As mentioned in the last post, there were two staged readings of my newest stage text '...whatever God is': a love story but before that - not mentioned because no photos to accompany the mention of it, was wedding number 2 with John in Inwood Hill Park! This was a ceremony meant for our family and friends, the one we couldn't have in rush last July...more on that at the end (saving the best for last!)
I recently also saw a show I really liked, Any Size Mirror is a Dictator by Panoply Labs - a process-based dance-opera, the likes of which you have never seen. The prospect of this cumulative event brought me to the dreaded hipster-than-thou Bushwick to Momenta Arts, and it was worth it. Bushwick, for anyone who hasn't been there yet, basically looks like an extended college campus amidst old warehouses and two-story houses that looks now like Williamsburg did back in the day (early 90s) - except it's already way too expensive - to be young and in NYC these days is kind of a disaster. Word on the street these days is most artists are living in places like Detroit. I get it. As for Bushwick now, I found myself both attracted and repelled. Attracted because it's a bunch of artists with little money (my people) and yet - as with any new-ish scene in NYC - it's predominantly young. I am now 51 and as such feel a bit aged out of that hood, which is the de facto set of Girls. On the other hand, this show...
...which was not so much a show as an experience - reminiscent of the kind we created with Apocryphal Theatre back in London - but with the advantage of having worked on this piece for a long time and presenting it as a cumulative set of process-based performances over 7-weeks in one space.
These kinds of experiences are hard to explain and I therefore encourage you to see Panoply's work whenever you can...but suffice to say the images, ideas, sounds and movements created many moments that we as the witnesses could bring together in our own consciousness as we saw fit, this last section of the opera being appropriately titled AGENCY. They also kept their rehearsal process open, which I watched that day, too. The building of a language between bodies that is both understood as intimate but also accessible - not in the sense of spelled out - in fact the entire performance gorgeously resisted signification (without losing a sense of significance - a neat trick) - but instead in the sense of: if you remain available to all the sensations, images, sounds (complex music by Brian McKorkle with text and direction by Esther Neff - and an astonishing ensemble of women who can move in all kinds of exciting and unexpected ways and musicians who can work with all of this), there is an experience available of a kind of psychic rearrangement. A sense of potentiality, of somehow touching the productive unconscious that Deleuze & Guattari are on about - but without being lectured at or to...a true delight. The last time I've ever had that experience has been at a Richard Foreman show. This has the advantage of now feeling like a much more feminist manifestation - a true female agency being embodied, which was deeply refreshing. Woman as subject(s), not object (s). At times I got totally lost, was annoyed, etc., but in the way life happens, so I am cool with that. The piece fed (is feeding) my soul over time rather than frittering away like a refined sugar in an hour like a more straightforward show might have done.
UPDATE (12/19): I received a note from Panoply asking me to mention that this piece was created in collaboration with choreographer Lindsey Drury of Drearysomebody. Duly noted. All concerned deserve credit!
The two readings of my own piece '...whatever God is' were two distinct experiences - one with a small audience, the first blush experiment - some kind of simple, happy thing...the next version - also an experiment - two weeks later with no rehearsal in between - with a larger audience - had a very different vibe because the actors could not move around as easily and there was this sense of the second time around. However, the actors did spectacularly well with dense and difficult material, improvising their way through the text and having spontaneous conversations between themselves and with willing audience members.
My vision for this William James-inspired piece is simple: theater as conversation...the opposite of the 21st Century 24/7 Performance Imperative...However, when attempted in a theater space, some folks have difficulty with this kind of thing and keep waiting for Some Normal Theater to Happen. So as not to be hopelessly abstract, below are some photos of the reading to give you a sense of what I'm on about....
(Pictures from the reading - taken by John Barclay-Morton)
|Christian Huygen, Shawn Cuddy, Roy Koshy (back) and Alyssa Simon - theater as (animated) conversation|
|Roy, Maria Silverman (back) and Shawn - actors discussing how they themselves deal with pain and grieving.|
|Alyssa - just a note to say: she's in Autograce, too!|
|Christian, Maria, Roy, Shawn & Alyssa - listening to audience member telling us about her own mystical experience - we were happy some people felt good participating in talking about '...whatever God is'|
I hope to find a way to make this piece happen the way I envision it in different rooms, layered, over time. Seeing Panoply Labs reminded me of what is possible again, and for that I am quite grateful. Sometimes I feel I must pit things into a certain Theater-Specific box, when I know better than that from my time in London and even some of the stuff I did before I left for London, so am glad to have my cage re-opened...
Speaking of which...
The brilliant Ian W. Hill of Gemini CollisionWorks is directing another text of mine My First Autograce Homeography (1973-74) at The Brick November 14-22 - this is a cut up from memories I wrote down from that period of time in my life - when a traumatic period of time for me coincided with a traumatic period of time for the U.S. While I was living with a caretaker who suffered a psychotic break, Watergate was unfolding. As I was released from this woman's apartment where she was holding me hostage, Patty Hearst was kidnapped. As the movie The Exorcist was released, my caretaker, Mrs. Levine, decided I was evil - being 10 years old and all, and the age of the possessed girl in The Exorcist. I discovered doing research for my grandmothers book that during the same time Mrs. Levine spiraled down to truly crazy and dangerous, someone tried to rape and strangle my grandmother Jani (who then went and used that experience to change the rape laws in Wisconsin, which in 1974 were crazy - like for instance attempted rape was a misdemeanor and raping your wife was cool). It was a weird fucking time for the country and a scary fucking time for me. The piece is a cut-up however, so not a literal retelling - there are images and ideas that link into larger realities - and I really, really wanted someone else to direct it, because it's clearly too close to me.
So, in case you didn't live then or didn't get enough of the early 1970s the first time around, or were perhaps let's say a bit too high to remember it (that'd be about 50% of you who were young adults then at a guess), come on down to The Brick Theater in Williamsburg and see what Ian has done with this piece. This event promises to be a multi-media feast (Ian being old enough to remember this time, he's got his own references, so it's not going to be a personal story - but a kind of non-generational time-summoning, I think).
The reason this is so exciting for me is this is the First Time someone besides me has directed a full production of one of my texts. Because I seem to be shuffling over to the writing corner more and more by inclination (though that could change - most of my life has been a swing between directing and holing up somewhere doing more private stuff like writing) - having the privilege of giving this text to someone else - who I know for certain gets this work direct and design it, is a great feeling. (Weird small fact: this is the last text I wrote before 9/11/01.)
If you haven't seen Ian's work yet, then that should be enough of a reason to go, not to mention the kick-ass cast: John Amir, David Arthur Bachrach, Olivia Baseman, Derrick Peterson, Alyssa Simon and Stephanie Willing.
I hope to see you there...
Finally - last but in no way least: wedding! John and I got married Again on October 4 in Inwood Hill Park. Photos are still arriving, but a few samples are below. The ceremony was officiated by our amazing friend Shawn Cuddy and included many rituals sacred to us, including (since it was Yom Kippur and because it's a beautiful ceremony) a Yom Kippur-inspired Tashlich ceremony led by friend Candace (who is the reason I ever met John since she convinced me to join OKCupid - where I found him - as anyone who's read this blog knows...go back to December 2012 and read on, if you wanna know).
We spent two days prior in fear we could not do the ceremony outside where we wanted it - in the park at the point where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers meet - because it was supposed to pour-ass rain All Day Long - which it did. We moved the ceremony to later in afternoon in hopes the skies would clear - and they did! So we had a beautiful ceremony surrounded by intrepid friends and family. There was a also, in relation to the Tashlich-inpsired ceremony, wherein you throw something into the river to let go of your sins/burdens (whatever you want to call them) for the year to let them go, a 5 minute silence - at which time folks looked at the river as the sun was setting. This was in honor of my meditation practice but also - no surprise to anyone who knows me well - John Cage.
There were many other beautiful moments, such as an invocation of the Four Directions (something at first I did not get but was so important to John & Shawn that I found my way into it and was moved) and hand-fasting, an old pre-Christian wedding ritual that involves symbolically binding the hands while saying vows - and us reading to each other our own vows. We also had friends read poems, by others and themselves.
I did not realize until afterwards how meaningful this would all be for us, because we were already married, but something about people surrounding us in a circle, putting all this time and energy into getting the ceremony to say and be what we wanted, having it led by a good friend I've known since 1981 (!), made it all - meaning John's and my union in relation to our community - feel even more solid. The calling to the Four Directions also seems to root us here on the earth somehow, too. I know that sounds pretty hippie, but as friend Nathan said at our toast later "Hooray for hippie weddings!" It's so who we are like it or not, and it's So Inwood (where the nearby Indian Road Cafe plays Neil Young with no irony - and is the NYC epicenter of the white pony-tail).
After the ceremony, we had a potluck reception at Bread and Yoga Studio - which was simple and lovely. John and I both feel blessed to be surrounded and supported by such love. If you were there, thank you so much for being a part of that beautiful day. If you couldn't attend but sent us your love and good wishes, we held you in our hearts. We will always remember this day.
Special shout-outs, too, to to Kate Vargas who sang at the ceremony (see my blog post about her music from January) - this woman can sing! And to Alyson Lounsbury (amazing poet) who wrote us a wedding poem (and also did my hair and held my hand throughout the day...a truly indispensable human). Friend Nathan who got chairs and tables and read a D.H. Lawrence poem, Christian who just helped with everything like always, Nanette who made sure Something happened for reception decorations, Peter who read Rumi, Julie who read Levertov and my mother Robin, who is the only human being to have attended all three - count 'em three - of my weddings. Damn, that's love, isn't it??
|calling in 4 directions - John smudging & me fanning|
|walking into the circle together - check out yellow orchid bouquet!|
more Canadians flew in (and they did make themselves known!)
the sun was setting, so this is grainy, but was during the 5" silence, a lovely moment