Ever wonder if you could write a play? Ever think you could create interesting dialogue out of thin air? #txtshow (on the internet), created by performing artist Brian Feldman, gives the audience that exact opportunity: to be a part of the creation of the show.
#txtshow (on the internet) is a completely immersive multiscreen performance featuring a mysterious character named txt (pronounced “text”) who recites a script written anonymously in real-time by a live audience (on the internet). It is an interactive, experimental and experiential performance for the audience. There is no script for Feldman’s piece, rather, the audience sends private messages in Zoom to the artist’s phone which he reads in real time and performs in an attempt to assemble some meaning though the words are directly from the audience.
The project, created and performed by Brian Feldman (24 Minute Embrace, Dishwasher, Wawa Shabbawa),unlike most theatre productions where proper decorum dictates the audience stay still and silent, encourages participation and actually requires audience members to keep their video and mic on during the performance.
Brian Feldman is an award-winning artist and actor known for his extreme feats in his performance art. He lives in the Washington D.C. area and his work has been favorably compared to Marina Abramović, David Blaine, John Cage, Christo, Marcel Duchamp, Tehching Hsieh, and Andy Kaufman, and featured on television, radio, in print, and online. Since August 2003, he has presented 300+ performances of 125+ projects at 175+ venues and festivals in cities worldwide through Brian Feldman Projects, one of North America’s premier presenters of experimental time-based art.
Feldman’s #txtshow (on the internet) streams live on Zoom. I had the opportunity to see Feldman’s show as a part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival on the 1st which marked #txtshow‘s 111th performance. Philly Fringe served as the Philadelphia premiere of the project, but Feldman has been performing #txtshow for some time now both irl (in real life) and on the internet. #txtshow started as an in-person live performance at the historic Jack Kerouac house in Orlando, FL where audience members sent texts to Feldman’s phone in the theatre. The #txtshow project translates very well to a virtual platform, and Feldman is smart to produce the show digitally.
For the Philly Fringe production, a file was sent virtually to the audience members ahead of time with some directions and rules for the show, including that all audience members must keep their microphones and videos on during the performance. Then, when the audience logged in to the performance, a screen manager (in my performance named Melanie from Canada!) gave some instruction to the audience and introduced the artist. Since the audience has their videos and microphones on for the whole show, it is very much a shared experience with your “soon to be best friends on the internet” as Screen Manager Melanie described it.
Though instructions were sent before the show, it did seem there was still a learning curve for audience members and it took a little for them to get comfortable with what they had to do. The people that read the instructions propelled the show in the direction they chose. And it was interesting to see which way the conversation steered since no topic was off limits. Even in the beginning Melanie said “If you don’t like the show it’s half your fault… divided by how many people are in the show and how many lines you contribute.”
What’s also neat is that no two performances would ever be alike! In the show I attended, the show started with a tangent on cats, morphed into a ridiculous prayer, and finally changed to a conversation about poop and hair loss.
The idea is actually fairly simple. Allow the audience to dictate the lines of the show. The set was also very simple. There was a table and a chair and everything was completely white except a cute cat in a pumpkin mug on the table.
Overall, I thought the performance was clever. I’ve seen plenty of improv but nothing where the entire show is dependent upon the audience creating the dialogue. The show was very funny but I suppose that depends on the audience members involved. Props to Feldman for his improv and tackling the huge challenge of creating any sort of sense from the ramblings of distracted audience members. I loved seeing what Feldman did with the silly lines I stuck in there. Some of my favorite lines in the performance I attended included: “My head is shiny, like a vampire in Twilight”; “You’ll be the first Fringe crowd to see my third nipple”; and “I eat humans and I enjoy it.”
#txtshow has been featured in festivals in four countries. Though #txtshow (on the internet) has closed at Philly Fringe, you can still check out the production! Visit the show’s Facebook page for the most up to date info about where to catch it.
For more information about Brian Feldman click here.