Detroit’s Performance Laboratory: Journey to the Interdisciplinary Fringe – A Review by Edmund Lingan   3 comments

If you are one of those people who sit around at night thinking to yourself – “When the hell is something interesting going to happen? Where will I get my next fix of the avant-garde, the experimental, the weirdly honest?” – then I do not understand why I did not see you, kindred spirit, at the Performance Laboratory’s “Death Show” last night. You should go there in December, when this completely democratized variety show of performance art will open again with a new theme.

Detroit’s Performance Laboratory is a performance development incubator. As far as performers and audiences are concerned: it will appeal most to the adventurous souls who long to journey to the edge of art, to the interdisciplinary urban wilderness of expression where anything – and I do believe I mean “anything” – can happen. Last night a satanic high priest disguised as a 1950s housewife apparently sacrificed several fresh tomatoes with a claw hammer while a kitchen timer ticked away. A bassist projected stories of the beginning and end of the universe, and played the complete birth and death of the universe in 13 minutes and change. A monologue artist simulated masturbation on the stage, and followed this with a monologue that expressed her fear that her family may only learn to accept her lesbianism in the afterlife. A novelist crawled into the room, zombified and dressed in decaying black tails, and spoke of wild ruminations that are too complex to discuss here. And all of this is FREE, for god’s sake. Emilia Javanica and Carrie Elizabeth Morris, who are the co-curators of the Performance Laboratory, only ask for donations after the show. It was the most low pressure call for financial support I’ve ever seen.

In short, the Performance Laboratory is a classic performance art development program. It is democratic in every way: anyone can afford to see it. Anyone can perform there. Anyone who lives on the borders of art and life should be chomping at the bit to put in a proposal for performance (they are always happy to put newcomers on the stage) and gearing up to race to 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd., the location of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, which houses the Performance Laboratory. Performance artists, media artists, and multimedia artists of all kinds in  South Michigan  and North Ohio have a home at the Performance Laboratory. They have a place to find like-minded artists, and get to know who else out there is treading the boards in an experimental and unpredictable way.

If you want to see something fascinating, daring, in development, and pleasingly off-balanced on a regular basis, you should become a devoted audience member of the bi-monthly Performance Laboratory shows. They need you. They deserve you. Go.

For more information about the Performance Laboratory, see their Facebook page:

Anyone interested in performing should contact the Performance Laboratory at:

For more information about the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit, see:

Edmund B. Lingan is a director of theatre, a theatre and performance art historian, and an Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Toledo’s Department of Theatre and Film. He got his PhD. in theatre from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2006 and moved to Toledo, OH in 2007.


3 responses to “Detroit’s Performance Laboratory: Journey to the Interdisciplinary Fringe – A Review by Edmund Lingan

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  1. Thank you for such a fantastic review!!! For anyone interested in performing, you can contact us at: We will be posting December’s theme on our facebook page very soon. Can’t wait to see you there!

  2. Pingback: Die Tomato, Die!!! « Art Smoothie

  3. Nowhere other than the Performance Lab can anyone test every performative theory–from Zero Wall or No Wall Theatre to The Zombie As The 21st Century Clown–all the while discovering fresh minds way too valuable to simply eat.

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