A Performance for One

photo: Untitled Theater Company #61

A Performance for One is a ten-minute performance - a sort of performance - from Untitled Theater Company #61, conceived by Edward Einhorn and Yvonne Roen, and written and directed by Mr. Einhorn. It’s an intriguing example of New York's creative avant-garde sensibility. It’s designed for an audience of, well, one. He sits in a small space with the performer - in my case Ms. Roen - who speaks to him for nearly ten minutes about her memory of her father’s hands. It’s not actually her memory, she points out, but the memory of the writer, Edward Einhorn. But “The writer,” she tells her audience, “has abandoned us.”

There’s a lovely passage about this memory becoming our memory. Some of the monologue is a discussion of the role of the audience, the audience as performer, experiencing the actress’ experience of the performance, as she experiences his.

The audience member, who is sitting nearly knee-to-knee across from the actress, is invited to look at her eyes, or her face, or her hands. He is invited to speak. I spoke only once during her monologue, and I also spoke at Ms. Roen's second invitation, after she had finished the monologue. She has a wonderful, living connection with her audience. She does not create a specific relationship with him - say, mother/son or daughter/father - other than the performer/audience relationship.

I asked Edward Einhorn how he came to write the piece. This is what he said:
“I’ve had some experiences just being the only person in the audience and it made me really think about what the responsibility of an audience member is. I became hyperaware of yourself when I was the only person there. I felt like I had to be fully engaged and fully responsive every moment just to give the actors something to bounce off of. It made me think about how that’s always true - I just didn’t think about it because other people can share the responsibility with me. The whole idea of the audience member being the other actor in the space really came home to me with that. I wanted to have a piece that examined that.”

A Performance for One is intriguing for the theater practitioner, less so for the civilian, who must be seduced into accepting a daring conceit like this. It’s too academic - too much precious time is spent discussing the concept. What’s more, I spoke once during the actress’ monologue, but my comment was ignored. It’s surprising that Ms. Roen passed up the opportunity to create a bespoke, improvised event with me.

For all the show’s marvelous creativity, ten minutes isn’t enough for us to identify our response to the event. What will Mr. Einhorn and Ms. Roen make of A Performance for One when they develop it? I’m keen to know.

Steve Capra

October 2019

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