Destructo Snack, USA and the Theater of Engagement

September 9, 2013

Destructo Snack, USA, an hour-long theater work written and performed by Theresa Buchheister and Sarah Graalman, is returning this weekend for a welcome revival at The Silent Barn in Brooklyn.  It's a very smart work by two very smart artists, and it's just been published on Indie Theater Now so you can read it for yourself, which will provide you with an experience every bit as stimulating as seeing the piece live, but ultimately not all that much like it (do both if you can: experience this work in a reader and on a stage).

What I love about Destructo Snack (apart from its delicious title) is what it makes you as an audience member do. I began my review of last year's production (which was at Incubator Arts) this way:

"When I came home after seeing Destructo Snack, U.S.A., I checked in on the internet, where I found this headline on MSNBC: "Five things to look out for in 'Game of Thrones' season finale." And I thought: this is why a theatre work like Destructo Snack, U.S.A. is so necessary these days. Mainstream media instructs the audience how to watch a TV show, for crying out loud (and apparently the audience is fine with that). What we need is a healthy dose of unfiltered and unexpected experience rather than the calculated, calibrated entertainments that too often constitute our only exposure to culture and art these days."
It's easy to describe the subject matter of Destructo Snack, USA; Theresa and Sarah sum it up this way: a performance that implodes the notion of identity and predetermined roles. It's an exploration of archetypes and stereotypes of various kinds (for example, Theresa appears in man-drag for the first third of the piece or so). But talking about it like this makes Destructo Snack feel more formalized and academic than it is. Because even more than being any sort of rigorous investigation of behaviors, it's a dynamic, living, breathing demonstration of behaviors--not just theirs but ours too, in real time, in an actual space.

dsnackThat's why, while I am thrilled to have the script on ITN, I affirm that said script is simply a blueprint for an experience -- one that I hope others will want to either host or build themselves.

I ended my review last year by noting that there are probably lots of folks who are going to shy away from a work like Destructo Snack, USA because they think going to the theater is supposed to be a simple, passive act. Theresa and Sarah know that theater is most interesting when it engages us viscerally and wholly, making everyone in the room an active participant in what's happening. In a way, the people who most need to go to Destructo Snack, USA are the ones least likely to--the ones who need to be shaken up and jolted and harangued by theater in a smart and safe way. That's what this play does.

Want to dive deeper into Destructo Snack, USA? Read this article by co-creator Adam R. Burnett, which contextualizes the work neatly; and this conversation between Adam, Theresa, and Sarah, which deals more with process.





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