Habit is an installation/durational event/realist play that reorients the way we watch performance. Inside a four-walled, fully furnished, functioning ranch house designed by Marsha Ginsberg, actors inhabit the set for extended periods each day, performing the play on a loop, communicating only through the dialogue, improvising staging as it suits their needs -if they're hungry, they cook; if they're dirty, they wash- and the needs of the characters.
Over the past decade reality TV shows from MTV's Real World to NBC's Apprentice have been working to perfect the theater of voyeurism by placing cameras throughout homes and offices, and engineering situations in which the occupants interact and the camera captures it all. Visionary theater artist David Levine has taken that concept and moved it to the stage, creating Habit, a process-based installation which takes place in a fully functioning (but roofless) ranch house which will be built inside MASS MoCA's Hunter Center. Between February 24 and 27, instead of watching drama unfold on the small screen, spectators will be able to look through windows and doors of the house/set and watch on closed-circuit TV in real time the live production of Habit, a realist play with improvised staging, performed in a continuous loop.
Developed at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center in Spring 2010, and now at MASS MoCA for a residency and work-in- progress showing, Habit will premiere in Toronto's Luminato Festival in Summer 2011. Fusing TV production, durational performance, behavioral psychology, and realist theater into a project that reorients the way we watch, Habit asks basic questions about spectatorship, performance, routine, reality and realism.
The house, designed by Berkshire county resident Marsha Ginsberg, will include a bedroom, a small living-dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and storage space and will be fully outfitted with plumbing (a toilet, sink, and shower in the bathroom and a sink in the kitchen) and appliances (refrigerator, oven, and coffeemaker in the kitchen). In reviewing the work-in-progress last summer, the Easthampton Star wrote, "While no larger than an apartment, the space still felt like a well-lived-in house with the actors' clothes set up in closets, CDs in haphazard piles on the floor, plates and cutlery stacked in the sink, food that was really eaten, and a sheet thrown over a worn couch in what passes for decorating in a certain type of household."
Jason Grote's text employs many tried-and-true plot devices and character elements to create a kind of uber-play. Characters are put in situations -- and relationships are designed -- to register a full range of human emotions. Love triangles, a tragic secret from the past, and each character's struggle to rise above class and station are all part of the continuous loop. The Easthampton Star explains, "From the beginning, there's plenty of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll piled on until the deep, dark secret is allowed to blow the whole thing apart. What is different here is that once it does, the action starts over from the beginning, following the same script but with different stagings, determined solely by the actors' choices."
Although the text functions mostly as a device in the overall work, it is also sacrosanct; it never varies even as the interpretation of how to deliver it must. Viewers at Watermill compared it to watching ever-new interpretations of a Shakespeare play. Levine said he has been surprised by some of the actors' choices, and the focus of the installation is definitely on those choices. Viewers become voyeurs as they follow the sometimes sordid, often banal action from one room to the next.
This program is supported in part by the Appelbaum-Kahn Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
David Levine's work encompasses performance, theater, installation, and video. Dividing his time between New York City and Berlin, where he is Director of the Studio Program at the European College of Liberal Arts, Levine has directed at the Atlantic Theater Company, the Vineyard Theater/NYC, and Primary Stages/NYC, and has presented his performance projects at such international art spaces and surveys as MoMA, Documenta XII, Rohkunstbau, Town House Gallery/Cairo, HAU2/Berlin, PS122/NYC, the Watermill Center, and the Sundance Theater Lab. Levine's work has been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, Theater, Art in America, Bomb, Cabinet, Theater Heute, Art Review, Die Zeit, TDR, The Village Voice, Time Out, and The Believer, and he has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Kulturstiftung Des Bundes, and Etants Donnes/French Fund for Performance.
Habit will be performed between noon and 5 PM on Thursday, February 24, and Sunday, February 27, and between 2 PM and 8 PM on Friday, February 25, and noon and 8 PM on Saturday, February 26. Tickets for Habit are $10 each day, and a package including gallery admission is available for $20. Members are admitted free to galleries and can receive 10% off performance tickets. Ticket-holders may come and go as they please during performance hours. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11AM to 5PM every day but Tuesdays.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA is an independent 501c(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy. Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and competitive program and operations grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA is privately funded: 90% of annual operating revenues are from earned revenues, membership support, and private gifts and grants.
Katherine Myers 413 664 4481 x8113 firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Thursday February 24 2011, between noon and 5 pm
87 Marshall Street, North Adams, Massachusetts
Hours: Play is performed on a continuous loop. You can come anytime between noon and 5 PM on Thursday, February 24 or Sunday, February 27, or between 2 and 8 PM on Friday, February 25 & Saturday, February 26
Admission: 10/20 USD with gallery admission