600 highwaymen: the fever

there was a legit show— 600 highwaymen’s the fever— in colorado springs!

(shout out: kevin landis for making it happen)

(disclaimer: a response that makes no attempt to do any contextualization.)

a rough description

the fever revolves around an unusual approach to audience participation: it begins with simple acts of imitation and invites (and sometimes calls on) audience members sitting with performers (main company members: Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone) on the edge of the space to play along. you’re led in amazingly gentle, generous ways to do simple dances and gestures, to touch the performers, to save them from falling, to convey their bodies across space, etc.. There is a simple narrative frame that recalls an evening party with friends— and the unseen grief of the woman hosting it— with a bit of nostalgia and melancholy, but this narrative soon fades away in the distance and serves to set up the main theme: the imagined memory of being together, happily. The exercises in audience participation then become a recreation of this imagined being together.

It’s innovative and engaging.



thoughts (disconnected)

  • Actually being together is timely and topical, but the fever is not socially-engaged art, even as it does connect people. But this connection depends
  • I thought of it as producing a flattened intimacy. Or muted lyricism.
  • Unlike socially engaged art, it is still operating in the symbolic. SAE flat out rejects
  • Since it relies on symbolic communication, there are certain clear limits on contact.
  • There is little direct verbal contact.
  • The lack of direct verbal contact means that the audience doesn’t encounter certain degrees of difference. This is especially apparent in Colorado Springs, where political and social differences can be explosive.
  • What is happening to difference here? Is it being sublimated?
  • Instead of verbal contact (the primary medium for social signification) there is simple movement— namely, kinesthetics, or what John Martin would have called “metakinesis.”
  • That’s a very modern concept, by the way.
  • Hence, the name: the fever, which apparently was “loosely” based on the rite of spring. It’s not much like the rite of spring save for being an attempt to renew our social bonds by returning us to fundamental human experiences. unlike stravinsky, there’s no primitivism, no primal savagery to encounter.
  • I almost wrote: “we are sick, of course,” but then stopped myself. Illness and contagion are high modernist metaphors. (I have turned to Derrida and Nancy for other forms of figuration.)
  • The Fever deals with symbolic language by not speaking, at least very much.
  • It creates a largely pre-discursive space.
  • Pre-discursive spaces are always dicey.
  • They tend to naturalize things.
  • There is technique in the fever. It’s what holds the performance together. It isn’t disguised or concealed in any way, but is just simplified, which makes it seem natural, even though it’s not.
  • This contradiction leads to a kind of melancholy lyricism.
  • And a bit of faith. Self-consciously so, however.
  • It also relates to the frequent thematization of children.
  • There is a fair bit of talk about children: “what if” we could relate as each others’ children?
  • In this way, children = pre-discursive.
  • I am tempted to challenge this figuration of children. To bring up the limits of thinking about bonds of relation in terms of conventional kinship networks. But then I remember Nikki Schotzko’s piece at Tuning Spec IV on seeing the other as a mother. Is that different? Perhaps a bit, because it does not posit the child as the relational point. In her talk, the child is estranged, made strange, and we are asked to relate to this alterity from a maternal perspective.
  • I like the fever very much.
  • But…


Bonus: a quote that suggests that some version of the above is consciously integrated into their work


AB: Blankness is, indeed, impossible. It’s a false premise to imagine that it’s possible to be blank, bare, empty. But falseness as an idea must be addressed when you’re working in theater. It’s such an inherently fictional, false medium. The falseness of memorizing words and then reciting them effortlessly, the falseness of fictional circumstance, the falseness of acting like you are not being watched, when in fact what you’re doing is sculpted for surveillance (and often by a large mass of people). Michael and I tend to deal directly with this falseness, to really engage with it. Each piece has a different relationship with this.



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