Live action PacMan with co-ed wrestling in cocktail attire. After hours tests of purported ESP. Ritualized tournament murders. In ARCANE GAME, five “players” struggle to reproduce their visions (the visions sent to them by Roxy Snodgrass) through a bizarre rite/experiment designed to find some meaning in (get some answers out of) this bleak and empty universe. Current Wooster Group company members Jamie Poskin and Matt Schloss team up with Robert Wilson collaborator Andrew Gilchrist on the debut work of the United Broadcasting Theater Company.
Above: In a back room at the hospital, surgeon Gwen Ellis pontificates on the state of commercial medicine while performing blindfolded operation using resident Andrew Gilchrist as a human puppet.
Crossfading the apocalyptic Robert Altman film Quintet with a high-tech performance ritual based on early computer game scripts, ARCANE GAME takes your fancy dinner party into an occult realm of parlor tricks, interrogations and confessionals, lecture-demonstrations, and reckless stunts.
In the piece, five unrelated individuals are drawn together by mysterious visions from Roxy Snodgrass. They each believe the visions have given them strange “gifts”—clairvoyance, fantastical carpentry skills, healing, tele-perception, a bird-child. And since the visions began they all hear an ever-present melody that compels them to play a ritualistic game, a game where they change their names (and spirits) and “kill” one another in search of Roxy.
We began creating this production from the idea that instead of working with a play script, we were more interested in the type of “script” that computers use—something functional, self-contained, recursive, and (to us non-programmers, anyway) enigmatic and partly incomprehensible.
From there, we studied computer scripts for simple programs—mostly “golden era” games like PacMan, Colossal Cave Adventure, Asteroid, Zork. We began constructing on stage our own game-like world hybridizing these various code structures and adding elements of an outside narrative inspired by interviews with the programmers of these early computer games.
Eventually our broader interests as artists seeped into the piece, and a multiform narrative emerged that combines the ritualistic game structure, the Altman film, interrogations and confessionals, dance, lecture-demonstrations, and reflections on the pursuit of an abstract and collective dream.
Created by United Broadcasting Theater Company
With Louiza Collins, Gwen Ellis, Andrew Gilchrist, Arielle Lever, and Henry Vick
Director: Jamie Poskin
Associate Director: Andrew Gilchrist
Sound: Chip Rodgers, Matt Schloss
Video: Chase Voorhees
Lighting: Daisy Long
Stage Manager: Rosalie Lowe
Administrative Assistant: Olivia Jorgensen
Dramaturge: Tim Youker
Body Machine section of ARCANE GAME written by Andrew Gilchrist
Original music composition by Matt Schloss
Floor drawing by LEIMAY/Shige Moriya
Produced by Andrew Gilchrist and Jamie Poskin
The company created ARCANE GAME at The Performing Garage thanks to a development residency provided by The Wooster Group.
ARCANE GAME (work-in-progress showings)
August 21, September 16, September 25, and October 9, 2011
The Performing Garage
33 Wooster Street
New York, New York 10013
October 27-30, 2011
Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark’s Church
131 East 10th Street
New York, New York 10003