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Friday
Jun152012

6 Ways To Rock In Theater And In Life

A 180-degree switch has happened with how we approach ENDURE. This tour has asked us to build entirely new muscles and I've since come to see these muscles ARE AWESOME. We are going to be great in the UK. I suspected it before, but I know it now, especially since our shows at FIGMENT NYC last weekend rocked so bloody hard.

How do I know we're going to rock? Six reasons. 

Reason #1: We go into the problem
When I trained in Suzuki Method with SITI Company here in New York, they used the phrase: 'go into the problem' Rather than stay safe or appear perfect, this was a call to dive right into the difficult and messy parts of life and performance. The UK will be chaotic. It will be busy, loud, colorful, distracting. There will be millions of people. In Edinburgh, there will be stilt-walkers and naked ladies with megaphones. People will be doing whatever it takes to get attention. And somehow, within that, we have to create a tender, nuanced and intimate experience for our audience. You can't create a intimacy in the middle of a circus by ignoring the circus. So: we make the circus part of our work. Learn to work with, under, around and through the 800-pound gorilla and his thumping house music DJ booth on wheels. I'm mixing metaphors here. You get the picture. Don't resist problems. Go toward them. Dance.

Reason #2: We do the work
There is also no way to learn theoretically how to stage a show in two days. So you have to just do it. At FIGMENT, we spent four long days on our feet, walking, blocking, trying things, running the show, re-scouting the locations as they filled with performers, sculpture and spectators, re-blocking as giant DJ booths set themselves up on top of our most deeply emotional scenes. As our burned-out garage location suddenly became filled with someone's SUV. I say four long days on our feet because our two performance days were as much about re-staging as they were about performing. We kept walking and adapting, walking and adapting. If I wrote a book about FIGMENT that would be the title. Or possibly: Of House Music and Inflatables.

Reason #3: We are willing to let go
When you re-stage site specific work in a seriously compressed timeframe, perfectionism cannot be present. Did we want a sudden, chest-exploding view of the Statue of Liberty in this iteration of the piece? You betcha. Was it possible to get people across an island festooned with inflatable sculpture, concert stages, drum circles and mobs of humans in any kind of timely and aesthetically relevant way? Nope. So we dropped it. And we dropped dozens of other "perfect" locations because if writing is about murdering your darlings then making theatre is too. This isn't to say what we ended up with was 'less than'...it's that we committed to the truly great locations and we let the rest go. The cocktail party dance number up the steps of a grand turn-of-the-century mansion? YES. The comedic sex scene on and around a giant cannon? Phallicious. Ending in a giant field full of people, sculpture, wide open sky and a bazillion-dollar view of Manhattan? Truly brilliant. Say yes to the truly brilliant, choose your chest-exploding moments wisely and trust that the rest will work itself out.

Reason #4: We make mistakes
The beauty of installing ENDURE in a new location or context is it tests a lot of assumptions about the show. And the only way to find out you're making assumptions is to have those assumptions challenged. This is what I mean by making mistakes. So at FIGMENT we made a few mistakes. With the staging of the beginning/Start Line section. With selecting certain audience members to play certain roles. With training our new crew. We learned a lot about a show we thought we knew implicitly. And thank God for that. I found out last year by taking the show to two cities in Canada that re-staging the show can only make it better. This is why. It's an opportunity to take the thing apart at the seams and find out how it works. To shake ourselves out of the 'this worked last time' mind set. To stop making assumptions and start asking the RIGHT questions: how does this scene really work? What's the purpose? What's the goal?

Reason #5: We embrace uncertainty
Creating, performing and touring ENDURE over the past year and a half has been an exercise in consciously releasing control and actively engaging with uncertainty. For a year I fought with perfectionism, trying to get the show 'right' and it's only the challenges of this tour that have driven me toward a new direction. I had a breakthrough in this regard during Sunday's performance. Earlier in the day, I made the decision to use everything that was occuring around me (from costumed bike parades to ice sculptures to crowds of people) as exactly what I needed for each scene. So whatever I heard, encountered, smelled and saw, even if it was different than what I thought the scene was about, became part of the world of the piece. I responded to anything and everything that happened, allowing it to change my performance and enrich the show itself. The ice sculpture became a moment for my character to cool off. The man pointing a camera at me provided the impulse to escape. The people pointing and staring at me as I staggered blood-soaked down the street fueled my character's terror and confusion. The little girl dancing through the 'Keep Going' scene became the perfect recipient of a pearl. The lock on my iPod deactivating during the Bear Man scene meant I disengaged from the physical embrace and dove headfirst into the act of truly seeing another human being. I danced in the moment on Sunday and it was incredible. Thinking I know something? Trying to be perfect? Both of these things are blinders to the infinite possibilities that are present and available in every moment. 

Reason #6: We have you
FIGMENT NYC was exactly what we needed seven weeks from our departure to the UK. We learned what muscles are strong and what muscles need more work. It was just the right qualifying race to clarify what we'll need for the big dance in London and Edinburgh. We could not do that without our audience and supporters. This show is impossible without you: impossible to perform, impossible to produce and impossible to tour. Thank you to all who were there with us this weekend and who have been with us all along. We welcomed first-time audience members and, it is my utter delight to say this, people who have now seen all three of our NYC productions. More than 50 people have contributed to our fundraising campaign. FIFTY PEOPLE care enough to trust us with their hard-earned money.

The community that has grown around this show is the most valuable gift I've ever received. 

I'd like to call on this amazing ENDURE community to help us end our IndieGoGo campaign with a BANG! We are now 95% of the way to our fundraising goal for this tour with two weeks left to go. If this were a marathon, we'd be at Mile 25...WE ARE SOOOO CLOOOOOOOSE. You can help us cross the finish line - please contribute and SPREAD THE WORD! Help us kick up the momentum and send us to the UK with the wind at our backs! 

And if the message of ENDURE or bearing witness to this process has touched you in any way, please tell us about it. It was my greatest hope that this show would reach people, speak to a place in them that was afraid and give them something...hope, inspiration, validation...that little push that helped them realize dreams arean't about accomplishing something 'out there,' they are about connecting with something 'in here.' That thing is in you. It's in all of us and the more you connect with it – and with the community of other people tapping into that same resource – the stronger it gets. 

 

 

 

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