Future Shock

With a style that is at once meticulously studied and utterly nonchalant, members of Lawrence’s EMU Theatre company are daring audiences to like them — or not. They don’t care. Rather, they do, but it’s more complex than a simple “take it or leave it.”

“We’re hoping some people will be so offended, they leave,” company member Trevor Rudor says of EMU’s upcoming Futurism Restated. “Or throw vegetables. We’re hoping others are so caught up in it that they become part of it.”

Lindsey Shields, a company member, explains EMU’s goal by paraphrasing the philosophers and artists who, in the 1910s and ’20s, created a school of theater called futurism: “The audience, if they’re clapping, it’s because they’ve witnessed it. But if they’re throwing things, that means they’ve felt it.” Such futurists as Marinetti and Hugo Ball knocked the standard theater of their time as an event where everyone came to see and be seen — rather than to see the play; the material was secondary to the wardrobe and to who adorned whose arm. It’s akin to the Dogma 95 school of filmmaking, led by Lars Von Trier, in that it advocates minimal accessories — sets, lighting, and costumes — with maximum impact.

What does EMU stand for? “Let’s see,” Rudor says. “This week, it’s ‘Extraterrestrial Marital Union,'” implying that recently it was something else and soon will be yet something else. This kind of “whatever” attitude, indicative of babes fresh out of the woods of academia, would be annoying if (at least in EMU’s case) it weren’t so charming and thoughtful.

The company — Rudor calls it a “collective” — was formed two years ago by a pool of Lawrencians with a theatrical bent. The specialty has been at times political (such as the nuclear war comedy, White Plague) and other times deliberately raunchy (as in the collaboration with the “horrible, tattered puppets” of the Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre, for whom political correctness is last season’s cargo shorts). “We don’t have an agenda,” Rudor insists. “We’re just a source, an outlet that utilizes local and regional talent.”

Futurism Restated, according to the press materials (with typographical errors purposefully left intact), is “the resurrection of a dead movement … proclaiming a formal break with the past, a rejection of the present, and a head-on collision with whatever lies ahead.” Sources range from early 20th century Italy to “late 20th century Wichita.” Its plot, though Rudor denies the existence of one, “mirrors the Bible with the exception of Pialte (sic) ripping Jesus from the cross and negotiatin (sic) an international corporation.”