ST PETER — When you stop by Patrick’s in St. Peter this weekend, don’t be surprised if you see a man and a woman trading glances across the bar.
And don’t be startled if the two get up, meet at a table — and promptly begin arm-wrestling.
First of all, said Ben Kolis, arm-wrestling is an apt metaphor for the give-and-take negotiation between men and women. And second of all, it’s all part of the show.
“In the bar, there is a really unique code of conduct that people seem to have an inherent understanding of,” said Kolis, a senior theatre honors major at Gustavus Adolphus College, who is staging three performances of his undergraduate honor project, “Glass,” tonight, Saturday and Sunday at Patrick’s.
“I’m attracted to the chaotic, liquid relationship a bar inspires.”
Kolis has attempted to match that atmosphere with an equally formless performance.
That’s not to say Kolis’ project is unstructured or improvised. On the contrary, Kolis has been envisioning such a project for years. Earlier this year, he recruited a group of dance, theatre and non-art majors to play the characters. Since then, the group has been rehearsing three times a week.
The performance itself is difficult to describe, but includes a series of vignettes — ranging from 90 seconds to 10 minutes long — that play out inside the bar. Bar patrons and wait staff will be free to come and go as they please and Kolis said there will be no stage, no velvet ropes and few boundaries.
And that’s the point: “Everything will be very typical — except the performance.”
Many of the vignettes require some sort of audience participation. For instance, one vignette is simply a man trying to engage patrons in conversation. Given the unpredictable circumstances of such an endeavor, Kolis and his actors had to prepare for every scenario, from patrons who are too shy to speak, to those who are belligerently drunk.
Some of the vignettes include speaking; some don’t. Some of the vignettes will be obvious for patrons to spot; others won’t.
That’s why Kalis encouraged people to come to the show more than once. Each performance, he said, will necessarily be impacted by the mood and experience of the audience.
“People just have to come and see it,” Kolis said.
Performances are 8:30 p.m. tonight, Saturday and Sunday.