If you go to a theater show right now (and you can!), often you’ll see an experimental form that is in the process of shifting from a strategy of “no touch” performance to “light touch.” We don’t have to stay sealed behind our laptop screens anymore … but you still sense the fear inherent to plunking a bunch of vaccinated people down together, no matter what the CDC or the governor says. In a light-touch work, presence is often the show’s subject and focus — the in-person-ness of the event is its point. But the artists must handle that presence delicately. To navigate union rules, pandemic concerns, and audience discomfort, a theatermaker might miniaturize her audience to a handful of people, or put the performers behind glass, or turn the theater into an installation space.The Light Touch 2021.
How many of the theatrical conventions can be subtracted from the live exMy favorite light-touch performance lately was Liminal Archive, an odd, heartfelt, porous work at the New Ohio, part of that theater’s Ice Factory Festival. When I say “odd,” I mean that I found myself walking out behind a guy who said “that was the weirdest theater I’ve ever seen” — which tells you both it’s adventurous and that there’s a man in the East Village who hasn’t truly lived. The show is the product of the Al Límite collective — an online, post-pandemic nexus maintained by an international group of artists. The performance is a physicalization of that digital archive, the child of more than a dozen creative parents, a tangle of interactive elements, projected videos, and audio recordings sourced from all over the world.perience? Light-touch shows and their uncanny caressing quality is the hallmark of this weird pre-dawn period.In the darkened New Ohio (under what must be the lowest ceiling in Manhattan), small pods of masked viewers walk between “vans,” little frame-built tents parked in a circle, rather like Romani vardos. When we’re prompted to engage, we peer inside each one, where we can see and participate in a five-minute performance.