By Bridget Evarts, Blogger-In-Residence
Although Fusebox Festival has been free to attend for four years now, the performances still ask the audience for a tribute of sort. We (the seat-sitters) need to pony up, be it faith in the performance’s execution, or just the simple commitment of spending one’s time in the theater. Sometimes, though, the audience moves past viewing, and straight into the performance. Enter Steve Parker’s Grackle Call and Wunderbaum’s The History of My Stiffness.
Parker collaborated with biologists, poets, musicians, dancers, and performance artists to create an immersive piece that was part birding excursion and part theater in the park. Participants gathered Patterson Park an hour out from sundown, and were provided with binoculars and a knowledgeable guide before striking out. Now, as a longtime Austin resident, I’ve tangled with plenty of grackles, fighting them for my al fresco food and shielding my head from their rain of poop. I don’t think I’ve ever gone out of my way to observe a grackle, as the opportunities are endless. Still, it was fun to wander around the park on a beautiful spring day, listening to tidbits of grackle facts and pausing for performances or video/sound installations. Dancers mimicked mating dances and speakers blasted pre-recorded grackles sounds. The piece concluded with a visit to an unofficial grackle roost, to observe and mingle with these raucous beasts in the “wild.” I found a new respect for the opportunistic grackle, especially the female birds and their powers of attraction and repulsion.
I suppose you might say that Wunderbaum’s performance contained an exploration of mating rituals, human-variety. The hilarious Dutch performance (represented by the collective’s Walter Bart and Marleen Scholten) pokes fun at the stiffness of their fellow country-people in the club. There was a certain science to the categorization of Dutch dance types, the ones who flail and the ones who bail. There was even a sighting of the superior Brazilian dance moves, so rare on those Nether dance floors. The duo performed the entire piece in wooden clogs, graduating at the end from clogs to logs. It was absolutely skillful. Earlier in the week, a call went out for Austin wallflowers to practice for participation, and it was a blast to watch the locals shake it up and down on stage. The performance ended by opening the dance floor to the audience for a free-for-all ballroom blitz. I wanted to join in, but I was starving. I left to seek out some food, and you can bet I opted for an inside table, away from the dancing grackles.