“Liabilities”. Commissioned by Michael Portnoy, Summer 2021
Campbell Carolan

Mark the perceived limits of the performance space— any limit, perhaps there are multiple limiting zones— with a line of tape on the floor, with the aim of establishing “signifying boundaries”. Do not explain what they mean. Rather, foster competition between members of the audience by valorizing some forms of participation and not others.

Allusions to an opportunity operate as a motivating paradigm. Each performer must be capable of holding ALL OF REALITY for the duration of the piece. Do not leave anything to ambiguity while simultaneously behaving as if leaving everything to chance.

The following Fifty Statements should be read to a group of standing participants in a neutral tone similar to that of a spelling bee, leaving an almost agitating amount of dead space between statements as to discourage any narrative associations.

Remind participants that this is not a personality test before proceeding exactly like a personality test: if a listener Agree’s with a statement, they should take a step forward. If they disagree, take a step back. Neutral’s remain where they are.

When finished, shop the mic around the room and ask people how much money they made last year. Don’t let anyone off the hook. Prize is a bottle of wine and a business card.

Version A: Participants are lined up execution style with a generous amount of space before and behind the line-up. Carolan is behind or out of sight. Campbell is supervising the room. All attention should be on the speaker. All engagement should be within the bounds of gameplay (make sure no one is having a conversation in the back, on their phone, or anything that could compromise participation) and the audience should be informed of exactly how long the performance lasts (15-20 min.), exactly when it begins, and exactly when it ends.

Version B: Participants may circle around the speaker with the mic in the middle of the room. Rather than visible goal posts, measure by proximity to the center (the MC)

Keep the room under control. Performers should wear either white lab coats, scrub shirts, or something demonstrably PMC (professional middle class) and are ideally holding clipboards with nothing clipped. Maintain a sense of total sobriety between sleights of artifice.  

As soon as the performance begins, the goal of any interaction with any member of the audience, for whatever reason, is to make them Right.

The performers will keep in mind:

T = Trust

0 = make the other person L00k good

0 = 100% of time, space & event is 100% correct

L = Listen

Also-- during gameplay, there is no distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic information.

The performance starts when the doors are locked and ends when the doors are unlocked. Should there be no doors, a HOST should be elected to bounce any late entrants. Give participants the chance to OPT OUT. Tell them they will have another chance, before the game begins, to OPT OUT. However, once the game begins, anyone who is IN is IN.  


“We are going to play a game called Liabilities. This is a VERY high level game, and you will participate on multiple levels, but don’t worry: we’re going to keep everything as low intensity as we can.

Cause you’re going to get confused. Like this means something: about you, for you— you’re going to think that who you are (or who you become) over the next 20 min has something to do with the REAL WORLD. Don’t worry. It doesn’t, and it’s our job to remind you that this is just a game even though it might FEEL like a trial.

This is just a trial. And you are just a volunteer. We reward volunteers.”



“Unlike the Real, this space is safe. We are not here to judge. We’re only here to measure.

Please begin to circle within range of the mic.”

CAMPBELL pleasantly negotiates any adjustments to the space: people, chairs, etc. while CAROLAN continues to SAFEPORT the audience to a point of frustration.

CAROLAN: “Here’s what’s going to happen. Some of you are going to find your way to the center and some of you might figure out what’s going on a little bit sooner but either way you’re going to have to move some chairs and circle shoulder to shoulder around the microphone.

Please begin to circle shoulder to shoulder within range of the mic.

Is everyone IN? Who isn’t IN?”

The introduction should scale to where CAMPBELL CAROLAN sense the frustration in the room is at its peak: keep talking, keep safe-porting, keep reassuring people until it is.

CAROLAN: Do you mind just staying IN for a sec and then if you want to OPT OUT, you can do so quietly when we finish introducing the rules.”

Notes: Anyone who has a hard time with this— by leaving the space once the performance has started, in any way (including: checking their phone, going to the bathroom, grabbing another drink, whispering, etc.) be VERY empathetic and generous by putting all the attention in the room on them— as if they are asking for it. Because they are. Make them right. Do not be: judgmental, sarcastic, heckling. Only put someone on the spot with love and approval. Make sure everyone’s judgy thot patterns are in their heads, not in reality.

CAROLAN: (continues)

“Don’t worry: nobody is going to get anything they DON’T want! We don’t bite.

Unless you’d like us to. But that’s a… a very different piece.

Okay, so. Is everyone IN?…”

CAMPBELL: (off-stage) “All attention on the person speaking, please. Even if you’re not participating, we’d like you to know what’s going on so you can CHOOSE to be IN or OUT. We need to maintain safe and clear boundaries! “

CAROLAN: “Now, if you do choose to be IN, there may be some rewards in the picture— oh, did that pique your interest?

Don’t pretend you’re not as competitive as you are. It’s expensive to be here. (Empathetic) Do you hear that, people? We know how much it takes just to get out of bed in this city, let alone to be in this room. Sure, there might be no cost of entry, but think about it: you had to know someone here. Then you had to get here. You had to get here on time.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is just a trial.

Meaning: there isn’t any. We deal in data.

In a few moments I’m going to pass this script to CAMPBELL and she is going to make some claims. Your positivism is appreciated. “

CAROLAN: “CAMPBELL is going to make some I-Statements.

Is everyone familiar with what an I-Statement is?

An I-Statement is a first person observation that refers only to the person making it.

If you observe that CAMPBELL’S I-Statements do, in fact, resemble you, you may take one step towards the microphone. We’ll go off the honor system— with the awareness that some of you are probably going to cheat in order to end up on this side of the room. Totally great. Just remember to lie honestly. It’s only a game.”

CAROLAN: “We take “one step” to be: a reasonable distance between wherever you were and where you stand now.”

Meanwhile, CAMPBELL has been tooling around with the measuring tape.

CAROLAN: “If you don’t identify with a statement, to a degree where you feel like you might have to take a step back… then, by all means, take a step back.

If you’re neutral then you’re probably a liar, but DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT. We’ve already accounted for that, so should you choose to lie, lie honestly.

This is not complicated people.

As in real life the rules might be on your side. It’s just as likely they won’t be. This is a value-free situation. But keep in mind that wherever you end up, that’s where you STAY.


If we play this game again then you might get a second chance to redeem your position in the cutthroat game of Liabilities. But we’ve never played this game until now, so it could be a while until we have this idea again

And if you don’t want to participate, don’t worry.  We won’t think you’re chickenshit, but we will notice it, and the people around you will

Don’t read too much into it  

At the end of the game, you are going to end up somewhere different from where you are now and it is unlikely you will be alone.”

I am a competent negotiator.

I know what I’m doing on any giving Tuesday at 9:30 in the morning

I take note of recent advancements in fertility management

I think ownership is a rule and not a right

I already have summer plans

I have a wider variety of books in my residence than I do booze

I’m from another country but people have guessed otherwise

I have a little bit more to lose than somebody else tonight

I’m not often required to justify the decisions I make

Being in a long term relationship does not threaten my social mobility

I participate in local or municipal politics and am aware of what issues might affect me

I’ve invested in my personal development to a degree equal to or higher than those around me

Despite my position on gun control, I think I’m a pretty good shot

My immediate social circle has remained consistent over the past 5 years or more

I tend to make the most decisions not the best decisions

I have the most recent update of Slack and keep up with multiple channels

I have an iPhone 12 or higher

I don’t believe in astrology

I know what problem I’m trying to solve

My parents know what I do

My respectability politics protect both my reputation and those around me

I would consider myself a risk taker

I see an out of network mental health professional

I don’t believe I have any rights

I participate in local or municipal politics and am aware of what issues might affect me

I’ve invested in my personal development to a degree equal to or higher than those around me

Despite my position on gun control, I think I’m a pretty good shot

My immediate social circle has remained consistent over the past 5 years or more

I tend to make the most decisions not the best decisions

I respond to a wide variety of incentives

I’m not above online dating

I’m well attuned to rapidly changing realities

I strive to maintain an active institutional life

I speak more than one language

I am often wrong

I don’t rely on other people to take care of me, I ensure that they do

I listen to my financial advisors

I consider myself an effective person

I know my appetite

I don’t lose any sleep at night

When I have to make repairs, I’m conscious of what I’m apologizing for and what I’m not

I admit I may have been a little manic at zuccotti park

I admit I may have been a little manic at zuccotti park

I like my apartment

I’m good at following up with people

I don’t think my circumstances would change that much if I went off the grid

I took note of the quality of somebody’s garment tonight

It is imperative that I communicate with precision

I know how to operate more than one class of vehicle

I can’t complain