While temping as an office drone a few years ago, local writer and actor David Mann brought a handful of press clippings from his latest show to his temporary boss. He handed them to her excitedly, hoping for some acknowledgment of his extracurricular talents, whereupon his boss murmured, "That's nice," and asked him to file a stack of something or other. The indignities mounted: At one point, Mann was commissioned to pose as the statue, "The Thinker," at an office party. "They see you as totally expendable," Mann chuckles now.
Thankfully, Mann was able to transform his travails in the corporate jungle into something besides a paycheck and a bruised ego; Temporary Insanity, Mann's comic take on temp work, will premiere this week as part of "Absolute Originals," a monthlong festival of one-person performances at Intermedia Arts. Along with 12 other foolish or fearless souls, Mann will be showcasing his talents to a world that otherwise tends not to know or care what he does with his evenings. Every drone, it seems, must have his day--or at least an hour or two to give the indifferent world hell.
As in the festival's previous incarnation at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, the talent pool ranges from stalwart scenesters like Mann and Heidi Arneson (Pre-Hansel and Post-Gretel), to relative newcomers like Ronnell Wheeler (Knee-deep in Black-Eyed Peas, Hair, and Love) and Jerrie Steele (Whispers and Shadows). The shows themselves are an equally eclectic blend of the discursive and the intimate, the transgressive and the trashy. In the space of a week, you might find Colleen Kruse (Peep Show) expounding on her erotic peccadillos, Zach Curtis (War Golems) taking a darkly comic tour through Vietnam, and theatrical dissident John Troyer (Degenerate) following his existentialist muse on sci-fi safari.
All these intrepid exhibitionists require to spread the gospel of the self is an audience. And that, dear reader, is where you and your six to eight dollars enter the equation. So choose carefully, patronize generously, and bear in mind that there is no more compelling drama than the human ego showing itself off.
Shtick it to the Man
Making fun of a bad situation, Mann's Temporary Insanity profiles the hard, thankless existence of the itinerant serfs of the corporate realm. In the course of his show, Mann will play 20 characters, ranging from stodgy CEOs to embittered secretaries and every rung in between on the corporate ladder. Naturally, his hero is a temp named Clark Kent (downsized, apparently, from the Daily Planet). Like most temps and performance artists, Mann's alter ego has delusions of grandeur. "He has this recurring daydream about being a rock star," the author explains. "He's like this Jim Morrison character up in front of a huge crowd, and it's this sort of quasi-religious experience. He's like, 'Burn the Man! We're all being screwed by the system.'" 7:30 Thurs., Feb. 10 and 9:30 Fri., Feb. 18.
Remembrance of Things Past
Writer and actor Zaraawar Mistry transcends the often stultifying solipsism of one-person shows with The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rustum, a reworking of an ancient Parsi epic that, he explains, is the legacy of a quietly disappearing culture of ethnic Persians who settled in India. "There are only 100,000 Parsi left in the world, so there's a sense of decline in the community. At the same time, there's a struggle to maintain traditions." As homage, Mistry will adorn his storytelling with the iconography of Parsi ritual, including a silver tray bearing rose water, rice, and rocks commonly presented at births and funerals. "I still don't feel like the piece is complete," Mistry explains. "I can sense things welling up and taking a step toward further life....I'm curious to see if anyone else cares." 7:30 Fri., Feb. 11 and 2:00 Sun., Feb. 13.
Just Because You're Paranoid...
Although Degenerate, by agitprop artist John Troyer, is the final installment in a triptych--including last year's existentialist parable, SissY, and 1997's macabre comedy, Grave Marker--this latest postpostmodernist fantasy was also shaped by outside influences--most particularly Troyer's brutal mugging a few hours before the show's 1999 Fringe Festival premiere. "Because doing the show is literally what kept me going," Troyer explains, "I think I've tapped into some of that. In a lot of ways, Degenerate has become a rethinking of what it is to have a character revolt against his author. The idea of the fictional narrative sort of hit me in the face." 9:30 Fri., Feb. 11 and 7:30 Wed., Feb. 23.
Freeing the Inner Diva
Identity--that slippery byword of performance art--is the subject of Ronnell Wheeler's Knee Deep in Black-Eyed Peas, Hair and Love, which tracks a young man's transformation into a young drag queen. "In the feminist movement," the author explains, "drag queens and transvestites are looked down upon as a mockery of the female form." Wheeler's corrective fable posits drag as an assertion of independence from the social strictures placed on gay men. "Instead of objectifying, the character comes to identify with the feminine-male body. That shatters the--what's the word?--internalized oppression, when you realize what you were looking for was right in yourself all along." That ought to ring true even for those who don't feel their inner Diana Ross knocking to come out and play. 7:30 Sat., Feb. 12 and 7:30 Sun., Feb. 20.