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Wednesday, July 18, 10 p.m. Thursday, July 19, 10 p.m. Friday, July 20, 10 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, 10 p.m. Thursday, July 26, 10 p.m. Friday, July 27, 10 p.m.
They say: “Presented live over the Net from Randall Packer’s underground studio bunker in Washington, DC. With a provocative lineup of savvy media types, the show promises to push the limits of late night talk into the surreal and the bizarre.”
Brett’s Take: So that happened.
This must be the year of coloring-way-outside-the-lines of theatre at Fringe, what with The Cloudism Project, BFF, The Circle, and now The Post Reality Show: Talk Media!, which doesn’t actually seem to really have anything to do with the festival.
Broadcast live from an underground studio “a little down the street from Dick Cheney’s bunker” in D.C., and free to tune into via the Fringe ticketing website or the site listed under “Venue” above, The Post Reality Show is a cross between a webcast talk show and student film. Each hourlong episode, hosted by one Randall Packer, will feature a mix of interviews with artists and thinkers, overlaid and intercut with odd avant-garde music and art-school camera effects and bits of performance-art footage. There’s clearly enough planning ahead to have interviewees lined up, titles for future episodes already set (“Inhabit Facebook,” “Seduction,” “Fabricated Reality”), and footage ready, and a detailed script is visible in front of Packer, but the presentation suggests it’s the real deal, live (with a 15-second delay). Especially because there’s an integrated chat function.
Packer is—-says his Wikipedia page—-a performance artist and provocateur known for, among other things, founding an almost-convincing fake “U.S. Department of Art and Technology” complete with a ‘shopped photo of the man with George W. Bush. Packer spends the first ten minutes of the debut episode, “Desert Return,” expounding to us about how much of an unprecedented and challenging act the show is, a bold step into the “post-reality”—-a term which he never explains. (Although one chatter, a “Tizon Brenes,” later on weighs in with “Bourgeois audiences are so…pre-reality. Welcome to post-reality!”)
Packer goes on to demonstrate the multimedia capabilities of his studio, shows us his wife sitting off to the side moderating the chatroom via laptop, and insists that he has to do this underground because what the show is doing is illegal. (Who knows why – the only thing illegal on hand turns out to be a bottle of Cuban rum.)
As a web/radio host, he’s amiable and ingratiating, and reminds me of James Lipton in his professorial earnestness and that movie Waking Life in his abstracted, meandering subject matter. And to give a hint as to his political bent (as if you couldn’t guess), he plays scrambled Fox news broadcasts in the background, because Fox “is the old media, and we are the new media,” here to “put an end to the establishment media” and “give a voice to the artist.”
The rest of the debut episode concerns…the desert. Artists Eve Andree Laramee and Charles Lane (and Lane’s post-deceased alter ego the Mysterious Orf) talk about pieces they’ve done in and about the desert. Some of what they talk about is interesting – Laramee muses on how, as a culture, we think of the desert as empty space, despite its abundance of life, and that’s why we do nuclear testing there – but a lot of it is, to be frank, hard to stay engaged with for being sooo abstract and inner-spacey.
Now the question is, is this entirely serious? Either answer is believable; this could be a parody of paranoid technofrazzled hyperliberal types, or it could be the real thing. I get the impression that Packer (or “Packer,” or chatter Tizon Brenes) might scoff at me for being bourgie or intellectually lazy for finding the show to be little more than an insular high-art-world roundtable. I also get the impression that Packer has latched onto Fringe just as a handy way of promoting his experiment, although on his website he praises the Fringe as a “revolutionary” front against “the established theater world.” Ultimately, however, the questions of its legitimacy, purpose and relation to this “post-reality” idea are immaterial; since either way it still operates as a talk show (albeit one spliced with audiovisual experiments), the quality of future episodes will depend entirely on what each night’s guests talk about.
See It If: You’re somewhere with Internet access from 10 to 11pm and have nothing better to do, or have some friends around and want to invent a new drinking game. (“White noise! Drink!”)
Skip It If: The idea of watching slow-motion footage of a guy making a Christ pose at the edge of Death Valley, or walking through Arlington Cemetery with the sky greenscreened over with TV news logos, doesn’t exactly thrill you.