How to Die

Keith Hennessy on the railroad tracks in his piece "Homeless USA"

I spent Sunday evening at the closing performance by Keith Hennessy of his two-part piece “How to Die.” A combination of spoken word, theatre and dance performance the piece is a meditation on suicidal tendencies in modern culture.

What do homelessness and the gay party scene have in common?  Hennessy has a perspective on that.  Part One of How to Die is “Homeless USA” and takes one through what might be going on inside a person who decapitates himself on the railroad tracks. The piece although general in nature is imbued with specifics of the homeless situation in San Francisco’s Mission, where the piece was performed.
The second piece, American Tweaker, was inspired by the true story of a gay man in New York City who was thought to have contracted an HIV superbug a few years ago. The real story was more mundane but just as dangerous. Hennessy comments on the gay party scene and the dual killers of crystal meth and bareback sex.

I came away feeling quite affected by both pieces.  As a person not at all familiar with modern dance, I still came away with a great appreciation for Hennessy’s vision, art, and the athleticism of the performers.  The movements were understated but powerful, often forming a background to spoken word or the quasi-abstract soundtrack in places.

What also comes through is the vision of the piece as a protest as well as a commentary.  But how well it succeeds at that I couldn’t say.  I’m a bit low on optimism right now.


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