"The heart wants what it wants," Woody Allen famously said, defending his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. But once a person surrenders the rational high ground, what's to keep the heart—and mind—from making real trouble? This question may be the purview of abnormal psychiatry or News of the Weird, but it's also the subject of Live Action Set's Desiderare: Desire the Undesirable, premiering this weekend in Red Eye's New Works 4 Weeks Festival. Indeed, the members of this movement-theater collective have been giving themselves nightmares while exploring extremes of desire (think serial killing or cannibalism) in the gloomy basement of the Northwest Casket Company, now an artist space in northeast Minneapolis.
Live Action Set hope to find the tipping point between thoughts that everyone has and immoral and criminal actions that few would take. "Every single human being has desires they wouldn't talk about at a cocktail party or with friends," says Live Action Set's Megan Odell, who is joined by fellow company member Noah Bremer and director Robert Rosen (a co-founder of Theatre de la Jeune Lune) in the Casket Company's sunny lobby.
"We are not trying to say good or bad," adds Rosen. "We try not to make fun of something, but really look at the emotional context."
It's risky material, but Live Action Set is comfortable with their exploratory process, which began with artists like Francis Bacon, and now involves news accounts such as the Wisconsin man who had sex with a deer carcass. "We've almost always had dark themes—death penalty and war," Odell notes. "But somehow when you dive into an individual's world it feels much closer."
Bremer agrees, adding, "With war it's about the outside affecting you and you responding to it. [Now] we are acting out the desire. We're doing the killing." If the show succeeds, it will likely leave you wondering whether your own urges tell a flattering story.
The artists have fought their own disgust while trying to find the humanity, and even humor, in shocking situations. They try to get into the minds of psychopaths like John Wayne Gacy (a physical performer himself!) by decorating the rehearsal space with plastic wrap and meat hooks. It's not the kind of head trip that's better with a friend: No one wants to scare off her collaborators—not to mention spouses or audience members. Rosen jokes that maybe their "true personalities are coming out."
Although Desiderare, like a bad dream, will continue to metamorphose until the lights come up, it won't be a horror show. Still, a word of advice: Leave the kids at home.