The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

One-Man Show Talks Politics

Actor Tim Miller brought his one-man show Glory Box to Reed’s main stage theater on October 11th. One man and a box, really. When the only prop on the stage is a basic wooden chest, it stands to reason that the use of the prop would be very important. But it mostly just sat there. He mimed all of his other props, from Twinkies to lovers and even that minimal representation was unnecessary. The major problem of the show was that the message was given far more value than the art, so the art became a distraction.

The discrepancy between rights for heterosexuals versus all other options for sexual orientation is a problem presented in many formats. Everyone not dwelling in a cave has seen a poster, voted on a ballot measure, or read something about the controversy. It is a rare experience, however, to see a presentation about gay rights deeply addressing someone’s personal reality and not generalizations or brief anecdotes about the injustice in most of the USA. Miller relayed stories from his 17 years of emotional marriage to an Australian man who still doesn’t have the right to live in the United States. His frustration took over the story, showing again and again the cruelty of anything but complete equality of rights. The only problem was that the interesting, well-chosen examples of discrimination were occasionally muddled by the presentation. Sometimes it was necessary to wade through theatricality to find the emotional backing.

To hear many sides of the same person’s problem is exactly what is missing from most information about gay rights. But this wasn’t just informative; Miller’s performance was marketed as artistic. By presenting his very reasonable and immediate concerns as art, he had to mangle them just a little bit. A conversation would have been more moving, but this came off as bit exhibitionist. This is natural in theater; it’s just strange in politics. The one boon of theatricality was the lighting. It allowed him to travel between story threads without reintroducing the context. The timing was also very impressive. Miller even took a moment of his show to comment on how magical a certain light shift was. On that note, the regular shattering of the fourth wall was much more effective in Glory Box than in shows with multiple characters.

The audience was very receptive, probably because few people had to be convinced of anything. Miller’s suggestion to indiscriminately arm lesbians was met with veritable whoops. But most of his groundbreaking scandalousness which cost him a federal grant a few years back was rather tame by Reed standards.

August Wissmath ’15 was encouraged by the potential to use theatre to advance political motives, but said that he was “jarred by the use of the gay stereotype to tell the story.” Zak Garriss ’15 proposed that “the most interesting thing to me about Tim Miller’s performance didn’t actually take place during the show,” and that instead the piece realized its potential when “the art was done and the artist and the audience began to exchange ideas” during the Q&A afterwards. Garriss suggested that he really “used theater as a starting point for conversation and meditation about the issues important to him.”

It is a good starting point. Miller relayed his points and no one was bored. Maybe sitting in lecture halls for too long just makes one want everything to be so direct and unassuming.  The unquestionable aspects of his show were his personal understanding of the issues (with the notable exception of gun control), his passion for his work, and his total charm. The charismatic production was worth the time for Miller’s unique perspective, even if one already believed all of his conclusions.

Printed: 10/27/2011

 

 

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