Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I like to be wrong. 

Ros Warby- Swift

Portland State University
Lincoln Hall
Tue, Sept 16, 8pm
Wed, Sept 17, 8pm

I have an admission to make - I came grudgingly to Lincoln Hall. The teaser in PICA's flyer made the piece sound so... so pompous and so boring. It made me expect the sort of self-important pathos a teenager might brandish on open mic night... but PICA needed a writer to cover Swift, so I showed up.

I sat in the front near the middle. The house lights went down. Stage lights and projectors went on. Helen Mountfort began to play cello. And Ros Warby came on stage bathed in spotlight. After that, words begin to fail me because Swift is understood by the mind like a dream. Like an amazing, crystalline, lucid, fantastic, sleazy, epic, poetic, romantic dream. Like one of those Technicolor dreams which, upon waking, you remember for decades, able to touch upon the memory easily, yet never able to explain it with any satisfaction...

Upon waking from Swift, you might tell your lover excitedly that you've just had the most amazing dream. "It was amazing," you'll say. "This woman moved on the stage like a humming-bird. Her legs moved like a ballerina to the music of this cello, but her face was not like a ballerina..." You pause here to consider the face in your memory. " It started out that her face was like something from Indian theater, you know?" you'll ask. "I mean her face was really well lit, but the light was above her, so the eye sockets were in deep shadow, and her eyes would secretively dart left and right. But her hands had lives of their own - they were humming-birds too sometimes, or some kind of snake, you know? Her hands were like hissing snakes, slithering and tasting the air with flickering tongue - snakes." You try to demonstrate the hands, but your hands willfully refuse to become anything except hands. "Anyhow," you begin again "her shadowed eyes followed the humming-bird hand snakes because they were dangerous. They were dangerous, but at first I thought she was afraid of the danger as her eyes darted left and right. She seemed unsure whether the hands would attack each other, or attack her. But then somehow, I knew that she was controlling the dangerous humming-bird hand snakes. They were dangerous, but not to her because she was speaking. I could hear her speaking in a soft, high whisper, but I could not understand her. I mean, what she told me with her body and her face - I understood that easily enough, but the words she was saying just would not make sense. She sounded like she was talking backwards, like her voice and her breath were being played backwards, like 'fittet hhh o tu tuwru nonnet tudle tu wrft' " You feebly demonstrate the sounds. "The weird thing was, that she had been really kind of scary before with her shadowy eyes, and her humming-bird hand snakes, but this backwards talking made her do really silly things with her face so that I knew how silly it was to see her as threatening. And then I began to laugh at her. And I was sitting in this huge auditorium next to David Eckard for some reason, though I never understand why some people show up in your dreams... Anyhow, so I start laughing at her, and everyone in the darkened audience, we laughed at her hilarity. The little kids in the front, they laughed the loudest, and they laughed the most, as her eye rolling and posturing became more ridiculous. Those couple of little kids and David Eckard laughed at everything, even when no one else was laughing... I like that in my dream David laughs as genuinely as children. Anyhow, so while all of this was going on, the cello was still playing, and there were these big movie projections in the back, and it was all so... so..."

"Oh forget it. There was a lot more, but I can't describe it like it is/was in my dream," you say.

Then your eyes roll up, and to the right, to that orbital location where you access your memories of dreams and performances. You stare off into the memory, and wish that you could explain it all better.

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