For You, Workshop at Rhoda Goldman.
January 18, 2017
We brought For You, to some residents of the Rhoda Goldman Plaza, an assisted living facility in San Francisco where I have been leading a morning exercise program for a number of years. We were expecting to dive into the prompt making with them, like we've done in a few other For You, workshops. That is, responding to the prompts: what happened; your favorite object; a self portrait; and a map of home -- the four prompts that comprise the For You, "application." I brought a roll of butcher paper, a stack of paper plates, and markers. For the self portrait we planned to cut holes into the paper plates, eyeholes for masks, a la Sitting In A Circle. I was a little nervous. I had been warned by one of the residents that they don't like anything silly.
In the end the butcher paper, paper plates, and markers went untouched. Instead we talked and shared stories. We had a really interesting conversation about why we were embarking on For You. Why, when there is no money to be made; when so few people will get to experience it? What's in it for us, they asked? One participant was shaking her head. I asked her if she had trouble hearing. She said, "Oh I'm hearing fine. I'm just not connecting."
Erika focused on what is at stake when a performer knows who is in the audience versus has no idea who is in the audience. She talked about the inspiration for this project. The idea came near the end of her grandparents' lives. She knew they weren't long for this world and wanted to give them a performative gift; a bedside performance of songs and dances tailor-made for the two of them.
I talked about how people were always saying, "If you just reach one person in the audience, it's worth all the effort," and how For You, aimed to reach all of the people in the audience by virtue of it being for them, about them, an homage to that particular audience.
Ryan asked people to talk about stuff they were wearing, in lieu of bringing in their favorite object. We heard about Jack's watch, bought a quarter century ago on a street in New York; Marie's pearls, a parting gift from her neighbor; Harriet's ring that was designed to fit inside another ring, but which she can't get off because of how swollen her fingers have gotten.
We also received some performative gifts ourselves: Phyllis' rendition of a Janis Joplin song, Albert's Pearl Harbor flashback, and Frieda's turtle tale with interpretive gestures. When we asked everyone if they would come back for another round of For You, they nodded. Finally we were connecting. (the end)
Rowena Richie, For You collaborator