40 Watts From Nowhere

This is one in The Look Club’s series of write ups covering the 2022 Without Walls Festival at Liberty Station in San Diego. The full list of write-ups can be found here.

The Show & How it Works:
Each of five audience members is ⅕ of Sue Carpenter, the protagonist of this story.

Why it’s Interesting, IMHO:
Nothing screams “cool” like a true story about pirate radio in 1990s LA that forever alters the music scene.

Initial Impression & Critical Discussion:
This show is different from the start. The five of us meet behind a building. We’ve each been given a number. A performer greets us, orients us and explains to us who we are and what we’re about. She walks us into “Sue’s apartment,” and then, we’re on our own. In this show, we are the performers, we are all (collectively) the main character.

This show fosters cooperation and, yet, it’s not about that. All of us participants get to play DJ at some point: selecting tracks, cueing them up on the CD — or record — player, and introducing them to our listeners. And yet, that’s not the main thrust of the show either. Guided lightly by the narration of the performer who greeted us outside, and who we can hear over the airwaves (responsive to our actions and choices), we live a day in the life of Sue Carpenter. We receive her mail and her phone calls, we face her stack of bills, we feel the pressure of keeping the station running, like she did, all from her apartment, sparsely but aptly decorated, including a stack of actual 1990s magazines with her bylines.

40 Watts From Nowhere is an example of experiential storytelling at its best. Every participant has specific responsibilities and tasks — some shared, some unique — and when the story is over, everyone feels like they have not only experienced something, but had a shared experience — something that bonds them together and will stick with them. Sue Carpenter’s amazing story has now become our story; it’s unlikely to fade into memory like some show we once saw and more likely to remain a memory of something we lived. I can picture the police catching us on the rooftop; the scene lives vividly in my mind, and yet, no actors acted it out for me.

Experiential Viewpoint Expression (E.V.E.):

Embodied, 1st person visual, 1st person narrative, participant, mortal.

Who Should See This?

Everyone who’s ever listened to music or ever might.

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