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!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Places We Go- Joplin

A big part of the Place Project is our dramaturgy—research that leads us to characters and ideas. Our dramaturgy is varied, and ranges from traditional research (reading and viewing content documented by someone else)—to travelling to specific locations of interest for "field study". We drift through environments collecting images, interviews, and insight.

Joplin, MO
The 2011 Joplin tornado was a catastrophic EF5 multiple-vortex tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri in the late afternoon of Sunday, May 22, 2011. According to the local branch of the American Red Cross, about 25% of Joplin was destroyed, but the town's emergency manager stated that the number was between 10% and 20%, with roughly 2,000 buildings destroyed.

We went to Joplin after the storm to help pick up the debris.

follow link to view video:

Places We Go- Roosevelt Island, NY

A big part of the Place Project is our dramaturgy—research that leads us to characters and ideas. Our dramaturgy is varied, and ranges from traditional research (reading and viewing content documented by someone else)—to travelling to specific locations of interest for "field study". We drift through environments collecting images, interviews, and insight.

Roosevelt Island New York

follow the link for the video:

The House Talk Back- notes from the audio transcript

by Joseph Fletcher

Lessons from the House:

Last summer’s “House” experience ended with the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine with an audience of about sixteen people. We had become a new little community and we all were chomping at the bit to chat about the performance. We recorded it, not just because were nerds (we are), but as part of our on going dramaturgy.

This is how we learn about our work; experimenting with ideas, taking feedback from our

community, and then making conclusions about how our experiments succeeded, failed, or surprised us all.

A few months ago Erika and I came back to this recording and took some notes. We would like to share some of the lessons we took from the lab. Be warned some of this might not make since to you or may even seem ridiculously simple, but it’s all part of our effort to let you into our process. In no order of importance or chronology and with a few questions of our own:

· Place is what people bring to it.

· The hand holding between the actor group leader and the audience built community.

· Hand holding built intimacy with the leader’s story.

· “They felt like a bead on a string. They were being led to something beyond their control.”

· “It is our last boundary without a stage. You have an actor, just being an actor and all of a sudden they aren't an actor any more, but you’re in a play still. And you see something, a play still going inside the house, It’s disconcerting.”

· The audience were exited to have their expectations change, but also felt far more uncomfortable than any other theater event they have experienced. No horror just apprehension.

· We like stirring a little apprehension, but how do we break the expectation of a sudden surprise?

· Feral children excite Erika.

· “You can’t wait to get back to the familiar.”

· Some got the impression that the leaders were trying to show what the house meant to them.

· David, one of the leaders, wanted his group to feel safe. The audience felt this earnestness. This is something that should be fostered, but in the context of character.

· People either stamped their personal history on the story between the two leaders or took them in a general way, seeing them as not directly connected. ”Running parallel life courses in different times.”

· People liked the vulnerability of the unknown. And the disorientation was important.

· How do we change the way they see a very familiar location? How do we disorient them this way?

· We should bring back the directional/birds eye view language by connecting with the map and the use of language.

· There was a connection between Kasper and the Runner. One learns symbols the other losses

symbols. Or more specifically, Kasper gains the context of words and the Runner looses her points of reference.

· We should always end shows with the breaking of bread, drinking of wine and sharing ideas as a community.

· Connecting video to live action has big impact.

· The term “residue” is important. It’s the idea when you leave place the experience still somehow remains there.

· When surrounded completely by the "stage" your slate of expectations is made clean.

· Fletch, don’t offer water to people. You ruin everything.

· Strong changes in lighting can take you out of the event or bring you back in.

· Place is an emotional or subjective connection to a physical experience in a location.

· Exodus: We need to find our community! In emergency situations we seek out anyone and we love everyone.

· We need a through line! But let the story be decided by the audience. Lets orient our selves specifically, but not definitively.

· Depend on gestalt and the audience’s active need to put things together for completing the through line.

· Being aware of other places (ie sanctuary/lawn mower during the runner) shades the experience of the place you are in.

· When sharing space with the action of the story the audience naturally retracts to give space and separation.

Audience gathers in "front of house" pre-show.

Place Project Part 1- The House

“The Place Project”

What is it?

Performances in nontraditional theatrical settings about the nature of Place .A long-term, multiple-location, site-specific, performance project. The mission of the project is to reveal and understand how Place—geographical, architectural, spiritual, and cultural—determines self.

(photos courtesy of Sabine Schmidt)

The House:

In June 2011, the company created a performance lab in a residential home. After creating dramaturgy (ranging from field study, interviews, pod casts, science theories, lore and legends), we created vignettes which we staged throughout the house for small audiences to experience through live and multimedia performances.

Characters and stories from our dramaturgy in the House:

Kasper Hauser
- A boy without language, because he had no Place in the world. Using what we know from his legend, historical accounts of his life,and current ideas in science about thought and language, we investigated how place shapes language and consciousness.

Myrtle Kindle - A weekly columnist for a small town newspaper who counts the flora and fauna, and muses on the reality of mortality in every day rural living.

Len - A former resident of Picher, OK (a dissolved city, declared a toxic superfund site by the government due to mining), Len left the town in his youth and recalls how a community holds onto place until they are forced to finally leave.

The Runner - Inspired by a Radiolab podcast about a real story of a long distance runner with a brain malfunction, we investigated the neurological process of Place association.

The Debris
- A video of Joplin debris projected in a kitchen. "If you command the reality of Impermanence, you don't get attached- you don't get upset." We created the piece from interviews in Picher, OK (superfund site), Joplin, MO, and a Tibetan monk in Fayetteville.