Here’s a way to tempt the law of unintended consequences – the Petaluma Service Alliance, a consortium of area service groups, is hosting a “Neighborhood Town Hall Meeting to Discuss the Safety and Security of Walnut Park”. A discussion item slated on for the meeting’s agenda is the notion of installing security cameras.
In our age of “selfies” and an apparent epidemic of narcissistic personality disorder, the possibility of people hijacking the cameras for their own, vain purposes is inescapable. Besides the middle fingers and moonings that will inevitably be caught on camera, perhaps the most egregious scenario has precedent in New York City-based theater troupe, the Surveillance Camera Players, who stage plays in public spaces expressly to be witnessed by surveillance cameras.
At best, the cameras represent a nightmare of Orwellian proportions, but worse than that is a possible rash of absurdist theater. The Surveillance Camera Players’ productions have included Alfred Jarry’s bizarro masterpiece “Ubi Roi” at the 14th Street-Union Square Subway station, and, predictably, an adaptation “1984.”
If Walnut Park’s alleged criminals and transients who are meant to be detoured by surveillance cameras form a theater group, could mimes be far behind? And what of the critical backlash as neighborhood watch groups become unwitting audiences to alfresco productions of Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros?”
A refresher: In three acts, the citizens of a small, provincial town transform into the titular pachyderm – the only person who resists the metamorphosis is a man who is lambasted for his drinking and slovenly lifestyle. Suddenly, the only sane individual is the one the cameras are meant to ward away. Think about. Wait, no, don’t think about it, unless you want to imagine your local tax dollars underwriting a one-man show performed solely for the poor city worker whose job it will be to watch it.
Combining the performing arts and public spaces in this manner recalls the attempt at “musical aversive therapy” the Petaluma Downton Association explored in the 90s in an attempt to ward off “social deviance” with Beethoven. It never got off the ground as one might expect installing an outdoor TV studio for would-be thespians won’t either. After all, experimental theater isn’t known to keep anyone away from parks, however, it has proven effective at keeping people away from theaters.
The Petaluma Service Alliance (which, if you say it three times fast, becomes “Petaluma Surveillance,” just say’n) convenes its meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 3 at the Cavanagh Recreation Center, 426 8th St., Petaluma. Admission is free and seating is limited. On with the show.
(Published in the 1 March 2016 edition of the Rivertown Report.)