Sometime last month, I was invited to attend Score for a Lecture, an interactive performance met with elements of dance and experimental theatre. A production created by The Bureau for the Future of Choreography, I entered upon an expansive, cavernous space in lower Manhattan that looked more like a town hall gathering rather than theatre. As the lights dimmed, two figures stood at opposite sides of the stage before podiums addressing the intimate audience. We were being "debriefed" on our lecture for the evening. One shadow sat center stage ricocheting a drum with wires of clothes hangers.
Vaguely reminiscent of childhood games, the evening resembled a throwback to memories of "Telephone" I used to play with neighborhood friends. Bare bones and easy to follow, the game's only requirements to play are willing subjects and an ability to follow basic directions. As an audience member, I was asked to follow a prominent line of gaffing tape that weaved throughout the floors of the vast building. The trail stretched weblike into an abyss of hallways, seeping into rehearsal rooms, makeup stations, cafes tucked, and staircases taut that linked them one by one. Keep the faith that we'd find our way back to the main entrance of a lecture hall. The telephone chord led by our feet. Fortunately the rules of the game when I was six still applied. My only duty was to whisper verbatim what I was told by the stranger behind me in line to the stranger in front of me. Otherwise, I'd bide my time waiting for a new message until a full completion of the loop.
It wasn't until I struggled to repeat the increasingly complex 'sequence of speech acts' to the person in front of me, did I begin to realize my role in this spectacled experience. What if my words carried more weight than I gave it credit for? What if my actions altered origins? What were these ephemeral messages anyway? As we filtered through line by line, some profound, some ludicrous---together, we embodied a human chord like an ancient telegraph distilled by the vessels of mouths and ears. Somehow in the process, I had become both messenger and receptacle. Making our way back to center stage where we had once began, podiums present, lecture reassembled to discuss "our findings," soon to adjourn. How did I, unbeknowest to me, become a synecdoche of this larger institution? How did it feel to take part as a smaller group, a whispering pair, a lone messenger?
Arriving at the end of the gaffing tape, we gathered once again as a town hall meeting does, a makeshift human telephone chord reflecting in silence. Without even realizing it, we had somehow become agents of The Bureau---walking, whispering, dancing, choreographing messages that were both botched and profound, accurate and wayward, connected and nonsensical, and simultaneously our own.