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Evaluate: I went to the theater for the primary time in 14 months. UCLA’s ‘Encounter’ is what I wanted

Transitions, as a sensible psychotherapist would normally remind me in my impetuous 30s, are crucial. Racing from one exercise to the following will not be solely exhausting but in addition inefficient. Winding up requires winding down, whether or not it’s switching between elements of the day or phases of life.

These ideas occurred to me as I did one thing Sunday for the primary time in additional than 14 months: I went to the theater. The event was “A Thousand Methods (Half Two): An Encounter,” the second providing in a trilogy by the experimental theater troupe 600 Highwaymen that’s being offered by UCLA’s Heart for the Artwork of Efficiency.

The primary installment, “A Telephone Name,” passed off in December by phone. Two strangers had been paired for a quasi-conversation, guided by the automated prompts of what appeared like Siri’s great-grandmother.

The COVID-19 pandemic was uncontrolled in California, stress was at a boiling level, and I discovered answering private questions on the command of some creaky know-how deeply disturbing. Hadn’t Mark Zuckerberg already extracted sufficient out of me?

I wasn’t positive what to anticipate in “An Encounter,” besides that I knew I needed to placed on pants and sneakers, get in my automobile, pay UCLA’s exorbitant parking payment, stroll from Parking Lot 5 to Royce Corridor, safe my masks, communicate to the check-in individual and wait directions. This gauntlet felt nearly insurmountable for somebody whose exterior world has shrunk to the grocery store and the tennis court docket. However, summoning a little bit Hillary Clinton power, I persevered.

I’ve taken each precaution towards COVID-19, but it surely wasn’t publicity I used to be frightened about. I’m totally vaccinated and I trusted the protection measures that had been scrupulously labored out. No, what I felt appeared akin to the strain an astronaut should really feel contained in the cabin of a spaceship because it reenters Earth’s ambiance.

Maybe my response was a contact exaggerated by figuring out that I’d be seeing the present with just one different individual. And that, much like “A Telephone Name,” this different spectator and I’d primarily be the act. I wasn’t simply going to a efficiency. I needed to carry out myself!

Viewers members are scheduled over three Sundays into hour-long blocks. I opted for a midmorning slot on the primary weekend — a time extra widespread for church than theater, however most agreeable to at least one with my holy secular temperament. I want venues could be much less locked into the 8 p.m. postprandial behavior going ahead. It was a pleasant change to expertise a efficiency with morning alertness.

Seated within the empty, huge auditorium at reverse ends of a desk and separated by a pane of plexiglass, an ideal stranger and I had been instructed on methods to proceed by a big deck of notecards with arrows indicating whose flip it was. A younger girl with a kindly demeanor was my interlocutor and scene companion.

Two hands hold an index card with instructions for how to imagine a stranger sitting opposite you in "An Encounter."

Index playing cards substitute for a script in “An Encounter,” suggesting how individuals might think about the strangers sitting on the alternative aspect of the plexiglass.

(Every part Time)

We had been requested to breathe. Questions on our lives adopted. Had I ever slept with a weapon? (No!) When did I final expertise pleasure? (Hitting a profitable backhand up the road the day earlier than.) Had I had surgical procedure? (Sure.)

We had been requested to think about situations involving the opposite individual, caught within the rain, mingling at a celebration, being greeted by a cherished one. We had been urged to examine one another’s mother and father and to think about what is likely to be the opposite individual’s particular present and delight.

The playing cards requested us to clench our fists slowly after which unfurl them on the similar tempo. We had been to image the opposite individual holding a hammer, then a chicken. Collectively, we had been advised to press our palms towards the plexiglass, to make a field, the letter “S,” a bowl. Spatially clumsy, I adopted the lead of my extra sleek costar.

This trade didn’t really feel intrusive the way in which “A Telephone Name” did. Sure, we had been responding to nameless prompts, however we had been wanting, respectfully and diffidently, at a fellow human being.

“An Encounter” typically seems like a kind of psychological experiments on college campuses that recruit college students with a Starbucks present card. However the piece appears finally designed for a therapeutic goal: to get to us to see the malleability of the narratives we challenge onto one another.

Our tales change when our imaginations are inspired to humanize slightly than to generalize. Visible cues grow to be extra significant when endowed with empathy. “An Encounter” invitations us to take part in our shared vulnerability.

A view from the Royce Hall stage, with a pair of tables and chairs in the foreground and empty seats in the distance.

The stage is about for “An Encounter” inside Royce Corridor at UCLA.

(Every part Time)

Half Three of “A Thousand Methods” will deliver us collectively as a gaggle, at a time when it’s secure to collect once more. Half Two is the transitional step that I badly wanted however would usually deny myself.

I thanked my companion once I noticed her exterior, saying that I used to be glad to have finished this experiment along with her. After which we parted into our separate lives, touched by the presence of a stranger.

And isn’t that, I mirrored whereas driving dwelling, the final word goal of theater?

‘A Thousand Methods (Half Two): An Encounter’

The place: A CAP UCLA presentation at Royce Corridor, 340 Royce Drive, Los Angeles

When: Numerous instances Sundays via Might 16

Tickets: $25 (following RSVP)

Data: cap.ucla.edu/rsvp/281

Working time: About 1 hour


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