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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Your Voice Across The Line Gives Me A Strange Sensation

Two somewhat interesting telephone experiences in the past week, courtesy of The Show.

Last Thursday night I was recruited to be part of a recon team for the performance themed around "the shopping mall experience". I'm not big into malls myself, being more of a "know what you want, know where to find it, go in, get it, get out" kind of shopper, but thought it would be fun to describe aspects of mall-shopping behavior to the studio audience, and so gladly accepted the assignment.

For better or worse, you can blame us Upper Left-Handers for the very existence of the regional shopping "mall" (the term was first used to describe Northgate Mall, located just north of downtown Seattle) . Although more than 50 years old, Northgate has undergone numerous renovations over the years, and for all intents-and-purposes is probably completely indistinguishable from any other similarly designed shopping center from the post-war era.

Our crack team of five (three "Line One" cast members, plus two irregulars, including myself) piled into a tiny sedan about 7:00 p.m., checked our cellphones, and made our way north, arriving with plenty of extra time before the show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. Once underway, we were each given a series of tasks, culled from several "mission packets" assembled by the show runner for our benefit. I ended up with tasks such as: "introduce yourself to a janitor as a member of a religious organization, and offer to help them with their job", "follow a group of teenagers or 'mall rats' and describe their activities", "find one shop you think will have gone out of business in five years, and describe why you think so", etc.. We also had several group assignments such as: "purchase three items from the food court" and "List, in sixty seconds as many items on the menus of as many food counters as you can", along with providing running commentary on our overall experiences.

It probably all sounds rather strange, and certainly out of the context of the performance, it might seem a little weird to have a group of people roaming up-and-down a mall talking about the experience of mall shopping (although, given the number of cell phone stuck to ears that evening, walking-and-talking ones way through the mall is not an intrinsically foreign concept to many people), especially when doing so for an audience several miles away, who are all vicariously experiencing your adventure by listening to another actor "channel" verbatim your descriptions; but that's part of the charm of the "Line One" concept.

The mall show was a little different from the standard "Line One" process, because most of the show was being "broadcast" as it were by a group within close proximity of each other, all in the same environment, whereas normally the people calling in are scattered all over the city, if not the country - even internationally - and they have no real-time connection to each other, except through the medium of their calls being collected and spoken out in the theatre itself.

The experience of hearing your own words echoed back to you by the "channeller" is a bit disconcerting at first, like those long-distance phone conversations where you hear that faint echo of your call being bounced around the airwaves, but once you develop a rhythm where you speak a few words, then pause briefly to let the person at the other end repeat what you've just said, it can actually go pretty smoothly, so long as you don't talk to fast, and make sure to keep your enunciation fairly crisp. Occasionally, you'll hear the other person drop their volume, an indication that someone else's conversation has taken center stage, and you'll try to imagine your channeller sitting off to the side, their voice perhaps audible to only a few people in the audience, as they continue to verbalize your observations. Really, it's more interesting when you see it for yourself, even with the occasional "dead spots" where no one is talking at all for brief periods.

The second call-in was last night, when I gave a report of the Theatre Puget Sound fundraiser I attended at Teatro Zinzanni; much like the earlier experience, except I had to leave the tent area, so as not to disturb the performance.

So, the show is winding down into its final week, and I think my call-in duties are pretty much over at this point. I'm hoping I'll get a chance to see the video-tapings that was made of the performances, just to get a sense of how it all came together. Having seen several of the performances previously, I have a good feel for the overall structure and outcomes, but it should be fund to see how the cast worked through the calls when I was on the sending, as opposed to the receiving end of things.

Posted byCOMTE on 2:33 PM

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