It was a pleasure to meet up with some old Alaskan friends and spread the good word of physical theatre to some wonderful Anchorage actors with the Anchorage Community Theatre! And here's what we did:
It's rare for us to share random things we like on this blog, but I have been feeling the winter doldrums and so Jed recently shared this video with me and I thought it might be nice to share it with everyone who peeks in here. We are getting ready to move into the studio again, which is always a Positive Move, but in the meantime, 1980's Angela Landsbury also has some good tips for all of us.
Click Here to Watch:
We are all home now. Home and away from each other, breathing that huge sigh of relief over good work done. We're home wondering about our next projects. We're planning for a New England tour of Enlightenment this summer, plus starting two new projects this winter, not to mention our constant hopes of continuing to work on Shoot a Boot with Ana in Spain.
But life is not just made of projects. From here in Providence, I can only imagine what the guys in Philly and Juneau are getting up to on a day to day basis. I know Aram is working on Team Sunshine's Sincerity Projectand I'm sure Roblin is busy with family and kids and teaching. But what do their days look like? What are those secret little obsessions and interests just blooming now? What are the thoughts percolating today that will grow and grow until we see each other again? I can ask them at our next company [google hang out] meeting, but you can't really know that stuff unless you arearound people -- not meeting with them, but just around.
For me, Jed has been acting at 2nd Story in Sons of the Prophet and we've both been spending a lot of time working on our house -- painting is next, plastering complete. I've been thinking about outer space, thinking about twins, making the plans to produce those shows. The School House Long House came down from the RISD Museum and tomorrow we are installing it in our back yard, which is daunting and exciting. I can't decide if we are geniuses or idiots. I burned my fingertips on a candle two weeks ago and have been monitoring the blisters as they now turn to callus and then to finger. I am catching up on all kinds of Rhode Island Performance Exchange projects, and last night I tried to build a fire in our fireplace over the course of two hours. I never got it to light, but apparently madethe room very smoky and got depressed at my inabilities. I am creating a tour of Enlightenment, solidifying venues, applying for funding and I started running this summer, am still running, and am back in yoga.
Anyone who's worked with us or seen enough of our shows knows that we have a lot of specific feelings about how to design theatrical space. We have been known to go to incredibly great lengths, taxing our resources to the nth degree to make a space feel just right for both the audience and the performer. No decision becomes too small to agonize over. In the past this has meant huge, sculptural, architectural sets. When we decided to make Enlightenment on E Floor North, it was in part a push against all that building. We wanted to make a play that would allow us as creators to focus more on the physical action in the space than on the architecture in which it all occurred. To help us make sure we didn't get distracted, we built the play in a series of similar rooms around the country. Early on I had a conversation with one of our hosts, Nat May, who runs SPACE Gallery in Portland, ME. I was explaining this idea to him and he pointed out that as we developed the work each space would offer a new "premium." This was absolutely true. Based on the simple nature of the rooms we created in, various bits of the play became linked to the space and the objects in it. So much so that, while we still don't have a "set," per say, we do have to tailor a space to the show. We can't do the show anywhere. The space actually does matter -- we just don't have to build a massive sculpture in order to create the space the show needs. Because our current run in Philly is the culmination of our development of the piece, and our longest run, we have actually purchased our required elements and placed them in the space, as well as intentionally selecting a venue that is actually just a white room. The average visitor would not even notice that we placed these things in the room. They mostly look like normal room stuff that belongs there.
Here is the list of requirements:
- White walls. Blank white walls, ideally with maybe some white wainscoting and maybe other small details. Ideally a corner with a door.
- A fire extinguisher
- A security camera
- An exit sign over the door
The lesson I've learned this time around: Keeping the space simple allowed us more time to work the physical moments of the play, but no matter what we do, yes, there is always a set.
We have been in Philly for nearly a week, continuing to refine our vision of what Enlightenment on E Floor North is and preparing for our longest run yet at the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival. With any process, inevitably not everyone can be in attendance at every rehearsal. When you work the way we do, this can happen in larger chunks (though I am proud of how often we actually get together without absence). Long story short, Roblin let us know awhile back that while we were all going to start rehearsing again in Philly on August 19, he would not be joining us until the 26th. We miss him of course, but this sort of shake up the usual thing can also be really helpful. Without Roblin's energy and without Roblin's character of Turner in the room it forces all of us to sort of shift and continue to reinvent our own selves and who we need to be in the process. This late in the game that can be an incredible gift.
I am amazed at how much we've been able to work through this week. I thought we'd run up against so many walls and not actually crack open this play we've all come to know so well, even though we all still feel there is some sort of something that we have yet to find. Not sure that we've gotten there, but for sure. . . I am hopeful.
We miss Roblin so much, but not having him there has been interesting and I guess I can say, I am happy for the way it has forced us to look at things. However, it's not like we haven't had a stand-in. In fact, this is who has been playing Turner's role in Roblin's absence. He's not as good, but he's not that bad either. . .
See you Monday, Roblin! We miss you!
To prepare for the Philly Fringe (we'll be there in a week-and-a-half) we had one last meeting over the ol' google hangout. Roblin brought a special friend. . . who also really concerned his dog. . .
You know what's really fun? To just make stuff. Jed and I (PVD) AND our friend and buddy Carolyn from the Wonder Show are doing a performance piece inspired by the movie Daisies at this year's Foo Fest and we are having such a blast creating something that has nothing to do with security guards or performance in the traditional sense. I know it may seem like an odd thing to do with our month off, but I think it may be the perfect way to gear back in. Anyway, here's a photo of the banner we're making to be on the outside of our tiny performance booth at Foo Fest. The mouth and eye of the snake will actually be cut out for us to offer instruction to the passer-by. And so on from there. . .
Back in RI. We are immediately and gloriously thrown into the opening of the School House Long House design project with the RISD Museum -- the culmination of nearly a year's worth of designing a multi-use performance space for their show, Locally Made. Our Alaskan tour seems like it must have been a thousand years ago. Or maybe it happened to someone else. In any rate, to give a little perspective, here is where we were exactly one week ago:
(yes, that is a horse "parked" outside of a bar in Haines, AK)
The front page story in the Haines paper the week we were also featured: tree stump art or vandalism?
And here is where we are today:
A full and boisterous audience came out to see our final show in our SE Alaska tour at the Chilkat Center for the Arts in Haines.
Big thanks to Tom and Liz Heywood, the supportive Haines Arts Council, Byrne Powers and Anne Hanssen for the generous Alaska-style hospitality.
Hooray! About 1/2 of the population of the remote town of Tenakee Springs came to our show July 12th. It was an intimate performance at the community center followed by the warmth and hospitality of good local desserts and conversation.
The small float plane ride out and back from Juneau was as exciting as the community hot springs was soothing.
Big thanks to Chris and Darius Mannino for their generosity, great food and hospitality!
At the Canvas.
Along the way in play creation, we inevitably get rid of some things that worked well, that we liked, that were FUN. But for whatever reason, they stopped the ultimate progress of The Work. As we reach the tail end of developing this piece, I wanted to take a minute to pay those cut moments their much-due respects. In no particular order, here are the moments (which probably won't, but may return) to Enlightenment on E Floor North.Getting Dressed:
In a couple different forms and iterations we have messed with this idea of seeing the guards get dressed while hearing some voiceover about work and museums. At long last I think we have decided that the piece can just start with guarding. Well, guarding and singing, but you know, no getting dressed.
We tried really hard to keep in our funny choreography. We even added more in Philly, but a few days before performing in April we realized that we no longer understood what it meant at all and it all was feeling a little too cliche. Out it went.
The yogurt scene definitely still exists -- tightened and polished, ready for action. However, we decided after Phase II that Turner should not actually clean it. In fact, no one cleans it. Ever. Drama ensues.
Arm Wrestling on a Windowsill
This one doesn't really count because we are on tour and so haven't had a windowsill again. Especially not one that is just the right height for Aram, but not for Roblin. However, the show now has the arm wrestling happening on a stool that is close to a wall. I keep it in here because anyone who has seen the show in AK would see it differently than the people who saw it in Philly (not to mention the people who saw it in New England where there was NO arm wrestling), and I think this is the magic of touring a piece with space variables.
Guards Playing Patrons
Jed says this one may come back in, but we haven't put it back in yet, so it has made my list. Including this part where Gene pretends to be a madman and gets taken out by Mike, which Jed tells me will never be in again.
The Mating Ritual
This scene went away in Philly, and became an actual sceney-type scene with a very small mating ritual -- almost invisible. In Philly it even included a big kiss, which has also now been cut. But just to prove it happened, here's the pic:
I could fill a whole other blog with all we've added and changed since our first shows in February, but my gosh, I would rather folks just came to a show.
OK, we have actually been here in Sitka for two weeks now. Had a wonderful show for the community, taught adult theatre classes, circus camp and now the middle school session at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp on the historic Sheldon Jackson.
It's our first day in Sitka: an amazingly beautiful town in coastal Southeast Alaska. Jed, Roblin, Aram and I arrived by taking the ferry from Juneau. Here are three pictures of that experience:
The Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which is hosting us while we are here is an amazing story that you can read more about here. The short story is that the camp is housed at the Sheldon Jackson Campus which the town is revitalizing through a huge volunteer effort. Here are some photos of the Allen Center:
One of the best parts of our working relationship is this constant off-balance we go through with shifting geography. By spending time apart and then re-finding each other in different cities, different spaces, different audiences, we intentionally stop habits from forming. It's one of the ways our shows grow so strangely and surprisingly. Say what you will, but we are never predictable. Having worked already in Rhode Island (with a happy small stop in Maine) and Philly, our logical next stop is Alaska, and this time we're touring SE, spending time in towns we've never gone to as a group, bringing Kamili -- who has never been to Alaska at all -- and then also still getting to spend time and perform in Juneau, seeing familiar faces for sure. It's one of those trips where I have to stop and remember, "I get to go on this amazing adventure because I make experimental theatre."
Meanwhile the show is in a really exciting spot, but also delicate. This next phase will tell us so much about the actual piece we are making. It's like we've generated all this raw ingredient that we feel so good about, but now we have to decide what it makes: angel food cake or German chocolate?
For now, I have to tie up all kinds of junk in RI! Leaving your life behind for 6 weeks is a whole other blog post!
Please enjoy this small video. We can't fully express how much everyone's help means to us. But we try.
Just one more rehearsal until we show. The material feels like a joyful pile that comes in and out of focus. In the meantime, Jed hangs lights while I handle business. It's a late night night.