What's it about?
The Millennial Struggle: You came to The Big City to be creative but you just can’t catch a break and the old people in charge just don’t understand you and also you kind of want to die all the time but you just don’t have the time for that right now.
What'd Samiha Experience?
I don't know what I expected from a play with a hashtag in its title, but my experience of PIONEERS#goforth can be summed up in three words: super fucking weird.
I'll explain and I'll start at the beginning. Like the couple sitting next to me during the show, I first learned about the play when writer/director William Burke was photographed by Humans of New York as he recalled his struggles as an artist. Not for any reason in particular, my sole reaction then was to silently wish Mr. Burke well on his art and leave the show to the millions of HoNY fans that now knew of it.
But alas, on a balmy Friday evening I found myself walking down Waverly Avenue in Brooklyn to see - you guessed it - PIONEERS-hashtag-goforth.
The very first thing to strike me as I walked into the performance space was the walls: every inch of it in the whole space was covered with what appeared to be sheets of wrinkly aluminum wrap. Reflecting the different colored lights around the room, the aluminum made the walls come alive in a way that made me briefly consider covering my own walls in artistically-crumpled pieces of aluminum.
As I gave my name at the check-in desk, I was offered a poncho. For personal aesthetic reasons, I declined. I then walked over to the stage and seating area where some people were already sitting on a variety of seats. While most, like me, sat in regular chairs with backs to lean on, some opted to sit on lawn chairs, footstools, and the floor. Above us hung a large rope net or – in this case – the stage.
As the show started, a musician sat down at a piano behind the audience and three actors entered the space. In preparation for climbing up the beams against the wall and throwing themselves in the net, the actors chanted and sang. They then took turns yelling, mumbling, and contemplating as they positioned themselves in various ways on the net.
Then, a pause. Warm golden lighting covered the space, instantly replacing the dark, brooding green lighting that made watching people cradled in a net hanging from the ceiling less bizarre. The actors explained that they needed to reposition their bodies. Then the green lights returned.
By this point I had gotten the gist of the show. I was already tired of listening to the actors incoherently talk about the alienation, the unfairness, and the mundaneness of being an artist and in your 20's in a city like New York. What annoyed me most was the nostalgia for a simpler time that I heard their words, a yearning for a time that could never have existed quite as pleasantly as it is remembered. Perhaps annoyed was what I was supposed to feel, because the actors were simply repeating sentiments and replaying situations that I’ve heard and experienced in my own young New York City life before. But I still don’t think I was supposed to look at my watch as many times as I did.
That being said, there were some parts of the show that I really... liked. The intimate set, the sound, the net, and the way fake snow periodically fell on everyone (I do agree that the city is cold to its young). It was all weird and unconventional to me and I really loved that.
Go to this. Smile at the playwright on your way out. Support young artists doing weird, intermittently cool things. It may annoy you at times, but you will undoubtedly experience some cool shit while you're annoyed.