Ovation Fellows are current students or recent alumni from Los Angeles area universities.Â Fellows are paired with a Mentor, currently serving as an Ovation Award voter, and see productions and meet artists around Greater Los Angeles throughout the year.Â Their articles, posted on LAStageBlog, are intended to be their personal responses to their experiences, and not as critical reviews or representing the views of LA Stage Alliance.
We are an MTV generation, or so I’m told. With virtually no attention span, we need our spectacles spoon-fed to us. A generation of voyeurism, or so I’m told, obsessed with the innermost vulnerabilities expressed on the face on the monitor. Who are we really evaluating when we soak in these images?
This past Sunday I saw God Save Gertrude, a punk rock refiguring of Hamlet at The Theatre @ Boston Court, which incorporates this enthrallment with screens, and our obsession with the externalization of the internal thought. In our talk-back with the director Michael Michetti, I was informed the technical original of Gertrude in Minneapolis had used the bare minimum of staging, meaning no television screens, no projections, no multimedia element whatsoever, which were integral to Boston Court’s production.
The character of “Mama’s Boy,” a Hamlet of sorts, is first seen on an MTV interview on a television set resting on the ground of the blown-out theatre. Gertrude, his mother, watches it, scoffing that her own punk young-adulthood was much more authentic than her son’s washed up sell-out to the music video generation. Though the exceedingly talented actress playing Gertrude, Jill Van Velzer, certainly filled her monologues of her glorified punk past with vivid emotion, we did not have to rely solely on her acting to imagine Gertrude’s past concerts. A projection washed over the back wall: foggy images, colors and movements but we got the basic idea.
These multimedia elements were also put into effect in the political speeches of “The Man” and in “Mama’s Boy’s” final concert. After Michael told me about this other production, I started wondering if I would have enjoyed a performance without these screens and projections, which drew me in so intensely to this production. Why am I so fascinated by these screens? I have only incorporated one multimedia aspect in the shows I’ve directed, mainly because when you’re directing a show at age 17 or 18 and you are pretty much taking care of the whole tab, your budget (or lack thereof) does not lend itself well to paying for the sort of equipment that would support that vision. However, I’ve always envisioned my shows including these sorts of things; the closest I got was a slideshow projected on a white sheet when I directed Agamemnon 2.0.
So, again, why do I obsess over these screens? Why do my eyes relish eight television monitors on the stage? Am I just proving those academics right when they call ours the MTV generation? Do I require multimedia aspects in a production for it to hold my attention? Of course not. If relationships, connections and motivation are conveyed through the performers I could watch a nearly bare stage and be moved. But perhaps I do not speak for everyone. With constant instant messaging, reality television and 24-hour news coverage, our society–as a whole–is obsessed with screens and the technological “connection.” So maybe I don’t need it to enjoy a production but if theatre wants to continue being progressive and gaining audiences, this could prove to be a wise decision. And as long as a show still has phenomenal acting, insightful directing and an intricate design like this one, I don’t disagree with that in the slightest.