Theatre director Asher Hartman and performers Brian Getnick, Arne Gjelten and Tim Reid riff on the John Cassavetes’s film, Husbands, which has been described as the “most honest deconstruction of American manhood ever committed to film.” (Criterion Collection) The 1970 film depicts three men who go on a bender after the sudden loss of a friend, raging together yet unable to confront their emotions. In Hartman’s improvisational version, the three protagonists are stuck in rehearsal. Hartman directs them with a single spotlight and focused instructive prompts like “Do that again.” The trio talk a lot, and a lot of it is nonsense, full of childish inflections that suggest feelings of resentment, abandon, and competitiveness. All of this happens quickly and sloppily, like when they make up games with arbitrary rules and stakes: “What will be the punishment?” one asks. Another responds, “A Nordstrom’s gift certificate,” which then leads to a taunting chant, “Give him the Rack!” that propels the game forward. They laugh, argue, roll on the floor, pushing each other’s bodies out of the way. If Cassavettes’s film depicts masculinity’s inability to confront emotion, this live rehearsal explores how banter between friends, with its textures and affect, might offer release, even when the promise of reaching a resolution or deciphering any meaning is long gone.
(left to right) Tim Reid, Brian Getnick, and Arne Gjelten came together with Asher Hartman (2018) to interpret four poems from Blunt Research Group’s The Work-Shy and presented its resulting performance as part of “Archive Fever: Lost Words Buried Voices” in USC’s Visions & Voices series in addition to works for “We Are The Artists” at 18th Street Arts Center, and “C’Baret: What Not Speak Easy,” curated by Marie de Brugerolle at LAXART (2019). In 2022, they continue their lengthy rehearsal process to create a performance responding to the John Cassavetes film Husbands, thinking about desire, transgression and violence, permeability of bodies, privilege, rank, and loss.
Asher Hartman is a transgender writer, director, professional psychic medium and maker of live performances. His works, which combine strategies of theater and performance art, grapple with social and political issues in an era of chronic crisis. His works are dense, visual, poetic embodied texts, infused with clown and cringe humor, evidence of trance and psychic journeying, set in engulfing installations designed to disorient, unnerve, and elicit strong feeling. A great deal of his work was developed with the support of Machine Project in Los Angeles from 2010-2017 and currently at The Lab in San Francisco and now with the The Lab in San Francisco. Asher Hartman is the director and founder of Gawdafful National Theater, a group of visual artists, actors, and performance artists with whom he has created since 2010.