THIN SKIN & the topography of time - SheenRu Yong / body portal theatre & Spencer Agoston

Fringe 5 Questions by Carlynn Wolfe

Who do you perform for?

Spencer: I perform for my partners, to make the hours of sweat and play, of clashing and collaborating worth it. I perform to step outside of myself and beyond myself. I perform for the audience whose eyes and minds I cannot know and whose opinions will vary wildly. I perform because I’m driven to.

SheenRu: When I toured with Legend Lin Dance Theatre, we considered it a true success when we had NOT been seen or noticed on stage. Rather the point was to become transparent, to create an opening for the audience to see themselves.

What do you hope to accomplish with this piece?

Spencer: I aim to capture a person's senses. The work as a whole is designed to pull at your sense of self, to take you on a journey far beyond yourself, then snap your awareness back into your own body, waking you up to your own skin.

SheenRu: I recently heard someone say that an audience goes to performances to be listened to. I love that description. And I think THIN SKIN is an experiment in that vein. Although this piece is a personal narrative of sorts, it’s not because I care that people get to know SheenRu (definitely not! that’s actually quite a challenge for me because I’m a very private person). The point is to create an environment that people can enter and be transported into their own story, to feel their own experiences are heard, seen and shared. There's some research about live theater making school children more empathetic and I think it's true; whatever happens live in performance is something we create and share together in a unique moment of resonance and that experience can't be replaced by youtube or snapchat.

In some ways, THIN SKIN is also a response to people often being hesitant about watching performance or thinking they don’t understand anything about art. In this piece, you get to see what goes on behind the scenes, in the studio, in the creative process. It’s intense, it’s hilarious, it happens this way only once, it’s real life. And we are personally inviting you in.

Where is the center of the Universe?

Spencer: Empirically, the center of the Universe is further away than the mind can comprehend, but then it is something that we can all feel. It is in the fleeting moment in which our focus narrows down to the point that the world disappears around us, our sense of self collapses, and we cease to be. In that moment all that exists is the art you're making, the song you're singing, the touch of your love, the feel of the dance, the sound of your breath. When YOU cease to be, that is the center of the universe, ephemeral and just as hard to comprehend in its very nature.

SheenRu: In the particular lies the universal, or however that quote goes. But really, that is my experience. And maybe we should really be asking about the multiverse. I mean, what do we know? ;)

When did THIN SKIN start?

Spencer: THIN SKIN started nearly a year ago, as an idea to create a traveling piece that would hold the beach to SheenRu. The first prototype of the bag/costume quickly took on a life of it own, becoming this instrument that demanded us to play. I think SheenRu can add much more to this.

SheenRu: Every creative work has a non-linear life of its own. The title and subject matter was sparked 7 years ago with a poem I wrote after the passing of my grandmother. This particular incarnation started when I was making a solo to take to a festival in France with the Spinning Goats collective in early 2016. We were exploring the idea of nudity, layers and surfaces. After Spencer and I experimented a bit, we created this transparent plastic installation-contraption (that could collapse into a small bag, aka I could get it to France!) and that could morph into endless configurations; THIN SKIN was born. It’s just a small child at this point though. I consider this its 2nd incarnation and we are still constantly experimenting, distilling.

Why does art happen?

Spencer: Art happens because we need it to.

SheenRu: What he said. Nature is by necessity creative and we are all, by nature, creative.

Bonus – How do you feel about 2017?

Spencer: Ready for the work and focus it will bring.

SheenRu: No idea!

See thin skin on Jan 12 - 14.