As Captain America says in the under-appreciated Age of Ultron, “We have an enhanced in the field.” Not just the field, Cap. Everywhere you look these days Superheroes are flying or speeding or stretching by—in our films, in our art, in our zeitgeist.
Long-time inventive and experimental collaborators George McConnell and Samantha Johns tap into the enhanced hysteria for their new production at the Southern Theater, SUPERHERO. And before the masked people take the stage for their performance, we checked in with McConnell for a Quick Q+A on the show, the trends, narrative styles, our own titanic fetishes, and more.
Secrets of the City: Why superheroes? Is this your attempt to get a little bite of that huge $$$$ from the movies?
George McConnell: I’m not exactly sure why superheroes or that I care to know for certain. I think that the work Sam and I make opens up questions more than it provides answers. I think there is something in the popular imagination right now that seems fixated on superheroes. That’s why the movies are raking in that huge $$$$ , and it’s not just fan boys going to see these movies. I think I am really fascinated by the idea of life being fascinating, mysterious and weird as it is. And then to think it could get even weirder, more extra-ordinary if people had super powers. I know I would like to fly.
And yeah, we wanted to try and draw people in for some of that $$$$. I also just think the masks that some of the superheroes wear are super cool. The Spiderman mask, for example . . . it’s weird. Why is there webbing on the face? Spiders don’t have webs on their faces. But it does look so visually pleasing. It’s so well designed. The eyeholes are really nice shapes. My eye likes to linger on them.
We of course know what a “non-narrative image” is like, but for some of our readers who aren’t as, you know, obviously in the know as we are, what is that supposed to be? For our readers.
For your readers, a non-narrative image is an image that isn’t concerned with telling a story. So for painting, you could think of a Jackson Pollock painting. He was interested in the actual paint on the canvas and the process of painting. Not that in the end there should be an image that tells a story, or represents a certain pre-existing visual reality. We deal with a similar idea in the theatrical space. There are bodies moving in space. There are gestures and compositions that might seem to tell pieces of a story. But back to the idea that we want to open up a space to ask questions with the work, we don’t fill in the complete image to add up to a story. So we don’t have paint splattered on a canvas, but we do have bodies moving through space in a way that doesn’t quite add up.
We’re seeing a resurgence of updated takes on the Greek chorus format. You have a Ph.D. in Theatre Historiography and specialization in Contemporary Performance Practices, why do you think that is?
I think there is something in the social imagination that is craving an actual democracy. I think artists sense this, and so there is a resurgence of staging the multitude. What we share in common is difference. And in the idea of a Greek chorus, somehow by trying to have some uniformity, you can actually see the idiosyncrasies of the individuals that make up that whole.
Did you see Infinity War? If yes, were you slightly turned on by Thanos who was kind of sexy and badass?
I have seen Infinity War 3 times so far. I expect I’ll see it a few more. I want to say that I was turned on slightly by Thanos, because he was kind of sexy and for sure badass..but I would be lying. I feel like I’m letting you down. But I want to keep it honest here. I wasn’t turned on by the purple mad titan.
You and Samantha Johns have a “spectacularly intimate” working relationship, even though you don’t like in MPLS + STPL anymore. How does that work? Is your superpower long-range telepathy.
Sam and I work together even when we aren’t working together. Which I guess is a sort of long-range telepathy. By that I mean that in our different geographical locations we each have an individual practice that isn’t our full collaborative practice. However, Sam often consults with me and I with her when we aren’t directly working together. We talk regularly on the phone, she has made me start to facetime. I find myself thinking through her when I make work and I think she will sometimes think hers through me. Like, “What would Sam do here?” Additionally, whenever I live somewhere other than Minnesota, Sam has come to make work with me wherever I am. This is actually the first time I’m back here in MPLS+STPL to make a new show with her since SNOWFUCK in June of 2012. But since then we have made a few shows in Tallahassee, one in Chicago, and one in Tucson where I have been living the last 2 years. I think our strongest superpower is patience. We offer each other a great deal of patience. I know that’s not as sexy as a purple titan, but patience is our superpower.
Tickets are available to SUPERHERO, which runs July 13-21st at The Southern Theater. Tickets + INFO.
Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave S, MPLS; southerntheater.org