Monday, May 7, 2012

The runner # 3

by Fletch

Thoughts after the interview with ultra-marathon runner John Budge:

In preparation for developing the runner’s story I got the opportunity today to interview John Budge an ultra-marathon runner who lives here in New York. John, originally from Seattle, has only been in the ultra-marathon scene for a couple of years now, but has dove into it with the obsession of a man who, well, would stay up for 27 hours and run 100 miles straight.

We sat at a table in McCarren Park, Brooklyn, and he was kind enough to share his experience, mindset, and thoughts on ultra-marathon running. I won’t include everything we talked about during our hour together, but will relay a few things that struck me.

· Diane’s positivity is not just unique to her personality, but seems entrenched in the culture and mindset of ultra-marathon runners. They as a group have to push though such difficult circumstances in these races that they have to have this driving can do attitude to succeed.

· Once you’ve mentally and physically pushed yourself to run 100 miles straight, you wonder what else in life you can push yourself to do. We often don’t do things because we think we can’t or it may lead to failure. Over coming something as hard as an ultra-marathon makes you more open to take risks and try new things.

· John says this stuck with him after reading it in a UMR magazine, “You just have to spend one day of your life dedicated to putting one foot in front of the other, to simply keep moving forward.”

· John also talked about the peaks and valleys of emotions while running and the intensity of focus while running. You feel such exultation one moment and absolute despair on the next mile. “Within the 100 miles is a life time of feeling and extremes.” I think the path of the runner’s path should mirror the one experienced on an ultra-marathon.

· I may regret this, but I think I should start running with the actor several mornings a week to train endurance and study of what its like.

· I love that John compares his running to his form of dancing.

· John, mentioned how for parts of the run he will be engrossed in the world around him talking everything in, but some times gets so entrenched in his thoughts that he won’t notice an hour has gone by. He isn’t sure how or when he sinks from one to the other, but interestingly though, it takes a single bit of external stimulus to snap him right back into his place. This could be a useful tool to use with the audience.

· The world record for a 100 miler was set at about 12 hours. Think about that.

· The economy of motion of a marathon runner stuck me. They minimize extra arm, body, and head movement to save energy. They also tend to have a shorter gait and work hard to find and maintain their stride.

· Another image John used that impacted me was the challenge of the “wall” and trying to push through it. To him this is the thrilling part of the run. When you reach what you think is the mental and physical barrier and some how push past what you think you can do. Seeing how far you can go beyond your own expectations and having the nerve to try. What he struggled to answer was how.

· See John’s blog about his race at the Rocky Raccoon, and the insane state his feet were in by mile 60. Some how he turned a sharp pain with every step into a manageable general pain though sheer will. Amazing he finished with 40 miles to go.

· John is very goal oriented with his running. What gets him out of bed and out for a 20-mile jog, is the goal of the race. If he doesn’t do this run today and keep to his schedule, he won’t make it through the race. All this work later comes back as motivation for the race itself. I think this may be a trait shared by the runner before the surgery. Organized, goal oriented, and keeping on a carefully planned schedule. This was her sense of place before.

· During the run too, John looks at his watch constantly, checking his pace and time. I think it would be great for the runner to start out with a similar habit. Is there a “white rabbit” quality to her early on?

· This maybe good subject matter for text, but the idea of peeing during a marathon is kind of funny. Particularly the anecdote about the elite runner who can pee mid run while maintaining a 7 minute run. The origin story of the belt buckles given out at 100-mile races might be good subject matter for text as well.


I got a big narrative idea from all this. The runner’s first sense of place is tied to mastering time and schedule. She’s got to keep moving forward, making it to her next goal motivated by her bigger goal. She gets satisfaction from pushing though the wall.

After the surgery there is no wall. The goal can’t stay in focus. She can’t keep track of time. She loses all her previous reference points and finds herself lost. But with-in her new disability she starts to move towards the realization that her new place is in the simple moment, in the bliss of now.

Please check out John’s blog where he chronicles all his races:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ghosts in a Garage

Last night we had another group session at the Fayetteville Municipal Parking garage. I brought 10 suitcases and a birdcage. Through viewpoints (an ensemble improvisational method to develop character and discover story), we explored community and journey. What do we keep in our cases? How do we remain individuals while being a part of a group? How can we hold each other up without losing our personal identity? In an hour of work, I identified at least two really important images for the show, and so many moments of beauty. It was extremely useful!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Proctor News

After dating my husband for a several months, he took me home to meet his family in Westville, OK. It was in these first trips out to see them that I discovered the Westville Reporter, and soon after I discovered my muse, Myrtle Kindle. She wrote a small column for an even smaller nearby community called Proctor, OK. The column was called "Proctor News".

Amy Beaver playing Myrtle in "The House"

Myrtle covers the spectrum of the human condition. She reports the comings and goings of small town experience. She counts the flora and fauna of the region. She counts the seasons with caution and awe.

She calls to God often, but mostly in quick prayers for mankind. This is all the news.

The Westville Reporter-
"Dedicated to the Proposition That What You Don't Know Can Hurt You." (I'm dead serious.)

These papers are sacred to me. I have been toting them around for years. I am devoutly endeared to Myrtle. She is very special to me. She leads with her heart. She is vulnerable, but courageous, and so dedicated to giving "the news" to her communities. My collection of papers range from 1987 to 2005. I think she wrote for so many years because was obsessed with her community. She seems to love just about everyone. She uses the language of the Bible, but doesn't alienate me with her Church Talk (I am unversed), instead I lean into the rhythm of her language—her Myrtle Meter. Her run- ons satisfy me. The way she won't start a new paragraph with a new thought blurs the images and creates, for me, deep meaning and meditation. She does the thing that poetry does: it holds you still to look closer, word by word.

Saw Jack and Louse and talked with them for a while.

You know, her sister had lost a son.

One thing nice, it wasn’t very hot.

Last week there was plenty.

Everything comes in gushes.

It is raining at my house, but not much.

She reports on who she ran into at Walmart, who wasn't at church; whose grandson was home from college, and who is going back to the hospital. She dwells on sickness so much until she gets sick herself, but resolves to pray about it. All this she writes in her column with staunch and cracking duty. She does this weekly from 1987-2005. She keeps the list going. She is keeping track of her people. You can feel her sense of obligation and to her community. You can feel her love.

I worked with this piece first in House, a performance about place and identity staged in a residential house. I worked with a wonderful actress, Amy Beaver, who helped me find the rhythm of the language. We created a performance at a kitchen table. Amy loved Myrtle too, and connected on a personal level. She knew women like Myrtle from her childhood in a small town.

In Alley 38, Myrtle is played by Kathy McGregor. Kathy is a professional storyteller with a diverse and deep list of life experiences ranging from Hospice Nurse, to union organizer and advocate. She is playing Myrtle in Alley 38. Together we are "writing" the piece. We are editing and selecting the succinct and sensitive moments to share in the performance.

And so the second part of Myrtle's place in The Place Project begins. Next time you can find her in Alley 38.

Kathy McGregor, storyteller

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Take our Survey!

We are collecting data for the Place Project, and we want to know your point of view! Please take a moment to answer 5 questions about Place!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Portraits of Impermanence

We have been calling the piece "Joplin", since it began with our trip to Joplin, MO after the tornado hit  last May. I created a performance in a kitchen in a residential home last June that explored the fact of Impermanence. Now I am  developing "Joplin" for the show, Alley 38, and continue considering the fact of impermanence through a series of portraits. 

A fact of Impermanence: Whatever IS will be WAS.

The fact that life blossoms among the ruins proves not so much the tenacity of life, as that of death.

Tree wrapping- a pagan tradition to celebrate trees. To change (create) a thing with your action, to enjoy your creation (pleasure), to destroy the thing you created by unwrapping (destruction/loss). 

I am experimenting with what kind of effect could dressing an object downtown have. What does it communicate? So I started testing this imagery in my back yard. I wrapped an old birdcage in green tulle so that it was indistinguishable. Then I watched it. The object looked like a bush because it was placed in between bushes. It looked like a fake bush, as if it was trying to fit in but not fooling anyone. I felt embarrassed for it. After gazing at it, the birdcage transformed into a large present because I had wrapped it, leaving a little flourish on top. It looked decorative.  

And then the light came through a cloud, casting an ethereal effect on the object. It became a cathedral.

After studying the object and allowing the many associations, I brought out Fletch to watch me unwrap it. Unraveling the tulle methodically put me in a ritual where we slowly saw the object become itself again. I thought of the walking group who walked to the woods, methodically wrapped a tree with ribbon just to unwrap it entirely after all their work. The unwrapping was evidence of the acceptance of impermanence.  I didn’t necessarily experience any sorrow or ache from the destruction of my careful project until I spent time looking at the mangled metal structure. I thought of nature and the tenacity of a vine climbing through the cracks of foundations in old forgotten houses. The birdcage is especially trashed. By the look of it, someone had run it over.  The white paint has faded as the rust spread. The object retains the evidence of its original purpose, but it is hard to imagine it being anything but what it is now- a waste. A piece of trash. Without meaning or purpose any longer. 

Wrapping made me think of the structures hidden under the natural growth that persists through our manmade world, and how although you may forget a place that once existed its, it is still there, haunting the grounds. And it made me ache a little, even thought it was beautiful. 

“I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago
And left no trace but the cellar walls
And a cellar in which daylight falls
And the purple- stemmed wild raspberries grow… “

Ghost House by Robert Frost

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Meet the Runner!

We are bringing back story lines from the house. We are going to use the Runner as a guide in Alley 38.

Here is Fletch's reflection on who the runner was, who she could be in our performance:

photo by Sabine Schmidt

The Runner

One of the characters we explored in the house was based off of a radio lab pod cast about ultra-marathon runner Diane Van Deren.

Diane, a mother of three, for years suffered from seizures. Just before they would strike, she would have a moment of warning that she calls “an aura”. That’s when she went to her best defense, tossing on the running shoes and hitting the pavement. Somehow this would prevent the seizures from taking a hold and is where her run of loving began. Eventually her seizures caught up to her and surgery was required. The doctors cured the seizures, but had to take a part of her temporal lobe to do it. This left her struggling with time and spatial orientation, but also led to her being one of the top ultra-marathon competitors in the country.

What interests us about her story is that she had to come terms with a new understanding of place in the middle of her life. After the surgery she no longer could read a map, struggled with short-term memory, and got lost in time. She went from clearly defined world to one without reference points. We want to explore this journey of having a clear view of the world turned upside down and then the rediscovery of her place in the world.

Last time in the house we told her story as a single event in the house. She ran circles around the audience and battled the confusion of her condition while telling her story.

Now in Alley 38 she will break out of that loop and lead one of our groups through the backstreets of downtown Fayetteville. She will take you to other stories while experiencing her own and hopefully you will get the chance to walk a mile in her shoes.

Check out our source material from Radio Lab’s “In the Running”:


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Making Maps (part 1)

Objective: To find interesting routes that take us to Places. Make inspired maps to use in the performance, Alley 38.
How: I gave the ensemble an aerial map and marked a "you are here", and then a star on the place I wanted them to find. After locating the place, they came back and I gave them a poem to use as a map to get back to that Place.
Why: Because there is never just one way. We are looking for all possibilities. What does the route look like if you are following literal or metaphorical landmarks? To find the poetry in place.

Walk with us! Watch this video!