The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun - December 2011
The Uncomfortable Zones Of Fun - December 2011

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

at Temescal Art Center, Oakland, California
Saturday, April 7, 2012

Well, last Saturday’s performance was another NO drama!  It was a room of people who don’t know the basic fact of life that you get what you put out.  They think putting out is below them.  So that was what the performance dealt with, to the great music by Kene-J and Shirt! 

Time to take things to the next level!  I am working on it! 

Da Boyz and Erika

We got a great send off to this month's performance.  Frank got a series of emails right before we left from Vimeo fans about recent videos that Frank had posted.  Linda said it was as if they knew we were possibly heading into the land of the “No's”, and wanted to let us know that they really got and appreciated what Frank is doing! 

This time, we were all there at the same time, and early!  People started arriving before 8pm, as we were putting on the last of the light gels … the first to come in were an older guy with white hair in a pony-tail, and a young woman with shortish brown hair who had a very engaging vibe.  She came right in and asked if we needed help setting up.  Linda said thanks, but we were just putting the last gels up, and Frank encouraged her to look through the free stuff that we have out. 

After Frank was set up, he turned first to the guy with the ponytail, asking how he had heard about the performance, and what attracted him to it.  He said he had heard about it for a while, and was curious to come check it out.  Frank asked him, “What have you heard?”  He said that it was “interesting”, and that you “never know what to expect.”  Frank asked him what he does, and he said he is an associate professor, teaches computers, and for fun he works out, takes hikes, goes camping …   Meanwhile, the girl had gotten up to get her camera phone, and asked if she could take a picture of the warning sign on the wall.  Frank said sure, and asked her if she was the “fly on the wall”?  A little background:  a week before, a girl had called Frank about the performance coming up, and had asked if she could be a “fly on the wall” at the performance.  This was a project for a UC Berkeley class of hers.  She had to take several photos, and to just be a “fly on the wall” at an art event.  She had somehow missed that she was calling about a totally interactive performance, and when Frank spelled that out, and also when she found his vimeo videos while they were talking, she quickly exited the phone call!  So when this girl started taking the pictures, Frank asked if she was the “fly”!  She obviously didn't know what he was referring to, and said she didn't know what that was, but she could be the “fly on the wall” if he wanted her to!  Frank said that he would take that as a “no”!  Because the fly on the wall would not have said, “I don't know what it is, but I will do it if you want”!  Frank told her about the girl who had called, and she laughed, saying, “That's not me!”  Frank asked her, “Who is 'you'?”  She said she was Kramer.  That's what everyone calls her, its her last name. 

Frank asked her how she had heard about the performance and what had attracted her to it.  She had seen it listed on Squidlist, and was attracted by the “improv”, “music” and she said, “The price was right!”  FREE.  She continued, “At least I won't be out anything, right?”  Frank replied, “We'll see ...”   She laughed!  “Well not money, anyway,” she said.  Frank asked her, “What do you want from this tonight?”  She said, “I have no expectations.  I have no idea what to expect.”

Frank asked her what she does, and she said she is a massage therapist for a tech company in Dublin.  She has been doing it for 11 years, enjoys it, is good at what she does.  And for fun, she continued, she said she liked dancing, hiking, and (jokingly) “long walks in the rain”.  Laughs.  Frank asked her if she sings, and she said that she is not really a singer, but she likes to sing, but she is not really that good at it.  For example, she said, she was driving in her car and singing, and stopped at a stoplight, and the driver in the car next to her turned to her and said, “Don't do that.”  Much laughter!  Frank said, “Everyone is a critic.”  She continued, singing, “Don't matter if it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear … just sing … sing a song!”  Frank asked her if she would sing a duet with him.  She said ok, and while Frank had his mic set up, Linda said that Frank's band, The Cherotic All-Stars, played a couple of weeks ago at a memorial for a good friend who was a punk rocker who had passed away.  “Bob Madigan's Memorial Hootenany and Séance.”  We were the headliners because Frank and Bob had played a lot together and were close …  She described how Frank pulls musicians from all the other acts in the night, so that the All-Stars is a huge band, and Frank sings and Linda and Erika and Frank are usually nude, dancing erotically with each other.  Frank added: “That is a hint.” 

Kramer now sat next to him and Frank started vocalizing, and she started singing to the tune of a popular song, making up words about her and Frank …   Soon Frank asked her if she would read a piece of his, “Playing” …  but Linda could not find it in the binder.  There was some time spent looking for it, but it turned out in the end that it was not actually in the binder yet.  So Frank chose another piece for her to read: his poem, “I Came to Play”.   She did a great reading of it, and clearly really liked it.  When she finished, there was applause, and Frank told people not to clap.  Linda explained that clapping is an artificial ending, whereas it is not really an ending, but things are continuing … 

Frank asked her if the poem described her.  She said yes it did.  She basically said she has the same approach to life, “no victims”, and tries not to have goals. 

We think at this point Frank asked her, “Will you play erotically with me later?”  She broke into laughter!  “Best line ever!” she said.  Frank said, “I am full of them!”  She said she had noticed!  She said, “I said 'no victims', but I may end up hurting you.”  Frank explained, “Later” because he needed to pick on other people first. 

Now Frank turned to a guy who was lying down with his head on a gal's lap.  Frank asked him how he had heard about the performance, and he said that she was the one who had actually found out about it.  She said she had also seen it on Squidlist, and had been attracted by the words in the title.  Frank asked, “Which one, 'Uncomfortable', 'Fun' or 'Zones'?”  She said, “Uncomfortable and Fun.”  “Why?” Frank asked.  She described how she liked uncomfortable situations, when things are “awkward” … there is this energy, “adrenaline”.  Frank asked, “And how did you drag him with you?”  He replied that
“Sue” is a good friend, and she takes him to a lot of things, and he always goes with her, and she is adventurous, playful, and has good taste, “some of the time” … “most of the time.”  “She is great.”  Frank said, “Hence, she is with you.” 

He replied with a short laugh, “I'm not sure how to take that.  Do you like me?”

Frank said, “Do I matter?”

The guy: “Do you suspect that you don't matter to me?”

Frank said, “You are that kind.  You keep digging a hole ...”  Frank continued, “What I mean is if she is a great judge of people, and if you are with her … hence you must be great.”

But the guy had already worked himself into some kind of snit, and was solemn faced through Frank telling him that he is great … And after Frank finished, he replied, “So  ... to say that you're that kind feels insulting, hurts my feelings … I came here sad …. I feel some hostility from you.  That makes me feel sad.  I feel you are questioning my friendship with my good friend.  That hurts also.  I appreciate you are speaking your truth, but I want you to know how it feels … [tearfully]

Frank replied, “What about what I just said?”  And his friend Sue said to him, “He was saying something nice ...” She put her hand on his back...

The guy started to say something in reply, but stopped himself, and just said, “Thank you … I came here sad already … Thank you.”

Frank said, “A lot of people have to just be who they are.”

He said, “I agree.”

Frank asked him, “What do you do for fun?”  He replied that he likes to dance, and said, “Would you like to see?”  Frank said, “Yes!”  He turned to Kene-J, who had come in earlier, set up and started playing the keyboards, and asked him if he could play some blues.  Kene-J said he really couldn't, so the guy got up with Sue, and they went up to the back of the space, and started dancing in a swinging blues style while the guy actually sang a blues number a cappella, and actually was singing it to Frank, lines like “I'm sorry” and “Come back home!” The dancing and singing were great.    And when they sat down again, Frank asked him, “Do you have a band?”  He said no … Frank said, “You should.  I do …” 

Frank said, “I have nerve ...” And then he told the story of having Big Willie on The Shaman's Den.  Linda described Bill Willie, a great blues musician who used to, and maybe still does, play down in SF where the cable cars turn around.  He came on to Frank's Sunday night internet show with his son, Little Willie, and when he got started playing and singing along with his cassette, Frank just started right in singing with him!  And he loved it! 

There were a lot of people coming in, the room was filling up!  Frank now turned to a middle-aged guy off to the side.  He has known about Frank for years, and saw Frank's “brochure” at Moe's books.  He said he has been to performances when Frank was with Debbie, “15 years ago” … He looked Frank up online and was really impressed to see that Frank was still doing stuff, and all that he was doing!  In the course of talking about his previous experiences at performances, he talked about being blindfolded and led into “the cave” …

Now another whole crowd of people came into the already packed room.  It was Shirt, for previous performances, with a posse of 5 or 6 young punks.  It wasn't long before most of them left, but Shirt stayed until the end.  Frank said to him, “I was wondering about you!”  Shirt said yeah, he was back in town now.  Frank said, “Get to work!”  Frank said he could join Kene-J playing music.  “Kene-J  AKA  Tha Archivez AKA Son AKA  doesn't know who the fuck he is!”   Kene-J said, “Oh Pop ...”

Looking at the very full room, Frank said, “I might have to rethink this!”  Then he turned to the guy who had been to previous performances and asked if he and Erika would undress each other and dress each other up in the costumes.  He fumbled a bit at first, not quite getting the idea that Frank meant him, now!  But then he agreed, and Erika undressed him and dressed him up in a net skirt, feathered boa and jewelry, and he undressed her, dressing her in a net skirt and little else! 

Meanwhile, Frank talked to a group of young black women sitting toward the back.  The first girl had found out about it from a website, Oakland Events, and had thought it sounded interesting, and also the fact that it was free!  She said she had never been to anything like this before.  Her friends had both come with her, one of them said that she had really wanted to spend time with her friend, hadn't seen her in a while …  Two of them were nursing students, and the other was working and studying architecture. 

Perhaps next Frank turned to a guy sitting in front of them.  He had seen a flier up at a local cafe, where we had just recently started fliering!  He had been attracted by the look of the flier, the lettering and graphics … He said he is a “creative in advertising”.  Frank asked him, “What does that mean?”  He said that it is doing the creative part of putting together ads, for print or TV … Frank said, “So you are a madman ...” He said yes.  Frank pointed out that he had to translate what the guy had said!  “Are you good at your job?”  Frank asked!  He replied, “I think I am, but I can always be better ...” 

Frank asked him if he is a “word” man or “graphic”?  He said he started as a graphic designer, but now he is more on the “creative” end, so he is more of a “word” guy, which he finds more interesting. 

Now we think Frank asked the blues dancer and Sue if they would undress each other and dress each other in the costumes.  They both said no.  Frank asked them each, “Why?”  The blues dancer said that he did not feel comfortable getting undressed in front of people he doesn't know, and that this didn't feel like a safe environment to do that in.  She said that she also did not feel comfortable doing that.  Frank pointed out that this was “The Uncomfortable Zones of Fun”.  She said well it sounded “uncomfortable”, but not “fun”.  Frank asked her why.  She said she just did not want to do it. 

Frank asked her, “Would you undress Linda?”  She said no …

Frank asked Kramer if she would undress Linda, and she said ok, and Linda got up with her and she undressed her, and sat back down. 

It wasn't long before the blues dancer and Sue got up and said they were going.  We noticed that he blew Frank a kiss before they exited.

At some point in here, Frank asked Kramer how the performance was for her so far, and she said that she didn't really have any expectations, but it was good, she liked it. 

There was an older guy sitting near the front who Frank turned to next, and people just kept coming in!  He had perhaps seen a flier, and being involved in theater and performance himself, he often liked to come sit in and see what other people are doing in performance and theater.  He talked about visiting his old friend Judith Malina, who is still going strong in her mid-80s, now creating a new performance in New York, something like, “The World According to the Living Theater”.  He talked about being inspired to do his own work … and talked about something he was working on that was “really big” … a political piece mixed with mythic characters …   Frank told him that The Living Theater are his roots.   And he asked him if he would read a chapter from his book at random.  He came up and sat next to Frank, and picked out the chapter, “Art of Risking”, which talks a lot about Frank's approach to performance, and was perfect both for the guy and for the performance itself!  The chapter mentions Richard Schechner, and the theater guy said he had read the book Frank was referring to, “Environmental Theater”.  After he finished the chapter, Frank said that he “ripped off” Richard Schechner!  And Frank and Linda told the story of how Richard Schechner came to a performance that Frank did in New York city, when he was starting to do “performance art”, and the piece was actually taken almost completely from Richard's work.  At the time, Frank thought he needed to “screen” people coming to the performance, but since has found that the performance itself screens people.  But at this performance, the only person he felt like he would need to screen was Richard himself!  But he didn't, and Richard honed right in on one of the female cast members, and attached himself to her, at one point telling her that he would die if she left his side.  He would hold his breath and stop breathing.  There was a point in the ritual performance where Frank would freeze people, so he froze Richard and the girl, and never unfroze them until the end of the performance!  To his credit, he stayed frozen as directed!  And he came to another of Frank's performances years later in New York … in this one, Frank would meet one to one with each audience member as part of the performance, and when Richard came in, Frank asked him, “Have you changed?”  He knew exactly what Frank was referring to, and said he had, “a little”. 

Perhaps now Frank turned back to Kramer, and asked her if she would read another poem, “Wrapping/Rocking”.  She came up and read the poem, and again seemed to really like Frank's writing.  After she finished, Frank asked her if she would rock on his lap later.  She asked, “Well, how much later?”  And said something about her bedtime, giving the impression that she thought Frank was talking about after the performance.  Frank added in there at some point to clarify the rocking: “like in the poem”.  And Linda explained to her that it would have to be before 11, because the performance ends at 11.   Kramer said, “Ask me closer to 11 ...”  

Now we think Frank turned to the Madman and the guy he was with, who had his head in the Madman's lap.  He asked the two of them if they would undress each other and dress in the costumes.  They both said no too.  The madman's friend said he wasn't “in the mood”.  Frank asked, “Why not?”  His reply was that it would have to be the right circumstances, and the kind of people …

Frank replied, “What are you saying?!”  But he didn't get it, that basically he was insulting everyone there, saying that we all were not the right kind of people.  “If you paid us, we might do it ...” the guy added.

It wasn't long before those two left, and really most of the room had cleared!  There were a couple of young girls sitting toward the back who stayed, and Frank asked them how they had heard about the performance?  They had just been walking along Shattuck and saw a flier, and being in a theater group at their school together, they were attracted by that part of the flier.  Frank asked them what they do in their theater group, and they said they do mostly improv theater games.  Frank asked them if they would do one now.  They said sure, they just needed a minute to think about what they could do.  Soon they came up with a game … they would need to have a setting, and would need their characters provided, and a final outcome.  So Frank said that one of them always says, “Yes”.  And the other always says, “No.”  The outcome was “intimacy”.  One of the gals asked, “What kind of intimacy?”  Frank replied, “How many kinds are there?”  She said, “Well, it could be friendship, family, sexual ...” So Frank said, “Friendship turning to sexual.”  And the setting was their living room.  They asked if they should really just say yes and no, or could they say other things too … Frank said, “Try it and see ...”  

So they started, and were creating a scene between two roommates/friends, one of whom was questioning the others' loyalty to their friendship … there was a lot of dialogue …  At some point, Frank suggested just trying it using only the words “yes” and “no”.  It made a huge difference, and became much more powerful.  They ended by hugging each other … the “yeses” turned from an accusatory tone to a more vulnerable “yes”.  And when they asked Frank what he thought, he said it was more powerful when it was just “yes” and “no”, and that he really liked the “yes”. 

Now he asked the two of them if they would undress each other and dress up in the costumes, and they both said no.  “Why?” Frank asked.  One of them said that they were not that comfortable with each other yet, and that they needed a little time …   Frank asked, “How many minutes?”  She said that they really weren't ready for that, and it wouldn't happen tonight.  But they really liked the performance and they would come back.  Soon they left too …

Frank talked with another guy at some point who was sitting toward the back.  He had a thick French accent, and had seen a flier.  He said it looked different …   Frank asked him how the performance was so far, and he said he was enjoying himself, and said, “I didn't think I would ...”  Frank asked him, “Why not?”  Then he corrected that … he had meant that he thought he would enjoy it … this is why he came...

Now Frank turned to a black guy with a headband who had been there most of the night.  He had seen a flier right near UCB campus, and said honestly he was attracted by the drawing of the naked lady on the flier, and then also the description … Frank said, “You are the first person ever to admit that they came to a performance because of a naked woman on the flier.  Ever.”  The guy replied that it was probably the first thing he noticed about the flier.  Frank asked him what he does, and he said he is a student of philosophy at UCB.  Frank asked, “Why?”  Laughs!  He said that he has always had an inquisitive mind, always thinking, since he was a little kid. 

Frank asked him if he would come up and read a piece Frank wrote:  “Locked In/Locked Out”.   When he sat down next to Frank, Frank asked him, “Do you exist?”  He said, “Oh I'm not prepared to answer that ...”  “Probably not!”  Then he read the piece …   Meanwhile, Kramer had left the mat, and was checking her phone, going to the bathroom, stretching … looking like she was getting ready to leave. 

Frank caught her before she left, and asked her what she thought of the performance?  She said, “Well I was expecting more rhythmic music and dancing, but … I like your philosophy.  And I like your poems ...  Thank you.”   Frank said, “Come back!”  “I will,” she said.  “Thank you.”  “Thank you.”

Now Frank turned to Kene-J … “Son, I need a big finale.”

So Kene-J came up and sat next to Frank, Mikee turned his CD on, and he did two of his songs, which were great!  Linda said later that sitting there nude with Erika on the mat, listening to Kene-J rap, made her feel like this was what it was all about, and what people weren't getting.  That feeling, just being together, relaxed, enjoying.  Shirt and one of his friends were still there, and Shirt played along with Kene-J on his bass clarinet, and his friend was shaking shakers to the beat. 

After Kene-J finished, Frank asked people what they thought/felt about the performance. 

First he asked the associate professor …  He said that he had enjoyed it, and said something like that people seem to have come with a certain expectation, and when they saw what Frank was actually going for, they just did their little thing, and left! 

Frank asked Linda to talk about the performance, and she said that it really felt like another performance of “no's”.  She said there were a lot of people, and it felt like people came in with a sense of excitement, but really when it came to going beyond a certain surface level, it was all “no”. 

The philosophy student said that he probably would not have taken his clothes off because he has been in a shell for 2 or 3 years, and this would have been a bit much, but that he feels like being there at the performance and Frank were helping him come out of his shell. 

The guy who had been to previous performances tried to explain the lack of participation by comparing it to performances in the past, when “Debbie” would go around and undress people … as if this would have made a difference in the level of involvement with that night's audience.  In fact, Frank said after the performance, he never had Debbie undress people in performances.

The theater artist said he had really enjoyed himself, and said that he actually felt very comfortable, relaxed.  Frank asked him to say more about his experience, but he really couldn't think of what to say … he said he didn't really know, he guessed he just liked hanging out with Frank.  Frank said, “Me too.”  Earlier, Frank had said that they should get together, and after the performance, they exchanged contact info. 

Frank also asked Shirt what he thought.  He said he had enjoyed it, and really liked that acting exercise … he had done something similar in an acting class where the actors said, “I love you” in many different ways, and it was really interesting how it could change.   As his friend was stepping out, Frank asked him too what he thought.  He said he liked it.  Frank asked him to expand on that, but he really didn't have anything else to say about it.  He liked it. 

Frank said, “The End.”

As we started breaking things down, Frank and Linda talked with Shirt some more … he had been in Oregon, mostly Portland, since May 2011 … the last time he had come to a performance.  He wasn't sure how long he would be here, but he had to come back because he ran out of money.  Frank said they should get together and jam, and they exchanged numbers so that they could set it up.

They also asked Kene-J if he had gotten their emails about Frank's Skype performance and the Bob Madigan memorial.  He hadn't, and was bummed that he missed out on those because he would have liked to play.  He said he has watched a lot of the vimeo nonfilms and really likes them, and Frank told him that the “Erotic Campaign” video is among the top 5 in views almost every day!  That was a performance that Kene-J had been in, jamming and rapping, and had really liked.  Frank told him that we are now getting around 7,000 views almost every day!

As we broke down the set and ate popcorn, we talked a lot about the performance, mainly about the last 6 months of “no” performances, and what could be the cause … how the people who came seemed to be looking for something other than what Frank was doing, and not really getting it even after experiencing it firsthand in the performance …  Whereas in earlier performances in the series, there was this feeling, often right away, that people really were getting Frank on a basic level, and getting what he was going for, and much more willing to jump in and experience and risk.  Where were all those people, where did they go?!  Were they the kind of people who were now more involved in things like the Occupy movement?  We wondered what it would be like to take these recent audiences through the earlier format of the extended performances, the guided rituals like “The Cave” and the “Journey to Lila”, but it did not seem like the end result would be different because people weren't basically willing to risk. 

Linda talked about how Frank has stripped everything down to the bare essence!  And people are just not getting it.  It seems that at this point, it is too far out there to just directly ask people to undress each other, to play with each other …  She said Frank is really just saying, “Get real!”  Frank said that we are going through a contraction.  He has written about the concepts of expansions and contractions, natural parts of life … and we are now in a contraction … we have been through them before, but not necessarily during a monthly performance series, which makes it so much more obvious!

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Last modified April 13, 2012