Antioch strike, convergence, writing

The Marriage of Figaro, it’s not

Something else emerges from the Convergence. A composer from the Walker Center who I met here in Indianapolis is interested in working further on the Antioch College student strike project, perhaps even developing it into an opera that uses Sprechstimme and choruses. I’m excited. I feel like I’m finally becoming AboutLastNightworthy. Time to create a category for the project.

It also looks as if I’ll be in LA for a week longer than I’d originally thought. I think I’ll be in town June 9-25ish. And if I can get any of these scripts up to the point they should be at after the weeks in New York writing, then maybe I’ll try to do some readings. I want this libretto to be able to stand alone as a good play.


digging up the bodies

I’m in Pendleton at Robert’s brother’s house this morning. Geese are squawking out the window, over a frozen lake.

Yesterday’s postmortem of the Convergence was difficult. I had to come to terms with the truth that I have, in many ways, let Rob and Caitlin down by not being completely clear with them about what I could take on for this conference. I promised to do a lot of things, and many of them didn’t happen.

In the light of this we have restructured our organization a bit, so that they are co-artistic directors, and I’m an associate artistic director with a focus on development & grantwriting. This reflects that they are local and I’m never going to live here, and also that they have about ten times more time to spend on the project than I do.

This is a good agreement, but I just wish that I had known how to make this clear to all of us before I started.

There were also some hard truths to learn about the way I handled the Umbrella Project, 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE CHORUS. I didn’t have the music ready soon enough, or the script. I created a script that was far too ambitious for the people and the time we had. I pitched the project to them as an exploration, not a presentation of a finished script – but it kept getting more grandiose – and soon we were in a situation where I was trying to force dancers to sing and act. Not a good place to be. They stepped up to it, but it was really tough for all of us.

As a result of THIS, we have restructured the concept of the Umbrella Project, so that it’ll never again be about someone trying to workshop a finished script. Instead, it’ll be about having open rehearsal time to explore a theme or concept, and taking all of the artists involved under that Umbrella – performing in the art form in which they are most comfortable.

This is also a good way to move forward, but I wish I had had the self-knowledge to foresee this, too.

“I wish I knew now
what I didn’t know then…”

It is a humbling experience to realize that your
1) lack of communication
2) over-ambitious expectations
combined to create an untenable situation for people you love and respect.

I want to learn how to work so these situations don’t arise. Or learn how to deal with them better when they do. I feel like my year of assistant directing has taught me a lot about how to work with actors, how to run a rehearsal, but not so much about how to not expect the impossible from creative teams.

Robert and Caitlin are both very clear that they want me to stay working with them, and that it’s just about restructuring all of our expectations. I’m grateful for that. After all, we all made mistakes this year, and the first year of starting a new arts conference is bound to be earth-shatteringly difficult.

But I made it more difficult than it had to be, and then none of us did a good job of talking about that.

I’m, of course, glad I had the opportunity to work on this script in the first place. But I should have been workshopping it as a written piece, rather than trying to write a new play with music and stage it with a cast of people who don’t sing. The fact that we pulled it off doesn’t make it right.

I had a lot of warnings that this was happening. I spent most of the month of January in Denver feeling like “This is all going terribly wrong.” Maybe none of us knew exactly how to fix it, having committed to something untenable, no one wants to be the first to back out. But I wish, so much, that I had had the courage to be that one.

At any rate, we’ll do better next year, I guess. It’s a weird feeling to know that your incompetence led to a better organization being created. Incompetence isn’t the right word. Maybe it’s stubbornness.

convergence, dance, poetry, rhyme

The sonnet arabesque

Yesterday Robert and I met with a composer who writes vocal and other art music, who wants to put her dissertation music together with a ballet in next year’s Convergence.

And last night I saw a performance at Butler Ballet of five short works, including Cynthia Pratt’s RAINMAKERS and Paul Taylor’s CLOVEN KINGDOM. This was the first time in my life I’d ever sat down for an entire evening of ballet. I was blown away by it. Halfway through RAINMAKERS, I had renounced words and spoken vocabulary. I’ve never had so much visual stimulus in my life. Where have I been that I haven’t seen this yet?

I have very few words about this experience, I feel like I should be dancing about it, instead of writing, but here’s a try: the conventions are so different – the lighting so aesthetic as opposed to narrative. The transitions, which I care so much about, seem so insignificant. ‘

The permeable stage, with the wings as flimsy as air, with endless streams of dancers rushing in and out.

The use of the body. The arm is the quotation mark of the word-body – it is much less significant than I want it to be.

The foot is the face, meaning emanates from there, and the face might as well be masked.

And finally, dance got there first. Before we (theater) did.

Then I got to meet some local Indy folks from the ballet community, including a gentleman who kills his own deer (to eat) with a bow and arrow, and has a quiver made out of a coyote he also hunted himself. We sat around a fire talking about fighting hummingbirds, dance, hip replacement surgery, and poetry till morning. One of the people there was writing her first sonnets. I’m going to send her these two poems.

It was beautiful to be in their home, looking at paint samples, eating leftover Dove Valentine’s chocolates with fortunes on the inside (mine was “You will make someone melt today,” but I read it at 11:50 pm) and pretending to have a place I live somewhere in this world. But I was reminded, while touching the coyote’s fur, that I never would have met these people if I were living so stably and simply somewhere. This is part of the journey. Ballet, bittersweet, and all.

If there’s anything in the world of words that can stand up to RAINMAKERS, it’s this poem. Ballet is rhyme, I think – that’s the only compliment I have for it. The repetition of elements chimes the same way.

The Windhover
(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

And this link to Harryette Mullen reading THE DIM LADY., her The Dark Lady takeoff.


IndyCon 08, penultimatum

I’m printing programs and a new call-script (B.T., I think you’ll be amused to hear that I ended up stage managing 13 WAYS as well) and making my way down to Wheeler to clean the theater this morning. Picking up wine on the way, for our invited audience. The streets are covered with snow.

The Indy Convergence presents its works in progress tonight. An open rehearsal, a laboratory, a culminating presentation. This reminds me of something David said yesterday, to the effect that nothing in our lives is more than an open rehearsal. So we might as well relax about it. Nothing is ever the final version.

There’s always another chance.

I’m going to sweep the stage this afternoon. I go out of my way to sweep whenever I can, and think about when I used to sweep stages for a living at the OFTC, and wonder if I would ever get a chance to direct a play again. That seems so long ago now. Every time I start getting frustrated with my own life or career, I try to remind myself of that. I could always still be sweeping, and in some ways, I still am – we all are – just sweeping the stages of our lives.

As the Chorus says,

“Do not give the grave your love,
It will take you soon enough –
Do not pray again for death,
It will take you nonetheless.

No mortal can escape
His death at last.
It will come to you.
Do not ask.”


IndyCon 08, antepenultimate day

In the wake of one of the actors having to leave the Convergence for health reasons, 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE CHORUS becomes a staged reading – very heavily staged, but a reading nonetheless. So many people in Indy have stepped up in the last two days to help this play find its footing again. I’m so grateful to them. There is sadness in me about losing the full staging of 13 WAYS, but also some relief in knowing we are now trying to achieve something smaller and more manageable.

Ian G. and David K. came in this weekend for lights and video design respectively, and taught workshops on sustainable theater and projection techniques. I stage managed our tech this weekend, which wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. It’s like riding a bicycle.

And the Convergers had dinner last night at Kim’s, in which we discussed the Klingon Hamlet, “What Is Art,” pseudoscience, “the secret life of cells”, and whether or not Orson Welles should feel bad about killing people with War Of The Worlds. It was so good to have a big Stoppardian intellectual discussion, and to have the time to sit and talk with people again.


2008 IndyCon, Day 3 – 5

Day 3: February 2
Introductory chorus workshops for the ensemble. No matter how many times I do that exercise, it always terrifies and thrills me to see the moment when the chorus starts thinking as a unit.

Music rehearsal with our composer, Chris. We couldn’t be more on the same page if it was the only page in both of our books. I have all these little jingle-type melodies in mind for the choruses, and he orchestrates them on the guitar with medieval open intervals, with blues-rock progressions, with Celtic-sounding arpeggios, with everything. I’ve never heard my bad ideas sound so good.

It’s like all those years of mindless rhyme practice are paying off, finally the form is serving the story instead of just itself.

Day 4: February 3
Very successful readthrough with full music this morning. I’m so happy about the large amount of singing in this show. Oh, and there is no better place to watch that particular Super Bowl than with a roomful of Peyton Manning / Colts fans.

Day 5: February 4
We staged the Prologue and “What Is Your Name, Old Man?”

We learned that the way we’re going to stage Oedipus’s “blindness” is that he’s going to enter with his eyes closed, and open them when he begins speaking, to be “blind.” He can make eye contact with the Antigones (who are playing a character-chorus) but not with the larger Chorus.


2008 IndyCon, Day 1 & 2

You know you’re in the Indy Convergence when you’ve written four (FOUR) new drafts of your script in one week, been to the airport twice, hung curtains, had a music meeting, duplicated keys, loaded speaker equipment, and located the source for clear vinyl dance-floor tape. (If such a thing as clear gaff tape exists, it’s not in this town.)

As I keep saying to Robert every time I walk into a room with him in it, “Robert! Welcome to Indianapolis!”

Yesterday we picked up Ashley, a visiting choreographer from New York, and spent time configuring the space, hanging newspapers and newsprint curtains, laying Marley dance floor on the gray side.

This morning, I took Ashley to renew her license at the Indianapolis DMV. There was no line. She was seen immediately. We walked out of there with a brand-new license for her less than five minutes after we entered. There’s also no such thing as traffic in this town. Snow, yes, but no traffic.

I’m on my way to the airport to pick up Tony, who’s playing Oedipus. We have a small-group readthrough of Draft 5 of 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE CHORUS tonight, and our first open community workshop tomorrow.

convergence, F&F, the chorus, writing

back in the saddle

Directing, that is, or travel – both. Spent the weekend between Red Bank and Philly, exploring the NJ Transit system. (Penn – Red Bank – Rahway – Trenton – Septa to 30th St.) Saw Aaron’s gory and wonderful MACBETH at TRTC, and met to talk SAGN choruses.

In Philadelphia, I visited Eileen and Danny, and achieved the rewrite of 13 Ways of Looking At The Chorus (which I’ve retitled “The Chorus Complex” in homage to Oedipus, for this draft, at least…) between 4 and 8 am. It felt creatively productive to see those guys again, but I also think it was just time to get it done. It’s funny how when you’re really ready to write something, you just wake up, no matter what hour of the day it is – and write it.

The new script has way more rhyme in it than I had imagined it would.

Today Susan and I saw Stoppard’s ROCK N’ ROLL (loved the second act, could have done without the first) and this evening I had design teleconferences with David (video) and Chris (piano.) I fly to Indianapolis tomorrow morning for pre-production on the Convergence and this flexibly titled chorus project. Rehearsals begin 1/31.

This has been a really wonderful stay in NYC, and unless something else comes up, I plan to be back in this city in April, May, and June – seeing lots of theater, and working on a script.

convergence, Lydia, travel

Goodye, Texas. Hello, Denver.

This is my last day in San Antonio. I fly to Denver tonight, to begin rehearsals for LYDIA. I’ll be working as Juliette Carrillo’s assistant director. I’m staying with Kersti’s friend Sarah Rose. Kersti is an actress I know from OSF, and she connected me with her. I live 3 miles by bus from the theater. I go in tomorrow to fill out paperwork and to see the Denver Center for the first time. Very excited.

Here’s the DTC’s blurb on LYDIA:
“A Mexican immigrant family is mired in grief, rage and guilt over a daughter tragically disabled on the eve of her quinceanera (15th birthday). When the undocumented Lydia arrives in El Paso from Mexico to work as a maid for the Flores family, her nearly miraculous bond with the brain-damaged girl elates, then angers and finally destroys the troubled family – and Lydia herself.”

I also had another Convergence teleconference yesterday. We’re going to be going after some grants for space rental, and we came to an exciting realization about how to best involve the local community. The Indy Convergence involves 4 types of workshops:
– Explorations (for all artists in and out of the Convergence)
– Open Studio/ Side Projects (smaller, more directed work on specific projects)
– Umbrella Project (for all Converging artists)
– Public Workshops (for community members)
and we’ve decided to make all the Explorations open to local artists. It’ll be a great way to meet people from the community and find out what kinds of artists are in Indianapolis.

We’re also going to offer, space permitting, the ability for local artists to teach their own Explorations.