During the rehearsals of Glamour, when the strip joint got unbearably boring after hours upon hours, I took a walk along Broadway, into what then was the West Coast hardcore punk center, the Mabuhay Gardens or the “Fab Mab”. Since I did not have anything else to do, I asked the gruff manager if I could do my next production at his club. To my surprise, Dirk Dirksen was a visionary who, instead of seeing a crip asking for a hand-out, saw me somehow as a misfit artist perfect for his new wave cabaret. Dirk gave me a sheltered theater for six years, with complete artistic freedom and moral support. The first production was a raping of a high-brow comedy, Meb, which I turned into a multi-media farce, full of camp, nudity, sex, violence and rock’n’roll. The straight playwright walked out in horror, the club owner wanted us out, and only a handful of people came. But Dirk wanted to extend the run. He loved it.
Frank had a slideshow projected onto the back wall of the stage while segments of the play were happening that featured the “war hero”. We did a photo shoot for this slideshow at Tilden Park where the “war hero” was fighting Linda, “the babe.” Here are some of the photos from that shoot and the poster (all by Ken Jennings):
After a second parade had gotten out of hand and turned into dulling sleaze, I organized an indoor multi-media carnival in a large San Francisco warehouse, The Farm, where adults could play like kids in a safe environment. Providing adult playgrounds is one of the basic goals of my work. Since I think playing is a safe, mind-altering drug, I called my carnival The Erotic Test after The Acid Test of the Merry Pranksters.
Public performances naturally evolved from what was created from the workshop. The first major public piece was a fantasy costume parade through Berkeley, flaunting brightly painted skin and see-through costumes of net and lace. The parade ended up with a free punk concert in the park. I have talked about how my art is not made of separate public pieces but is an evolving monster. For example, in this parade, an inner character of one of the cast members, Diane Hall, emerged (photo below). This character was a middle-aged, middle-America-on-acid, fast nonsense talking, dizzy dame in a skin-tight Frederick’s of Hollywood gown, long fake eye lashed, and a two-foot beehive bleached blonde wig with blinking Christmas lights. This creature grabbed the mike away from the hippie M.C. Wavy Gravy, and started hosting the concert. A year later, when I needed a bridge between a wacky stage show and the audience, I brought back this Woolworth babe.
This “note” was written by Frank in October 1993 after the October 9 “Passion Quest” performance at Passion Flower in Oakland. The March 19, 1994, “Passion Quest 2,” also at Passion Flower, incorporates the changes Frank talks about in this note. The scripts for both performances are available to download below under each poster.
Here is Frank’s note:
Yesterday I rewrote sections of the all-night ritual…partly in response to the increasing anti-sex environment of our culture (I wanted to make it clearer that the work is NOT anti-sexual)…and partly (mainly) following the desire of the ritual itself to go into different, “deeper” physical trance states. (“Deeper” is a misleading term because of its vertical linearity.)
These are some of the new sections:
“WE ARE GOING ON A NONLINEAR JOURNEY, A TRANCE JOURNEY, A JOURNEY BEYOND TIME AND TABOO, A JOURNEY OF PLAY, A JOURNEY TO LILA. FOR THIS JOURNEY, I NEED HEROS WHO ARE WILLING TO GO INTO THE TABOO AREAS OF EROPLAY, WILLING TO PUSH BEYOND WHERE IT IS COMFORTABLE AND SAFE TO EXPLORE AND BUILD A LARGER ZONE OF SAFENESS. ONE ADVANTAGE OF WORKING IN A SMALL ENCLOSED SPACE IS IT FOCUSES THE ENERGY, BUILDING UP PRIMAL FORCES. ALSO, BY HAVING OUR PLAYING EXIST WITHIN THE SACRED CIRCLE OF RITUAL, OUR PLAYING CAN BE DONE OUTSIDE THE CONTEXT OF TABOOS, WITHOUT BEING INFLUENCED BY JUDGMENTS OF THE AUDIENCE. SO THE PLAY, WITHIN THE EROPLAY RITUALS, CAN BE INTENSE, VULNERABLE, AND MAGICAL WITHOUT ANYTHING SEXUAL ABOUT IT. THIS ENERGY THEN WILL BE LEAKED OUT FROM THE ENCLOSED SPACE INTO THE OPEN PERFORMANCE SPACE, BECOMING THE MOST POWERFUL THING HAPPENING IN THAT PLACE. USING THE MAGICAL STATE RELEASED BY OUR PLAYING, THE DUEL-BODIED ROCKING JOYOUS FIGURE OF LILA WILL CARRY US IN A TRANCE, THROUGH SEX, TO WHAT IS BEYOND…TO THE REALM OF ALL-POSSIBILITIES.”
“EROPLAY AND WHAT IS USUALLY CALLED “SEX” ARE BUT TWO OF MANY WAYS TO RELEASE AND CHANNEL THE ENERGY OF PHYSICAL PLAY. IN THE WESTERN CULTURE, THESE MANY WAYS HAVE BEEN HIDDEN FROM US WITHIN SEX. EROPLAYING WILL LEAD US TO DISCOVERING THESE MANY OTHER WAYS. EROPLAY IS NOT ANTI-SEXUAL ANYMORE THAN WALKING IS ANTI-SWIMMING.”
During the years I was exploring just eroplay trance in my work, I found that people in their head would pull themselves out of the playing when the play reached a certain intensity. What was happening was they were stepping out of the play to check if the play had turned from eroplay into sexual. Most of the time, this stepping back and checking was not from mistrust or not wanting to play, but from a carefulness and a confusion. But what the stepping back does is remove the person from the experiencing (playing) mode into the thinking/observing mode. This creates the jerkiness which is not pleasurable. This greatly limits the playing/experiencing, greatly increasing the confusion factor. It took me several years to come up with a way around this dynamic. I finally started asking people before they committed to the work if they would be willing to use sex in the work. This willingness bypassed a lot of pulling back, jerkiness, confusion, carefulness…and the whole sexual question…allowing the person to experience the play with the intensity unlimited. The play remained eroplay. The reasons that the play needed to remain eroplay rather than sexual in the work were practical rather than moral.
When the work turned to exploring, mapping, other physical trances “closer” to “sexual”, the need for this willingness grew for practical reasons.
The eroplay rituals will stay about the same, with only a slight widening of the frame. The real change will be in the WRAPPING/ROCKING ritual in that the rocking couple will have a wider “keyboard” of gestures, including “sexual” (really sursexual or tansexual). This new range of possibilities will effect the ritual…even on the nights when the couple (really the trance) happen not to “use” the “sexual” gestures.
During the WRAPPING/ROCKING ritual, the “audience” sit and watch and are wrapped together by nude body-painted dancers. The physical focus, the physical trance generator, is the rocking couple who are using the wider keyboard. The rocking couple are a female cast member (Linda in recent performances) and me. I’m not sure the audience will be aware of the widening…but they will be effected by it. The eroplay rituals in which the “audience” physically participate more remain the same.