Workshop, 2/20 (Day 201/365)

Another meeting of the workshop group tonight. In attendance were me, Marc, Galen, Molly, and Kevin McInturff.

We started by discussing items we had found over the week. I had two new puppet books to show. Marc had brought in some architecture books (one of Georgian period architecture, over which I drooled.)

I realized as I pulled in to the parking lot that after I got Finale 2006 working yesterday, I should have worked on extending the sunflower waltz, since that’s what we were working on tonight. Oh well. That’s what tomorrow is for.

[Yes, I played with Finale 2006 this morning/afternoon. Everything is as it should be with GPO sounds, in fact, better than it was, since it was working fine before except for the memory issue. Now that my new laptop has 3GB of memory, Finale 2006 performs fine. I can leave Finale 2007 out of the picture for the time being.]

I had brought in a photo from the New York City Ballet of five ballerinas in a very Grecian pose (and I don’t mean “one Grecian urn.”) We mimicked those for a while and liked the look. We’re assuming that the sunflowers will be teenage dancers, since we need to choreograph them fairly specifically.

We played first with the way the troupe of sunflowers moves across the stage the other times we see them. We clumped together upstage right, then moved across the stage in little shifting spurts. “Imagine you’re Matthew Bailey,” I told them. “You keep seeking the sun, the spotlight.” Once we get real dancers in there and get them to develop a vocabulary of movement, I think it will work well.

We then entered an intense period of fluctuation: what will the sunflowers look like? We tried baby tutus on our faces as substitute sunflower heads. We had construction paper blooms in our hands. We played with extremely non-dance-like moves. We discussed ways for the troupe to arrive (probably a classical corps de ballet entrance, just swooping in.)

Who were the Two Sunflowers? We keep coming back to their being older, weary of the travel. After their duet, using canonic movement to match the music, we gave them chairs and a small table at which to rest, tea to drink, and probably the Tiger to curl up at their feet.

In the meantime, what to do with the troupe? We kept playing with the idea that tiny movements could mean a lot if you have a lot of flowers on the stage, and with the idea that all the flowers faced the sun, wherever that might be. We had my three gobo’d window projections. We had an angel bring in the ball-sun.

And then we had an idea, one of those flashes. Somebody, Marc? Kevin?, talked about making the flowers puppets, in that the dancers would have two sunflowers, one for each hand. The stems would extend to the dancers’ feet.

Very quickly, the idea took shape: tubes of green fabric, covering elastic, strapped around the dancers’ feet; cloth/flexible leaves; sunflower blooms on handles, so that the heads could rotate independently of the stems. The sunflowers could grow, shrink, turn their heads, talk to one another, and dance.

After establishing the sunflower-ness of the puppets during the duet, then we could let the dancers have more dancerish freedom during the waltz, and the audience wouldn’t think twice about sunflowers whipping about the stage.

Returning to the Two Sunflowers, we decided that the singers too could have a sunflower puppet each, and they could have a leaf that could pick up their traveling bags and teacups.

We’re very excited about the Sunflower solution.

Then we played with Man in the Marmalade Hat for a while. (See how productive we were?) We put Galen out as the MMH and encouraged him to think of fleet movement. The MMH is a change agent and is in charge of those around him. (I keep thinking Tom Bombadil, actually.)

The piece is quite complex, staging-wise-speaking. You have the MMH, his attendant ice sprites, the Squadron behind them marching, the chorus itself, the Gang from the Inn, and eventually the Hedgehogs. Each group has its own movement: tempo, style, direction, pattern. All of them end up performing the close order drill down left during the first chorus. Well, not the Hedgehogs; they do the second chorus.

After seeing me play ice sprite, Molly decided that instead of slender teen ballerinas, they should be middle-aged men. In loincloths. Painted blue. I tentatively agreed to the concept, figuring I could safely count on wearing a tux and sitting next to Nancy Willard in the audience during an actual performance.

A lot of work, and now we’re ready to start putting stuff together. Those who are interested in an assignment should head to the Lacuna/William Blake/What We Need page.

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