Ten Principles )’( stands as one of the more unique offerings at Fringe. Rather than a polished production, it’s more just a gathering of friends all belonging to the same community who have come together to share a story. Expect little in the form of theatrics or spectacle, but that in no way detracts from the night.
There is no “cast”. Under the organization of Vision Director J.R. Nexus Russ, ten storytellers step up to the front of the room and simply share their slice of Burner life with you. There’s no pretense or ego; just some people with some experiences to share. Between stories, audience members are encouraged to step up and read aloud one of the eponymous Ten Principles of Burning Man. For those unfamiliar with Burning Man, or perhaps those who have heard of it and have some interest, or especially those who have think they have no interest in Burning Man whatsoever, I strongly suggest coming to see this show.
The Argonaut is a venue that many would find limiting for a show, yet due to the simplicity of the performance, it ends up working perfectly. The odd arrangement of seating, the strange light fixtures, the rather eclectic decor, and of course, the ability to hop downstairs and grab a drink, all serve the piece beautifully.
Over the course of the night, ten Burners got up and shared tales of their time on the Playa (or in one case, at the Playa Del Fuego in Delaware). Most of the focus of the stories was on the storytellers’ most magical experiences at one of the most fascinating places on Earth. Many of them told of their first foray into the dusty Black Rock Desert in Nevada. No matter their storytelling skill or style, each managed to transport us to the temporary world of the Playa, taking care to explain to us some of the terminology, names, and places for neophytes like myself.
Ten Principles )’(
Produced by AWol Productions
Details and tickets
Some performers went up under their “Playa name”. As the storytellers wove their tales of finding their way to Burning Man, and the transformations that ensued, I definitely got the sense that the name “Powerball” was more fitting for someone than the name “Thomas”. Each person took the stage, some of them dressed for a night out in DC, while others wore clothes that they sported at their camp at Burning Man, and it was all okay. There was no judgment, because for an hour and half, the little upstairs bar at the Argonaut had transformed into a piece of that magical time and place. It’s a testament to the power of the simple sharing of a story. With no scripts, and each story true to the teller, there was no need to manufacture anything. The performance I attended included ASL interpreters, which is absolutely incredible as part of a Fringe experience. (Two more ASL interpreted shows on the 16th and 24th.)
What I found truly fascinating was the way in which the show adhered to the very principles it espoused. For example, the principle of “Radical Inclusion” states that “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community”. In that same vein, one would not be able to categorize the storytellers in the way that we normally compartmentalize people with traditional labels. They came from all walks of life, with different ages, body types, sizes, ability, sexuality, and skin color. From what I understand, there was no audition process, and each night holds a different line-up of storytellers. Just like a trip to Burning Man, you will never have the same experience twice.
All of the principles struck me at my core in some way, shape or form, but the aforementioned Radical Inclusion, and the later “Gifting” was truly embodied by the show. While it’s true that, as part of the Capital Fringe, the audience had to buy tickets to see the show, we were bestowed the gift of true and unique experiences. In turn, the money returned to the producers from ticket sales is given First-Time Burners Get to Burning Man. To partake in a performance that adheres to its principles is one thing. To see the whole production follow through on that belief is something truly moving.
It’s hard to single out any one performer that night; each story was so wildly different than the one before. Each story of a first pilgrimage captured and elicited so many different feelings. I can’t pick out a favourite story or storyteller, as so many moments resonated with me deep within my being. I found myself enamored and enraptured by the people before me; in love with the very love they put into sharing their story with friend and stranger alike.
And the experience didn’t stop once the show was over. Outside, taking a moment to myself to process, I was approached by a fellow audience member, who thought he’d met me at one of the regional Burns. He and another woman, total strangers to me, just chatted me up, happy to give me information about their trips to Black Rock Desert in Nevada, share stories with me, and continue on in the spirit of the show.
Given the events of 2016, it’s no surprise that many of us are carrying on with heavy hearts. We’re surrounded by so much misery, pain, frustration, suffering, and hopelessness. For me, it proved so therapeutic to take a moment to travel to a mythical place; one not floating around in the realm of fantasy and imagination, but a real place imbued with love, care, and community. It sounds like a hippie-dippie paradise, called that even by some of the performers, but it exists. And for a few nights, I’m so glad that these beautiful human beings are bringing just a little piece of it here to DC, as if they knew that some of us needed that little bit of loving-kindness to heal our ailing hearts.
Ten Principles )’( . Vision Director: J.R. Nexus Russ . Participants include Aarthi, Barrett, David Fabian, Drex, Fej Seckat, K~Love, Melissa Schick, monster [sic], Nexus, Preamble, Secret, Sola, Starshine, TD Smith . Stage Manager: Tre Wheeler and more? Produced by AWoL Productions . Reviewed by Jon Jon Johnson.