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Max Lakner

first performed on April 22, 2014
La Mama E.T.C., New York, NY
performed eight times in 2014


David Lansdowne

New York, NY


The piece began from a very bad pun. If Seinfeld is a show about nothing, then “SIGN FELT!” is a show about nothingness. And the possibility that jokes might save us from the banality of existence.

The play opens with me in a bathrobe, pacing back and forth, having worked very hard to prepare nothing. The audience is led in a rousing round of screaming. From this abyss, I begin my “adaptation” of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, in which young Wilhelm is obsessed with the theater but not particularly good at it. He stays in his room making little shows with a clown (which he kills), a sock (who is depressed) and a necklace (on which he hangs himself). As Wilhelm takes to the streets to rant and ramble, words and worlds disintegrate all around him into letters, characters and fragments of plays.

I wanted to think about the bildungsroman, the coming of age tale, what it means to grow up and do something worthwhile on this earth, what it means to tell the story of the self and who gets to tell it.

The context was: I had been asked to perform a new full-length work for a festival of female solo performances during a moment when I was feeling great doubt in the value of my female solo performance. The play would address this problematic and it was truly a problem attic, a creaky roof brain in which I began to lose my wits. But if they were witty on the way out, then what’s the problem? The context was a con artist text. Words seduced me and then ran off. Trying to make it (mmm-ache-it) and share it (sshhh-air-it). Shit! (Look, the air has gone out).

Through song, movement, puppetry, monologue and associative language improvisation, the piece follows: Wilhelm’s mad logic as he loses his mind, seeking meaning on a planet that feels at once glorious, absurd and doomed. It is a verbal and physical reckoning with the paralyzing quality of a world as confusing and at times horrific as ours. I hope that it is liberating and energizing, for audience and performer, to go deeply into this place of uncertainty, to give it a tune and a texture, to make ecstatic fun of it. Not only to exorcise but to exercise our demons, to allow them space to work themselves out.