New Society by Miranda July

Several years ago, my friend from Ohio raved about a performance art piece that Miranda July staged while she was in Columbus. It was called New Society and my friend could not stop gushing about how interesting it was. He said she created a whole world in two hours, and that it involved the audience’s very enthusiastic help. I was delighted when I saw that Brooklyn Academy of Music would be staging the show as part of the Next Wave Festival. I attended New Society on Thursday, October 8. I immediately wished I had attended the performance with my friend in Ohio — but it was not because of the show itself. It was because of the audience. This show is brilliantly crafted not only to break down the fourth wall almost immediately, but also to build a community. My particular audience did not seem to embrace this idea very readily, and it seemed like Miranda had to practically pull teeth to get our “community” to interact. I don’t want to divulge too many specifics (for those of you who may have a chance to participate in this unique evening of immersive performance art.) But I will say that the society you will end up creating is only as good as those who participate in building it. I would be very curious to know how differently each of BAM’s audiences reacted for each night of the show’s run. As for Miranda July, her willingness to be totally vulnerable and to engage complete strangers in such a creative act of performance and community-building was inspiring. It left me wanting to be even more engaged in my life, and with the people around me. When the show was over, I did feel a little pang as I left my audience family. Despite their initial reticence, I think a community of sorts had been created. The experience expanded my ideas of what is possible not only in theater, but also in real life.

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