Gob Squad and the Rise of the Interactive Score

After hearing universal raves about the show, I finally got to see Gob Squad’s Kitchen at On the Boards last night (closing night). It was a lot of fun! I can see why people liked their lampooned simulation of creating a 60’s hipster film so much.

Along with the requisite puppeteering of audience members into the show, I particularly enjoyed Gob Squad’s use of video feeds to perform the show as a faux-conversation with the audience in a closed circuit fashion. We were completely detached from the action and yet acutely attached.

Between this, Turbulence and other recent shows I’m seeing a marked trend in theatre and dance towards the *interactive score*, where rather than a scripted or choreographed show the production works through a series of beats: Not only do performers improvise between them but also physically involve the audience in the show. It’s loosely similar to how a short form improv show goes, but more nebulously structured and more engaging of the audience than patronizing them for mere topics.

Authority figures of the incumbent performing arts community fear this kind of change, because an evolved world where these shows are the norm renders playwrights, or authoritarians like directors and choreographers who worked their lives to climb to the top of their societies, obsolete. Everyone in this evolved world can be involved in the artistic process of authoring a show, rather than being told how to be involved. In fact, given that I’m sure many performers would be scared as well, because in such a reality they must be innovative rather than just skilled at their given trade. And, much as it chagrins me to admit this, a lot of dancers and actors aren’t particularly creative outside of playing their roles with a flourish. Those who cannot be creative would also be rendered obsolete, no matter how excellent their trained skill.

True art is never meant to be hierarchical any damn way. This is a big reason progressive workshops and classes are emphasizing a sense of play and freedom. This is the direction our culture is going. The days of dog and ponying your way into a production and merely doing what you’re told are slowly dimming. Play the game, and get left behind. Or follow the path of innovation and join us in the future.

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