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Esther Neff

first performed on May 4, 2011
The Brick, Brooklyn, NY
performed seven times in 2011


Alejandro Acierto, Gelsey Bell, Brian McCorkle, Esther Neff, Paul Pinto, Mathew Stephen Smith, and Jeff Young; additional performers: Jason Anastasoff, Erin Rogers, Dave Ruder

Brooklyn, NY


Panoply Performance Laboratory and thingNY came together to tackle the task of explaining time in all of its fullness. The problem of how to do this led us to many different performance forms and genres, eventually opening up additional problems about the politics of explaining. Because, of course, the task was impossible.

The structure of the piece was an episodic collage with a few reoccurring characters. Most sections could be categorized under linear time, cyclical time, or ecclesiastical time and held their own structures of problem and solution. To give you a sense of a few, the performance began with a piece called “Private Time,” a composition where each performer created a score by answering a set of questions about their personal relationship to time. The audience entered as the performers were stationed throughout the small space (in the lobby, under the seats, in the seats, on the stage) already performing the piece. Throughout the evening, three distinct through-lines of performance occurred: first, “Paul Pinto’s One-Minute Lectures on Everything He Knows About Time,” loosely improvised lectures by Paul Pinto about theories or aspects of time; second, five hymns scattered throughout the evening in which the audience was encouraged to join; and finally, “Archetype Sequences,” operatic musical sequences of three archetypes, the Priest-Scientist, the Architect-Poet, and the Poet-Photographer, and their views on time.

Each audience member was provided with a book throughout the performance that they could purchase if they wanted to keep it. The books contained the program credits, the entire script of the evening, the scores to all musical material, our notes on the script, a reference list, and a deck of cards printed on pages that could be cut out. The book was used for audience members to join in the hymns and many audience members would follow along with the script throughout the performance.

Other particularly fruitful sections of the piece included “Chance is for Winners: A Card Game,” a musical score cum card game; “Violence,” a lecture on violence that involved audience members throwing things at the lecturer; and “Endurance Exercises,” the evening’s finale where task-based performances like “Count-aloud-to one million” or “Staring context” were performed by the members of the ensemble until the theater was entirely empty of spectators. The final endurance exercise was “think about time until you’ve lost sense of it.”