On my way home from seeing Fire Drill‘s Novelty Shots: A Political Fantasy, I biked by a tennis court. In the court there were three people. A small child bouncing a tennis ball against a racket near the net, a medium sized child at the fence jumping up to try to reach a piece of trash that was caught a little out of her reach, and an adult standing in the middle of the court looking at a phone. Each of these characters was absorbed in their own world. I could see two of the worlds, the third I could not.
In Novelty Shots, Fire Drill took that secret world and plopped it down on the stage at Red Eye Theater. The piece starts out with just Billy standing at a podium. He says, “The situation is, if I repeat myself, you’ll get used to it.” He says it again, and again, and again… He keeps saying it. Small changes occur. He stresses different words in the sentence. He adds a “that,” he takes it back. He plays with tone. His hand gestures. He says, “Defibrillation is, if I repeat myself, you’ll get used to it.” He claps. Emily enters and they speak the line in unison. Then she’s gone. Then she’s back. Small variations keep occurring. They’re walking, pointing, jumping — still repeating the line. Eventually someone backstage gets sick of it and comes out and shoots them both. Blackout. That was easy.
A spotlight comes on and they’re back. This time they’re both at the podium and Billy begins reading about repetition — then Emily starts reading about an English poet who uses repetition — back to Billy reading about a book the English poet wrote — back to Emily. They’re playing the wikipedia game. They’re following the rules. They’re not cheating to make it more interesting. They’re not making it go faster. This is going to take a while. Where’s that person with the gun?
But then! A curtain opens and there’s a room behind it. Two people in a kitchen, drinking beer, having a discussion, or an argument? We can’t hear them. Billy and Emily are still reading at the podium but I’ve abandoned them. What are those two people in the kitchen talking about? Another spotlight comes on and a man walks out with his arms full of stuffed animals. He drops them on the ground and begins hurling them at the wall. Is he angry? I’ve left the kitchen people behind. This is just the beginning.
Here’s what happens next: I’m typing this response on an iPhone in a Google doc. I’m also pacing up and down a sidewalk that’s lined with blueberry bushes. I realize I’m hungry so I pick some blueberries and go inside and find some yogurt and granola to put them on. I go back outside and sit down to eat my breakfast. I pick up my iPhone again to keep typing this response. First I respond to a text message. I say, “Also, let me know if it that all makes sense, just so I know you got it! Thanks!” I find a shadier spot to sit. I open Google maps and look up how to get from 73 NE Graham Street, Portland, OR to 4920 NE 55th Avenue, Portland, OR. It will take me 20 minutes to bike. I tab back to Google docs and continue typing this response. I look up from the screen at the blueberry lined walkway. I look back down. I’m holding the phone with one hand and typing with one thumb. My thumb is getting tired. I’m hot. I google “swimming holes Portland.” I go jump into the Willamette river. Now it’s tomorrow. I’m back.
The people at the podium are talking about vaginas. It’s no longer Billy and Emily. How did those two people get there? I don’t care. I’ll watch a parade. Samantha Johns is really good at waving those flags. I don’t care. Are those bananas? Good thing they have that towel. I don’t care. Ow. That must hurt. I don’t care. A slip and slide? I don’t care.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “Okay, I get it. The piece was about how the way our relationship with technology is changing the way we pay attention to things. It’s changing the way we experience the world. In fact, it’s changing the very world we experience. The piece was doing that, and now you’re doing that again in this response.” Yes to those things, but also: Where Novelty Shots grabbed me was not in showing me those things (I know them, you know them), but in showing me how that information lives in my body. It showed me how the internet is rewiring my brain and it showed me the comfort that I’m searching for in that rewiring. It showed me how reading Wikipedia makes my whole body tired. It showed me how I’ll keep looking for a beach, even if the only one I can find is on my desktop background. I’ll even try to lie down in the sand for a little while.
Right now I’m sitting next to the Metolius River. My body is next to the Metolius River and my body is also here, on the internet. The Metolius River is here. My body is here. The Metolius River is here. My body is here.
By Hannah Geil-Neufeld
In response to Fire Drill’s Novelty Shots: A Political Fantasy
Red Eye Theater, New Works 4 Weeks festival
June 11-14, 2015