acting, Poland, quotes, the chorus, theater

“Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dear Milo,

It’s Monday afternoon. I’m sitting in the front room of the dimly lit cafe Mleczarnia, at (I think) the very same table where I first sat with R. when I first came to Wroclaw, two years ago, eating a slice from the same walnut-encrusted cake. (Perhaps not exactly the same cake. But its brother.)

Mleczarnia is one of my favorite places in Wroclaw, and not just because its courtyard adjoins the White Stork Synagogue. It’s also beautiful inside. The walls are covered with black-and-white photographs. The people in the portraits, in black dresses with white collars, in wedding gowns and formal suits, remind me of the one photograph I’ve seen of my grandmother’s mother, Sylvia Schwartz. Candles as tall as rulers stand on tables, next to teapots of dried flowers. And in front of me, a line of actors and tourists and Wroclawians are ordering enormous glasses of Zywiec.

To my great happiness, R. is actually in town, and will be joining me in a few hours!
I have my laptop and my cake and some tea I’ve let overbrew. I have two days of training to tell you about, but first I have a quote. (“Now, sir, what is your text?”)

“Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.”
–Billy Collins, interviewed in the Paris Review (

If you read “the performer’s body” for “the pen,” then this quote also applies to our own training. It is necessary to enter the rehearsal room with no more preconceptions than you have when you picks up a pen. (Of course, you often pick up a pen with tons of preconceptions. But the best writing comes when you let them go.)

The only way you can get anywhere is to let yourself not know where you’re going.

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Poland, the chorus, theater

For what purpose, I cannot say yet

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dear Milo,

Today was a day I’ve been waiting for for a very long time—the first day back in workshops at SOTG.

[recap of evening of 22nd]

Last night, my roommate L-from-London cooked a delicious vegetable curry (cabbage, eggplant) and we ate it with kasha and talked over our apprehensions about what today would bring. Roommate M. came home later, and we all three shared some fears and some hopes for the next day. It’s fun living with two other actors, going through the same experiences, but it also has the effect of having emotions be multiplied. Last night, what we were all going through was a bit of nervousness.

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Poland, the chorus, theater, travel

The Belle of Something City

July 20, 2011
Dear Milo, and everyone,

I’m sorry I haven’t called, I’m sorry I haven’t responded to your emails, and I’m sorrier that I didn’t get to see you before I left. But I have left, although I still have an hour or so left in the United States. We will not see each other for some time. But I am going to try to be writing here.

I am sitting at a cafe table in Newark Airport, waiting for a flight to Munich. From there, I will take a puddle-jumper to Wroclaw, where I will begin a year-long program with a Polish theater, Song of the Goat (Teatr Piesn Kozla). I will be doing their in-house MA in Acting program, and training with them. This study is being funded by a Fulbright.

None of this has sunk in at all, BTW. Last night I was working on a grant for a theater company I sometimes freelance for, and I was rattling off the facts of their announcements. So many performances, so many audience members, X, Y, Z. That’s what it feels like for me to write “I’ll be on Poland for a year, on a Fulbright.” It feels like I’m describing someone else’s life, rather than my own. Someone who has it together—someone who isn’t wearing socks and flip-flops.

But it’s me, together or not together. It’s me, following the trail of the elusive Greek Chorus Beast, as usual.

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poetry, the chorus

Invasion of the Poetic News

1) Parallel Octave‘s music director Joe Martin will be interviewed on WYPR Baltimore’s The Signal tomorrow, talking about the glorious paramecium/cornucopia of short film and poetry that is ANTHOLOGY I. The Signal airs Friday at 7 PM and Saturday at 1 PM, and streams online here.

2) My friend B brought it to my attention that my poem, “The Illustration,” which I knew was going to be in URBANITE’s print edition, is also now online. I like the accompanying picture of an enormous bird.

Poland, the chorus

Greek chorus & Polish theater

I will be delivering a lecture on the Hopkins campus on Tuesday. Here’s the information:

Spring 2011 Lattman Lecture Seminar
Tuesday, April 5
5:30 PM
Maryland 110, Johns Hopkins University

Dara Weinberg, Writing Seminars Department
Performing the Greek Chorus: A Focus on Polish Theater Practices

The choruses in the ancient Greek plays are notoriously problematic to stage. Directors, pressed for time, are often forced to shorten or cut these texts. A Polish theater company, Teatr Pieśń Kozła (Song of the Goat), has developed new, more effective techniques for approaching Greek choruses in rehearsal—physical and vocal exercises to increase the actor’s awareness of the ensemble. This presentation will address how Pieśń Kozła’s innovations can be applied to the problems faced in performing the Greek chorus, discuss the results of two case studies conducted with actors from the Single Carrot Theatre in Baltimore, and examine to what extent Polish rehearsal methods are practical for theaters in the United States.

the chorus

Call for Filmmakers: Parallel Octave announces ANTHOLOGY I

Ten poems.
Ten short films by different filmmakers.
One anthology.

Parallel Octave ( is a Baltimore-based group of actors and musicians, and we make audio recordings of poems in a format inspired by Greek choruses. (Many voices at once.)

Here’s how the project will work:
1) We provide the audio.
2) You (the filmmaker) provide the visuals for a short film, for one poem. (Think of it as a music video for a poem: you don’t have to deal with recording any sound.)
3) We combine the ten short films into one collaborative film, Anthology I, to be screened in Baltimore in mid-June.

Join us! Apply by February 15:

Link to application here.

Contact: Producer, Joseph Martin,

More info on Parallel Octave here (CityPaper article).

the chorus

last night,

Parallel Octave and I had a great time lecturing and performing at the Wham City Lecture Series. Thanks very much to C, R, and everyone else who helped make it possible.

I spoke briefly about the history of my attempts with choruses, then we demonstrated “Emperor of Ice-Cream.” Finally, we set a chorus from Ted Hughes’s AGAMMEMNON on the audience, a group of about 20 people.

Their brood gone, they lament their vigilance that failed.

One of the things I noticed with this group (this has come up before, but I think I have only just systematized it in my head) is that with such a large chorus, it becomes much more difficult to add in music in a first pass through. (This may have been exacerbated by the echo-y acoustics.) In choruses of, I don’t know, four or fewer, music almost always helps. Get to the 5-8 range–or above 10–and it can confuse them from listening appropriately to one another. I’m reminded that with N’s students (on this same text) we did not bring in drums until day 2.

We have some audio from the event. I don’t know if it will be listenable, but I will post it if it is.

Baltimore, the chorus

on Wednesday,

I will be delivering a lecture, as part of the Wham City Lecture Series, on the Greek Chorus. Doors at 7pm: lectures start at 7:30ish. The lecture will take place at the Baltimore Bell Foundry lofts and performance space, 1539 North Calvert Street.

The first lecturer is speaking on Kierkegaard. I’m going next, and am going to illustrate the chorus talk with a demonstration by Parallel Octave. The audience will be invited to join us in a chorus, as well (Ted Hughes’s Agammemnon again, inspired by N.W. and her students.)

I’m looking forward to this very much. I’m actually going to teach myself PowerPoint (I have hitherto successfully avoided it) for the purpose of showing pictures of Greek vases. Not happening. But the lecture should, still, be awesome.