Looking around the Walker’s Skyline Room, you could sense that everyone had just been through something big together. Following the debut performance of Miranda July’s brilliant theatrical experiment, New Society, contributing members gathered for a reception to meet July and talk over what exactly they’d just seen. The dazed looks on their faces began to disappear when they started to process the experience. I wish I could tell you precisely what it was that happened during New Society, but I can’t. In an effort to preserve the element of surprise for future performances, July added a note to the program requesting that everyone keep the internet chatter about the show to a dull roar. Still, without giving too much away, several guests at the reception were kind enough to share some of their raw reactions to New Society with me.
Emma: I really had no idea what to expect from New Society coming in, but it was amazing and fun.
Terry: I’d say it was curious, not in the Minnesotan use of the word “curious,” though. The whole thing was hilarious, but she managed to make the end quite emotional and inspiring.
Megan: I was worried about the audience participation element we’d heard about going into the show, but it ended up being lovely. I was really struck by how Miranda was able to seemingly create something out of nothing.
Jeff: Exactly. It wasn’t just a hodge podge of people doing weird stuff. Everything depends on the audience, yet she was able to make it into something cohesive. There was also this really powerful feeling of just giving yourself up, of giving yourself over to the performance.
Mary: The piece was so innovative. I was amazed by the talent of some of the people in the audience and how Miranda was able to bring it out of them.
Mark: She was so funny too.
Mary: She was, but it was humor with a message.
Mark: I am just in awe of a person with so much talent. I’ve seen a lot of theater, but this was completely unique. I’m usually an introvert, but we were totally game to participate. We sat in the front row, but she didn’t end up picking us for anything.
Mary: Maybe we looked too eager [laughs].
Xandra: I really didn’t expect to participate, but it was thrilling. I felt a real responsibility to the performance and the audience while I was up there. I even felt protective of Miranda because she put so much trust in me.
Miranda: The audience really had so much energy and willingness. Everyone was so enthusiastic, and the challenge for me was to sculpt that enthusiasm into an actual arc. The first thing I did when I got back to by dressing room was take notes.
Me: Were you worried about debuting a piece that relies so much on audience participation in Minnesota? We’re not exactly famous for our willingness to put ourselves out there in public.
Miranda: No, I wasn’t too worried about you guys. I knew you’d come through [laughs].