Sunday, February 1, 2009

"...all them birds and predators just take from the land/But the beaver always gives a dam"

The title of this entry comes from the Canadian-based band The Arrogant Worms' song, We Are The Beaver. I use it as a nod to my oldest friend, Bobby, who will figure a little in this entry. (That's him there to the left of me, sitting between the paws of the lion.)

The Familie Floez ended up being a good time, with a cast of the highest stamina--four performers probably each tripled (at least) in the parts they were playing, but I didn't know this till the curtain call when there was just a quartet bowing on stage. Really great work, though I think they could have shaved about twenty minutes off. But still very enjoyable.

Seeing this show from the mid-to-rear section of the theater however, once again reminded me: I need to buy glasses. Or price Lasik in this country. Or consider contacts. Something. Nearsightedness isn't the worst problem in the world, but squinting through a theatrical performance or movie, or not being able to recognize your friends at a certain distance gets annoying after a while. And coming up on just over a year without any vision aid, I think the tolerance of this state has just past it's peak. I also have this theory that your physical vision plays upon your psychological vision--if you can only see the things right in front of you, you can't begin to consider the distant or not-so-distant future clearly. That may be a lot of poppycock, but it's my philosophy, not yours, so I'll subscribe to my own personal nonsense as much as I like thank you very much. But in any regard, they'd be useful, at least in so much that I wouldn't furrow my brow for an entire evening--at least not just to see the play.

My research group's last meeting on Thursday left us at a good place. I brought up my feelings of detachment for the subject, and Ronan suggested we all continue to do our own personal research about things we liked, and then when we were done, try to connect them in terms of interior rhythms. This may be a little foolhardy, but it's definitely worth a shot, and will at least keep the work interesting for us all. We met with two of our tutors and introduced this idea, and one of them suggested a rather mad, spontaneous, beatnik-ish exercise to try, which really excites me. I'll report back with more details and with findings once it's completed.

Our research groups have been put together into a bunch of larger groups for our "Stage Two Practice." Stage Two Practice will basically take the place of the small labs from last term, with one big long one. We have a set ensemble (mine consists of ten people, the largest has around thirteen or so) and will have to work with this group for the whole of the term, generating something to be shown at the end. It has been stressed to us that we don't have to present a polished/finished performance; moments, pieces, or scenes will do for our final presentation. However my group, now complete with a practitioner from the MA Writing course, Chad (I love him, he is awesome--AND American! w00t!), has decided to aim for a complete work, or at least something with a coherent storyline. All that abstract stuff from last term will hopefully fuel our creativity, but enough of the disjointedness, and let's create a narrative, already, please? At our first rehearsal/meeting, we each shared a story we knew, that had left an impression on us. I selected "The Soldier and Death," an old Russian folk tale, and still my favorite episode of Jim Henson's The Storyteller. Other contributions were: The Boy Who Kicked Pigs; the work of Matt Haig, specifically his one sentence stories; Sleeping Beauty; and Three Men in a Boat. The next day we had an outing to the Whole Foods down by High Street Kennsington to people watch. To focus our minds a little, Chad provided us each with the same quotation to consider as we observed people around the store:

"What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment." --Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning*

We shared our findings over lunch in their cafe (I had a super lame burrito). The next day we were meant to bring in stimulus for the designers in the group--scenographer Caitlin, and sound designer James. We decided that we would keep what we had talked about during lunch and the quotation in mind while selecting what to bring in. I ended up with the following:
  • A very sexy dress
  • A shoulder badge my great-uncle wore when parachuting into Cuba during the Bay of Pigs
  • A broken necklace I used to wear
  • "Hear My Song, Violetta" by Glenn Miller's Orchestra
  • "H in New England" by Max Richter
Other people brought in various pictures, a worn and tattered copy of The Little Prince that travels with them everywhere (rock on, Ronan), other music, and a book of collected secrets from anonymous submitters (Caitlin--what was the title of this again? I loved it so, but I forget...). Then the stimuli were divided up amongst us and we were paired up to create something around these things to present on Monday.

I know there's a lot of grouping, and then dispersion, and then re-grouping, and then re-dispersion, but right now the ensemble is still looking for a central idea. When we have a unified thought, I'm sure this will by and large end, since we'll all be working with one central focus. But right now, we're still in that generating head space, so, there you go.

Caitlin and I were paired up, and worked a bit over the weekend on this last assignment. We had a few pictures for our stimulus, but the one we most responded to was of a teddy bear faced down on top of a bunch of other trash in a dumpster. Lisa had found it randomly on some one's flickr account. To try to engage more fully with the image, or to just use that as the excuse to bring him out and about, I brought my small stuffed animal, Bobby Beaver, to our meetings. Bobby is just over twenty years old, having been a Christmas gift from many years back. I had not anticipated bringing him along to England (we've lived apart all through college, and for most of my time in New York post college), but upon my mother's insistence, he came along. And how fortuitous that he did. I've been trying to get him into a performance piece since last term when I thought I could fit him into my solo presentation, but to no avail.

Here he is, hard at work during a devising meeting:
Look how happy he is: "I love collaborative theatre!"

And here, feeding that damn caffeine addiction of his:
"I've sold my soul to Starbucks..."

Whether or not Bobby will end up in our final piece of dra-ma remains to be seen, but he's a nice artifact to revisit and is, I think, partially responsible for actualizing part of our stimulus for what we'll be presenting tomorrow. I like to think so, anyway. And so does he.

In other news, I've been helping my friend Ariana with a piece of theatre she's currently creating about immigration, assimilation, and cultural identity. The picture below is from an exercise she held for myself and the other artist assisting her, our friend and classmate Loukia. I had to get in front of Loukia at any cost, but whenever I did she'd change her facing, thus putting me behind her. Finally, I got in front of her and grabbed her around her knees in one last desperate attempt to win the game. I did, but cracked up in the process. I corpse like anything, it's so bad.

Someday I'll be a professional. But not today.

The Space (in) Between has also been doing a little better, with some new blood in it this past week, and some really interesting conversation to go along with the presentations and feedback. I get really excited during these meetings--there's no crazy pressure to compose something since things aren't assigned, but you're still encouraged to be creative and say "yes." I like that environment, and I'm happy to contribute and help create it.

That's basically it, but before I go, here's an overview of what I'm doing this coming week:
  • Seeing a friend's stand-up show
  • Going to a lecture on plagiarism
  • Attending a D&D satellite event at SHUNT
  • Participating in a day long phenomenology workshop
  • Hanging out, drinking, and enjoying a whole night long production of The Medea (from midnight to 7AM, oh yes).
  • Drinking more coffee
  • Participating in more theatrical brilliance
Oh, and Happy Langston Hughes's Birthday to you, friends.

*(Side Note: When I first read this quotation, I felt I recognized the title and the author from somewhere. While writing this entry, I suddenly realized I did a report on this book in the 11th grade for my Holocaust and Humanity class. That being said, I must admit to you: I have never read this book.)


Caitlin said...

The name of the book is "Postsecret". The author also has a blog by the same name and several other books. Really fascinating stuff.

I'm glad Bobby enjoys making "devious" theatre. We need all the help we can get in ATP!

Zuzu Petals said...

Loved this. Bobby Beaver is hysterical. Postsecret is awesome. And don't forget to snap if you're going to be a beatnik. It's required.

Lea Maria said...

Sweet--thanks, Caitlin. And you know Bobby: the more devious the theatre, the better!

And Amy Lee, never fear--I anticipate video recording for this venture of beatdom.

cokaly said...

i haven't the slightest clue whether the stories are related or not (though i would imagine there must be some faint connection), but i'm singing some excerpts from "medea in corinth" the week after next. it's a musical drama (not a full-out opera, from my understanding) set by american composer, benjamin lees.

Lea Maria said...


If she kills her children because the man she loves leaves her for another woman, the stories are related. At least thematically. And Corinth was the city Jason abandoned Medea in. I would be interested to hear this--what are you singing it for?

cokaly said...

it is the same story then, it seems. i'm singing the excerpts as part of a lecture for the 15th annual Robinson Jeffers Association Conference. robinson jeffers being the one that wrote the libretto for the work. very cool, albeit weird, music. should be a good time.

cokaly said...

actually, i just realized....the text is ADAPTED from jeffers's 'medea.'

Lea Maria said...

My mother sent me a link to my own blog with the below message. I think she wanted to leave a comment, but didn't want to sign up for a Blogger ID.

"Bobby looks like he is enjoying school and has fit right in. i'm sure he is glad he went with you."