Katie and her friend, Unruhlee and his friend, and the young woman was there too ... the one who had not gone out in a long time.  She had indicated that she might be willing to take her clothes off, but really had not been definitive ... she had said something about having to see what would make her "too uncomfortable" ...   As this group took each other's clothes off, and the keyboards started up, Frank also had the trumpet player and drummer join him in a jam, and the single mom read her poems ...  The woman who had not gone out in a long time actually started undressing Unruhlee's friend, and vice versa, but stopped at her jacket, basically.  She stayed there with blouse and jeans and socks on. 

The other group was totally nude now ... the single mom had finished her poem ... did she have more?  Yes, but they were dark!  She was hesitating to read them ...  Frank said try us, we do "dark"!  She was trying to arrange the music around her "dark" poems, but Frank said that they would all follow her ...  So she read her "dark" poems, which weren't all that dark!  Frank then asked her if she would read his poem "tortures", and she did a really great reading of it, and it seemed that people were really taking it in ...  Now, while Frank had her up there, he talked with her about the fact of her coming back, and nudity ... obviously she had come back to have the experience she had missed the first time around, when almost everyone had participated, played, did gestures together ... she talked about wanting to roll around on the floor together ... but when faced with it directly now, she was hedging ... coming up with numerous reasons why she couldn't do it, she had sworn off men for a year, for instance ... Frank pushed her logic ... it didn't hold up very well, but she wasn't just surrendering to the reason why she had come back ... she obviously was now uncomfortable!

Now, Frank invited Katie to come up and read "Magical Cave Lovers" while she rubbed Frank erotically.  Meanwhile, the jam would continue, and Linda would take the group of 4, Erika, Unruhlee, his friend and Katie's friend, and do Gestures.  The single mom ended up joining the group as they started ... Frank had asked her earlier if she would take her shirt off.  She did, but that was it ...   Now, she took her pants off too, and was the one in the group with her panties and tank top on in a sea of nude bodies ...  The gestures were playful and fun, and she obviously had a great time!  Katie read "Magical Cave Lovers" hard, fast, without feeling ... like a machine gun!  And she did not rub Frank erotically ... she danced around his cock, touching it every once in a while ... it was the most unsatisfying reading/experience of "Magical Cave Lovers" ever.  You couldn't really even tell what it was about ... did not get the trancelike experience, as Mikee said later, that you were used to ...  And we noticed that as soon as the gestures ended, as the piece ended, things felt like they buttoned up again ... Unruhlee's friend started putting her clothes back on, the single mom moved back into her own spot ... rather than the way it often feels after gestures, where everyone is cuddly together, softer ...

Frank asked Unruhlee's friend if she would create an erotic piece for them to do together ...?  She asked "Dance or touch ...?"  Frank said "touch" and whatever else ... she said she needed time to see if she could think of something, maybe 10 minutes ...

At this point, Frank talked to a couple who had come in late ... the guy used to live in Berkeley, and had always noticed Frank's fliers ... now he was living in Calgary with his partner ... we found out later that she is a massage therapist ... they were looking for something interesting to do while they were in town ...

When Frank came back to Unruhlee's friend, she had thought of something, but announced right off that it would be short.  She kept her panties and bra on, and had Frank rub his face into her stomach, very briefly.  Frank made the most of it, but it was short! 

Frank asked Katie if she would do an erotic piece with him ... Linda described it to her ... she would rub up Frank's body like a snake ... Linda demonstrated, as Katie didn't seem to be getting it ...  We noticed that the group began to get a little social, people chatting ... the woman continued on the keyboards, however, and was really good ...

Next Frank had Katie rock on his lap with slides projected on their bodies and the lights out.  He had Linda rock the two of them ... it really lacked the usual feeling of juiciness, and the chattiness continued, even from Katie herself. 

After this part, Frank talked to folks about their experiences ... what really stand out are what Katie's friend said, and what the Calgary couple said ...  Katie's friend talked about really enjoying the gestures again, and getting lost in the play and touch, and then popping out and wondering how everyone else in the room, who were not participating, were experiencing it?  Did they want to join, did they feel like they were missing out?  Frank asked the others to respond ...  The woman who had not gone out in a while said that of course they were missing out!  (And yet, she had not joined!)  She had kept indicating that to some extent she felt that she was missing out by choosing not to undress, not to join the gestures, etc.  So Frank asked her if she would take off her socks?  Ok, she did, and said her toes felt great!  How about her blouse?  Her bra?  She took off both ...  But wouldn't take off her pants because she was "cold", and the heaters wouldn't help ... which didn't make a whole lot of sense ... seemed more to be a limit that she was setting, nothing to do with being cold. 

The guy from Calgary talked about having been impressed by the art of the slides being projected on the bodies ... and then he and Frank had a conversation about the idea of real "comfortable" being "flexible".  He does contact improvisation, and the gestures had reminded him a lot of that.  They talked about the idea that you are not truly "comfortable" if you have comfort "zones" ... the guy wholeheartedly agreed!  Things seem to sink deep during this conversation ...   His partner, the massage therapist, said that she enjoyed the gestures ...  Frank said it was like what she does.  She said except that there is generally a sheet when she does her work!  To keep "boundaries" ... 

This was pretty much the end of the night.  Frank asked everyone to come back, and told the woman who had taken off her socks, blouse and bra at the end ... "Next time, the pants!"  She laughed!

People milled around for a while talking and looking at the stuff on the display table and in the free boxes, and we started breaking things down ...  When everyone left, we were talking about the performance.  Linda said it was a rollercoaster ride ... the February performance had been great, March had been all the "no's", Erotic Friction was great!, and this was again not very satisfying ... there was a lot of talking about how things had gone, what felt like the high points of the night, despite the general feeling of people not really being willing to let go and experience, to really participate ...  Linda was saying that it was hard to put your finger on what it was  ....

But once we were all back here, and unloaded, you guys called to talk about what you had been talking about just then ... that what it felt like was that the first year of the performances was Frank identifying the general issue, which was the "zones of comfort", and that what we were experiencing now was this accepted concept that there is no generally accepted reality.  Like in a previous era, you could "call" someone on their "shit".  There was a common reality against which you could hold up what someone was doing, and say, this is bullshit, and it made sense to everyone.  But now, it was like everyone had their own personal "reality", and you could not call them on it, and this is what was making people feel isolated from one another.  Like in the Erotic Friction performance, people talked about it being hard to get close to people in everyday life.  This was why!  So what Frank was tapping into was a need for people to take personal responsibility, and it was a big deal, you got the feeling that this was possibly the main problem in society in general.  And it was a "hot button" that people could feel ... they were coming to the performance to confront this, without really even realizing that this was why ... it was what the "uncomfortable fun" brought up ... Personal responsibility.  Like, the single mom, who came back because she had regretted not joining in with the group when everyone did gestures at the Feb. performance.  She came back wanting to have that experience, but shocked to find that she was in the exact same position as she had been the first time, at the point of personal responsibility for why she was there, and what she wanted, and she wasn't willing, again, to really take on that responsibility, and this is what the performances were now confronting, without it really being clear up to now, because Frank has this way of anticipating, being ahead of the times in what he is doing ... where it seems like it is all "greek" at first ...

It was really amazing to think about all this, and really made a lot clear about how the performances have felt ...

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