A teacher of contemplative theater who I have been reading lately, Lee Worley talks about the director’s role in a piece as being like a midwife at a birth, helping it to come forth in it’s own way–getting hands dirty when necessary, and letting nature do its work whenever possible. I love that vision. However, I feel more like the mother than the midwife most of the time–every movement forward on the journey is painful and takes immense effort. And I feel deeply connected to this entity that I’m sharing with the world, like it’s a part of me. I’m not so much witnessing it be born, I’m being born with it.
We’re a week away from the premiere of this piece and I’m drowning in details. The piece takes place at three different BART stations, with plans for how we travel between them as well. We’re making a movable theater in a sense, and have to cart along props, instruments, costumes, supplies, volunteers, audience, permits and more.
I love site-specfic work. I love the surprise of it, the seeing of places in a completely new way, the evocations of wonder and the feeling of participating directly in the art by watching it unfold somewhere unusual.
But I’m remembering why most dance/theater performance happens in spaces already set up for such things. It feels like we’re starting from scratch on this, at each location, on each day. And since the way I work involves shaping and crafting the piece right up until curtain time, trying to balance the obsessive quality of figuring out the truth of a piece with all the logistical, mundane details is quite a task.
Luckily, I have a top-notch team of performing artists working with me. I’m going to have to rely on their skill, presence and creativity for so many aspects of this piece that I think will be impossible to figure out beforehand. Not only are we working with a lot of physically risky, technically complicated and emotionally tender material, but we have a whole host of uncertainties in working outside in public spaces. The form of this piece echoes the content–looking at dislocation, displacement, travelling, home being nowhere and everywhere at the same time, having to create our own sense of rooted-ness with whatever is available in the moment. And the ensemble echoes the content in that we are a widely-varied group of people, with very different life paths, sharing an epic journey in the same “train car” for this brief flicker of time.
Our v-blogs have backed up a little bit while I’ve been immersed in finding the artistic through-lines of the work. So this post contains three v-blogs to keep us caught up.
Julia Hollas is one of those rare people who can simultaneously manage a complex list of administrative tasks and mental processes while throwing herself wholeheartedly and with great abandon into art-making. She excels at both with potent strength and integrity. It’s wonderful getting to work with her so closely in the rehearsal studio, after many years of working together on the daily grind of keeping a company together.
I find Rodney Bell to be an artistic “soul-brother.” He rarely follows “the rules” and ends up discovering images and relationships in the heat of creation that move the whole piece along in ways I could never have come up with. And he brings his spirituality into the studio in a manner I would like to emulate–creating a seamless flow between art and spirit and everyday interactions.
Dana DeGuzman is one of those performers who can make anything work onstage. Trained as a musician originally, he took to dance like a fish to water. Everything that I ask him to do he dives headfirst into, and through that commitment he brings it to life. He reminds me why I follow this crazy path.
All videos by Nicole Da Roza
Julia Hollas v-blog:
Rodney Bell v-blog:
Dana DeGuzman v-blog: