Monday night’s performance of Pamela Z was a part of Spoleto Festival USA’s contemporary “Music in Time” series; while Z’s live layering of voice and sound was certainly contemporary, the performance was also polarizing.
Among the evidence: the juxtaposition of emphatic claps and hurried steps out of the auditorium after each of the first few pieces. By the fourth song, at least 10 attendees had become former attendees, and my vantage point from several rows up allowed me to see that countless others were putting on their coats, nudging their companions or leaning over for some combination of permission and affirmation that they weren’t alone in their confusion.
But scattered throughout the sea of flight risks in Memminger Auditorium that evening were several devoted fans. The two who caught my eye were both male, probably mid-to-late 30s, sitting alone. They closed their eyes and swayed to the intricately layered pieces that many others seemed to perceive as chaotic and loud. When the pieces ended, they, too, took to their feet, but only to clap with their arms high enough so that Z could see.
Midway through the performance, the two worlds collided somewhere around row D. One of the older wannabe escapees must have nudged a little too loudly for the devoted Z-ite sitting directly behind him. Displeased with the disturbance, the fan leaned forward and shushed the man so loudly that no leaning in was really necessary.
In response to the chiding, the already-irritated man turned around and proposed, rather rudely, that the young and impassioned art-lover might please shut up. (We were in the middle of a performance, after all.)
But the Z-ite was not prepared to be silenced. He reached right over the man, placed his hand squarely in front of his face, and asked if he could see the middle finger he was displaying just for him. (He was apparently concerned about both his vision and his hearing. Perhaps Pamela Z appreciation is an age thing.)
I have the distinct feeling I missed out on some really interested after-show conversations. I did manage to catch up with a group of four older attendees as they were walking down Beaufain Street after the show.
“Going to that show was my idea,” one of the two women in the group said to me when I asked what she thought, “and as soon as she started smacking that water bottle, I knew they wouldn’t let me live it down.”
In response, one of the two men with her began repeating “I was breathing” in a monotone voice, mocking Z’s piece of the same name.
“They ought to warn people,” the woman added, shaking her head.
“Really! What was that?” the second woman asked, “I could have done that myself!”
“When you’re spending $25 on a ticket, you should know what you’re getting into,” the first woman said as the group turned up St. Philip Street.
The second man, who walked several paces ahead with his hands in his pockets, had been silent up to this point, then made his allegiance known with a quiet closing remark: “Even free would have been too much.”
Melanie Deziel is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.