Company to present performance, parlor game
Are little white lies a necessary social maneuver or symptomatic of greater deceit?
What is your feeling when you get away with an untruth? Is it thrilling, or do you feel guilt coursing through your veins?
You can explore all these things at Liar, a participatory, immersive hybrid of performance and game which will take place at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon at 8 p.m. on Feb. 26. It will be produced by PopUP Theatrics, a collaboration between Ana Margineanu, Peca Stefan and Tamilla Woodard created in 2011.
Margineanu and Stefan are from Romania, which is where Liar has its origins. It also has been performed in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
A version of this story appeared in our March 13, 2020, issue, but the performance scheduled for a week later was one of the first casualties of the pandemic shutdown. Nearly two years later, with the recent decrease in cases, Liar has been rescheduled, and the article updated. Another story by Alison Rooney in the same issue previewed Blind Visionaries, a performance planned for the Philipstown Depot Theatre that has not been rescheduled. In addition, Alison wrote articles in March 2020 about Main Street Women, an exhibit planned for the Buster Levi Gallery in Cold Spring, and a talk scheduled at the Desmond-Fish Public Library in Garrison by Sabeeha Rehman, author of Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, that were never published because those events, too, were canceled. We have saved the stories, just in case.
“It’s hard to explain in a blurb,” Margineanu says. “It’s structured like a game in which audience members get to compete for the prize and title of the biggest liar — only not many people want to compete for such an honor.
“It’s a lot of fun, but also an interrogation of how much we actually lie, why we say the lies that we say and why the tiny, justified lies we say on a daily basis give grounds for the big lies that transform,” she adds. “You think at the beginning that you don’t want to compete, and the challenge is altering that thought to an extent that you may even end up being crowned.”
The Romanian production was described as “a parlor game for 40 spectators, in five rounds, with a DJ and a little wine drinking.” (Their sponsor in Romania was a wine company, so there was more than a little. “For this edition, it will be a little wine,” Margineanu says with a laugh.)
The show is constructed so that no one feels put on the spot, she says. “It’s more about asking the questions for ourselves: Are we the person that we think we are? Everything is pretty confidential. Nobody is going to be exposed unless they feel like sharing. The performance is highly participatory, but the level of participation is up to you. We split the audience members into teams, and on every team, there are usually a couple of vocal people, a couple of quiet people, but most are in the middle.
“I never believe that theater spectators are actually spectators,” she adds. “There is always so much going on in there. To me there is a magic in the meeting, and I want to highlight that magic. We all need Alice in Wonderland, to drop where we are in our lives, jump in the rabbit hole and experience a universe which makes us think about our lives, then go back with a new perspective.”
Liar features two actors, Calaine Schafer and Bilal Walker. It was developed in 2017 during a PopUP Theatrics residency at the Women’s Project in New York City. Margineanu, Stefan and Woodard spent two years conducting research around the world.
“We placed ‘lie boxes’ in the lobbies of buildings, theaters and online,” Margineanu says. “We positioned an actor on the street with strips of paper on which people passing by could write lies and pin them on. Some were benign, some were devastating, some were lies that people were told and some were lies that people told themselves.
“The majority of them were pretty powerful, strong lies,” she says. “I was surprised that strangers would share devastating moments of their lives. But I realized that people carrying those secrets are burdened by them and they welcome the opportunity to put it out there.”
The Howland Cultural Center is located at 477 Main St. in Beacon. Tickets are $25 in advance at howlandculturalcentertix.com or $30 at the door, although only 40 will be sold. Proof of full vaccination and masks will be required.
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