I met with Max Smith-Holmes inside the Student Union building last Friday to talk to him about his Reed Arts Week set of vaudeville-style performances. However, he almost immediately asked if we could move outside, which we did, and we proceeded to sit on the bench by the BPR and discuss what the RAW schedule describes as a “neoliberal wet dream.”
I asked Max about the meaning of the cryptic title “Albertsons #565” and he replied: “We were really into Blackwater.” No he didn’t mean the private military corporation awarded massive no-bid security contracts for the Iraq War. Not the company made infamous by its killing of 17 Iraqi civilians and five former employees with federal manslaughter charges. He was talking about the other Blackwater, the energy drink, spelled Blk. water. It’s black in color, enhanced with fulvic acid (whatever that is), and has a pH balance of 9.5. The only place you can buy it in Portland? Albertsons #565. “We also wanted it to seem really random, really corporate and really gross,” he said. “We wanted people to do what you did, and just be interested in coming because of the title.”
It was soon clear that none of the elements in this variety show were going to have simple explanations. Working with spring/fall senior Marisa Baron and junior Charles Mitchell, Max combined his vision of corporate life with their idea for a television show to form this year’s performance. When asked why the SU was the chosen location Max said that “in every RAW there’s been a vaudeville type performance with lots of people involved and it has always been in the SU.” Though not as corporate as Kaul, the SU will have plenty of space to hold multiple stages on which to perform. The trio decided that the final format of the performance would be a talent show, set inside a corporate vacation retreat, and filmed/broadcasted live on screen inside the building itself. Senior Andrew Wilhite is bringing a band from New York City to play at Reed for the week and will be providing the music for the talent show.
It’s difficult to describe the themes of the event and how all the setpieces and performances will work together. Max isn’t giving any hints. When I asked him about what he hopes audiences’ initial reactions will be, he replied: “I want them first to be concerned with where they’re going to sit.” He continued to describe exercise balls, beanbag chairs, and even a “splash zone” area where willing viewers will get soaked by some as-of-yet unknown mechanism. Whether a corporate playground, talent show, T.V. show, or some combination, this year’s vaudeville event promises a lot to talk about. From what I heard, there will even be a few bottles of Blk. water there.
“Albertsons #565” will be staged Wednesday, March 5, 9pm in the Student Union.