Panties for Diamonds
It's 3:00am on a breezy summer Saturday night. I didn't have the energy nor the will to prowl around town. Socialization has its limits sometimes. Today that limit was strangely triggered by a curious incident. Everything about it was odd. So much so I can't not share with the Internet what it was and how it made me feel. It kept my brain crosswired, and my insomnia awakened.
"Panties for Diamonds - A psychodramatic audition for love in the age of abandonment" - or so it says on the simple pink flyer given to me at the end. A quick google yielded minimal relevant result. No official website. No pictures. Nada. Just this. The crosswired brain found no better summary than the rather vague yet appropriately descriptive title.
Let's start from the late evening.
After a stroll on the ever crowded hipified Highline Park (2nd section now open - equally as beautiful as the first), and a failed attempt at checking out Chelsea Rec Center, I made my way back to the car which was parked right by the new Edward Tufte museum. I once had a nice conversation with Edward about my work at MLB. He is a serious baseball fan, and was kind enough to visit to help guide the site's design and user experience decisions. Curious to see what he's up to these days, I strolled over to check. Sadly it was closed. But then a glimpse of my memory recalled there being this strange "nest" looking art exhibit near by (22nd & west side hwy) that I wanted to check out. I had time. Why not. But alas, the trifecta of fail completed when the nest was no longer there.
What I found instead was an open door to a strange room. In it were these coffin-sized plaster rectangle structures with oddly shaped indentations in them. Crazy modern art commonly seen in small galleries around that neighborhood. I thought nothing of it. Then a woman chirpily appeared out of nowhere. This woman, dressed in 1950s style pin-up lingeries, boobs almost falling out of her bra, really really wanted me to fill a survey. She had hot pink plastic glasses on top of another glasses, hooker heels, and a look that clearly resembled someone playing an acting part. I asked what the survey was about. She simply said "It's about you and your audition". No context. No nothing. Two other men came and went while I filled out a rather sexual, and very weird set of questions on the survey. I gather they left because of the nature of the questions. If filling out this survey means I'm auditioning for something, that thing, whatever it is, is very, very sexual. I was scrambling in my head trying to think of a polite exit when Lady Gaga over here pulled the survey away and said: come in. I paused with great hesitation. What do you mean come in? What's behind that other door on the end? A part of me was very curious. Whatever, it can't be that bad.
The door on the other end of the first room led me to a small square room with a mattress covered in deep red satin sheet. A beautiful woman appeared. She too wore sexy pink 1950s lingeries with hooker boots, but she had substituted the glasses with a giant red-hed fro and pale make up with bright red lips. She was soft spoken. She asked me to take off my shoes and put all my bags down. We stood at the top of the mattress for a bit. She asked if I know what "Softing" is. I said no. Apparently it's what's happening in that room.
It began by her asking me for my hands, held them, then she crossed over towards my back, and gave me an intimate embrace - the kind that raised all the flags in my head for violation of personal space from a complete stranger. I was like .. what.. the.. She proceeded to do various stretching exercises with me. That part was a little bit more normal and comforting, though still weird. Then she asked that I lay down on the mattress. At this point something in my head said "just go with it - you're already down the rabbit hole. see where it takes you"
On the bed, Lady Red-Fro proceeded to align my body in odd positions, sometimes with embrace, others just barely touching. There was a lot of touching - kind of like a soft massage, almost. This went on for a while. Time became really warped when you're lying in make-shift bed with Lady Red-Fro in the middle of what you originally thought was an art gallery. I kept praying there's no bed bugs. Finally she was done with me. We got up. I felt weirdly disoriented. She escorted me to another door where TWO MORE identical looking Lady Red-Fros awaited. She hugged goodbye. The twin Fros have long red tassels coming out of the crotch area of their outfits. Oh boy.
The second room was bigger than the first, but this time it looked more like an investigation or an interview room. Lady Fro 2 and 3 sat on one side, one of them holding the survey paper I had written. There were two chairs on my side. I straight up asked "What is going on" They smiled. "This is your interview" "For ... " "The part in Panties for Diamonds" ... "Which is ...?" "Which is all about you and whatever you want it to be ... " "I'm confused." "Let's begin .."
They began by asking me about the answers on the survey. I didn't exactly pay that much attention to it, so it was mildly awkward having to come up with rationales. The conversation was quite normal and pleasing. It eventually became clear to me they were using my answers to shape up an "act" that all three of us would "perform" together in that room. Because I had answered that I wanted to focus on my past, that became the theme. I don't know whether or not the "Softing" part had an effect on my state of mind or whether it was because the Lady Fros posessed therapist-like precision in our conversation or both, but when they asked about how I feel about love and abandonment in relation to my past, I told them the truth. The long version. They suggested that this "act" that we perform should be a re-enactment of the moment my 8-yr relationship ended, except I can do or say whatever I want -- as if I had a second chance at experiencing that moment with all the knowledge and emotion I possess now.
I did it.
Needless to say I whaled like a little baby within minutes. They were really, really on point. I mean they didn't look like him, but in that moment I really felt like that second chance was unfolding before my eyes.
When the whaling finally stopped and I came back to reality, we parted way. They gave me a flyer, thanked me for being fully engaged in the experience, and asked that I return someday.
Then I went to IKEA, numb.
Thinking back at this event, what it was meant to be, I think, is still an art exhibit. But instead of you looking at something someone created, you experience the art by being a part of it. Your past, your dream, or your fantasy help shape that experience. And within that finite amount of time you spend with these artists, the outcome is a memory that, I think, they hope, will stick with you for a while.
If you decide to go, leave your NewYorker shell at the door and have an open mind.
Open Casting at Honey Space
148 11th Ave (between 21st and 22nd) NY, NY
June 23 - July 28, 2011