A Few Notes on Step and Repeat
MOCA’s Step and Repeat is a new breed of performance festival that brings together performers from a variety of previously segregated genres and acknowledges the abundant crossover that now occurs amongst all of them. Thus, it’s not Performa, or Coachella, or Poetry Slam, or open mic night at the Comedy Store; it’s a free-for-all in which poetry, comedy, bands, deejays, experimental noise, fashion, and yes, performance art all casually coexist.
On September 20, MOCA presented the second of what will be a total of four Saturday nights of Step and Repeat action. Five different staging areas were set up inside the cavernous Geffen Contemporary, each very clearly marked with a giant numeral and arrows. Stage 1 was the upstairs mezzanine, designated for poetry readings. Stage 2 made use of the smaller, tunnel-like galleries under the mezzanine. Stage 3 was a dramatically lit proscenium in the back left corner of the Geffen, while Stage 4 was a cozier, den-like setup next door. Stage 5 was the grand arena, occupying the open area in center of the building. The courtyard just outside the front entrance was designated for food trucks, drink stations, and general mingling.
The setup was excellent in that it presented an ideal setting for experiencing a variety of acts in an intimate fashion—a perpetual challenge for performance curators. With its enormous and flexible space, the Geffen can accommodate several stages without the overcrowding and noise overflow problems that can plague other venues. Each act took place one after the other, with only the durational Jack Name music tunnel occurring simultaneously with everything else—thus, each was given ample space and time to breathe. Audience members could breathe too; if you didn’t care for something that was happening, you could step outside, chat, grab a drink or a bite to eat.
On this night, I arrived early to catch Wu Tsang and boychild, whose interlocking performances accompanied by live solo cello were beautiful and breathtaking; confirmed that I’m really not a fan of live poetry readings, and that I am too old to understand Trisha Low; bowed down before the emerging hilarity that is comedian/artist Kate Berlant; was soothed by the hipster synth stylings of Marina Rosenfeld; loved the Jack Name headphone improv experience; and yawned through Oxbow, which everyone else seemed to adore.
Of course the goal of attending these festivals is never to like everything that you see. Rather, it’s to have the best experience possible while gaining meaningful exposure to some new stuff. To that end, MOCA’s Step and Repeat struck a very good balance between the competing needs of professionalism/ease of access and intensity/surprise. Other performance festivals could learn a thing or two from this.