Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Book-Length Reading at the Scream: Sheila Heti reads Ticknor

Sheila Heti reads Ticknor

I have a ton of photos from the Scream events of the past week; I think I'll start with Sheila Heti's full-length reading of Ticknor at Grano on Friday.

Early last week, advance ticket sales for this reading were weak enough that the organizers were starting to worry. The solution they and Sheila came up with was classic Scream, and a perfect example of what happens when you set brilliant and completely impractical people to work on a practical problem: They decided that, in order to make the event more appealing, they would hire a man to eat a pie for the entire duration of the reading. Thus, actor Ed Fielding -- visible to the left in the above photo -- was brought on board, along with Rob Clutton, centre, who provided incidental musical accompaniment on upright bass.

The resulting performance was, I thought, stunning. Many of us were mesmerized from the beginning by the remarkable discipline, precision and deliberation of Ed's pie-eating. (He never broke character, remaining perfectly immobile at his desk during breaks.) It soon became apparent that he, Rob and Sheila were functioning as a perfectly orchestrated group: when Sheila reached an emotional peak in the narrative, the bass would speed up, and the look of deep abstraction on Ed's face would be replaced by one of bottomless sorrow, or wistful nostalgia, in keeping with the text. A sound recording was made of Sheila's reading; Carl was sorry they hadn't thought to make a video of Ed as well. A four-hour video of a man slowly eating a pie, with Sheila's reading as voice-over: it would have been like a Victorian Andy Warhol film.

As it turned out, the room at Grano was filled nearly to capacity, and it was really heartening to see how many Torontonians (plus a few out-of-town visitors) were happy to listen for four hours to the reading of an entire novel.

Ticknor audience 2

I'd read Ticknor a few weeks ago, and enjoyed it a lot; I think my familiarity with the text helped me get more out of the reading. You hear such different aspects of a work when it's read aloud; for one thing, it always seems much funnier live. More reading and listening photos on flickr.


Blogger Esbee said...

Damn, but I like your blog.

And the pie-eater is brilliant.

10:16 p.m., July 12, 2005  
Blogger carl said...

Sorry to nitpick Nadia but in the interest of fact: Ed's pie eating, while great, couldn't actually have helped ticket sales because we didn't actually tell anybody it was going to happen.

Rob's addition to the bill might have helped.

But mostly I think it is that the sort of people who read Ticknor are not the sort of people who get a lot of planning done the week before. They fret a lot and finally buy their ticket by phone an hour before the show. (Which was then sold out.)

12:56 p.m., July 13, 2005  
Blogger Nadia said...

Esbee: whee, thanks!

Carl: I know nobody was told in advance about the pie-eating...which made the fact that it was framed as a way of selling tickets even funnier. I think it was Maggie who told the story to me this way, but I can't remember with certainty. I told Bill all week that nobody would buy tickets in advance & they they'd all sell out at the door, which is exactly what happened.

1:28 p.m., July 13, 2005  

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