intensedrama productions (all lowercase, like k.d. lang
and the work of E.E. Cummings
) is an Oakland
-based performance art
and writing group that bends reality
by making life into performance art.
Their work is full of reality hacking - for example, "Lunch at a Mediocre Restaurant" is a review of a performance art piece which was "really" the artist-reviewer's lunchtime meal. Perception shapes reality, and reality shapes perception.
The following is their review of their first show, from June of 1999 (reproduced here with permission):
Get On Your Knees And Beg For More
Sometimes, the darkest recesses of the computer lab hold the brightest gems. Intensedrama Productions’ new show, Teknobabble, is one such gem.
Teknobabble is truly a Bay Area creation. It combines interpretive dance and spoken word to pour out the watery espresso of modern society and expose its burnt dregs. Star performer ”Cola,” the founder of the troupe, brought tears to several young Silicon Valley eyes with “My piece about ‘blah blah blah.’” The piece touched a nerve in its heartfelt, sincere expression of one young techie’s dissociation from the world. “Blah blah blah” incorporated elements of technological frustration as well as themes of fall and redemption - except that in Cola’s techno-nightmare, there is no redemption.
Teknobabble’s set is designed to resemble a computer monitor with eerie blue-green lava-lamp lighting, targeting exactly its twentysomething retro-hippie-wannabe nerd audience. In the show’s most poignant moment, lost, greenish waifs wander across the screen (er... stage), reading error messages in quietly desperate tones. Jerky cognitive-dissonant grunts and screams of “SAMUEL!” bring the scene to a climax, and such error messages and reactions become a running theme. Samuel is their mythical Godlike sysadmin, but he is a wrathful god, and the source of much onstage angst. He, more than any other character, brings anguished familiarity to the audience members’ lips. It’s the “STELLA!” of the net.generation.
Critics have already honored Intensedrama Productions, calling Cola “the messiah of the Bay Area techie angst scene.” “She’s like our Kurt Cobain,” said one awestruck fan at Monday’s performance. “Except instead of doing heroin, she does caffeine.”
“Cola” is the young artist’s chosen sobriquet. “It’s my handle, man. It’s like, a comment on the marketing to our generation. We’re reclaiming the product.
“It’s got all these themes wrapped up in it, with the caffeine addiction, the sugar rush, the staying up all night to geek your soul away.”
Also prominently featured in Intense Drama’s show is Pastor Dick’s “Sermon To Your Mom.” Pastor Dick’s set, titled “Asleep On the Top Bunk,” continues the warped techno-Christian theme. The Pastor presented an irreverent comment on what he sees as the lax parenting of the Internet generation. “The parents are asleep on the top bunk, while their children are geeking away their immortal souls. Pastor Dick is calling for you to put down your mom and pick up your children.” The “sermon” references neo-Freudian self-help fads as well as political corruption in mainstream politics and the religious right, without resorting to the heavy-handed hammer of parody. “There are lots of subtle references that you’d only get if you spent all your time online surfing,” explained an audience member, still laughing helplessly.
Will Teknobabble bring its overwhelmed audience to its knees? They’re already begging for more, as Intensedrama demand they do at the end of every show - just before the performers, satisfied with their power, turn and walk offstage.
Like all their pieces, this faux review contains layers of meaning. It was not produced from a public performance or even a rehearsal, but from the giddy insanity
of several college students sitting around and envisioning the performance art they could create - from a combination of spontaneous private performances and wild collective brainstorming about it all. The performers, then, served both as performers and as audience members, analyzing their own work and their idealized reactions to it.
On another level, the review serves as a commentary on pre-millennial dot-com-influenced culture. The imagined theme of and reactions to the show, from crowds embracing the portrait of a maddening sysadmin to the "lost, greenish waifs" wandering the stage, become a vivid illustration of the heights reached by the dot-com boom.
The piece itself is a metaphor for the inflated dot-com madness of its time. Like the dot-coms, Teknobabble and its review (and indeed most of Intensedrama's work) is solid, interesting, and often bizarre stuff based on an inflated cotton-candy cloud of group hallucinations.
Some of their work is, in fact, performance art for performance art's sake, with none of the self-conscious attempted irony of their written work. Cola's "Right-Handed Ladle," for example, is a spoken word diatribe about the pains of being left-handed in a world that seems set to destroy you through neglect and ignorance. And while not all of their work qualifies as light-hearted entertainment, with much of it they have raised performance art beyond everyone's expectations, to a very, very strange new level.