Friday, November 10, 2017

My Lust Experience So Far (Vaguely Described)

"Passivity is the death of theater. I believe plays should be experiences, and those experiences should wake us up, turn us on, and jolt us to a new way of thinking or being in the world." - Joanna Garner

I don't know Joanna. I have heard her name often enough that I swear I know her or have met her, obviously we know the same people and we are both Longhorns which, if you aren't a Longhorn, you won't understand. I think I was asked to design a play of hers once. But I've actually never met her, I don't think. The way my brain works when it comes to people can be so frustrating though, Joanna, if you're reading this and we've met - my apologies. Travis read your artist's statement to me last night and I had to use the above quote for this post.

Last year while involved in The Tension Experience I wrote about both my experiences in it as a participant and also my observations, since I was participating from Minnesota and most of the action was taking place in Los Angeles. In all honesty I never expected last year to become as immersed in it as I did, and even so my interactions with it took place mostly over the course of one weekend when I flew to LA. While the conceit of Tension is such that it can take over a participant's life anytime, anywhere, the chaos for me was controlled: I had to get on a plane first. As long as I was home, in Saint Paul, I was safe.

At the end of it all last year, actually while Travis was in the hospital, I wrote an article in which I (stupidly?) said "Dear Tension. Next year, crush my soul. Love Megan." I received a letter in the mail in response promising exactly that. Nothing ominous at all about that. I kind of regret the title of that article now. First of all, I didn't choose that title. I wrote the article before the heart attack, and then when the heart attack came I asked NoPro to title it for me because fuck everything. The title came from a discussion about something Jane McGonigal said about "Westworld" and The Man in Black, with whom I strongly identified. I probably still do but that whole association has long since lost all real meaning to me. Also what followed in the wake of this has/had/will have/is likely to have consequences. Not just "in-game" (referring to affecting the choices we make within the narrative) but also in my real life. I got what I wanted. The Asking For It Experience.

Or, you know, The Lust Experience, which has been going on since February but which really started for me in July. I'm not going to go into details. There are some details to this story that, to me, are not really public as to why this happened at all, why I didn't just have a few creepy phone calls and that was it. Honestly I came very, very close to quitting but was talked into staying in July. There are other details that are personal and particular to me that I can't share because they're private, not for the public. And there are things that happened that I can't talk about publicly because they might draw attention to myself or to the creators in ways that I don't want to have to deal with. I want nothing more than to fully write about this as performance and as an experience of theatre from my perspective but I can't. Not right now. it over? I mean obviously Lust isn't, I mean my part in it. This story. It feels like it is but...

Some things I will say: 

It's been two months of being fucked with hard. Some of it was seen by the other participants, some of it was not. No, I did not share everything and I'm not going to. If you want to know everything, you can buy me a drink and I'll tell you in person, and I promise you, that is the only way you'll know short of me getting a "never silent." 

What I said to the creators last year was that I couldn't fake my emotions. I had to feel real fear. If I wasn't afraid, genuinely afraid, I wasn't going to perform it. Actually the other audience members at The Willows saw this when I went to that in July. I was kind of stone-faced the entire time. I keep a really tight reign on how and what I feel because letting go of that has proven dangerous in the past. But I do want to be moved. I just don't always know what's going to do it, and most things don't. So I told them, it had to be real. That referred to more than one thing - it meant my feelings had to be real but it also meant that I needed proof and not just words. Don't tell me you're stalking me, actually stalk me. 

In the real feelings department, though, they delivered. More than delivered. When the actual narrative that was "mine" started I could see what was going on and could make conscious choices. I wasn't feeling yet. I was still over thinking and over analyzing with my rational, literal, daughter-of-an-engineer brain. I knew what they were doing and I chose to go along with it to see what would happen. But four or six weeks later that wasn't the case anymore. I didn't see the manipulations as they were coming, I would see them days or even a week after they'd happened. I was fully present because I wasn't thinking, really, but completely feeling, and acting based on that. There were a few times I had to pull people aside and say "if I do this, you need to stop this" because I no longer trusted myself. They ran me through a gauntlet of emotions, fear and desire and paranoia and embarrassment and anger and panic because I couldn't control any of it and elation because I couldn't control any of it and how the hell are they doing this so fast and well and specifically to me what have I told them over the past two years. None of those emotions was anything short of 100% real and lived and felt in the moment. There was no cynicism, no irony, just presence, just being. 

Not all of it was good. There were times when it was maddening and I would be shouting at friends I can't do this I can't do this I can't do this. And as Travis will point out, I was a performer, and I hate performing. I was performing without a script, in a play that had no discernible ending, that was literally crafted for me. By people who know me far better than they should. And as far as Saint Paul being "safe" went, it wasn't. Someone showed up at my house, and that illusion was broken. I started spending my energy convincing myself they wouldn't do it twice. 

I did, in all honesty, have to say to a friend who works for the government (and I won't say what she does and probably shouldn't even write this) that next time I ask her for anything - ANYTHING - she was to remind me of the time I begged her to do a real background check on a fake person based only on a website from a Canadian Rubik's cube tournament from two years ago and literally nothing else. And she was to unequivocally say "no." To ANYTHING. "Could you take care of the cats?" Just NO.

And the audience for my performance was not always kind. No one is today when anyone is being genuine. People don't want to give in fully, and that's exactly what I wanted to do. I had a hard time convincing people what was happening to me in the beginning. And later I'm sure that it was considered an overreaction by most. It wasn't, it was...the only reaction. It was real. That in no way means I can't tell the difference between fiction and reality, or I'm somehow confused as to what was going on. It only means that from my vantage point, my feelings and my experience were completely authentic and real. Nothing was performed. That was my reality. From others' views it was performance, it was entertainment, I was amusing or pathetic or I don't even know what. If it is over now I'm sad that it ended when it did because I had finally come to a point where I knew I had to stop caring about all that. 

This week it might have ended - that chapter anyway. We don't yet know what that "ending" means and most seem to think it's a "wipe the slate clean" moment. I thought that was a month away, when there's a big event, honestly, but if that is now, then now is a good time for me to take 17 steps back and breathe for a second. I mean I'll happily be pulled back in if it's not over yet, but the past two months have been a lot to handle, both for me and for Travis. I'm feeling a lot of other mixed emotions right now and they don't all require an audience. November is and has always been a shit month, it's a month of hibernation for me, a month wherein I always think about who I am and why I am that way, and would I trade all of that for one person's presence in my life. This year it's also the anniversary of Travis dying and coming back to life. And I will shortly be receiving the letter of consensus from my CRC regarding my pre-tenure review. So, you know, stress. Right now I'm on a plane, headed to Los Angeles to celebrate my birthday (early) with friends, old ones from college and then newer ones from Tension/Lust

Dear Lust. I am so insanely grateful for the past two months and I don't know how I can ever repay you for this. I'm not a huge fan of a lot of what I'm feeling right now but that's beside the point. I am truly honored that you have trusted me this much with this experience and I hope I didn't embarrass myself too badly. Love, Megan

P.S. - No photos, no $100.
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