Selective Memory Experiments With Theater Minimalism


Every so often, the theater has a clearance sale. Plot? Get rid of it. Character? Haven’t worn it in ages. Dialogue? Hopelessly out of style. Experimentalists are always curious about how many elements they can disdain and still produce a play.

Multimedia artist Brian Rogers attempts such radical minimalist chic in Selective Memory. A lone actress (Madeline Best) stands onstage, her head concealed by a large rectangular screen. Rogers himself sits just off to the side, pressing buttons on a Mac while ambient music plays. For a while, nothing happens. Then the actress’s face appears on the screen, some four or five times larger than life, blinking and twitching. It stays there for just under an hour.

Is it theater? Well, you wouldn’t confuse it with Ibsen, but sure it is. Rogers locates an interesting tension between the static body onstage and the active face onscreen, and while he could have pushed that dichotomy further, the result is pleasantly meditative. Perhaps you were meant to watch Best and invent for yourself various narratives and scenarios. I certainly didn’t, though I did pass a restful hour in contemplation of her face, which even in repose seemed to look somewhat vexed and wary. Maybe she wouldn’t have minded a line or two.