Amelia is one of those stupid people who believes art can save us.
The Secret Shows at the Painted Bride are a series that put the spotlight and focus on the artist, rather than the art. Every month until the summer of 2017, a new show is unveiled at the Painted Bride, but the audience coming to see them doesn’t know what it’ll be seeing – only who the artists are. All clocking in at about an hour long, the series aims to work with emerging artists on their marketing skills – how do you sell a show when all the audience knows about is you? In purely Philadelphia-like fashion, the artist becomes the primary entry point for the art, as opposed to convention, which uses the art as a window into the artist.
The danger with this, as I discovered at The Tuesday Boys Experience, is that if you don’t really know who the artist is (and I mean really know who they are as people, not just artists), you end up being on the outside of a very funny joke. I didn’t do my homework for The Tuesday Boys – I didn’t look them up or look at how the Painted Bride was marketing them. Instead I came to the show on Monday night looking forward to being thrust into an experience that emphasized – and welcomed my participation in it as a complete outsider. But instead, I just felt left out.
So, the show: The Tuesday Boys Experience wasn’t really a theatrical piece as much as it was an immersive, multi-media music show with theatricality placed on top. The two titular characters wear happy masks as they sing a “psychadelic ride through mid-level mundanity” – an hour long music explosion about Toni and Tabby Tuesday, who love going to work at a data-processing-type-nine-to-five office job. Their day is narrated and accented at times by a soulless, deadpanned employee named Doug, whose heavy lids and thick glasses remain immovable throughout the entire show. The most hilarious part of The Tuesday Boys Experience is Doug’s stony face as he updated us on Toni and Tabby in a thick Pennsylvania accent, or danced miserably behind them.
Keeping in mind that my background is theater and performance, not music, I will say that The Tuesday Boys music was fun and silly. The most dramatic moments of their show is actually when a virus has taken over Toni and Tabby’s computer, and the office world spins completely out of control both musically and visually. Lots of lights, lots of color, lots of slow, emphatic imagery. But other than that, there’s not a lot to critique about The Tuesday Boys Experience because the experience wasn’t taking itself seriously enough for me to really dive deeply into supposed “messaging.” Despite dripping with ironic irreverence about the joys and pleasures of “boss check-ins” or “hour-long commutes” or “the melodic hums of printers and fax machines,” there was nothing more substantial being said or even questioned. But it feels ridiculous to demand that out of the work – The Tuesday Boys Experience didn’t really want to say anything, it just wanted to laugh.
But unfortunately, sometimes I just couldn’t find it funny. Maybe it was because a lot of their jokes relied on some pretty cheap observations of life and people (their pseudo “kung fu” choreography about the zen of data entry is one such example). Or maybe it was because so much of their humor hinged upon a larger understanding of who these guys are and why it was so hilarious for them to be in suits. What I am discovering about this idea that the doorway to the art is actually through artist, is that unless the artist puts in the work to bring strangers through the door, I, the Jane Doe on the other side, will be scrambling to find the handle. So that was my biggest take away from The Tuesday Boys: I would have enjoyed myself so much more if I were best buds with these three artists, but because I wasn’t, all I had left to watch was a psychedelic electronic music light show making fun of office life. Not necessarily my jam, but it certainly could be somebody else’s.