Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bane of Cartman

I went to a performance recently that was bad. Not just a little bad, but like it was a parody of itself, bad. And oh, was it painfully sincere. And worse, this was the 3rd time I'd seen this group perform. Why go back again and again? I was originally told by a number of people I'd love this troupe. They combined music and drama and dance. Just like me. But not like they do on Broadway. Just like me. They were playful and serious. Just like me. And I'd just LOVE them. The first time I saw them 13 years ago I thought, "Maybe this is just a bad piece. They'd been around for over a decade, and everyone has a bad piece now and then." I went back 5 years ago and thought: No, it's not just the lack of craft. Sure none of the performers can sing worth a damn, or act their way out of a paper bag, but there was something more. They could dance alright, which was further confusing because it wasn't like they were without grace, but all the choreography felt stolen - without inspiration. Which gave it the trappings of excellence without the heart of mastery. How could they have another show just as bad? Especially when they work together year round, performing hundreds of times across the globe because they're in such demand?

And yes, with so many accolades over such a long period, I thought, once again "*I* must be missing something." So I went back with my girlfriend who was floored at the horribleness of it. So finally I can say, it's not just that dancers are being asked to do things have have no training in. It's truly the pieces themselves that are the core of what doesn't work. The creator's ideal seems to be clumsy efforts of self-expression packaged in earnest 80s influences - using all the repetition of movement, gesture and text that can be used as tools to develop adventurous music/dance/theatre, but thrown together by someone bereft of true compositional skills in all of the multiple mediums they practice.

OK, now eve I think I sound harsh, when I've certainly I've seen worse performances. So why was I so upset by it? I think it was because so many people thought I'd love it. Like in South Park when Cartman is told by everyone that he'd LOVE Family Guy and he is driven insane by the suggestion, so too was I infuriated that people see someone else use the materials I play with and decide I'd simply LOVE this too. Without acknowledging there's good and bad in any medium, genre or milieu. In the end I felt like they misunderstood me at a very deep level. Worse that they saw my art just like I saw this guy. Equally ludicrous and lacking artistic integrity or power. Basically, it seems like they were saying I made crap as bad as this dude. Because as far as they were concerned, there was no real difference.

So I'm wondering, have you ever had someone tell you you'd just LOVE something and find out that you despised it? Was it a reflection of what they thought of you? And did you ever tell them you hated it?


  1. I have a shallow response.

    I get a lot of "You look SO much like my best friend! OMG! She's so awesome! You really look JUST LIKE her, it's scary!" Etc etc.

    Then I see her and not only does she not look anything like me (apart from maybe brown curly hair), she's seldom even cute.

    Oh, my trials...

  2. I get that too - all the time.

    I think it's because they feel such affinity for you and don't now how else to express it. We're in a visual world so they go with, "You look like..."

    As for me, I've never seen any of these best friends. I just assume they're all gorgeous.

  3. The best way to kill a good joke is to preface it with: "You're gonna laugh your ass off at this one." I feel a wall go up anytime someone predicts what I'll like or not like, and I never make such a presumption. I'll make a *suggestion* ... "You might like / appreciate this", and it's rarely ever a reflection of that person's personality or product but, rather, something I know or believe is within their range of interests.