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Becoming a nomad on a Thursday evening

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I didn’t have any expectations in attending Good and Nobel Beings at the North American Cultural Laboratory on Thursday night. What I knew is that I would see some kind of performance and afterwards be treated to a salon supper. 

I hadn’t even read the performance description: “Good and Noble Beings is part philosophy class, part cooking show, part re-enactment of our excruciating romantic heartbreaks, and part elementary school movie day, created to make a heady philosophical book understandable for everyone. It is an adaptation of one of the seminal works of late-20th century philosophy: A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

It was performed by Ann Marie Dorr and Paul Ketchum, who have been working on this piece for over six years.

“This is an experience in two parts,” NACL co-founder and artistic director Brad Krumholz explained as he welcomed the assembled crowd in the theater’s foyer and front deck. First you will see a performance, he said, and then you will get to talk about while sharing a delicious farm-fresh meal.

And that’s what it was. A performance and an opportunity to talk about it in a facilitated manner around a table full of delicious food. (In preparation for the dinner table discussion, we were offered question prompts to explore. To add to the depth, seated at each table were participants of the show. It was an intimate opportunity to go deeper into processing what we experienced in the theater.)

The performance, a work in progress, explored dense concepts presented in the 1980s book, “A Thousand Plateaus” by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. There, the French philosophers discuss post-structuralism and post-modernism with an emphasis on a positive experience of affirmative nomadic thought. There were concepts like rhizomes and becoming and what plateau actually is.

The performance itself was multi-dimensional. Large screens, two people talking at once. A Julia Child aioli being made just to my left. Loud chopping, the smell of garlic, a light show. Intimate stories contrasted with ruthless technology. All encompassing. A chaotic experience.

Poignant, sensory rich.

At one moment, I saw the experience as a microcosm of our distracted and disjointed lives, and was moved to laughter. In that moment, I was part of the performance as those around me shared in the laughter.

At dinner, I admitted that I never understand much of the theater that I see. Those more learned about the art of performance and the structure of theater expressed jealousy that, in my ignorance, I was able to simply absorb the experience without critical thought.

How we structure our understanding lies at the root of our human experience. Meaning making, how we assign definition to our experience, is our experience. Those are the concepts of “A Thousand Plateaus.”

The dinner experience, sharing stories, personal reflection, in a facilitated space, while eating fabulous fresh food, was a respite from the chaotic and the chronic busyness.

It was refreshing. It was an exercise of becoming, being in the moment, experiencing the positivity of the nomadic experience of life’s journey through which we find their way. It was the embodied experience of what the heady philosophers were trying to explore.

Bravo to the NACL on this innovative work and for offering artists and performers an opportunity to deepen their art and their work and present it to an appreciative audience looking for a way to connect.

For more about NACL’s season, visit nacl.org.

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