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Work session, 08/14/13


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present: Dale, Jeff A, Jeff A, Marc

Marc led off with his “anxieties” over specific aspects of performance.  Used the storm scene from Lear as an example: what creates the effect of the moment?  Placement in story/performer/other stuff

Interest in developing a piece that takes the elements that contribute to the moment.  Also, what is our attitude towards story—are we [doomed to be] story-tellers?

A concern that all performance is mediated today, i.e., CD, DVD, film, tv.

Herewith, each member’s agenda:

  • MARC: I want to find out what my voice can do; avoid Lear
  • JEFF B: (1) vague ideas about piece about mill village/Strike of 1934—allow audience a way into that mindset—piece to be performed for groups/schools here and yon; (2) help Marc/Lacuna manifest Marc’s impulses; (3) Lear
  • JEFF A: personal growth—the group challenges me to think beyond my own boundaries
  • DALE: “empty vessel”; challenge of creating whatever others want to work on

Storm Drain

Marc had sent a text for exploration, “Storm Drain.”

Here’s the actual storm drain that inspired the text.

stormdrain

Marc: wrote it to explore interest in the concrete; audience is challenged to be present in the event—non-predictive, non-interpretive.

WE WANT THE AUDIENCE TO TALK AFTERWARDS, NOT DURING.

He referenced a piece by Beckett (Quad?) that consists of nothing but very precise stage movements.

At this point Dale got on his feet.  Marc demonstrated the two metal bowls he had brought.  A bit of water was in each, and as he struck the bowl, he moved it about and the tone was modified by the sloshing of the water.  He also brought his guitar.

Jeff and Jeff looked through the 1930s songbooks that Marc had brought.  We sang some songs, riffed on others.

Dale dragged out some of the previous Lacuna materials: the Vocal Sequence poster, plus some of the explanatory materials associated with it, plus the “moment cards” he developed for use during the Bear explorations.

Putzing around.  Working with the Monica (”Storm Drain”) text via the Vocal Sequence.

Dale asked for a task.  Jeff A told him to dance while he (Jeff) read the Monica text.

Jeff B began interviewing Dale as a mill worker; that segued into Jeff B becoming a mill worker himself. They improvised a wide-ranging conversation about the mill village days.  Marc improvised with the guitar, changing styles, rooting around the lyrics of “Old Wooden Bucket.”  The conversation took on Marxist undertones (of course).

Finally that wound down.  We debriefed a bit (comments below), and adjourned.

Another “Farewell to the Theatre…”


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It seemed appropriate to use a defunct theatre website for this.  I am in the process of carrying through on some emotional house-cleaning, and as a part of that, I want to include a farewell to theatre-making.  Not a grand, sweeping goodbye, I assure you, just a nod of farewell to a very particular set of concerns, to my own little peculiar domain of interest.  I’m saying goodbye to the few notions of theatre-making I’ve attempted to explore, unsuccessfully, for the last twenty-three or so years.  I want to briefly describe them, for the record, and then acknowledge my inability to realize them.  Perhaps they are  not really worth realizing, but I’ll stop short of asserting that.  I’m still too fond of the notions to go that far.

 

I want to keep it simple.  These notions are simple.  They are the shortest avenues I can imagine to pure stimulation.  In the end, that may be the problem.  I wasn’t necessarily interested in the complexities and deferrals of story.  But can theatre-making dispense with story?  I wanted to fashion stimulating events composed of human presence, focused microscopically through the material reality of bodies, voices and feeling.  I make it sound O so heroic, don’t I? But viable?  Playable?

 

When you see a production of a play or musical or opera and you respond to a performance and a specific performer, you are at a precise distance to receive what you could call a certain gestalt, a masterful coordination of elements within a storied framework which illuminates a featured instance of human agency.  You can call it “the power of a performance.”  You, the audience, the appreciative receiver, need the distance for the gestalt to cohere and work the way it does.  The theatre-making that intrigued me involved reducing the distance to the performance just enough for the gestalt to fragment and collapse.  The performer is now a heterogenous swirl of elements, elements which can picked through and re-aligned or juxtaposed or collided into a new kind of event.

 

Voice, for instance.  I really like listening to voices doing strong and unusual things.  I like the experience of a voice dispensing with amplification and projecting into a space.  I like the strange turns and distortions in such a voice.  I like to experience remarkable textures in a voice.  It’s a vocal encounter that only works in the here and now, however.  If it’s recorded, preserved, or mediated in some way, it might as well be a curio preserved in a jar of formaldehyde.  It’s dismissed as an instance of outdated oddness that can only collect dust on the shelf. But it’s evident that striving to produce such elements in a voice leads the speaker into unusual emotional territory.  The audience is taken to new territory in the listening.  I wanted to make theatre in which such an element is not a background “gift” or quality of a performer (or an instance of embarrassing excess), but is part of the focused stimulating event.  The performer brings it to bear through a kind of imposed immediacy.

 

Voice is just one element, one example.  Embodiment.  Movement.  Manner of relational approach.  Modes of intimacy.  These all float and hover and offer themselves for new configurations.  The performer willfully moves through the options in this strange disarticulated collection of possibilities.  This is the stuff of the theatre-making I attempted.

 

Why could I never make it go anywhere in a fully satisfying way?  I could offer any number of reasons, but I recently hit upon the chief reason, something that colored everything else, that explains much of what I see as a failure of will.  I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but I was afraid of what I thought I wanted to do.

 

I feared the very radical strangeness of what I wanted to pursue.  As you can imagine, it made surmounting the resistance of others rather difficult.

 

But there we have it.  My statement of intent.  My nod of goodbye.  I leave it for other more muscular imaginations.  Or if it is just a cluster of impossibilities knotted out of my past and could never be a viable route for theatrical exploration and expression, I can now simply set it aside.  I’m done fiddling with it.


 

 

 

Work sessions, 6/23 & 6/30


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6/23: Scott, Dale present

We worked on some of Edgar’s bits, especially II.3, where Edgar is on the lam. We played with the metaphor of Edgar shedding his clothes as he quickly sheds his identity and assumes that of Poor Tom. It works, of course, but there are limits to what we can pull off (pun intended) in our hometown. We decided that when we take the show to Edinburgh, we can rethink that concept.

We looked at ways to dissect Poor Tom’s ravings so that they a) make sense, and b) are easier to memorize.

6/30: Dale, Scott, Greg present

We played with IV.1, III.7, and I. 4, getting Greg in the mix with Gloucester, Cornwall, and Lear. We recapped some of the concepts we’ve been playing with and let Greg get acclimated.

We really need more people to start playing with. Dale decided to establish a Lacuna group on Facebook to help start advertising this opportunity for people.

Work session, 6/16/10


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present: Dale, Scott, Jeff A.

It’s been a while since this blog has been updated with any work we’ve done, even though we’ve been working a little during the winter and spring. Tonight, however, we dug back in in earnest.

One night in May, we met in Dale’s backyard, where he revealed his scathingly brilliant idea: disassemble the entire play and rearrange it in what we hope will be a powerful new sequence. Enough about that for the moment.

Tonight, Dale started out working with Scott on I.2, where Edmund first sets Edgar up as a traitor to their father. The goal was to strip out all “acting” and see how close to everyday speech patterns we could make it. Jeff joined us midway and we cycled through all the roles.

Scott moved us into I.4, the Fool’s first appearance, and we tried the same thing. It was interesting to go over the scene again and again and see where we could pull away from that huge sense of theatricality embedded in our perception of Shakespeare and take it as far towards “mumble-core” as we could.

We talked about the insane asylum image Jeff came up with in May. We joked about needing alcohol, et al., and perhaps including a bar at one end of the performance space for the actors.

We wondered whether we could be brave enough to do the thing with only the three of us. Jeff suggested a framework of the three of us reading through it and leading the audience into the world of the play that way. Dale referenced Shakespeare’s R&J, playing this summer at Serenbe Playhouse, which does just that, and Gatz, now playing Off-Broadway, which does the same thing with The Great Gatsby. Still, we discard nothing.

Jeff suggested that one way to work on the play with only the three of us committed at the moment is to study the storyline of Lear, the Fool, and Edgar. We began with the storm scene, III.2, and moved to III.4 (first appearance of Mad Tom), playing the scenes over and over to start to sound the rhythms of each set. We also played with varying stages of undress to see how they impacted the scene. Lots of discussion–and artistic nodding of heads–regarding potential nudity (!), but of course no commitments on that subject.

We have our path mapped out now, pending the adding of others. If anyone is interested in Gloucester and Kent, those would be the characters we would need to add next.

Mad King


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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpDmQJCsipk&feature=related

voice matters

King Lear, II.1


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the Earl of Gloucester’s castle

  • Edmund
  • Curan
  • Edgar
  • Gloucester
  • Cornwall
  • Regan
  • attendants

Discuss.

Lear, 3/24/10


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present: Dale, Jeff B., Scott, Jeff A. Spencer

We started by looking at III.7, the “eye” scene. How does one tackle such a scene? As Jeff said, nothing any of us have done in theatre has been this depraved. And then, not to get too Monty Python about it, how the hell do you pull something like this off? How do you gouge someone’s eye out? What do you do with it once you’ve got it? Should Gloucester face downstage? Upstage?

We played with various setups, and came to no real conclusion yet. Cornwall and Regan are a fun couple indeed. Their sado-lust is horrifying in the scene. (We decided Cornwall could hand Regan the first eye, leading to a very amusing take on “One side will mock another. Th’ other too.”)

We then looked at the III.2 storm speeches, the most famous in the play. After reading through the speeches independently, we began to explore.

One of the first aspects to pop up was the tendency, the compulsion to rage “nobly.” First of all, that’s very hard to sustain. Second of all, why after two complete acts of acting like an idiotic old man, is Lear suddenly oh-so-noble? Sure, he’s been wronged, but he’s there because of his own bad behavior.

Dale pulled back from the nobility and went for the petulance, which we liked. Variations followed, culminating (just as Jeff A and Spencer arrived) in Dale’s doing the speeches with a walker. Very ludicrous.

We pushed it even further: with Jeff B as the Fool, Dale rode him piggyback and railed at the skies, dismounting only for “Here I stand your slave,” and ending by sitting on a prostrate Fool: “O ho! Tis foul!” Something very appealing, very Eastern European about it. We filed it away for future reference. It’s certainly a bold choice.

Spencer and Jeff A leapt into I.2, between Edmund and Gloucester. We noticed that if you skip Edmund’s opening monologue (which they had), the scene plays out as the setup from a comedy. Spencer and Jeff went through it again, joined by Scott as Edgar. Finally, Dale assayed Edmund, Jeff B Gloucester, and Jeff A Edgar.

Lear, 3/17/10


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present: Jeff B., Scott, Dale

After our warmup, we started exploring Act I. Dale started with Kent’s I.4 opener, and we discussed ways in which a) Kent could “disguise” himself, and b) we could make sure the audience realized it was Kent to begin with. During one pass through the first part of the scene, with Dale as Kent, Scott as Lear, and Jeff as attendants, we discovered that it could be interesting if nearly everyone recognized Kent but just held up his disguise. Only Lear was blind.

When Jeff took over Lear in that scene, he played him very decrepitly, which we then explored. Our focus shifted to Lear and we pulled scenes throughout the play, from the opening to near the end, looking at how it worked if Lear were practically senile.

The opening worked very well. Everything’s going so well, they’ve finally gotten the old man, who has grown increasingly erratic in recent years, to hand over the kingdom. All the negotiations are over, he’s been talked into retirement, and the main reason for the confab is to choose Cordelia’s husband. Everything else is already settled. (We talked about having a map with the lines already drawn, for example.)

And then it all goes off the rails: Lear decides to pull his “who’s your daddy?” stunt, and the entire court is thrown into turmoil. He redraws the lines, embarrasses his daughters, and in general is a horse’s ass. In this context, we see Cordelia and Kent’s actions as desperate attempts to get him back to some kind of sanity. Goneril and Regan are justified in their alarm.

We did the “trial” scene and looked at the difficulties of making the scene work. One thing we tried was to relieve the tedium of Edgar’s nonsense by interpreting it as schizophrenic ramblings, i.e., under his breath most of the time. It would serve as “mood music” for the rest of the dialog.

We did the scene in Gloucester’s castle where the two girls confront Lear and grind him down. We marveled at the paradox in the scene, that Goneril and Regan are absolutely correct in everything they say, and that Lear is an unbearable old fool, yet we hate the girls and feel sorry for the old man.

Anything else we discovered?

King Lear, I.5


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a court before [Albany’s palace]

  • Lear
  • Kent
  • Fool

Discuss.

Lear, 3/3/10


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present: Dale, Jeff B., Scott

We warmed up via the Vocal Sequence.

We read through Act I, switching off roles, although the role of Lear kept getting shoved onto Dale. Not a lot of discussion or in-depth exploration. We did start discovering the dark humor sown here and yond in the script.

We’re doing this, folks. Get your schedules prepped for Wednesday nights.