|Rudi Harst takes the lead with death in Jump-Start’s Hurry Slowly.|
The opening scene, entitled Spring (East), sets the stage for an evening of joyous religious meditation. The artist enters as a candle-bearing acolyte, evoking a sense of spiritual duty and religious intention. He begins with a solemn homage to the earth and the essence of “the now.” As the lights cue, the artist, smiling broadly, breaks into joyous song, dancing and gesticulating passionately. Harst gleefully balances in tai-chi poses while singing and speaking about “absolutely nothing at all.” The light-hearted lyrics are interwoven with a message of existentialist philosophy and begin an evening of zealous philosophical proclamation. Although the religious nature of the performance is at times pretentiously didactic, Harst’s enthusiastic delivery has the audience clapping, smiling, and singing along.
In the second act, Summer (South), the artist denounces the confining nature of careful scheduling and planning to proclaim a need for the “illogical.” Harst’s songs and soliloquies call for the relinquishment of a “logical,” time-based lifestyle. Although genuine, often the delivery becomes muddled in preachy overtones and frequently I felt myself wondering if I was at an inspiring church service or a theatrical production. The artist, however, successfully explores issues of trust and the ever-present fear of the unknown. His message brings to light the importance of trust not only in others, but in ourselves. According to Harst, when one can trust his surroundings, he can form open, enlightened dialogue with both his peers and environment, therefore achieving a sense of inner peace.
In Autumn (West), Harst waltzes with a skeleton while exploring the possibilities of death and the meaning of the afterlife. His dogma, based in the here and now, bluntly emphasizes the inevitable and focuses on death not as a looming threat, but as a return to the “nowhere we all come from.” The program comes equipped with an invitation to a workshop on “navigating the practical details of your death.” The innocent, at times rudimentary, nature of Harst’s stage presence and positive tone of the performance presents death as a celebration rather than ominous end. Uplifting songs and stories cast a new light on a topic often skirted by American culture.
In the final act, the artist calls for members of the audience to help him stack rocks placed in a semi-circle around the stage into four leaning structures. As the artist creates these architectural towers, he explores the meaning of creation. Why build pyramids? Why stack rocks? Why create anything at all? These and other questions presented by the artist are meant to discredit the value of logic and the incessant search for deeper meaning in all that we do. Harst encourages the audience to participate in that which is “unseen” and “unknown” and open up to new experiences.
Although the presentation is often over-zealous in its attempt to incorporate all elements of theater arts, ultimately the artist’s genuine delivery allows the audience to enjoy Harst’s philosophical ramblings.