Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sheet Fort Experience- We Are In It Together


The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre Holds Fundraiser to Perform at the New Orleans Fringe Festival

Fayetteville, AR- October 8th, 2010—The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre holds a fundraiser, “The Sheet Fort Experience: We Are In It Together,” November 5th at the studio of local artist, Matt Miller. The event is at 8:00PM at 21 W. Mountain (Town Center next to Jammin’ Javas.) Tickets are $20 and can be reserved at

11/05/10 Friday: Doors open at 7:30, Performance begins at 8:00 P

After their debut as Fayetteville’s newest theatre company last August, The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre was invited to take “Bombs, Babes, and Bingo” to The New Orleans Fringe Festival in November. The Artist's Laboratory Theatre is a collective ensemble company that is dedicated to storytelling through the process of experimentation. For their recent production of “Bombs, Babes, and Bingo,” they spent the summer in a performance lab, experimenting with the structure and content of the play. The play is performed in a random order determined by the pull of a bingo ball, which creates a myriad of possibilities of story, character, and dramatic action. They are eager to take the show to New Orleans and represent Fayetteville as vibrant and diverse arts culture!

The “Sheet Fort Experience” will include a staged reading of Charles Mee’s “Time to Burn,” a play that The Artist’s Laboratory Theatre is considering producing next year. The performance will take place in a giant sheet fort (like the one you made as kid!) designed and constructed by local artist Mike Davis, and is the first in a series of staged readings which will take place in this type of intimate setting. ALT is interested in creating a dialogue with their audiences about the plays under consideration, in hopes that their choices of productions are meaningful and relevant to their community. They are also committed to bringing their work closer to their audience, and suspect the sheet fort accomplishes that.

The event will also include a cash bar and a silent, but “affordable auction” of local goods and services.

Follow their process on their blog at

And check out their productions at


Erika Wilhite

Artistic Director



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Place Project #1 lab- "stuff"

We are beginning with stuff. I think there is quite a bit to explore about our attachment to stuff. We are beginning with simple exercises. Finding ways to look at stuff differently.

I am copying my notes here. We managed to do it all.

Place Project

Lab #1 Stuff (Attachment)

To Do Today:

Notes to group: What it is we are doing. We will take our time. Be patient. We have time. We have some tasks, some activities to activate the story. Remember, this is a beginning. Don’t want for more than simple discoveries, just stay interested in the data, the bits that surface. Acknowledge their significance. And remember their significance for later.

Stuff we should do tonight:

· Viewpoint

· Read surveys to each other- questions: are there similarities? Discuss possible archetypes, threads, and consistencies. What is similar? What is different?

· the conventions of film (pan out, long shot, close up, track, slow motion, lights on/off to tell the story of the object.


1. Pick an object. What about this object is so great? Pick a reason it is great. Tell me why a person could be become attached to such a thing. Now find a personal reason for becoming attached to it and become attached to it. How did you acquire it?

2. Pick one person’s object and story. Make us a composition based on one object.

Title of Show: The Eyeglasses Show

Part 1- the meeting!

Part 2- something happens

Part 3- loss

Part 4 the reunion

· Harangue (group encouragement- total commitment)- loss of stuff- loss of place –tape, your object. Other objects. True stories are better.

Stuff Story Perform for me a story with your stuff. Make a play using things. MAke a language out of stuff. Like puppets or dolls or installation art. Show me a story using stuff only. Keep it in four parts. Title each part. Make every moment matter.

Monday, September 6, 2010

work in process #1 (Place)

The humble tenacity of things

waiting for people, waiting for months, for years

--From an Old House in America by Adrienne Rich

I went to Picher, OK with Toby and Christy yesterday. We have started our first WIP, the Place Project. That is the generic name for now. We are at the edge of beginning to understand what it is exactly that we are recording, gathering, observing. Not knowing yet what the story is, we are simply putting ourselves in a place where there are stories of home and family and the stuff our lives are built from. And of course, that is every place, for most of the spaces of the world are occupied by people- and people are the keeper of stories. I wonder if people leave places, do their stories stay and haunt the structures of their old lives? Does the story linger, like a ghost will hang around the bones of a body that used to belong to her? Do stories leave behind residue? Lives certainly do.

Picher is a ghost town now. All that is left is the lingering stuff. Ordinary objects, inconsequential things, left behind in the living rooms and bedrooms of people who did not take everything with them when they fled.

But it used to be a place of prosperity and promise. A real American Place.

Picher was a boomtown, a place that was born literally overnight due to the discovery of lead and zinc ore in 1913. The Picher area became the most productive lead-zinc mining field in the Tri-State district producing over $20 billion worth of ore between 1917 and 1947. More than fifty percent of the lead and zinc metal used during World War I were produced by the Picher district. At its peak over 14,000 miners worked the mines and another 4,000 worked in mining services.

The resources depleted, the mining ceased in 1967, and the water pumping from the mines stopped. The contaminated water from some 14,000 abandoned mine shafts, 70 million tons of mine tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge remained as a huge environmental cleanup problem. The area became part of the Tar Creek Superfund site. (Wikipedia)

Picher, OK has been called the most toxic place in America. The people were forced to leave their homes because of the health concerns. And for those families that held on tightly to their legacy’s architecture and did not accept the government buyout- they fled after the F5 tornado came through and destroyed what was left of the town.

The city's post office was scheduled to close in July 2009 and the city ceased operations as a municipality on September 1, 2009.

We get the feeling there is a lot of story there. Perhaps a big American story.

Before we look closer at the Superfund and toxicity, the failure of systems that were created to protect and support us, we simply want to witness the place. The ghost of home.

And we are developing a show about it. Perhaps. We will keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Next Big Thing

The Artist's Laboratory Theatre is going to New Orleans! We were invited to present "Bombs, Babes, and Bingo" in The New Orleans Fringe Festival November 17th thru 21st. And we are thrilled. We are bringing the playwright, Merri Biechler, back to Fayetteville so that we may pick up where we left off in the workshop! Joseph Fletcher will come back from New York and re-stage the show for us. Alan, our designer and co-artistic director, is dreaming up a set that can travel and set up easily. Our goal is to remount the show before we take it the festival- once in Fayetteville, next in Oklahoma City, and then hit the road for New Orleans!

But that all costs money, so it is back to square one! We are planning some pretty cool fundraisers. We also applied for fiscal sponsorship, so hopefully we can receive tax exempt donations as well! The money part is the least fun part of doing the art, but it can't happen without it. If anyone has any advice on how to create a FUNdraiser, let us know.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Audience Participation

Since our production of "Bombs, Babes, and Bingo" was an workshop production, we invited audience feedback through a talkback with the playwright, Merri Biechler on opening night. Following opening night, we included a feedback form in ever program, which most people filled out. One very generous and lovely response was sent to my email through the website. This person was thorough and insightful, we gained permission to post the critique on our blog. We thought it'd be neat to share the audience's perspective with you!

This is an excerpt from the email!

This play is a metaphorical, and sometimes allegorical, look at modern America's bifurcated efforts at peace and war. The play consists of several scenes; for each performance the order of the scenes is randomly selected by a Bingo system so that each performance is unique; the only constants are the first and last scenes. The program notes and website blogs indicated that this piece intends to look at how memory is affected by experiences, and in particular, the sequencing of those experiences. The blog notes relate a Ferris wheel story that superbly demonstrates how different sequences of the same events color a viewer's perception of the underlying motives of the characters. However, in BB&B, there are chronological cues in almost every scene that allow the viewer to linearize* the storyline despite the random presentation of scenes. In this respect, this production is more like a standard "flashback" work than an experiment in atemporalization*.

The plot:: Dennis, a scientist/bomb maker for the government, is brain-injured in a blast in Pakistan. His daughter, Hannah, wants to follow in his footsteps and become a bomb maker. Dennis tries to recover from his injury by subtracting extraneous information from his newly limited brain; his wife, Ellen, originally happy to be shallow, finds she needs more from life and leaves Dennis to enroll in Clown College; Hannah decides that bomb making is immoral and goes to Pakistan to help those who were "collateral damage" from U.S. bombs. Throughout the production Dark Girl appears, dressed in combat fatigues, variously as conscience, moderator and Bingo caller.

Overall, this was a good production and a great start for an innovative, cutting edge theater. The use of projection and sound was excellent. The set perfectly suited the performance. All four actors performed superbly. Christy Hall (Dark Girl), despite having fewer lines than the others, had a role requiring the greatest flexibility in character presentation—seamlessly integrating movement, voice and action through different characters. Asa Tims (Dennis) had the most lines, but his character was relatively static throughout the piece, revealing little self-insight at the end. Erika Wilhite (Ellen) did a good job of portraying the transition of a wife who initially worshipped "shallow" to one who ultimately needed to develop into something more (perhaps a metaphor for the social development of the U.S. from the '50s to now). Darcy Ames Harris (Hannah) was exemplary, shifting from 10 year old to adult, in the process recognizing the shortcomings of both her parents, and attempting to atone for the sins of both. The denouement was plausible, not unexpected, and well very well staged.

Eureka Springs, AR

From Process to Production to Process by Erika Wilhite

After spending the summer labbing and living in the process of "Bombs, Babes and Bingo," we moved into a pretty intense and compressed rehearsal period. We only had two weeks to stage the play. Considering the time constraint, I am very proud of our production. In retrospect, I recognize the need for more time with the playwright and director. Which is why we want to do it all over again! Merri Biechler, playwright of "Bombs," received some great feedback about the play from the audiences and is working on rewrites now! We will keep you posted on our next step! We are already making plans for the next lab this Fall.

For now, here are some photographs from a dress rehearsal, courtesy of Ellen Gregory.

"Bombs, Babes and Bingo" by Merri Biechler
Produced by The Artist's Laboratory Theatre
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Scenic Design by Alan Edward Schwanke

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Walking Into It . . .

Ever since we started this journey, I have always been on the outside. Far on the outside. Like 1,500 miles on the outside. Sure, I helped to develop the plan, the mission and the philosophy for the Artists Laboratory Theatre. But I did it from the comfort of my studio in Oregon. But the implementation of the mission was being carried out on a nightly basis in Fayetteville Arkansas. Despite the briefings and the videos and the reports, there was no way I could truly understand what was really happening in the lab without actually being there and seeing it for myself. I had heard dialogue and keywords like “viewpoints,” “experimentation,” “gestalt,” “discovery,” “kinesthetic response” etc. But I didn't know exactly how it all fit. In fact, there was a really short time when I didn't understand how the entire Lab really fit. “How is this going to get us to the final production of Bombs, Babes & Bingo?” Well, yesterday I finally got my first glimpse of the Lab in action . . . and all my questions were answered.
I stepped off the plane and received a delightfully warm greeting from my cohort, Erika: co-artistic director of the Artist's Laboratory Theatre. After getting settled in her home, we headed to the theatre for the Lab. Its a blissfully intimate space but certainly equipped to handle performance. Think about every real estate office you've ever walked into, remove all the furniture and paint the walls black. That's the theatre. But on those black walls are layers and layers of writing and scrawling and graphs and diagrams of the brain and chalk phrases etc. It is a record of the last month of Lab Work. Every time the company meets they leave a visual record of what they did, what “experiments” they performed and what the results were. Its absolutely fascinating to see how the company has really dissected the issues and problems addressed by the playwright of “Bombs, Babes & Bingo”. Memory, perception of memory, does the story change if we randomly change the order of the scenes? What is Dennis' acceptable amount of loss? What happens when we engage the characters in scenarios outside of this story?
As people begin walking in, I meet and greet them individually. They don't know me from Adam and yet I have the audacity to introduce myself as co-artistic director of this theatre . . . even though I haven't been here for any of it. There turns out to be 8 of us altogether and the Lab Artists have gathered around in a circle to do their “warm-up”. Its a fascinating amalgam of movement and sound. I don't truly understand any of it. As a scenic designer, this isn't my strength. In fact, it feels slightly invasive and awkward to watch. But they don't seem to mind, so I try not to as well. And within 15 minutes we have moved on to a composition exercise called “montage”. The idea is this: take a character and explore the visual composition of 5 moments within this character's life. This could be an emotional moment or experience, or imply a happening of circumstance. Just enough info to take us from point A to point B. Alter the audience's view any way you like. Put them anywhere in the room in any configuration you want that strengthens how they perceive the visual image that you will present to them. Each performer has their own particular wants and needs for their story. Sometimes we cram into corners and sometimes they surround us. But every time the experience is unique and each story more fascinating than the first. One story was as simple as the discovery of an umbrella. Another dealt with the eccentricities of someone's fascination with a ring. Another a balloon and another a chicken. Its difficult (and somewhat ridiculous) to describe but powerful to watch.
And then we take this experiment to the next level and apply it to the story at hand. How could the performers break down each character in “Bombs, Babes & Bingo” into 3 concise and exact moments? This is the challenge put forward to the Lab Team. Break up into groups of 3 and with less than a half hour, meet this challenge. I sat back thinking it would be impossible and chaotic. But I was wrong. What resulted for me was the radical shift in my traditional approach to the text of the play. We know the text, we know the story. But how are those characters truly defined by the story? What happens when you strip the excess? Each team addressed the characters in a unique way and in so doing brought a new perspective to the story that had previously not been realized. Some humorous, some serious. But the exercise added new dimensions to work and renewed my excitement for the piece.
At the conclusion of the evening, we played a bingo game with the scenes. The Lab Team sat around together and randomly chose the order of the scenes. After reading the scene out loud, we all rated the variables. What was the level of the perceived dramatic tension of this past scene? What is the dramatic tension for each character? And on the wall, as they had done so many times before, they graphed the results next to the previous experiment. And for the first time I could see the difference, the necessity in what was going on here. There was a difference in how we perceived the order of the scenes. The story did change. Perhaps not as dramatically as one might have guessed, but it changed for me. It was at that moment that I realized we were doing something different. Something unfounded. Something wonderful. I am very much looking forward to the next evening's lab!
A. Schwanke

Randomized Structure of "Bombs, Babes and Bingo:" Story and Character Arc Fluctuation


What is the effect of a randomized structure on the Story Arc and the Character arc in BB&B?


· The last scene before the end will be very important to the message of the play.

· G46 and G57’s locations will be very important to the story arc.

· If there are multiple climactic scenes in the first few scenes of the play, the play won’t work.

· The story will tend to arc naturally, with our expectations.

· All scenes will change tension depending on their order.

· The characters will be more important than order in creating climax


In order to test the play’s Story and Character Arcs the lab director and playwright created a scene-by-scene synopsis of events and a scene-by scene character perspective. The group will use these to graphically chart the dramatic tension (on scale of 0-10) for each scene, ten being the highest tension. To avoid swaying of the group by an individual, a card system will be used to limit discussion. The average score will be recoded as that scenes “Tension”.

In the case of story arc we will be constantly be using the major dramatic question, “What is Dennis’ acceptable loss?” as the guide post for judging tension. The more obstacles and conflict in a scene the more tension is created. In the case of the character arcs we will use the character’s personal stakes to guide their dramatic tension. Each scene will be rated for story and character tension before moving on to the next scene.

The lab artists first will create a control story arc by using the linear order of the events in Dennis’ life. All other trials will be picked in a random order from a bag. After each we will look at the results of that trail and then compare it to all previous results and the control.


The story arc in general looked compelling as it had a range of dramatic tension that fell similarly to the “well made play”. However the group thought the linear revealed details of character and action that made this not as compelling as trying to put the pieces together. B3 was very effective as the final random scene, creating a since of tension going into the conclusion.

Dennis’s character arc bounced between extremes of tension though out the play. Ellen’s character had the most consistent dramatic tension and the highest. Few of her scenes allow her to not be in conflict or facing obstacles. Hannah’s dramatic tension steadily grows as she moves into adult hood. The dark girl tends to live in the in the highest reaches of tension or the lowest.

G46, G57, B3, and N42 all had the highest story and character tension.

N33, 066, and I21 had the lowest story tension.

N33 and B6 had a disparity of high Character tension to low story tension. This might imply these are character driven scenes.

Trail #1:

The story arc here starts with several high peaks, falls at the half waypoint, and has a sharp climax.

Dennis’ character arc again had lots of peaks and valleys, mirroring the story arc. Dark Girl’s character tension peaks at the beginning, but becomes low for the rest of the play. In this trail it appears she acts as a catalyst for the action and then recedes into the background watching. Hannah’s character arc has more strong fluxuations that spread the length of the play. Ellen enters later in the story, but continues to curve into a smooth high-tension arc.

I21, G46, B3, and G57 all had high story tension.

066 and N33 had low story tension.

066, I19, and B6 had higher character tension than story tension. They may be character driven, focused not on Dennis, but on Hannah and Ellen.

Trail #2:

The story arc again followed the model of the “well-made play”. It had steady rise in action until the climax, followed by a second climax near the end. Dennis’ character arc matched the story arc. The group thought this a very effective version of the play. N42 as the last random scene gave greater dramatic tension and a compelling transition to the conclusion.

Dennis again existed in extreme peaks and valleys, but it appeared in this version that the dark girl’s character arc mirrored Dennis’. Hannah and Ellen also seemed to share a character arc in this trail, with Ellen having slightly higher or lower peaks and valleys. This arc is not as extreme as Dennis and Dark Girl’s.

G46, G57, B3 were again all high tension.

B6, 075, and 066 all were low-tension scenes.

I21 and B-6 had a disparity of high Character tension to low story tension.

I19 had high plot tension, though only Ellen had high character tension in the scene.

Trail #3:

This story arc looks very different from the ones the proceeded it, The play slowly builds scene to scene until the very middle, where we have G46,G57, and B3, the three dramatic tension high points, and finally slowly lowers in tension to the end. The steady pace of this arc made it less compelling or exciting than previous trails.

Dennis never reaches a 10 for the first time in any of the trails. This may be due to the steady build of tension. His character arc matches that of the story. Dark girl lives in extremes again, but seems to drive the high-tension parts of the play. Hannah and Ellen again don’t have strong rises and falls in tension. Hannah’s tension lives between that of her parents.

G46, G57, and B3 all have high character and story tension.

O75, 066, and N33 all of the low story tension.

B6 showed signs of being character driven.

G46: War Movie

G46 has constant high story tension. Also, it contains constant high character tension for Dennis and Dark Girl.

N33: Bar

This scene fluxuates between low story tension and high story tension. The trend is: if N33 follows a high tension scene the drop off in tension for the scene is sharper and leads to a lower tension level for N33. Dennis and Ellen’s character tension, however, does not seem to be affected by this drop off. They remain consistently at a medium tension.

O66: Wedding

The Wedding scene ranges from low to medium tension. The character tension for all three characters in the scene is consistently the same.

In trial #1 it’s interesting to note that 066 was preceded by two scenes that were negative for Ellen and this resulted in the lowest rating for story tension.

N42: Fire Works

N42’s was consistently medium to slightly above medium tension. Hannah’s character tension is consistently high.

In trial #3 Dennis’ character tension was unusually low for him. This may be because the scene occurred in the second position, and his relationship with Hannah was being established for the first time.

I19: Dear NFL

I19 sits at consistent medium story tension. The character tensions are consistently low for Dennis and Dark Girl, but consistently high tension for Ellen.

G57: The Fight

This scene had consistently high tension in the story for Dennis and Ellen, and consistently medium tension for Hannah.

075: High Heels

Tends to be medium tension for the story, Ellen, and Hannah. However, it’s subject to fluxuations from an unknown source.

I21: Downing

This scene was medium-high tension for story/Dennis, and high tension for Dark Girl.

B6: Pep Talk:

This scene was a constant medium tension for Dennis’ character and Story, while being consistently high tension for Ellen and Hannah.

G60: Counting Dead

Has nearly consistent medium tension. Trial two, however, had high tension, this may be because this is the only time this scene followed a scene not directly involving Hannah. Being away from Hannah’s story arc might heighten the tension that Hannah is experiencing in this scene.

Dennis’ dramatic tension fluxuates greatly this might be because his role in the scene is not strongly defined.

Hannah’s and Dark Girls character tension are consistently high.

B3: 911

The Story’s tension is consistently high. Ellen and Hannah’s tension are consistently high. Dark Girl and Dennis’ tension are consistently medium.


· It’s impossible to have high dramatic tension with out high character tension in this play.

· Scenes that consistently have low plot tension and high character tension depend on character development for their importance. Extra time should be put into developing relationships and character in these scenes: B-6, N-33, I-19, and I-21

· Hannah’s character arc, similar to her character in the play straddles the line between Dennis and Ellen’s arcs.

· G-46, G-57, and B-3 are consistently peak scenes in all 4 trails. Though they loose some tension if they appear early on in the play.

· I-21 had consistent medium-high tension.

· I-19 and B-6 had consistent medium tension.

· O-66 and N-33 consistently are at low tension.

· N-42 and 0-75 had the most fluctuation.

· Dennis’ character tension relates directly to what kind of role he has in the scene. Scenes where he is reliving events and scenes with heavy involvement of the dark girl have the highest tension. Scenes where he is watching a memory or experiencing an event he was not at are the lowest tension.

· In 3 of the 4 trails the first scene had it’s lowest dramatic tension rating (-2 to 3). This is likely an effect of not having established relationships and character. This has major effect on the tension in scenes that average a range from 5-7. It will be important to identify what makes each scene important and not have them depend on the dramatic tension in communicating that. High scenes loose some tension, but should still be at a high enough level for tension to be key.

· Early scenes can effect characters tensions if character relationships are being established for the first time.

· The last scene pushes a scene to its tension extremes. It has either the lowest or the highest rating of dramatic tension. This may be because we want this last scene to be the catalyst from breaking from the bingo game. When it is a strong scene in regards to story plot it’s tension is raised. When it is not, it seems like a gentle fall out of this convention and lowers it’s effects.

· Story arc’s that have lots of peaks and valleys and a sharp climax toward the end of the play seem to be the most compelling structure for the show.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Science is Art is Science is Art is Science is Art is Science is Art is Science is Art is Science is Art is Science

by Erika Wilhite
I needed to be convinced. As an artist with a long history of resentment for math and a potudent of anything that wasn't art, literature or theatre, I needed to be convinced that art wasn't a separate point of view. Perhaps it was my education. We divide art class from the others. I am called "artsy" and sometimes with a patronizing connotation. I defend and protect my work because it is not always valued as the work of a doctor, research scientist or engineer. I admit, there might be a chip on my shoulder. Somewhere, at some point in my life, I learned there was a division, a boundary between art and science and I was on one side. I belonged on a team, per se.

But here I am working with the Scientific Method. WTF. The first day of lab, Fletch hands out a defintion of the Scientific Method and explains that we are using the lens of SM to understand the play Bombs, Babes and Bingo in the lab. Now, I knew he was bringing science into the lab. But I thought it would be more... metaphorical. I want to experiment, and I trust Fletch as an artist, so I gave over to his science schemes and stepped out of my comfort zone.

And besides, the word Science comes from the Latin, Scio- to know as thoroughly as possible. And I want THAT. That is why I do theatre. It helps me understand things on a deeper level. And once I started framing my story questions with scientific vocabulary, I began to recognize the similarities.
The Scientific Method:
another set of vocabulary for asking the same questions

1. Identify the problem or question? What's the major dramatic question of the play?
2. Review Literature or Gather Information? Dramaturgy!
3. Formulate a hypothesis. We enter into a story with an idea of where we are going.
4. Experiment. Try stuff out in rehearsal.
5. Collect data. Data from our rehearsal notes, opinions from our collaborative team.
6. Organize and Analyze data. What worked, what didn't?
7. Interpret Data. Through production meetings and rehearsals, we make sense of it together.
8. Communicate Results. Perform for live audiences!

And science sets itself up to fail, or rather, evolve. An answer is still an informed guess, and true scientists get excited about being wrong! The more you know about a thing, the less you know. If you don't know a thing for sure, then you can still ask the question. There is movement in asking, so as to avoid entropy.

And I am at peace with that now.

Check out a Viewpoint Exploration of what what we learned of consciousness and subconsciousness. Science and Art looks pretty cool together.

A Preliminary Scenic Dialogue

This past week, Aradhana and I connected via long distance to begin a dialogue about the production elements for "Bombs, Babes & Bingo". It was a delightfully poignant conversation and by the conclusion I really felt like we had some firm ground on which to build our production. In an effort to keep the lines of communication open, I typed up the main points of our conversation and sent them to Erika and Fletch so that they could add in their 2 cents as well. What resulted was a concise record of the preliminary design process. The notes I submitted sparked an entirely new set of questions and answers from the team and each member responded adding their own point of view to the fire. Its everything that we wanted when we first convieved of this new theatre venture. So, below I have posted the preliminary discussion in dialogue form. As you read, please keep in mind that Fletch is acting as production manager, Aradhana is the director and Alan (thats me) is the scenic designer for this show.

Notes from the Preliminary Scenic Meeting:

Alan: The play revolves around Dennis. Therefore it seems logical that we should explore a central playing area that can encapsulate the action and movement of the piece.

Fletch: I think a large/long playing space will become important for isolation and extremes in spacial relationship.

Aradhana: I am intrigued with what Fletch is saying about distance options...but I can't help but visualize a more "crowded" playing area. This makes for the feeling that everything is RIGHT there, ALL the time, inescapably LOOMING, and HAUNTING. There is no where VERY far for them to escape...which is why sometimes someone has to crawl under a table.

Alan: I have to agree with Aradhana that the idea of spreading the characters out doesn't feel quite right in this story. And even less when considering the size and layout of the space itself. It just feels like the space needs to be a collision of happenings and memories. If he's trying to clear his head of the excess information, that signals to me that there is too much in there to work out, not that there is an abyss of space waiting to be filled.

Alan: The furniture and scenic elements are not only an indication of time and place, but also a symbol of each memory.

Fletch: Love this idea, I'd be interested to see how the same object could be used in a different context. This plays in the idea of associative memory and the process of how memories are broken down into different pieces all over the brain and then are reassembled when recalled.

Aradhana: Agreed on all counts here.

Alan: What we have to be careful of is not committing the sin of assigning specific subtextual meaning to an object or a configuration. Despite our best efforts, not everyone will respond similarly to the same objects. I believe it has to remain a visual symbol.

Alan: A visual cue will be employed for each individual scene. This cue will help the actors determine which scenic element moves where and whether or not it is present within the light or shadow of the scene.

Fletch: As we are discovering in the lab, auditory input is just as important, the two together actually make for stronger memories, or maybe one could follow the other as in association. Like the image triggered the memory of the sound, that then triggered the memory of the experience.

Aradhana: Fletch, I agree---and we discussed this. I think Alan is just speaking to things involving the set specifically. We spoke about having a specific "set" arrangement for each bingo-called scene. I'd also add that after reading your pole on the blog, I'm wondering if sense of SMELL can play into this piece. Remind me to tell you of Barrow Street's "Our Town" (did you see that?).

Alan: Brilliant idea to add sound as a cue as well. Love where it could lead.

Alan: Shadow will be just as important as light in this production. Therefore, the difference should be somewhat distinct and deliberate.

Fletch: Just to clarify, what is lit represents what Dennis is aware of in his conscious mind, and the darkness represents both his subconscious, and any "gaps" in his memory? Its important to remember that our long term memories have many details filtered out of them as they are created, and that every time we remember them they memory changes a little bit.

Aradhana: Yes, and YES. Shadow becomes a SET PIECE at times.

Alan: The movement of the scenic pieces will have meaning behind them. Although the scenes are out of order, we should be working towards some kind of revelation at the conclusion of the play. We want to try and manifest that conclusion within the physical elements of the design.

Fletch: What is this revelation? Is the realization that his family is dead? Is it the realization of his choice his work or his family? Or is it the moment of decision it self, where Dennis chooses his acceptable loss?

Aradhana: I think the clarity of circumstances and outcomes is revelation. Have you guys seen "Shutter Island"?...I love the way it felt when they had the sequence of revelation, and Scorsese brilliantly flashed us back through all the imagery we had previously experienced, but never quite "in place" so that until that exact moment, things never really quite made sense. I'd love to capture that feeling somehow...Alan made a comment that really resonated in me about everything sort of "finding their place" at the end. This is clarity. Perhaps it is a fleeting moment of clarity, but it IS a moment in time for Dennis' brain.

Alan: We both agree that in this production it will be important that all the characters/actors remain on stage for the entire duration of the performance. They are just as important in shadow as they are in light.

Fletch: Love this. Those not in the scene could be actively performing processes in the subconscious, instead of watching the scene. We are developing movement vocabulary for this.

Aradhana: Agreed all around. Thank you gentlemen.

Alan: Phrases used in the conversation: stability versus instability

Fletch: (control vs. loosing control)

Aradhana: Fletch, I love the additional perspective of control vs. loosing control, but I'd just like to re-highlight "STABILITY versus INSTABILITY" in terms of the SET. I'm talking LITERALLY. Alan had mentioned an idea that we're not sure about how to execute yet, but are intrigued with pondering, and that is about things not really being as "solid" as they appear. Maybe a top "layer" gives the illusion of stability, but then there are moments of discovery that show the under-layers have been scrubbed out or are missing in action. Alan, you had a much better visual cue---if you want to share...This is just a thought we were entertaining for contemplation.

Alan: fragments of memories

Alan: scrubbing out the memories

Fletch: not sure what this means? Long term memories are forever, connections can change or be broken, the "volume dial" can be turned up an down on cells, and memory can be rewritten, saved like the latest version of a word document.

Aradhana: Perhaps my heart wants to live more in the magical realism of the brain, then the actual BIOLOGY of the brain. Is this wrong? I think that's what's soo FUN about story vs. reality. I love the idea that certain things are WIPED out PURPOSEFULLY (now, they are STILL there---somewhere in the subconscious), but the attempt of loosing them was either made by Dennis, or some exterior influence. This all goes back to my fascination with "Eternal Sunshine Of A Spotless Mind", which I can't help but draw from when I look at this piece.

Alan: There's something fascinating about removing an outer layer of debris to reveal something beneath. Like washing the dried blood off a fresh scrape you got after wrecking your bike. Seeing the actual tendons and nerves and flesh behind this curtain of matter. Something to explore.

Alan: highlight physical elements of an actor (IE red shoes on the daughter)

Alan: find the proper vehicle for each moment

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lab Artist's Personal Blog Entry

By Darcy Ames Harris

On joining the Artist Laboratory Theatre...So I've been with the lab for nearly a week now. Each night we have started with viewpoints. I really enjoy moving around and getting in tune with the group and my body. After a good work out we usually discuss the play, or examine our brains,(or examine the play, and discuss our brains whichever). The first night we did a storytelling exercise, this was difficult for me because I have a hard time speaking in front of people,(even telling a joke). I get so nervous I completely forget what I am going to say. But that is why I am challenging myself to do this. (Can I learn how to be courageous, even if I was not born brave?) It's a bit scary but I am excited about learning something new about myself, and about the world.

Lab Artist's Personal Blog Entry

by Kimberly Campbell

I curl my hip in a circle then pop it up. Limp wrist. I soft focus and the group is reaching upward with jazz hands. We've been moving for thirty minutes, thinking too hard, not living in our bodies and allowing kinesthetic response. The tension is building and we may be stuck in a brain loop. I'm resenting the movement, but I can't find a way to make myself stop popping my hip. The jazz hands continue and the brain loop is stuck on repeat. Hip pop. Limp wrist. Jazz hands. Hip pop. Limp wrist. Jazz hands. Hip pop. Limp wrist. Then a scream. It's Erika. She's vocalized. "Guidepost." The loop has been cut and a new shape is being drawn. I move in sharp angles. I slice the air with my elbow. I'm drawn toward the group. The group is no longer doing jazz hands. I slice the air with my knee. "Guidepost." We are finding new movements now, new loops, but we haven't forgotten the first loop. The jazz hands come back intermittently, but this time they tickle us. "Guidepost." Jazz hand. "God." Sharp angle. "Guy." I soft focus on Toby. He's trouble. His jazz hands are the ticklers and we move away as people shout, "God." People shout, "Guy." People shout, "Guidepost." God. Guy. Guidepost. God. Guy. Guidepost. God. Guy. God. Guy. God. Guy. Toby's jazz hands are about to tickle me and it's too much to handle so I jump up in the air and scream in my shrill, high-pitched voice, "Lady Gaga!" God. Guy. Gaga. God. Guy. Gaga. A new loop begins.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Dreams are Smelling Weirder and Weirder by Erika Wilhite

"It is in our memory that we stop time. We can make our past a masterpiece. We become immortal in our minds." Proust was A Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

We are still focusing on memory and consciousness in the lab. After many sessions of repetition, my brain and body feel different. The work is really physical but my brain is also working out- physically. After some research of the brain and memory, I now get a visual idea of the activity in my head. I imagine my neurotransmitters zipping, creating new pathways and reinforcing old ones, the synaptic activity of a thought and a recollection. Memory begins as a changed connection between two neurons. Something changes physically in the brain- the act of consciousness and subconsciousness is an activity!

And I think my brain is changing. Something is changing, shifting, and I think it is on a subconscious level. The shift became very clear yesterday morning. I was driving on the highway while half-listening to talk radio. And a word, some word I can't remember now, jolted me into the memory of a dream I had the night before about a memory of my brother. I had forgotten I even dreamed anything at all until a single word, hours after waking- not an idea or a story, but one word- brought me back inside the sensation of the dream. I use the word sensation literally. And I say back, because I am certain this has happened before. Thirty years ago I was sitting close to my two- year old brother close enough to touch him, close enough to feel his body heat. He was a toddler. The sticky face and fingers, the dirt ring around his mouth, his blonde bowl- cut. It was him! I watched him breathe and heard the rasp of his baby breath. He had a cold. I was crouched next to him. I was also small. I could feel how small I was. His size was relative to my size. And I could smell him. I can't describe the smell. But it smelled like him- the way he used to thirty years ago. His scent was a part of his identity that informed me who he was and where he was, and who I was even. That sensation of his smell affirmed for me that I was having a true experience. And in that moment in the car, remembering the remembering of my brother, I knew that something in my brain was different. I have recently learned that the act of remembering a thing changes it. Our Now changes our Then. As I write this, I am now trying to remember my brother in that age and I can only summon up snap shots in the order they are curated in the family photo album. Those pictures have replaced or substituted the real thing. Except in that dream. I was re-experiencing a moment. The more I learn, the less I know, so I can't completely grasp the meaning. Fletch thinks it might be my subconscious piecing together the elements from other memories, which I stored separately from each other- little boy smell, sound of breath, visual of his hair, sense of body heat, all filed in different places of my brain and taken from different moments of my life. I resist that idea- NO WAY. That dream was a full and whole record of a precise and authentic moment in my life. I was time traveling. Beyond feeling strange and novel, re-experiencing the sensation of my baby brother from so long as a baby was an exquisite feeling.

In my naive and hopeful heart, I believe that the art of what we are doing is enhancing and expanding my consciousness. I want to believe I am expanding, and perhaps we all can time travel, and if we time travel, maybe we can see into the future as well. And then my brain aches when I try to even conceive the idea of time. And I start sounding like a lunatic.

But the dream was lovely and I look forward to every evening of work. It certainly has reintroduced my brain to my body, at the very least.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010



The Arkansas Artist's Laboratory Theatre Announces Its Premiere Production

Fayetteville, AR - July 6th, 2010 – The Arkansas Artist’s Laboratory Theatre presents its premiere production: “Bombs, Babes and Bingo,” an original play by Merri Biechler. Performances will be held August 5th thru August 8th at 2183 #1 N. College (just behind Foghorn's). Tickets will be $10 at the door.

8/5/2010 Thursday: Doors open at 7:30pm, Performance begins at 8:00pm.

8/6/2010 Friday: Doors open at 7:30pm, Performance begins at 8:00pm.

8/7/2010 Saturday: Doors open at 7:30pm, Performance begins at 8:00pm.

8/8/2010 Sunday: Doors open at 7:30pm, Performance begins at 8:00pm.

A brand new addition to the NWA arts community! The Arkansas Artist's Laboratory Theatre is a collaborative ensemble company dedicated to the storytelling process through the use of experimentation. The alt proposes that the scientific and artistic principles of exploration ask the same fundamental questions. The alt tests the premise and ideas of each project in a “Performance Lab” environment. Members of the alt company and Lab Artists from the surrounding community collaborate and experiment together to answer the questions asked by the playwright and their text.

For its first project alt is employing this scientific method in its approach to the script of “Bombs, Babes & Bingo,” a new play that explores the inner workings of the human memory. The questions of this play lay in its structure. For each performance, the scenes of the play are presented in a random order that is determined by the drawing of Bingo Balls. As a result, each performance is sure to be completely unique. But the big question is: will the story stay the same? Does the order of the events in our lives affect who we are and the decisions we make?

In addition to the production of “Bombs, Babes & Bingo” in August, the alt will also be showcasing its very first Science Fair: an evening of performances, by the Lab Artists, that are exclusively developed from the work done and the conclusions derived in the Performance Lab. A chance for the Lab Artists to “present their findings” to the community. The Science Fair begins at 8:00 PM on 7/23 at 2183 N. College #1. Doors will open at 7:00 PM for the gallery viewing. The show will be a chance to meet the artists and peek into their unique process. Suggested donation is $5 at the door.

Follow the “lab work” and rehearsal journals at: and


Erika Wilhite

Artistic Director

(405) 535-6652