DEBT! A Series of Performative Lectures on Debt
nytheatre.com review by Mel House
July 6, 2012
Are you trapped in the debt square of healthcare, education, housing and credit card debt? If you are like millions of other debt-laden New Yorkers, the DEBT! Performance Lecture Series might just pique your interest. Hosted by the undergroundzero festival, this series includes five performance lectures given over ten evenings. The kick-off lecture Yours in Debt! invites audience members to reclaim the right of public assembly by eating cake, sharing debt stories and considering the possible reconstruction of our financial systems.
Producers Paul Bargetto, Amiel Melnick and April Sweeney had the idea that started it all: bring together Eastern European artists and American scholars to explore the nature, history and meaning of debt. Then take that collaborative research and present it in a meaningful way to engage audiences with this global crisis. The result is five 45-minute performative lectures. If the first lecture is any indication of what’s to come, then look forward to a free, informative and fun evening.
Yours in Debt! was created by NYU professor Nicholas Mirzoeff and Bulgarian director Ida Daniel. Professor Mirzoeff, along with performers Amanda Boekelheide, Darcy Cadman and Tanya Everett, invite audiences to get involved, connect with each other and maybe even join a movement.
Mirzoeff quickly wins us over with his Woody Allen-esque monologues about debt structure, the debt square and how it impacts all of us. He admits that most of his knowledge on the subject has been gleaned at Occupy Wall Street. He’s not a professor of economics? No. Actually he is a professor of Media, Culture and Communication, who is active in Occupy’s Strike Debt campaign. And he’s not going to give a one-sided lecture. He invites the audience to build a word cloud with him. As we learn about how much debt audience members have, how they got into that debt and how they feel about it, there’s laughter and consensus—most of us have debt and we feel “stupid” for acquiring it. Although much of the debt is from student loans, medical emergencies, housing, unexpected life events, you know....living.
Many of us just accept our debt as inevitable. Yours in Debt! would like us to challenge that idea. The actors record audience responses in chalk on the walls and floors, and then mirror back our responses with choral chants. If debt can be built, it can be erased. The actors use their bodies and each other to wipe clean the debt in a strong visual image that is both striking and funny. Mirzoeff reminds us that we have a history that includes abolishing an economic system--slavery--and then, reconstructing society on a different system. What possibilities exist for reconstructing our society’s current reliance on debt?
DEBT! Performance Lecture series includes these upcoming free experimental lectures:
- FLAGS, FIGURES, (R)EVOLUTIONS: from communist Romania to capitalist US (an autobiographical debtology): July 12 @ 7:30 p.m. & July 13 @ 7:30 p.m.
- Three Card Minsky & The Apples of Discontent: July 14 @ 7:30 p.m. & July 15 @ 5:00 p.m.
- The Book of Debt: July 19 @ 7:30 p.m. & July 20 @ 7:30 p.m.
- Untitled: July 21 @ 7:30 p.m. & July 22 @ 5:00 p.m.