Do not skip this. Do not think I am joking.
The following is about a theater play that kicked up some controversy because of its highly sexual content and explicit imagery. Since I am not planning on censoring my content based on this, you better believe there will be offensive language under that line below.
By continuing to read you are agreeing that you are a consenting adult, capable of making your own decisions. Complaints will be met with language much worse.
There were 4 of us in the technicians’ booth, but I was the only technician. I was the only one not a friend of the woman onstage, too, who was typing away on a laptop, in the dark. She insisted on being in the dark (threatening physical violence when I mistakenly turned on the working lights) because all she was wearing were some see-through nylon undergarments . Part of the act.
The others- I don’t know why they had to be there. They were watching, doing lights and sound respectively, nervous as all hell because it was their first time. I didn’t understand why she preferred them over an actual pro, but I wasn’t complaining. My burger and fries weren’t treating me very well and I was feeling nauseous, sat in a dark corner of the booth where I had some limited view of the stage.
“Let’s fire ‘er up”, the sound guy said theatrically, and switched on the projector, which was directly linked to the mac onstage. It had been one of the many problems I had to fix that day. Pro tip: Don’t use macs when compatibility with other systems is the thing you’re going for.
Regardless, the projector beeped to life and gave us a 1-to-1 copy of her desktop. My stomach physically squirmed at the sight of a large Peruvian man masturbating openly.
Chantal, the woman downstairs on the stage, was on a thing called DirtyRoulette. In case no bells are ringing: ChatRoulette is a website where you are connected to a total stranger anywhere in the world, to videochat with. Strictly adhering to rule 34 of the internet (if it exists, there is porn of it) this system was promptly abused by mature and very-mature men trying to get women to undress. Other entrepreneurs saw a market and dozens of websites similar (but not quite) to ChatRoulette were created. Ask Chantal, she has seen them all.
The speed and nonchalance with which she flew through the subscription steps on each site was disturbing. Confirmation emails, agreements with obviously barely-legal terms and conditions, everything got accepted, installed and subscribed to. In the end, she was connected with half a dozen chat sites simultaneously, broadcasting the image of an empty stage all over the world. But she was listed as a woman and actively interacting, so those many masturbating men were willing to be patient.
The concept of her act is that she stands onstage, dancing, while someone else takes place behind the laptop and talks with the people on the other side of the line. The screen is projected for the audience to see without the other person knowing.
The execution was poor. The dancing, while nice to look at, doesn’t manage to entertain for over an hour, and the person at the laptop was by no means assertive enough. He lingered in conversations that weren’t going anywhere, or were in languages that very few people in the room understood (Turkish I believe).
Around 2/3rds into the act, I had to leave the room to free my fries in an intimate embrace with the toilet bowl. I had a food poisoning that would last with me for the next 48 hours. Still, I don’t think I missed all that much of the performance.
No, the strength of the idea didn’t lie in the showing of it. I happen to love theater that makes you think and worry about things other than theater itself. Even more when the message doesn’t come as a pre-packaged judgement deal that is reached to you from some high horse. This play does little more than show you a world that is very familiar to some, but utterly alien to others.
Remember that one time you picked up that flower pot and there turned out to be an ant’s nest underneath? Completely by surprise, a kind of repulsive squirming caught your attention and try as you might, you couldn’t avert your gaze from the panicking little ants, dragging their larvae deeper into the lair.
I bet that the audience felt the same way as they stepped into the theater: The projector was on and the laptop-person was already at it. Without warning or introduction, they were thrown into the world of pornography. And what a world that is.
Most men didn’t even bother showing their faces, probably wanting to stay anonymous. Instead, they zoomed in on their crotch, where they showed their appreciation by cranking their flaccid selves. This is the very first impression you get of them: A large underbelly with their off-hand dug underneath for some lazy, idle masturbation while they click from one conversation partner to the next until they find something that excites them enough to finish off. A few others were streaming porn videos, some home made.
Because of the time zones, most of the chatters were from the Middle-East or Europe. Quite a few Dutch and Belgian people, more than you would statistically expect. I think most people were fully expecting to recognize a family member sooner or later.
The conversations that did end up going somewhere (unlike this blog post, I admit), were surprisingly interesting. One Dutch guy patiently explained that he was streaming pornography to excite people and bring them into a mood for conversation, another listed the drugs he was on and discussed the expectations one had when opening this website. Both thanked politely us for the interesting input.
And then it ended. Screens were closed, laptop shut down, and the final screen was an error message from the beamer. Even the greeting happened in the dark, and the audience left feeling largely disappointed. Perhaps they were hoping for the ants to start a theater play, I don’t know. I, for one, much appreciated the slap in the face and the evening puking my soul out while my colleagues were at the company party. One more than the other.