Amanda Nicholls of “Keen” interviews Jordan Tannahill of
THE ART OF CATCHING PIGEONS BY TORCHLIGHT.
1. How many arms and legs does the Suburban Beast have? If any are lost/severed, do they grow back?
My father told me two nights ago (apropos of what, I cannot remember) that you can split a tapeworm’s head dozens of times and they will all continue to operate independently.
So, with that in mind, the various limbs of Suburban Beast at the moment:
– Nathan Schwartz and I, along with our ‘fraternity’, are creating a new, completely immersive, 12-hour re-envisioning of our balls-to-the-wall frat extravaganza-cum-exposé Takes Two Men to Make a Brother at The Theatre Centre for Nuit Blanche. 4 real frat houses will each host a different three hour segment of the night.
– The Parlour, a new dinner party-cum-performance laboratory we’re launching, will be inviting five exciting artists to challenge themselves and Toronto this fall.
– And generally, Rebecca Powell (General Manager) and I will just continue developing some ridiculous/obscene/ball-busting shows this winter/spring for want of anything better to do.
2. What is the definition of the Suburban Beast/ how does is interact in this world?
You know Plato’s Cave Analogy where the men are chained to the wall with a fire behind them and they believe the world to be their own shadows? Well I think that’s where the Suburban Beast would live: in the shadows of Plato’s cave. It’s bite numbs and it offers us illusions as opposed to the fire itself, the cave itself, and what lies beyond the cave’s mouth. It would have us not question the shadows or their origin. And I guess we’re trying to slay the Beast one performance at a time.
Actually in this Platonic vein, there was once the concept of ‘memetic’ and ‘methexis’ modes of representation; the former being, say, a painting of a chair and the later being the chair itself. I would consider what we’re doing to be Methexis Theatre… A play is a chair. I guess we make plays you can sit on (or, in the case of our blanket fort, in).
3. Is catching pigeons by torchlight really an art or simply a necessity? Discuss.
4. What is the history of this event of capturing pigeons? How did it first emerge and what is the meaning behind it?
I will answer these two together.
There are reports that on several estates in the Carolinas, African slaves, after grueling fifteen and sixteen hour days of work, would be given an hour at night to wander the forests on the property with torches to hunt wild pigeons. Whatever birds they caught they could keep for their own and eat. So, to answer your first question, I would say it is the art of necessity.
5. What was your inspiration/motivation for creating this piece?
My best friend has begun working as a high school janitor full-time. He’s quite cerebral so initially I was a little perplexed. I’ve come to understand that he loves the peace and quiet, especially given the fact he works the night shift. Visiting him, he would bring me to all of these hidden nooks and crannies throughout the school that I think most students would never know about… onto the roof, into the boiler room. So I guess this piece is an ode to him.
6. What other animals have you tried to catch by torchlight?
My first boyfriend.
7. What materials would one use in order to start a good and long-lasting torchlight?
One sinning heathen, a mock trial, centuries of religious intolerance, and a whole lot of wood. According to Carl Theodor Dryer, the light should last about ten to twelve minutes.
8. What would be the most appropriate type of sleepwear to wear for a slumber party séance?
Ideally one of those old, oversized white t-shirts that you never wear (or that you never let anyone else see you wear) with, like, a digital camera photograph of your cat or your family reunion of ‘94 on it.
9. Pigeons are the rodents of the avian world. Discuss for this argument.
Yeah I guess you’re right about that. I can’t help thinking though that, with slightly different coloring, they would be doves. And released at weddings and such.
10. What inspires or interests you about the animal world and hunting?
Well I suppose, like theatre, the animal world is the only other place where you can lick your own genitals and not feel out of place. And licking your genitals in the animal world is a very economic and organic action which serves a critical purpose; which, in my mind, describes the most effective on-stage choices. And I suppose like hunting, or being actually out in the wild as opposed to sitting on your couch and watching Animal Planet, theatre (or at least the kind we’re attempting to create) is also one of the few creative experiences you can have where you fear you might actually get seriously hurt, die, reach apotheosis, or somehow be forever, irreversibly alerted by the experience. Personally, I’m repelled by sport hunting – but after working on a show about frat culture, I’ve discovered that repulsion too can be a fascinating emotional state to plumb.