I went to Portland Maine for the first time ever to visit my good friend Jefferson Navicky and do a reading with my other good friend Ben Hersey. Portland was beautiful and got 15 inches of snow the night before I got there.
Ben and I both did some performance pieces. Ben is this amazing juggler of human emotion, comedy and contortionism. He did these monologues that incorporated the voice of his mothers ex-boyfriend who was slowly becoming mentally ill and leaving very long voicemail messages on his mother’s cell phone a few years back. Ben listened and transcribed most of the messages and now does these mind bending performances incorporating this guys voice. On top of it, he does things like eat garlic and doughnuts at a table, blinds him self with a desk lamp and caries an old air conditioner over his shoulder. It knocks me out every time I see Ben perform. I get a special look at his work because I get to tare his brain apart before and after. The way Ben choices props is utterly amazing. He drove up to Maine in an old Honda Accord filled with a huge mirror, a fold up table, an old air conditioner and about five CD players and tape recorders. When he arrived, Jefferson and I met him at a coffee shop; we asked him if he needed to get any supplies before the performance. He said he needed garlic, but a doughnut would do. How does someone’s mind work like that? How does one become so confident?
Something else that amazes me about Ben and his props is that he brought this gigantic mirror all the way from Northampton just to use it for about thirty seconds. At one point in his monologues he took the mirror and pressed up against one side of his head and then pressed a lighted desk lamp to the other. The effect was amazing - I caught it on camera and it was so bright it blinded the camera making Ben’s head – that was caught in the middle – look like a big beaming ball of fire. After under a minute, Ben put the mirror down and that was it for the mirror for the rest of the show. The prop served its purpose and was set aside – all that work for thirty seconds.
Later I asked Ben about the old air conditioner he used during the piece, carrying it over his shoulder and walking around the audience with it. I figured it has some kind of narrative tactic he used, like that his stepfather fixed air conditioners or something - but Ben just told me he was always intrigued by air conditioners as objects, their mass and shape - that was, that was all he said and I've never been so satisfied with an answer in my life.