Monday, 14 May 2012

VOICES: Michael Gene Sullivan (San Francisco)

Sent to Nassim by Michael Gene Sullivan after performing in San Francisco. Spoiler alert: an animal may have been harmed in order to conclude this performance...

Mr. Soleimanpour,

Last night I performed "White Rabbit Red Rabbit" at the San Francisco International Arts Festival. I'm not going to tell you how good the piece is - I'm sure you get that from all the performers and audience members, as well you should.

I wanted to say that last night - I didn't drink either.

I hope you don't think that's too messed up, but you gave me a choice. You questioned earlier in the play whether or not the actor would stay, knowing that they may die. You, the author, brought up the idea of not following the orders of an unknown authority figure.

So at the end, when it came to the moment of making a choice between glasses, two things were going on: Firstly, the audience was chanting "Don't do it!" rather loudly. I'm guessing that I had a more activist audience than most. When asked if they had anything to say they came back with "Don't drink!" They said I should pour them out. I understood that they didn't want me to die, but also they didn't want me to submit. But, as an actor, I wanted to fulfill the play, so I would reach for the glass, decided to bring your vision to them, but they would start shouting again. This went on for some time. A really long time.

I also didn't want to drink. Not because I might be poisoned, but because it's just not me. Audience or not, you addressed me personally, asked ME to make a choice. Not a character, ME. I know the point of the show, I understand putting the audience in position of watching rather than doing, of being witnesses to a murder without reason and not acting to stop it. But if I drank it would be to finish the show, to get it over with. As a character, fine, as an actor, fine - but as me - I just couldn't take the order. I'm just too damn rebellious.

Again, I would have done it as a character in a play, but you'd made a point of asking ME to do it, and I couldn't.

After several attempts, several agonizing reaches for the cup, and a growing chorus of "NO!"  for the audience one person said "Have the ostrich drink it." So that's what I did. My ostrich was my hand, so I had it dip its beak. I still feel bad about that. On some level I submitted to the dictates of theater, of finishing the play at the expense of my ostrich's life.

But if I hadn't we'd still be sitting there.

Anyway, just wanted to let you know. It really is a great piece, and congratulations on making so many people feel so much. That's what theater is supposed to do.

Michael Gene Sullivan

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