‘Necrofeelings’ keeps the audience alive

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May 1, 2009

2:41 AM

“You heard your parents having sex and you liked it?” “You masturbate to The Wiggles?” “You put peanut butter somewhere on your body when you know your dog likes peanut butter.”

Accusations flew wildly at the Muscarelle Museum of Art Tuesday evening. These outlandish allegations were not a part of a dysfunctional therapy session, but rather the final performance of “NECROFEELINGS: Live the Dream!”

The hour-long show — the culmination of the music class, Performance Arts Ensemble class — was a collaborative experience among professors of music Greg Bowers and Sophia Serghi and the seven student participants. Everything in the entire performance spawned from class exercises, with each segment taking between eight and 10 weeks. The small class size allowed the performers to grow more comfortable with one another.

“Since we wrote all the material, we made it what we wanted it to be,” David Witkowsky ’11 said.
Several types of media were brought together in the show. The performance utilized film segments, sound effects and props such as Christmas lights, cans of beer and fresh fruit.

“A main theme was individual actions that lead to the construction of identity,” Bowers said. “The group felt that it was not necessarily the important or productive acts that necessarily defined the individual, but rather the trivial gestures — wasting time or what one does when no one is looking.”

The show began with the sound of a toilet flush, as the seven student performers who sat among the spectators jumped into the show randomly, eliciting a surprise reaction from many members of the audience.

Four screens were synced to play video segments — some had narrative structure or interacted with the physical performers. One video segment featured a Big Brother-like character played by professor of music Brian Hulse, who yelled absurd commands while the seven bewildered players scrambled around to obey.

“Listen only to Genesis. Write five to six pages on your ineptitude,” he bellowed. “This is America — pee into the wind.”

In another scene, the mood shifted from a lighthearted surreality to slightly disturbing. Performers Caroline Jackson ’09 and Michael Singer ’11 emerged in hooded sweatshirts stumbling around and shoving each other to haunting music played over the speakers. They collapsed across a table and began gathering and snorting an unidentified powder until they started to cough, thrashing around and gasping.

As the music intensified, sounds of gasping breath and retching grew louder, overtaking the melody.
Following a brief pause, Jackson rose and checked Singer’s vitals.

She placed a towel over his face, straddled him, and arched her back, moving her hips back and forth to simulate necrophilia. Simultaneously, the music shifted to a more exotic tone to complement her actions and assure the audience that, yes, this was really happening.

Witkowsky said the goal of the piece was to confront the audience members and make them feel uneasy.

“How can we make death more uncomfortable?” he said. “By adding sex to it.”

Though an unsettling experience, Bowers believed the purpose of the segment could put the audience at ease.

“The push to be productive, to always do the right thing, comes from the fear of death. We fear that we will leave this planet without having realized our true potential,” he said. “Instead, the performance suggests that one can be at peace with oneself in all contexts.”

The “Sexy Cooking” segment featured Bowers and Serghi in drag as a chef and his assistant making Coq à l’Orange. As the chef babbled in an indistinct European accent and worked over a silver pot, the silhouettes of a rooster and a dildo flashed on the four screens. Meanwhile, Bowers — clad in a mini dress, chartreuse tights and a red bouffant wig — gyrated alone.

“We must put on the protective sheath,” the chef said, unfurling a condom onto a phallic object inside the pot.

The scene devolved in chaos as both characters started dancing and throwing condoms. The seven student performers emerged from beneath a chair in the audience and also threw condoms.

Prior to the performance at the Muscarelle, the class traveled together to Connecticut April 17th and 18th where they performed for graduate students and faculty from the Yale School of Drama.

After the performance, the performers worked with the Yale students in a workshop. The class then headed to Monkeytown, a performance venue in Brooklyn, N.Y., a city well-known for progressive multimedia art.

The class received only positive feedback, despite the shocking material and confusing nature of the show. Witkowsky added that despite all this, the audience members still understood the show’s content.

“On the surface, it’s all over the place, but most people got the general concrete premise lying underneath,” he said.

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