What are the five most pivotal moments of your life? What's the oldest article of clothing you own? Draw a face that is the perfect representation of your inner life. What do you smell like? Could you break that down into its component parts? Tell your life story in one minute or less.
The mercurial masterminds behind Rubber Repertory asked these questions and more to 50 fearless individuals on a sunny weekend back in April. Dressed in bright red jump suits, sitting at a table behind chain link fence and razor wire, Josh Meyer and Matt Hislope interviewed candidates, not for jobs, but to find a subject for their newest show, ‘Biography of Physical Sensation,' which opens today at Salvage Vanguard.
With Rubber Repertory you'll never quite know what to expect, but it's guaranteed to be an adventure. Under the title ‘Your Secrets Are Not Safe With Us' and billed as part of this year's Fusebox Festival, Rubber Rep's search for a muse struck me as a hybrid between theatrical event, job interview, oral history, science experiment, and, of course, biography.
Applicants were invited to bring just a few things to their 10-minute interviews. First, we were asked to produce our oldest article of clothing. Second, to share a sample from our journal or diary. Third, to bring something that smelled like us, which would not be returned. Meyer and Hislope collected everything from Q-tips to packing peanuts, undershirts to underwear — all of which will be on display in the art gallery at Salvage Vanguard for the month of October.
Meyer recently explained the idea behind the project: ‘Most biographies tell a lot of stories and focus on events, people and places. We wanted to throw all that out and focus exclusively on sensory details — tastes, touches, sounds, smells.'
Based on the life of Jamie Damon, a self-described artist, writer, sometimes actor, all-the-time mother and wife, ‘Biography of Physical Sensation' explores this Cedar Creek resident's life without resorting to narrative. Though they expected unhesitating disclosure from their subject, during the extensive interview process, as Damon puts it, she ‘was asked to recall events purely in the realm of the senses involved, not emotions or thought, and in this way it was a broadening experience.'
Like their most recent original production, ‘The Casket of Passing Fancy,' the joy of ‘Biography' will lie in the hands of its audiences. Through the series of pure physical experiences without narrative, without context, Meyer explains that ‘the only emotion in the show will come from what the audience brings to the experiences — both as participants and observers.'
With only 40 audience members each night, the show will be intimate and intense. Participants will be invited to select from three levels of sensation, based on their chair size, as they sit in a circle to watch and feel what happens.
Playing with the live-ness of the event, exploring the sensations that can't be described or displayed in print or on screen, Rubber Repertory continues to renegotiate the boundaries and abilities of theater. Instead of the traditional (or remotely normal) approach to telling a life story, Meyer and Hislope have embarked on an adventure to convey life in an entirely different way.
Rubber Repertory's performances are mysterious, magical and sometimes mortifying. Their shows are not for the shy, the squeamish or the faint of heart.
They will push your buttons and your boundaries. They are not for spectators or subscription audiences. In these rooms, everyone's a part of the show, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
‘Biography of Physical Sensation'
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, through Oct. 30
Where:Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road