“There are so much worse things to be greeted with than warm silliness.” TD Smith grins as he utters this mantra. In AWoL Productions’ 10 Principles )'(, TD recounts the story of meeting an absolute stranger who embraces him and says “welcome home.” The show’s title refers to the Ten Principles written by Burning Man founder Larry Harvey. Those principles serve as a guideline for the ethos of Burning Man (also known as Playa). AWoL Productions will present five separate shows, each featuring ten individual stories from former or future Burning Man attendees. The show I experienced will not be duplicated, but some of the performers and their stories will be featured in future shows. Burning Man was first held in 1986, and it takes place every year in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The sacrosanct ten principles are Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation and Immediacy.
The audience immediately experiences radical inclusion and gifting. When we enter the performance space, ushers welcome us, offer us bottled water and invite us to select a accessory to wear for the show’s duration. I promptly don a red felt hat. Before the performance begins, the ushers pass a bag of Twizzlers through the audience.
The set includes a few Playa staples: a small tent, a bike and a sign noting the distance to Black Rock Desert. The performers are costumed in suitable Playa attire. A couple of the men are shirtless and one woman wears a see-through tutu. Yet it does not matter what they are or aren’t wearing. Their costumes are just part of their radical self-expression.
JR Russ shares the first story and acts an a narrator between the other stories. He encourages audience members to read aloud descriptions of the 10 principles. These descriptions are conveniently located in our program. JR’s account is the history of his given name and the search for his Playa name. Luckily, the all-encompassing Black Rock City has a Playa name help booth. JR visits the booth, finds a fitting Playa name and tries it out for a test drive.
The second story is TD’s account of searching for the home and the self he lost. His monologue is mesmerizing and soulful: a broken individual’s quest for a community. TD remembers the sense of artistic accomplishment he used to get from building theatre sets. “Theatres are truly magical places” he declares. I have rarely seen as much magic in a theatre as I did during his singular story.
Shawn’s tale is equally extraordinary. Tired of constantly dating corporate D.C. women, Shawn decides to meet a woman who contacted him through an online dating site. Even though the woman “seems like she spends a lot of time in the New-Age section of bookstores,” he is ready for a change. His monologue is filled with guffaw-inducing one-liners and poignant revelations.
The remainder of the stories are as varied as the performers sharing them. Oliver, planning to encompass the 10 principles, being disappointed to hear that is personal financial seminar might not be appropriate Playa gifting. Kathy, deciding on a whim to attend Playa, asking a former boss for a last-minute crash course in Playa survival. Kirby, searching for an underwear painting event, happening upon a naked pub crawl. Every story brims with unconditional love, acceptance and radical inclusion. 10 Principles )'( is so powerful and incomparable that I find myself wondering if I could also find home in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
10 Principles )'( plays through July 27, 2014 at Bedroom – Fort Fringe – 612 L Street, NW in Washington, DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe page.