Gaga Over Seaside Opera

RoundtableUnder balmy skies, AK Mimi Allin concluded a week of performances of her Seaside Opera at Tollefson Plaza last night. On Monday and Tuesday, the solo artist soldiered through multiple performances in 90-degree heat, as spectators watched from under red table umbrellas, or sat amidst the colorful phrases lining the plaza’s steps (part of James Sinding‘s ongoing, interactive art piece, Letters). “One guy at the Marriott [overlooking Tollefson Plaza] came and watched three times,” says Allin. At another point, skateboarders paid a call and ended up sticking around, making graceful jumps and scrolls around her performance area for hours (the opera was 15 minutes long, performed on the half hour throughout the day). At her final performance last night, small clusters of young people amassing for a flash mob event preceding the Lady Gaga concert at the T-Dome watched curiously, some even trying out their own dance steps to the vintage music on Allin’s turntable.

With bobbed brown hair, a red-and-white lifeguard tee, and a red linen skirt, Allin looked a bit like an F. Scott Fitzgerald character as she undulated near a weathered wooden lifeguard stand, creating movements that brought to mind a seaside boardwalk of the 1920s. Using a windchime of clattering white cadiz shells as an instrument, she gesticulated, variously, as a child searching for seashells in the sand, an old-time barbell lifter, a woman looking afar off for a ship coming in from sea, and a kind of dreamy, flamenco-inspired dancer. The poet’s ability to focus and create an area of silence around herself was admirable as girls of all ages trussed with construction scene tape and dressed in sky-high heels, skirts like sausage casings and enough silver metallic makeup to set off a metal detector flowed into the plaza from Pacific Ave.

After Seaside Opera concluded, Allin said she was pleased with her week’s work, the interactivity that outdoor performance allows and the welcome (though admittedly thin on some days) that Tacoma had extended to her. Then she went to load up her gear as young men and women dressed for an evening of Gaga followed the cameras to a readymade mob scene.


In other Tollefson Plaza news, Alexander Keyes‘ splendid blue sculpture, Wave, has been removed from the site, after over-zealous artgoer’s apparently mistook it as part of the Letters installation and dismantled it (Wave bore a resemblance to a huge erector set; visitors removed parts of it and then reconfigured them alongside the original work). Keyes is philosophical about the experience: “I’m always excited to see how people react to my installations, as it is never as I expect. It did look like a big toy, so I find it a little humorous that people played with it as such. My intention was to get people [into Tollefson Plaza] and interacting with the space, so I count this as a success. Every time this happens though (it has before with a previous piece), I build larger in order to make it harder and harder for people to move, so that is what I plan on doing next! Vandals need a challenge.” We are saddened to see Wave go, and hope to see large-scale bronzes from Keyes in the  future.

Alexander Keyes' Wave before the destruction

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