Category Archives: Performance and Review

VIDEO: A Bear in a Cage reading for 2nd Story

Hey all-

Here’s the video for my 2nd Story reading of “A Bear in a Cage”- a bit late to the party, but here nonetheless. Such is my life right now.

It’s long, about 15 minutes, but worth a sit down. It was amazing to perform it at City Winery- lovely crowd, and so very receptive. Grateful for everyone who came out that night.

xx alyssa

Upcoming reading: 2nd Story “No Fool: Stories of Risk and Strategy” April 1st

Hey all-

I’m fortunate to be reading again with the good folks of 2nd story on April 1st at City Winery. You can buy tickets here.

Even though it’s April Fool’s, our stories are anything but foolish. Here’s an excerpt from mine, “The Bear in the Cage”:

Melissa quickly walked over, but nobody hugged anyone. She immediately asked me, “Have they found her? What’s been going on?” questions I avoided as I grabbed her suitcase. The whites of her eyes shined like a person in a cage with a wild bear. I averted my eyes, so afraid I would say something and ruin the surprise. Like it was a birthday party or something instead of this awful news. My mom jumped in and put her arm around Melissa’s shoulders—No, honey, they haven’t found her yet. You just come with us. Everything will be ok. Don’t worry, everything will be ok. We walked out to the car. I carried the suitcase, trailing behind them.

I took the driver’s seat, grateful to have the distraction. Melissa sat in the front passenger seat while my mom sat in the back. I gripped the steering wheel and entered the ramp onto 90 going west. Our hometown of Bartlett was about 45 minutes away.

Melissa gestured to the sky through the windshield, “I don’t get it. I know she went missing before, but we found her, ” she said. There was this buzzing energy about her that made me nauseous, like there were landmines beneath her skin.

 “I just talked to her earlier in the week. She seemed fine.  We talked about how she was getting her hair done on Friday,” Melissa turned to me, “What do you think, Alyssa? Do you think she’s ok?”

 “I…” my shoulders weakly shrugged, my jaw tensed, my head locked straight ahead. “uh…” Don’t look at her. DO NOT FUCKING LOOK AT HER.  “I don’t know.” There was a vice grip on my throat that made the words sound strange and strangled. She knew me better than anyone. Had she started to put it together?

– alyssa xx

My 2nd Story Podcast is UP!

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Hooray! My 2nd Story story, “Go On Back to Your Boyfriend” that I wrote and performed in January at Webster’s Wine Bar, is now available in official podcast form!

 

 

I’m so ridiculously excited about this, and listened to it on my commute home on Friday with a big, ridiculous smile on my face.

You can click here to listen to the podcast! It’s about 10 minutes, and can be listened to directly on the site, or downloaded for free on iTunes and Sticher. So do it already! I promise you will laugh at least once, especially if you’ve ever made out with a lesbian from the British Navy.

More on the horizon….cheers! xx

Performance Reading at 2nd Story! January 13th and 14th

Hurray! Performance time is almost here, a time of love, a time of fear. Just kidding! No real fear, though I’m sure I will be nervous for my very first reading as an ensemble member of 2nd Story, a fabulous organization collecting and curating performances of personal stories in Chicago. If you are in Chicago, and have a few hours to spend listening to well-written, compellingly performed stories of Starting Over, please come to our show on Sunday, January 13th or Monday, January 14th at 7p. Click here for tickets and more information.

And now for an excerpt from my story GO ON BACK TO YOUR BOYFRIEND    (or GOBTYB):

Naomi could tell I was brushing her off. She followed me downstairs to the coat check where she badgered me enough to get my number, and then quickly started dancing into the crowd. Completely put-off, I left the club without bothering to find my friends. I boarded the first leg of my 30-minute commute home to Stoke Newington, London’s answer to Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The train was jammed with sloppy drunk English people, all shameless before midnight. The white doors slid shut and I was pressed against very loud, smelly bodies. I made myself as small as possible so no one would notice me…or my type.

A few days later I was sitting on my bed when my phone pinged with a text message from Naomi, “I really enjoyed meeting you. You’re so beautiful. I’d love to take you out this weekend.”

I looked at the text and Naomi’s taunting refrain repeated in my mind: Go on back to your boyfriend. I thought about my decision to leave the US. Had I been overdramatic? Was this living in London thing really going to work, or was Naomi right? In the end, was I just going to go on back to my boyfriend?

Hope to see you there!

Inter/Review: Rough House Theater’s Murder Ballads:: a puppet play

Designed by Anna Felger

Orchestra Hall, Logan Square, around 8: in a small room plated over with white wall panelling reminiscent of old Chicago bar ceilings, I am being stared down by a wide-eyed man-puppet wearing a golden suit and red bowtie.  He looks surprised, yet poised, anticipating the scenes yet to unfold in the curtain box at his right. There is a morbid glow cast about his face, setting the tone for a night of sadistic tales of love, revenge and death, presented by Chicago’s burgeoning, adult puppetry company, Rough House Theater.

Mike Oleon, director of Rough House, steps onto the stage to kill the lights and animate his fellow MC.  The two dawdle for a few minutes in the dark, with only an awkwardly humorous exchange of hiccupping and shushing to be heard.  For the rest of the show, in between pieces, these two are a light, bawdy reprieve from an otherwise somber subject matter, with Oleon’s waxen companion interrupting his narration to insert pithy innuendos and pointed looks at the audience.

Mike and Mr. Friendly
photo: Daniel Hojnacki

Five separate ballads are presented and commandeered by 3 other puppeteers: Sarah Rush, Max Wirt (who also led musical arrangement) and first time Rough House performer, Maggie O’Keefe. The trio work deftly behind and around the small stage, animating puppets on sticks, strings, and 2 dimensional, stand-alone houses that are, when flipped over, adorned with severed heads and a sad, bloodied terrier.

Together, the four players provide the musical accompaniment for the Murder Ballads which is truly one of the most joyful parts of the show; not joyful in the “happy” sense of the word, but in that it’s the only word fit to describe the huge smile on my face while I listen to characters like Lottie, the serial killer of Millhaven, gleefully cackling over her victims all the way to the nuthouse.

After thoroughly enjoying a night of puppeted pageantry, I sat down with Oleon at Logan Square’s New Wave Café to talk about the creation of Murder Ballads, some early Rough House history and new projects on the horizon:

AS: I did a little bit of research on Murder Ballads and came across Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album. I didn’t know who they were, so I took a listen to them and Tom Waits, both of whom you cover in the show.  Can you talk about your process in choosing the music and the theme?

MO: Definitely.  There are a couple of murder ballads albums actually.  Johnny Cash, Tom Waits did them… so the play is like a trope to them, because there’s just so many.  It was really kind of overwhelming in picking some because they go on forever and ever.  The ones we chose to do were humans killing humans, but any song about an untimely death is technically a murder ballad. It fits the genre.  Yea, but I think Nick Cave was influential, and hearing just how well his arc went in that album made it seem like very good idea.

AS: And what was the initial impulse to do Murder Ballads? Was it a personal thing you were interested in?

MO: Yea, we just had a big list — we still have the list — of all the shows we’d ever want to do if the time is right. We needed something that was musical, that was portable, something cabaret style so that we could segment it if we had to, because we wanted to go on tour with it. Doing an hour long narrative wouldn’t be the easiest thing to take to festivals.  This way we can split them all up easily.  I guess one of the inspirations was somebody who was pretty close to me had a very close family member that was actually murdered. And so, I found it an uncomfortable conversation for me to first even talk about, it was, there were a million things that got in the way of it…

AS: You mean in the way of the creation of the show?

MO: No, about the actual murder that happened in their life.  It’s weird, I haven’t actually told anybody this before…but I think it was, it got me thinking of how…because it was such a painful topic for them to talk about, and such an uncomfortable topic for me to bring up, I was just trying to think of, how does one discuss this? How does one address it? So my answer to everything is puppets.  Let puppets do all the work. The murder ballads that we picked are generally condemning of murder, there’s maybe only one that doesn’t. If it were just actors performing these stories onstage, it would just get relentless and exhausting — but puppets have unlimited stamina. Though all of the pieces, even if they’re upbeat, are kind of downer murder ballads. We were thinking about hip-hop, but a lot of the hip-hop songs are incredibly misogynistic and violent and we don’t really want to glorify murder.  Maybe explore the thrill of it, as we do in “Millhaven”, but that one’s really over the top campy, and far more on the side of fiction.

AS: And especially adding a strong musical aspect lightens it so much,

MO: Yea, absolutely.

Unicorn Farts
photo: Daniel Hojnacki

AS: Having the rhyme and repetition of the chorus– you can sing along to this wonderfully gruesome thing you’re watching; especially at the end of Millhaven where the killer Lottie goes into the mental hospital. One of my favorite parts was while she was going mad, and all of a sudden seeing a unicorn cut-out propelled by the farts sail across the backdrop — just little things like that made it endearing to watch, and made you really like that character even though she was committing these heinous crimes. And when Lottie says, “I could have done so much more!”  you agree, like, “Yea, I know! It’s such a pity!”

MO: Yea in the full-length version of the song, she does do so much more.  Lottie turned into a real mass murderer.  She kills hundreds of people, drowns an entire school bus full of children–

AS: Lovely.

MO: — lights this entire slum on fire, causing riots.  The song takes forever.

AS: I thought it was quite a nice length to tell that story. And I really enjoyed Maggie, who played Lottie. She was fantastic.  I spoke to her afterward, and she said she had just auditioned, and this was her first show?

MO: Yea, it was. Maggie’s great, has a really can-do attitude.  She’s our tour manager now, which is such a relief.

AS: So you had Millhaven, which I totally enjoyed, but I have to say that I absolutely loved the Georgia Lee piece. It was gorgeous because it was extremely simple, and, when juxtaposed against pieces like Millhaven, balanced out the show so well.

MO: Good, thank you.

AS: Can you talk about the process of putting that one together?

MO: There were a lot of elements coming together.  I’d known for a while that I’d wanted to do essentially a stick, or a dirt and stick puppet ballet.  And initially I wanted to make her into a breakable puppet.  We started…we’d do a leap with her and then snap her spine, and you’d hear the stick crack and it was just a little too…it was disproportionately violent to the quiet, lyrical nature of the song.

In terms of choosing it as music, we were in the process of listening to tons and tons of songs. Georgia Lee was so stuck in my head for a while.  The song was really vague, and I thought, well, this is really neat, we can make it about whatever we want.  We realized a big problem in America is that if you look at the murder rates…there’s a lot of ways to interpret the numbers, but the easiest people to kill are women and black people. It’s a problem that society has, and whether the numbers even indicate that’s true or not, it tends to be the thing that we sing about, or what ends up getting sung about. We thought it was important to address it head on. So we made Georgia Lee.  And that song is just so…looking at my iTunes, you know how it’ll say the number of times that you’ve listened to a song? Within about a week or so, Georgia Lee had gone from 5 to 60. It’s just one of those things that is hard to get out of your head. Very sort of mysterious song, and really sad and catchy in it’s own odd way.

AS: It’s interesting that you bring up the murder rates and women being easier targets, because as I watched, I definitely had that thought, but at the same time, it wasn’t this kind of blaring “look at what’s happening in our world!” It’s just a very sad reminder to the audience, and isn’t this a sad story about this girl, and here we’re going to make it into beautiful art that you can always take with you. I enjoyed the piece quite a bit, especially the music.

So Max was responsible for the musical arrangement, but was it solely up to him, or was the process more ensemble driven?

Lottie, the serial killer of Millhaven
photo: Rough House

MO: Max’s job was largely to record the music, and I think the decisions of the sounds were largely me and him, or him going off in his own direction…probably shouldn’t write that down–

AS: (laughs)

MO: (laughs) He really likes synthy stuff so that’s why it’s more a synth score, except Georgia Lee, which was guitar.  He would handle musical recording.  Max also wrote the original music to the “The Coin Thief’s Lament” and music and lyrics to “Two Sisters” which is my personal favorite.

Sarah, the girl who played the moon, she was more in charge of the harmonies. A lot of it was just jamming with one another — it was definitely collaborative.

AS: Was it Sarah’s first time working with Rough House?

MO: No, Sarah played the Fish Princess in our first show, Ichthyodyssey.  She has a phenomenal voice, and she does a great job.  I think puppetry has a tendency to go so over the top that we like subtly. One of the things Sara does well is that she’s able to quietly express a lot of emotion and character. So we’re keeping her forever.

AS: Yea, both of the women had really lovely expressive voices. And Max added some fun quirky-ness to the mix.

MO: Max is phenomenal.  He mostly studies directing, but every time he acts — I always forget that he acts, and then when I see it, I’m reminded of how good he is. The character voices he comes up with are really great.  He’s certainly not a pretty or beautiful or technically trained singer, but he makes up for it a thousand times by how much pizzazz he puts behind his acting.

AS:  You and Max founded Rough House correct?

MO: Yes, Max and Shelly and I. Did you see one of the two shows where the dead girls were performing before the show?

AS: Yes.

From L to R: Sarah Rush, Maggie O'Keefe, Max Wirt perform "Georgia Lee"
photo: Rough House

MO: Shelly was one of those girls. We all went to UCLA together, and then moved out here, and wanted to have a live-in workspace.  So we moved into an apartment in Logan Square, and only after like a year did we started calling it “The Rough House”. But now we are just “Rough House”. It’s like “The Facebook” turning into “Facebook”.

AS: (laughs) I was going to say that a couple years ago I went to some show at this big house you were living in, and I was wondering if that was the original Rough House…

MO: Yea, it was this big, illegal performance arts space, and then a year later we moved out because we got flooded.  We lived in the basement where there was no light, and we were going a bit crazy.  There were definitely vermin problems. I had to kill five rats with just my hand– they’d get stuck in the glue trap and I’d just have to whack them with a hammer.  They should just have traps that just kill the thing…anyway nightmarish place ultimately.  Then when we wrote Ichthyodyssey, we weren’t actually going to be a puppet company, but when we went to The National Puppet Festival, we thought we might as well make The Rough House the name of what we do.

AS: Did you perform Ichthyodyssey…and is “Ichthy” spelled “I-C-K” ?

MO: Uh, “I-C-H-T-H-Y”. (laughs)

AS: (laughs)

MO: One of the good lessons of that show was to pick names that people can pronounce and understand and spell.

AS: (laughs) I don’t feel so bad then. So you brought this show to the National Puppet Festival?

MO: Yea, it was in Georgia and it was a lot of fun.

AS: And it was a puppet show.

MO: It was a puppet rock opera.

AS: And what year was it?

MO: 2010 was when we first mounted it, and then 2011 was when we took it to the festival.

AS: So is Murder Ballads your second show?

MO: Yea it’s our second semi-full length. I think we’re going to add more to it, more ballads.  We’ve done a lot of cabaret pieces, but this was really our second full show.

AS: What’s the next piece on your list?

"Two Sisters", one under water.
photo: Daniel Hojnacki

MO: This whole year we’re focusing on science fiction musicals.  We just don’t think there’s enough science fiction theatre, and we certainly don’t think there’s enough science fiction puppet theatre, and there’s definitely not enough musical science fiction puppet theatre.

AS: (laughs) That’s awesome. That was like a Jenga game…

MO: We want to combine everything we like about stories, and smush them together and do it ourselves.  The next one we’re doing, Max is heading this one…have you heard about circuit bending?

AS: No?

MO: Oh, um…I really should have brought one…

AS: A circuit bender?

MO: No, actually a bent circuit…a circuit bender I guess would be the person bending the circuit…

AS: (laughs) Ok.

MO: Circuit bending is breaching into any electronic degenerate sound through a series of either switches or adding variable resisters that either increase or decrease power to certain areas.  Essentially you can fuck with the sound.  A classic example is the Speak and Spell which are really good ones to spell things out, and you can do things where you can set loops, changing pitch and tone, start overlapping things on itself.  So we’re going through thrift stores, and grabbing a bunch of the creepiest and the coolest animatronics Santas and dogs — what’s really cool is that you can rip off their skin, and they have these under-skeletons that are very frightening things.

We’re doing a devised piece based on what we’re able to create out of those materials. The main characters are going to be a couple, like two very square kind of people, that are transported into an alien realm where all the inhabitants are these weird creature robots.

AS: That definitely sounds like science fiction. And would you like Rough House to ultimately be recognized on the same scale as companies like Red Moon?

MO: Oh sure, we all want to quit our day jobs and make adult puppet theatre, but I think there’s zero market for adult puppet theatre.  You almost have to include kids, and I don’t think we’re quite ready for that yet. When you start catering to kids you can’t do adult-ish shows, but we’re not ready for the compromise you’d have to make for the younger audience.

AS: And so now you’re going to tour Murder Ballads in the Midwest?

MO: Yea. We’ll be based in Chicago, doing satellite trips for 3 months, performing the show as much as possible.

Murder Ballads recently toured at Toy Theater After Dark in Minneapolis after its run in Chicago. To request Murder Ballads for your venue, festival or showing, please contact Maggie O’Keefe at maggieo.chicago@gmail.com.

Otherwise, you can get it real good at roughousetheater.com and LIKE them on “The Facebook”.

Doing some local, interesting, artsy stuff in Chicago that you want covered? Leave a comment about your piece with your contact info- I’d love to talk to you!

And please enjoy the rehearsal video of the stunning Georgia Lee:  

ScreamCoach: An Inward Review of Outward Release

Whilst in London, I devised a performance piece for a friend’s show.  I was heading towards the end of my year in London, starting my dissertation and generally freaking out about what I was going to do with my life after grad school. As I was thinking about what to perform, I imagined how great it would be to have a coach that would help me scream.  Screaming, venting, showing anger– these were things I normally didn’t do very well, if at all.  I knew I had a lot of pent up rage keeping me up at night, but for some reason, I felt powerless to express it.  I just wanted a release of some kind, and it seemed I needed permission to do so.

Hence the ScreamCoach.

Originally, I had thought of ScreamCoach as a cross between Sue Sylvester and a Marine drill sergeant…which I guess is basically the same thing. ScreamCoach was tough, she wouldn’t let you whimper away your reservations, and most importantly, she didn’t give a crap about you or your problems:

…we don’t really care about the personal details of your everyday life.  We want the wordless part of you, the pent-up, emotional baby you keep hidden deep under your belly fat.  Just to clarify, if it wasn’t clear already, we’re not “life coaches”. We don’t want to hear about your lame life goal of opening your own organic, gluten-free, vegan bakery that uses recyclable plastics to make its brownies. We’re not going to hold your hand and tell you that boozing and fucking a bunch of random strangers on your weekend ragers are just a “learning experience” to build your future on.

We know how you really feel, and that you don’t want to talk anymore.  You want the same thing we do: ACTION.  We don’t mean that pathetic excuse for a sex life you call your boyfriend/girlfriend or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.  You need something that will take away your problems away NOW and leave you feeling peaceful even though your world continues to crumble around you. (Excerpt from ScreamCoach monologue)

After ScreamCoach ranted at the participant, she directed the individual through 3 activities done in rapid fire succession. First, the participant quickly threw 10 foam balls at an assistant coach; second, the participant shoved their face into a pillow and screamed as loudly as possible; last, the participant received a head massage with an apparatus called a “Brain Teaser” or, the better name for it, “The Orgasmatron”:

THE ORGASMATRON

My partner, Kevin Corbett, helped me choose the particular activities and their sequence.  As we discussed the performance, we decided that a focus on the release of anger was too limiting a choice when considering the range and complexity of human emotions. Furthermore, we didn’t want to assume that participants A) wanted to release or connect to their anger and B) would only experience anger during the performance.  We also didn’t want to leave the participant feeling upset, hence the addition of The Orgasmatron, which was a purposefully soothing component of the trio.  As suggested in the ScreamCoach monologue, we weren’t interested in dissecting the root cause of emotional baggage, or getting someone to think deeply about their pent up emotions; we simply wanted to create a space for a brief expression and release of those emotions.

The first performance of ScreamCoach was done as part of Brian Lobel’s “Cruisin’ for Art” festival at Latitude. There were several factors that played a part in this manifestation of ScreamCoach: we were in an outdoor space at night, and we were able to choose the participants from a wandering crowd of “cruisers”.  This helped us control our participant choice and gave us room for a more intimate performance.

Even though I had spent time writing and rehearsing the ScreamCoach monologue, I immediately dropped it upon interacting with our first participant.  To a large extent, curiously, it wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather an impulse. I wanted to make our participant feel welcome because they looked anxious about the unknown performance in which they were to partake. I already knew the activities would be challenging for some participants; there was no reason to turn them off even further with a barrage of insults. In retrospect, if I had used the monologue, I feel that the performance would have been stilted, and the participant so on edge that they wouldn’t have been able to release anything.  They had to trust us.

This didn’t mean talking to them about their life- in that respect, the performance kept true to the initial intent.  As the ScreamCoach, I asked for their name, where they were from, and what they did for a living, which, in most cases, was enough to get the participant to relax. After explaining the instructions, I would coach them through the activities, encouraging participation in a positive manner. I became the complete opposite of the original ScreamCoach I had envisioned.

We coached close to 70 people in our first performance.  Towards the second half of the night, people began coming up to us, wanting to take part.  Obviously, it was difficult to watch someone screaming into a pillow and not be somewhat interested. We received a variety of reactions that night, the majority of them positive.  A comment frequently made was that participants wanted “to do this everyday” or were imagining a certain person when they threw the balls at Coach Kevin.

The latter brought up an interesting point within the performance as well.  With the inclusion of a human interaction element, i.e. the assistant coach, participants had a more authentic target upon which to direct their emotional release. Because of this, some participants were reluctant at first, afraid of “hurting” Coach Kevin; for these participants, assurance from Coach Kevin himself was necessary, as was noting the distance at which Coach Kevin stood from the participant. Other participants, particularly older men, seemed to relish to idea of throwing objects at another human, and had no hesitancy in whipping the balls full speed.  From these observations, we wondered what would have happened if the target had been an inanimate object (such as a dummy) or a woman (not a dummy).

The first activity seemed to be the element of the piece with which to experiment.  In a second performance of ScreamCoach, done at the Young Vic in London for the Getinthebackofthevan theatre company’s “Show Us Yer Guerilla Bits” festival, Coach Kevin was hit at close range with foam pool noodles.  The object was changed from foam balls because we were in an indoor venue with a more confined space. At first, we had participants hit Coach Kevin 10 times, but quickly realized this was too much as it actually did begin to hurt him, and therefore only had participants strike him 5 times.

As part of the second performance, participants were also invited to give feedback into a recorder after their involvement. Almost all the commentary included some reaction to beating Coach Kevin. Many expressed guilt, both for doing it and for feeling good while doing it.  Some questioned it in terms of a public display of punishment. Everyone called him a saint for agreeing to the role in the first place.

Overall, I found the public interest in ScreamCoach noteworthy in itself.  My primary impulse to create this piece seemed to resonate with the larger needs of the participants: the desire to express suppressed feelings, to experience them on a visceral and tangible level, and to have those feelings validated through actions that others witness.

I’ve created a video documenting ScreamCoach during its second performance.  Have a look and see what you think!

Inside the Hugga-Box

We were given a practical assignment in class to create a 3 minute, in-camera edit, potentially viral video about surveillance.  My group was cracked out on too little sleep, which is perfect for creating off-the-wall ideas.  We decided to create the Surveillance Hugga-Box:

For all your surveilling needs

There was a small hole cut in the front of the box, just big enough to house a camera lens.  A group member got inside the box with a video camera and walked around the streets surveying random people. Another group member shot footage of the Hugga-Box in action.

I got into (or more correctly, under) the box.  It was AWESOME. You know when you’re a kid and you cover your eyes, thinking that the rest of the world can’t see you?  It was like that, only cooler because you got to spy on people at the same time.  But obviously spy on people, because, obviously, they can see the box.  I found myself “targeting” strangers with my camera, sneaking up on them little by little to see when they would acknowledge me and how they would react. I got more than a couple dirty looks, but some people laughed and enjoyed the weirdness.  The angry people were the best though.  The box gave me this peculiar license to piss people off- because, really, what were they going to do to me? I was a box, and essentially all I did was look at them…well, and record them, but is there a difference really?  When we look at people with our eyes don’t we “record” them in a sense?

I liken the Surveillance Hugga-Box to “blue light” cameras in Chicago, which is where I’m from originally. They are big boxes with a bright, blue light placed high up on a street lamp.  There are a large amount of these cameras in high crime (re: African-American and Hispanic) areas of the city.

A beautiful new street decoration, provided by the CPD

There are various opinions on these “Police Observation Devices” (PODs- the official police term). Recently data has been released to show no significant impact in the decrease of crime. Some locals want more boxes, some say it’s a waste of tax-payer dollars, and that PODs are no replacement for the physical presence of police. The ACLU of Illinois issued a report demanding that a moratorium be placed upon the PODs pending further investigation into their effectiveness.

It’s interesting to me that these PODs have been around since 2003, and have increased in number.  They slowly crept from 80 PODs to over 1,000 around the city.  People have always questioned the invasion of privacy, but, for the most part, nothing has been done to take them down.  We seem comfortable with them, they are not too intrusive.

So why was our Hugga-Box met with more visible reaction than these PODs? I think one of the main differences is the addition of movement.  Police say PODs are effective because of their mere presence suggests someone is watching you; but simultaneously, their presence can be ignored, so people will still commit crimes, or not be too outraged by the evolving Orwellian environment.  The Hugga-Box was transparent in its purpose: I followed people around, they could see me recording them, they could interact with me (I got shoved a couple times).  But interestingly, even the people who were annoyed didn’t stop me from surveying them. No one asked me what I was doing, even though there was unmistakably a person in the box.  The Hugga-Box had presence and movement, which made its presence more “real” or perhaps even threatening to people.

Take a gander and see what you think! Are you always aware of who is watching you? Why?