Monday, December 17, 2007

On Being a Stranger on Tong Chong Street

Posted by Tara O'Con

[Originally published on]

At one point while running "Strangers on Tong Chong Street," during our many rehearsals, maneuvering around local pedestrian traffic on their way to work in order to walk through a glass door, I looked at Liz and said with complete satisfaction, "this is my life right now." Choosing a creative path in life, I find that I often have these moments when I am tickled (and at times relieved) by the fact that I get to do things that are normal to me, yet completely absurd to most people. I relished moments like this even more so as they happened on the other side of the world, so far from my own daily routine, and so close to the daily routine of another culture.

Geography aside, the striking duality of blatant contrasts and unifying commonalities of this experience in comparison to any other project I have been involved in, site-specific work especially, has left its residue on me now that we are back in New York. Behind the scenes -- amongst ourselves, our colleagues from L.A, the directors of the Youth Arts Foundation, the production crew, the students performing -- there was the same excited buzz, and sincere investment similar to the energy behind any artistic endeavor. This in itself created a warm-fuzzy, its-a-small-world-after-all feeling. On the presentational side, it was quite unique to be a part of something that was so brand new to the space we were in, and to the audiences that were witnessing the festival.

During rehearsals on site, we were either ignored or passively observed by the areas regular inhabitants (not so different in NYC, aside from the occasional cat calls you would get here). However, the difference in audience behavior and body language (to what I am used to) was astounding. Instead of clinging to the fourth wall like a life preserver despite our attempts to break it down, they demolished it for us with welcoming curiosity. As Tom articulately described in his "Crowd Control" entry from 12/15, navigating through and around the audience became part of the work.

Once I quickly realized that the choreography would never be the same twice and I could not always dance with the abandonment I enjoy for fear of knocking someone out, it became fun and exciting to deal with the human obstacle course around us. At one point in the midst of a dense movement sequence I turned to see I little girl so close to me that I could have easily swept her up. However this proximity did not seem to faze her, and she gazed up at me, feet firmly planted. I quietly said "hello," and we smiled at each other. Priceless! It is a shame that the folks taking pictures and video taping us, at times as close as that little girl, did not get the same intimate experience. They couldn't possibly soak in the scope and movement of the entire piece from behind their narrowly focused lenses. Yet from the look of satisfaction on their faces, of knowing they had just captured something new in fleeting moments of time, I trust that they walked away with a profound experience all their own-just as the countless other people who stumbled upon us either that day or throughout the week. Isn't live performance so cool in that way?

Above photograph of Tara O'Con (top) and Elizabeth Carena in "Strangers on Tong Chong Street" by Tom Pearson and Zach Morris.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jillian said:
Sounds and looks like an amazing time, Tara. Kudos, Third Rail Projects. Enjoying the good reads, even if I couldn't be there to see it.

Added: December 20, 2007 1:22 PM | Permalink