Reginald Metcalf and Joni Lee Jones believe that television is more than a form of entertainment or source of information.
"Television has pervaded our lives," says Metcalf. "The way we live is affected by it. We might just sit there and think we are unaffected. But somehow, you and the television are mingling on some level. What does television do to us? What do we want after we watch it?"
These questions are addressed by Metcalf and Jones, founders of HOME Theatre for New Columbia, in "Live/Set," a multimedia production that combines television images, acting and the paintings of contemporary artist Mildred Baldwin.
Baldwin's paintings are autobiographical images of growing up in South Carolina. Many of them, Metcalf and Jones noticed, show the family seated around the television, and so they decided to analyze the impact it has on our everyday lives.
The result is a production that involves Jones interacting with a television monitor, providing commentary on a series of images set to music by the Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Mozart and themes from situation comedies. Baldwin paintings hang on the gallery walls, as a backdrop to this tete-a-set.
"Neither one was designed to stand on its own," Metcalf says of the acting and the video. "They were built to bounce off one another. There's a kind of resonance there."
And, mind you, this is not "mindless" television. It's supposed to make people think.
"I didn't want to create something where people come in and watch television and turn off their minds," he says. "I want them to interact. I did not want the audience to sit there and be pervaded by images. I don't think it will be an easy experience. It is a pleasing one, but not something people just go to and come out saying, 'That was entertaining.' "
"Live/Set" will be performed Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 at the Washington Project for the Arts. Tickets are $4 for members, senior citizens and students, and $6 for general admission. For reservations and information, call 347-4813.