Yesterday afternoon I made my way to Granville Island to take in the first of this year's Micro Performance Series, presented by Boca del Lupo. Staged at the intimate Anderson Street Space, this season's line-up of shows kicked off with Tara Cheyenne Performance's how to be. An excerpt from a larger work-in-progress, the thirty minute piece is conceived and directed by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg, who performs alongside Kate Franklin and Kim Stevenson.
After spectators are ushered into the tiny quadrangular performance space and we take our places leaning against the walls, the three women, clad nattily in men's suits, take turns entering and exiting from the lone door, sometimes muttering aloud to themselves, at other times simply taking the measure of the room. Eventually they come together in a whispered chorus of first world modal phrases: "I should juice more"; "I should do more Pilates"; "I should eat less pasta." As always with TCP, text is an equal partner alongside the movement, and in this case the interrogative mode ("Should I wax my pubic hair?") operates in dynamic tension with the declarative ("I'm very good at remembering song lyrics").
The performers, playing to the space, have fun rearranging audience members, positioning us into four groups (whose significance we discover at the end of the show). They also test the limits of our physical boundaries, inserting themselves at various points in between our own bodies, or snuggling up close for a quick nap or animated conversation with one or other of us. This is only appropriate given the intimacy of the space, as well as the larger issues Friedenberg seems to be exploring in this piece. Part of the question of "how to be"--especially in polyglot urban centres like Vancouver--is how to interact and get along and move beside others in proximate material relation: how, in other words, to share space with strangers. (And coming together as an audience has much to teach us in this regard.)
Friedenberg, who over the past decade has made her name as a charismatic solo performer, as fleet of tongue as she is of foot, builds here in how to be on her previous success in Highgate with multi-character work. She provides numerous opportunities for her fellow performers to shine. Thus, in an hilarious sequence involving the three women not only moving but speaking in unison, Stevenson emerges as a virtuoso comic mimic in the mould of her director, channeling her Jesus-loving grandmother as she laments the daily grind of trying to make her way as a single working artist in Vancouver. For her part, Franklin is given a show-stopping solo, in which she performs various ballet moves while offering advice-laden bromides to the audience: "Eat more organic vegetables"; "Call your mother"; "Don't be a dick."
All of this bodes extremely well for the full-length piece Friedenberg is working towards, not least when one considers that her other collaborators on the project include Justine Chambers, Susan Elliott, Josh Martin, Bevin Poole, and Marcus Youssef. At present, what was staged as part of Boca's MPS was a more than satisfying appetizer. Watching Friedenberg and Stevenson wrestle to kiss each other while Franklin does a stationary step dance against one wall or, alternately, Franklin and Friedenberg sing and sway along to the Whitney Houston standard "The Greatest Love of All" while a head-scratching Stevenson engages in random badinage with the audience, is pure comic gold.