Monday, April 29, 2013

Thomas Bradshaw's "Lecture on the Blues" at the Whitney Museum

Look, someone is walking out the room offended! Oh, there must be a performance of Thomas Bradshaw material nearby. And that is exactly what happened yesterday on the final day of the Blues for Smoke exhibit at the Whitney Museum.

Let me take a step back. 

Imagine my surprise on Saturday morning when I perused the list of performances accompanying the Blues for Smoke exhibit at the Whitney Museum. The controversial playwright Thomas Bradshaw would be presenting a new 40 minute work - Lecture on the Blues - created just for the exhibit and featuring actors Jeff Biehl and Frank Harts. Excerpts from Amiri Baraka's Dutchman would also be presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc. 

How the heck did the Whitney team up with Mr. Bradshaw, I wondered. Not wanting to miss the exhibit, I purchased a museum ticket and with some hesitation reserved a spot in Mr. Bradshaw's "lecture."

I will spare readers the asinine details (email me if you want them) but Mr. Biehl (as a white lecturer) recites material from the character Clay in Mr. Baraka's 1964 Obie award winning work, channels Jimi Hendrix, has sex with an actress planted in the audience while Mr. Harts (playing a black Whitney security guard) watches and masturbates nearby. At the back of the second floor gallery, Mr. Bradshaw stands, chuckling and completely amused by the audience's reaction.

Many in the audience filled with youthful faces appeared to be rather amused by the shenanigans. I however walked away from the "lecture" not quite sure if Mr. Bradshaw complemented the Blues for Smoke exhibit or merely mocked it.

Perhaps those youthful faces (strangely, some resembled Bats) got something that I did not...

Related Posts:
Where is the Art in Merely Shocking the Audience? 

1 comment:

  1. Hello! :)
    I just want to share a few thoughts I had in regards to the show. (I saw it at the Whitney)

    I stayed for the duration of the entire show, and either because I do not frequent such events or because I am naive, I found it to be thought provoking.
    I was sort of rushed into the performance as it was starting, and honestly, I actually thought it would be a lecture. To my surprise, things escalated very quickly.
    I thought it was great that there were actors planted in the audience with their own political agendas. It felt as if "Finally, the audience speaks up about what they are all thinking."
    It felt good that the people were speaking up.
    Furthermore, it was a great example (in my opinion) of how we deal with political issues - by emotionally charged rage. Not like educated adults.
    The actors which Bradshaw planted did just that, they reacted with emotion, and had no clear stand on what it is that each was protesting.
    One last point I would like to make is that it was a creative way to embody today's cultural chaos in regards to ethical issues. It seemed like there was just chaos and rage. And nobody knew what the 'right' thing to do was.
    Of course, there are many more points to be made regarding this play's relation to the "Blues For Smoke," exhibition itself, but I just wanted to comment with something that stood out to me the most.
    Thank you! :))