A SERIOUS BANQUET
ERIN B MEE / JESSIE BEAR / THIS IS NOT A THEATRE COMPANY
This Is Not A Theatre Company’s “A Serious Banquet” (Judson Church, June 2014) was a theatre-dance-dinner structured around the party Pablo Picasso threw for the painter Henri Rousseau in 1908 as recorded by Gertrude Stein in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. If cubism is the opportunity to see something from multiple angles and perspectives at once, then this piece asked: what would a cubist experience be? “A Serious Banquet” challenged singular perspectives in many ways, the most obvious being that we repeated key scenes from different emotional and visual perspectives so audiences could experience the same scene from many “angles”—a theatrical version of cubism.
Partakers were welcomed into the world of the play by Picasso’s mistress Fernande Olivier, and then invited to talk with a guitar programmed to respond to sound with music; to answer the phone, which recited Apollinaire poems; to listen to a still life (a bottle and vase that spoke); to view Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon recreated with live bodies; and to introduce Apollinaire (played by an absinthe glass with speaker) to other guests. After everyone had arrived, guests had an opportunity to experience “salon” moments—one-on-one interactions with various characters: Georges Braque took a single audience member to the corner bodega to get more water while discussing art and cubism; Max Jacob enlisted an audience member’s help in creating a poem; Picasso invited three audience members to paint on miniature canvases with nail polish and to discuss art. After the salon moments, everyone sat down to dinner. They drew their dinner plates on a paper tablecloth, and three-dimensional food was served on their two-dimensional plates. During dinner, characters offered their birthday gifts to Rousseau in the form of toasts: a sculpture made up of audience members (Picasso); a silent dance by Ida Rubenstein; poetry by Max Jacob, Andre Salmon and Gertrude Stein; and a cabaret song by the Demoiselles D’Avignon.