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Linda's Radar  /  Whose voice? Will Holder at YU
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Whose voice? Will Holder at YU

Before this week, I knew nothing about Will Holder. I'd read YU's blurb and still didn't know much. So I went to tonight's performance at YU. In front of a youthful, beer-drinking audience (I was the oldest by an easy margin, and yes, I drank a beer), Holder spoke confessionally, pacing back and forth, gathering and rearranging his microphone cord, pausing (for prompts from the earbud in his right ear?), and speaking again. I tried to imagine that his words were not his own, were in fact written by someone else (Simon Amstell, about whom I also knew nothing). It was hard to imagine, and I gave up trying. Holder made it seem as if he was telling stories from his own life. That's what actors do. It's not what we think of publishers doing.

Will Holder is a publisher. He publishes the work of others – not by printing it, but by speaking it, performing it, live. He calls his performances publications (i.e., "creating a public for"), in a pre-Gutenbergian way, a Homerian way. Tonight's reading also called to mind Sartre, and Waiting for Godot. Here's Simon Amstell, as read by Holder: "... Nothing can be done about it.... There's nothing we can do. It happened.... Nothing to be done about the fact that he was 18.... There was nothing I could do about it...." And here's Sartre's Estragon: "... Nothing to be done.... Nothing to be done.... Nothing to be done...." Is it a coincidence that I just saw Waiting for Godot twice this spring (the movie version at Northwest Film Center, and the play, with James Yeary's memorable Estragon, in Wood Demon Art Theatre's staging at Performance Works Northwest)? Amstell again: "... Coincidence is a word for something we don't yet understand...."

Holder's mic cord caught on something in the pocket of his sweat pants. It was one of those four-color BIC pens that I love. I can't even remember the last time I used one. "... If you don't get some therapy, life repeats.... Everything is a choice between fear and love. You might as well choose love because Death is coming. Death is coming. Death is coming...."

I looked up Amstell when I got home. It turns out he's a stand-up comedian. He's performed Do Nothing himself and even recorded it. ("It's not funny, is it? It's not funny is it?") OK, I'm beginning to get the meaning of the online blurb when it says that Holder's work is a "... question about authorship, communication and translation, about what can be truthfully expressed, ...". I want to track down Amstell's recording and see how it differs. I want to hear Holder perform someone other than Amstell and see how it differs. I want to read the printed versions and see whose voice I hear in my head.

Tonight's was one of three performances, publications, that Holder is giving this week. I'm sorry I missed Monday's, and I would go again Friday if I could. Highly recommended.

— Linda Hutchins, June 27, 2012 / Anticipate, Reflect / previous / next

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