Block 647: May 1, 2015


May Day!

Date: May 1, 2015

Crane: 647

Days Spent on Project: 801

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: During that tumultuous summer of 2013, I had one more commitment. And it kinda got me back on track. It might have been a little needed. I guess it was a very low-commitment rebound theater job, with very little expectations (on my part).

When I was finishing the design work on The Illusion at Providence College in January of 2013, a friend of mine sent me an email, saying that the Lincoln Summer Lab was looking for a group of designers to work with playwrights and directors over the summer on small “workshops” of new plays. They paid a small stipend for the week, so I applied immediately.

And they offered me the chance to work for them for a week.

For one full week in July of 2013, I went to the Lincoln Center every morning to sit with a group consisting of one playwright, four directors, two actors, and myself the design representative.

Was it a great experience? I don’t know. I think the directors and playwrights got more out of it than I did. It was interesting to meet solidly with one group of people to discuss one new work with the playwright present and in the room. I felt a challenge within my small group, as the directors all had wildly different world views, experiences, and ideas how to tackle the work. I won’t say I was the oldest person in the room, because I don’t think I was, but I believe I was the most solidly set in my ways.

Which is neither good nor bad.

I wish I could remember the four directors names! I will try to find them so I can thank them personally with a Crane in the next few days. But today, I’ll start with the playwright in the room: Marjuan C.

The play she brought to the table was “small” in terms of physical size (around 15 pages), but it seemed to bring so much more to the table than it seemed on the surface. With each director’s interpretation, the show became something completely different. I was interested to design it, in theory, having full reign to go crazy with the work and actually explore it on my own.

Before meeting that week in July, I looked Marjuan up on Google. I found her website. I found reviews of her work. I kept reading about her career, her past work, and her current projects. I found a lot of publicity and advocacy on her part to get her writing and performances out there.

More than anything, as I sit and struggle in Portland with the idea– with the dream– that I want to try to create my own work and art here, it’s been interesting to think about self-advocacy and putting yourself out there. So many people, like Marjuan, have done it because they felt the need to do it.

No one is going to talk you up better than yourself.

So, best to start.

Music I listened to while sewing: I’m back on another Alexander McQueen kick. I’ve been watching and listening to his 2000 Spring/Summer runway show, “Eye,” on Youtube since yesterday afternoon.

I sometimes need to be reminded how theatrical those shows were… and how I want to work on things with that kind of intensity and visceral quality to them.

Where can I find that? How can I make that if I can’t find it?

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: During that Lincoln Center Lab week, I was asked to think about what kind of work we, as artists, wanted to create. I thought about it hard; after the past few months, I was starting to struggle with the question “Why am I doing this?”

I thought and thought about what my ideal product would be.

And my answer, as the week wore down? It was that I wanted to make theater that felt like an Alexander McQueen runway show. I wanted to make theater that felt immediate, that had a strong point of view, that was crafted well, that left you feeling something, that left you with an opinion, took you on a journey, surprised you, had a foot in the present while looking ahead to what’s possible while using techniques and ingredients and styles of the past, that didn’t take itself seriously, that took a risk, that was beautiful and ugly and scary and precious and challenging.

It strikes me, now, that at the end of July 2013, I started to put all the thoughts I was having on immersive theater– and what would become The California Project– down on paper. For whatever reason, that style and that presentation and that possibility felt immediate. It’s been a challenge.

I gotta keep that hope alive. And I’m trying here in Portland. And, in the spirit of people like Marjuan who write and act and want to get their stories out in the world, I guess I have to take a step forward even if it feels completely implausible and improbable.

Why not try?

Why wake up in 30 years, in my mid-60s, still asking myself these same questions without ever trying to answer them?

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