Just for a moment, imagine that you're a security guard. You're munching on a Big Mac, paging through Guns & Ammo, and lazily watching the video monitors out of the corner of your eye. Suddenly, a freak in a Halloween death mask jumps into the camera frame, flashing a sign that reads: THE SURVEILLANCE CAMERA PLAYERS PRESENT . . . 1984. Other performers prance into view, waving placards with odd bits of dialogue written on them like WE WILL MEET IN A PLACE WHERE THERE IS NO DARKNESS, together with an artist's rendering of Big Brother that makes him look like a cross between Joe Stalin and a two-bit hooker.
What in the name of George Orwell is going on here? You, Mr. Guard, have just been hit by the infamous Surveillance Camera Players (SCP).
Formed three years ago, the SCP stages lightening-fast guerilla plays (10 minutes max) in front of surveillance camera and dumbstruck crowds of onlookers on Manhattan streets and subways. The group's anti-authority theatrics include extremely abridged versions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and that subversive oldie but goodie Waiting for Godot.
The SCP's mission? According to their manifesto, it's to protest the use of security cameras "as a tool of social control." "Surveillance cameras are a menace to the right to privacy," says mildly paranoid SCP founder Bill Brown, a former English professor. "People get the idea that they're always being watched, so they begin to act like domesticated creatures." He's got a point: Surveillance cameras are sprouting like mushrooms across the country. Manhattan alone boasts nearly 2,500, and Brown estimates the average New Yorker appears on a hidden camera about 20 times a day.
The SCP's rebel pranksters have definitely caught the attention of Big Brother: The NYPD broke up one performance, and the nationally syndicated Real TV was keen on profiling them . . . but not for long. "When they saw a taped performance of our 1984 -- it's a motherfucker! -- they lost interest," says Brown. But that's okay, he explains: "Shows like those are among our real enemies." (Check out some of the SCP's greatest hits on their website at www.panix.com/~notbored.) -- Stephan Talty
Contact the Surveillance Camera Players
By e-mail SCP@notbored.org
By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998