Rock Performance

Rock Performance : Gloss

A golden canyon in the desert: the walls of the narrows are this theatre’s doors, giving way onto a wide wash—a playing space—in which a low rock formation provides the audience with its bench. They have arrived for a strange, moonlike production of The Cherry Orchard. Say it isn’t raining (it never rains here). Say the actors are late for their first cues. Say one of the audience muses aloud to a colleague, waiting.

 

PERFORMANCE THEORIST

What must a now-facetious, now-earnest lament for an orchard’s loss mean here, a place empty (barren, desolate, remote) and full (colorful, sun-kissed, granularly textured)?

 

Say the actors are not late. Say they have not arrived. Say they never will.

 

Say it was never Chekhov: gradually, the audience realizes that the rocks are this canyon’s performers: slow… and, so it seems once the audience is conscious of the performance, yet slower… and slower, still. Still. It is the slowest performance to which this audience has ever borne witness.

 

It is the last performance to which they will ever bear witness. Determined to watch, to sense, until its end, they are outlived by the performance, by the imperceptibly moving rocks.

 

The dead audience debates the meaning of the performance with the other ghosts in the canyon. For whom or what or how is rock performance?

 

SHOSHONE WOMAN

The universe.

 

MORMON TREKKER

God.

 

PROSPECTOR

The devil.

 

BORAX COMPANY SHAREHOLDER

Capital.

 

TOURIST I

Me.

 

TOURIST II

My camera.

 

PERFORMANCE THEORIST

Not me. … And not not me.

 

PERFORMANCE THEORIST II

It. Just it.

 

The rocks do not hear them. And they do not not hear them. Still, there is rock performance. Still.

 

 


About the Author

Nick Salvato is Professor and Chair of the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. He is the author of Uncloseting Drama: American Modernism and Queer Performance (Yale, 2010), Knots Landing (Wayne State, TV Milestones Series, 2015), and Obstruction (Duke, 2016). His essays have appeared in a number of venues, including Critical Inquiry, Criticism, Discourse, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Modern Drama, TDR, Theatre Journal, and Theatre Studies.