We are getting ready for our first Action Speaks of this 2013 season. As you no doubt know, this season is organized around the theme, Utopia/Dystopia and the first show is about Las Vegas. Born as a ‘pass through’ for those on the way to the West Coast, Las Vegas’ fortune’s soared with the creation of the Hoover Dam. Its workers needed a place to ‘let off steam’ and Las Vegas was it. Gambling and ‘girls’ became the centerpiece of Vegas’ economy and through its various incarnations it hasn’t strayed too far from its origins. Cowboys, gamblers, the Rat Pack, smaller ‘versions’ of some of the World’s great cities and sites and smoothly working corporate monoliths, Las Vegas has been never been too far from America’s dreams and nightmares. A quick ‘buck’, an illicit affair, a quick and easy divorce or marriage, a ’walk on the wild side’, a democratically inspired ‘people’s architecture’, a retirees sad walk from a machine that just ‘stole’ their future … we can’t escape the images of utopias and dystopias that this neon parched desert city has given us.
And yet, still another vision has emerged in the great book by our panelist Natasha Schull’s Addiction by Design, a travelogue into a world of Las Vegas most of us have never been formally introduced to, a journey into the worlds of those who design the casino’s hallways and chairs, who program the gaming machines and who create and serve the famous all-you-can-eat buffets. Dr. Schull posits for us a new utopia/dystopia; a Las Vegas whose appeal is based on numbness and isolation, no sizzle, no passion, no flash…just an uncomplicated gaze, outside of time or space. Or if you’d prefer to think of it differently, like Mihaly Csikszentmihaly ’s flow or as he says, “…being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” In both versions we are outside of time and space. Is the ‘new’ Vegas offering a meditation or a flatline? Are we still hoping? Or do we, as the great Ramones wrote, just, “wanna’ be sedated”?
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See you at AS220 this Thursday at 5:30 (show at 6pm)!
-Marc Levitt, Host Co-Executive Producer of Action Speaks