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