There Be Monsters (1997)

A performance art piece by Dan Carbone

My Rating:

The most amazing, pretense-shattering performance I've ever seen.

Bitable Bytes:
"I wish more people could view this!"
"Ten minutes of brilliance!"
"Dada clowning!"
"The pig is thinkin'!"

What to do while watching:
Go ahead and laugh.

What to eat while watching:
It's only 10 minutes--geez! are you starving to death?!

I wish so much for more people to view these ten minutes of brilliance that I will offer to screen it for you if you ever have a chance to visit me. I make this promise, and I don't even own a copy. But if you are in the neighborhood, or can make the pilgrimage, I will borrow the tape from my friend who owns it and show it to you.

Dan Carbone was a performance artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. His day job was in some service industry, and he was nothing like the black-clad, beret-wearing artistes that dominate the performing arts in this locale. I say "was" because I don't know where Dan is now.

Despite lip service to rugged individualism, 95% of performance art follows the formula of wry theatrics just cryptic enough to veil a heavy message, delivered in small, funky spaces for bright, enthusiastic and malleable audiences. Carbone, on the other hand, comes onto the stage in khaki slacks and a loose-fitting shirt. He is balding, 40ish, with a paunch and a rubbery face. And he delivers a piece so unlike anything one typically sees in San Francisco theaters that the audience is likely to have a reaction of complete flabbergastation. Discomfort is a by-product of this. The piece may end to sympathy applause with Carbone distraught that yet another audience has failed to play with him.

On the other hand, put just one person into the audience who is loose enough to laugh at a man being silly (what else are we supposed to do in this situation?) and the laughter becomes infectious. Carbone is clearly doing something funny. The awkwardness of his body and motions achieves a certain child-like grace, like when kids flop around on a playground: their motions may be sloppy, but each gesture has a full commitment. No hesitation, full confidence. That's what I call grace.

And when all of this is over, the audience has either laughed or not. But having caught a copy on video, my friend Terence has enabled me to view it repeatedly and find a very heavy and universal motif beneath the dada clowning. Carbone is doing a piece about the loss of innocence, to put it very generally and gracelessly. I can't get much further into it than that without diving into a full dissertation. I'd like to discuss how Carbone's meta-monologue parallels the moment when a child suddenly looks at the swing-set and thinks, "this isn't for me any more."

But instead, what I'll do, since the chances of you seeing this video are so slim, is give you the libretto. You won't see the silly stuffed animals and wind-up toys that Carbone picks for co-stars, nor will you chuckle at his motions, facial expressions, sound effects, nonsense syllables; but at least you can enjoy this as a surrealist poetic object.

So, without further ado, the libretto of "There Be Monsters" by Dan Carbone.

(PS: This is the totally unofficial version published without permission since I can't find Dan.)

[ACT I.]

Time to start my show
And I'm feeling all alone
Just like the little doggie chewing on a bone
(Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!)
And he chew-CHEW-chews!
And the little tiny teeth go "Cong! Cong! Cong!"
And the tail waggin' 'round: La-la-la La-la-la-la
And the man in the moon go: "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
And the witch on the broom go "Heh! Heh! Heh!
Hee! Hee! Hee!
Hah! Hah! Hah!"

Ba-dum ba-dum ba-doo-da- (etc.)

He lives across the ocean at the bottom of the sea-he-he
With the big blue whales and the shrimp cocktails at the bottom of the sea!
At the bottom of the sea! At the bottom of the sea!
His castle made of coral and the starfish serenade--YEAH!
The dolphins dance the cha-cha-cha; the oysters promenade.
And many arms and legs he's got
And scary does he look.
He shines his teeth on you and me.
He's the octopus prince at the bottom of the sea!
At the bottom of the sea!

Ooh-ah-ee-ah-oo-oo-ah-ee (etc.)

And shy is he of you and me.
He's the octopus prince at the bottom of the sea....

Winter b-b-blows over the farmland,
And all the animals are covered in snow!
(falsetto) Snow! Snow! Snow is falling!
Says the horses: "Here comes the cows.
Here comes the cows."
And they go: "Mooo."
Yeah, they go, "Mooo."

And chick-chick-chickee goes: (whistles)

There's the pig!
There's the pig!
The pig is thinkin'!
The pig is thinkin'!
There's a little mountain growing in a fountain
ee-o ee-o
There's a little mountain growing in a fountain,
little bitty mountain growin' in a fountain
ee-o ee-o ee-o ee-o
There's a little mountain growing in a fountain,
little bitty mountain growin' in a fountain
ee-o ee-o ee-o ee-o

Little Lorrie Anne has got a demon in her head,
a demon deep inside her that she really really dreads.
Crosses in the hall and crosses in her bed
won't chase that little demon from her head.

Over at the playground and she's swinging on the swing,
and the world rushes by like make-believe,
and the children love her so
with her hair up in a bow,
and the sunlight trickles down through the trees.
(Two, three, and four.)
Ooh-ah-ooh-ah (etc.)

We send the monkey out to Planet X in the Horsehead Nebula
--the planet that looks like it's coming and going at the same time-
so monkey can collect soil samples and watch the stars being born.
But we ran out of money to send the spaceship to bring monkey back.
And where does he go, and what does he do?
And where does he go, and what does he do?
And where does he go, and what does he do?
And where does he go, and what does he do? Poor monkey! Where does he go? Oh-ho. And what does he do? Hoo-hoo!
And where does he go? The little monkey! And what does he do? Hoo-hoo!
And where does he go? Poor monkey! And what does he do? Hoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo! Coo-hoo! Coo----

Doggie snout, oh, doggie snout
Sniffin' up a water spout,
I don't know your name.
I love you.
Water spout! Water spout!
Trickle down the drain.
I will cry big tears for you, dears.

Doggie snout and water spout hanging in the air...
Life is not so fair...
For the little things,
the little things,
like doggie snout
and water spout!
The little things,
the little things!

My pig gets me down.
Look at my frown

Ee-ee! Ha! Ha!
It's Halloween!
It's Halloween!
Ghosts and gremlins
Follow me.
Ee-ee! Ha! Ha!

Mr. Panatowski:
You must go to the great gathering place in New Jersey and plead for forgiveness! The important thing to remember is that the un-hat-head has lifted! Thank God you're not the un-hat-head!

Don't look at me like that Mr. Panatowski. Sing to them! Tell them your song!

I'm feeling kind of nervous Mr. Panatowski. I don't know why. I need something to--something to--uh--calm me down. Like a nice little lu-lu-lullaby. Like a nice little lu-lu-lullaby. Like my m-m-m-mother used to sing to me when I was a baby. She used to sing... She used to sing...

Where do the little squirrels go when they die
With their big bushy tails and their bright little eyes?
Do they dig a little grave on the mountain side?
O, where the little squirrels go when they die?

I'm changing, Mr. Panatowski.
I can feel it.
I'm changing,
and I don't want to change.
I know I'm just a stupid character in a ridiculous bit that nobody understands,
But I've got dignity, Mr. Panatowski.
Oh my God I have dignity,
and it's just not fair!

[ACT V.]
The windows were closed.
All the doors were locked.
And the peasant shopkeepers were sleeping in their little Johnny shops.
And they pulled them from the fire with long black tongs,
and placed them down at the bottom of the dark pot,
closed it tight, never to be seen, never to be known--
the two most beautiful, the two most perfect--
and buried them deep in the ground away from the wind
where the world slips away and infinity begins....

E-mail me if you're interested in a screening.

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