ICYMI: Miranda July’s “New Society”

Miranda July: New Society

By Kyra Morling

On October 17, 2015, I eagerly attended Miranda July’s performance ambiguously entitled New Society. Not knowing what to expect, I made my way to The Freud playhouse a couple minutes before showtime and was greeted by two big signs, each said, and I am paraphrasing: “What Can You Leave Behind?” and “What Do You Need?” Written and attached to both signs was a cluster of items. The emotion attached to these items was tangible; People left wrappers, necklaces, the names of their ex-lovers, stated they needed a cold beer, money or hope, and much more. I realized that I was about to enter a transcendent space, one that I would feel through, but whether it was physically or mentally I didn’t know (I mean it’s Miranda July we’re talking about).

Miranda July walked onto stage and appeared under a spotlight. Immediately after, she claimed to forget what she was going to say, launching into what felt like a 20 minute session of silence that was all at once hilarious, cringe-worthy, and exciting. She breaks the fourth wall, cleverly prompting the audience to drop expectation and remove their guard, and thus began a show fueled with spontaneity, audience interaction, and molding. I did not know what was coming next and I did not care. To quote the New York Times review, to be at this New Society show stirred a “feeling you’ve been taken someplace new that you really needed to visit.”

Miranda became our new leader of a Utopia- one where we never left our seats in the theater- recruiting various audience members to help create a national anthem, flag, constitution, a team of medics, and so forth of our New Society. We also eagerly created a new form of currency- ripping out pieces from our Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA Playbill. My favorite part of the show was its length. It was  two hours, although it felt like I spent an entire lifetime with my fellow citizens, creating history through short stories told by July herself, as well as audience performers reciting letters and speeches written by July. During “intermission,” we all did yoga or exchanged our currency at a market place, generating conversation while still developing our New Society, living both in the fictional moment and the real moment as audience members interacted with one another. Overall though it felt like we were orchestrating it along July, discovering new experiences of love and loss just from these pure descriptions of our imaginary world.

The event seemed very lax for almost it’s entirety, but there were a few moments, especially towards the end, that generated shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes. One of these moments was when eight or so couples (prepped from July during intermission at their “couples therapy session”) got up from the audience and slowly walked around the stage, uniting with their partner as if they were seeing them for the first time, and then passionately kissed. This showcased what I felt one of the purposes of the show was: to highlight the human experience and interaction, our dependency on each other, and our need to nourish and continue to grow within ourselves and with one another with love. Thank you, Miranda July. New Society was definitely a place I needed to visit.