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The City of Brotherly Love…

ecohn's picture

     I stepped into the streets, the brisk winds pushing and pulling my hair. Between the cold temperature and the stimuli of the city, I immediately found myself more energized. That was the first thing I noticed when playing in the city.

     The second thing I noticed was how thoroughly play was incorporated into the city of Philadelphia. Although the streets definitely gave off a “city” vibe, play was everywhere. This was not the city experience that I was used to.

     Serendipity was easy to find in the city. My group and I stumbled upon many things that we did not anticipate or choose. The first of these was a park. It seemed simple enough, until we noticed the giant game pieces scattered around. As we entered, we were shocked by a group of people we saw there, one of whom was climbing up a giant “Sorry” piece, and doing a handstand on top of it. It was amazing to see these people, probably in there twenties, being so open, and really “playing” in the city. This also reinforced my agreement with Henig’s assertion of the great importance of play. Seeing these twenty-something year olds playing with open minds made me so happy. I feel like, much of the time, adults lose (or hide) their desire to play. Seeing these adults play was inspirational and comforting. Who said people all had to “grow up” in the same way or at the same time?

While the giant game pieces were definitely a highlight, another one was a celebration that we happened to find. Whilst walking to Reading Terminal Market, where we’d planned to eat lunch, we started to hear loud music. As we walked towards the sound, we began noticing other things, like the horse, the dressed up people, and the big golden arch. We ended up in the middle of a whole celebration, which we speculated to be some sort of Indian party-- either a wedding, or a type of “mixer” for the bachelors and bachelorettes. To stumble upon such a culturally diverse occasion really showed how big cities are. The way we followed our ears to find it, and only by happenstance were able to witness it, shows how serendipity in the city is not gone, despite what Sunstein might say.

     One of the major reasons that I loved the suburbs more is because I felt that play was not encouraged in cities. After my trip to Philadelphia, I can honestly say that I felt the opposite. Play was encouraged. This might be because of the setting of the trip: Mark Lord sent us off, telling us to play in whichever way is most fun to us. Or perhaps my feeling so open to play was a result of the parties and game pieces we found. Whatever it was, though, I found myself having a blast, and loving every minute of the day-cation.

     The Quiet Volume was very interesting. Although the loud whisper was creepy, unsettling, and strange at first, I soon became accustomed to it, and even found it comforting after the longer moments of silence. Some specific aspects of the performance reminded me of “sense memory”, which is a term used in theater to describe when you can remember how it felt to smell, see, touch, taste, or hear something. One part of the show which specifically made me think of sense memory was when I was told to close my eyes and see the dark room and rubble described in Kazuo Ishiguro’s When we were Orphans. It was so strange to have the whispered voice guide me through a place I had never been before.  The voice’s ability to gain trust and lead the audience to places they had never seen before was one thing that I found awe inspiring about the piece. I also found it incredibly disorienting.

     Following the voice through three different books made me feel dependent on the book, and as the show went on, I found myself more trusting and willing to follow the voice to wherever it told me to go. This made me feel lost in silence. There was a moment in the middle of the piece when my iPod started only playing the sound of pages turning. It kept this up for a while, as my partner seemed to be listening to a totally different instruction set. This made me feel abandoned by the voice, and left me no choice but to look on with my partner as she pointed out different sentences from the books. 

     I also felt incredible disorientation when I took off the headphones at the end of the performance. It was so strange to suddenly hear how loud everything was. It was strange to stand up, and not have the narrator telling me what to do, see, hear, or think.

     I found the city of brotherly love this weekend. I found play and strangeness. I found unfamiliarity mixed with familiarity. I found giant game pieces and people unafraid to play on them. This weekend I found Philadelphia.