Day 3 through the eyes and pen of Jason McCool – full post and photos on his own travel blog.
It’s hard to believe I’m already past Day 3 of the trip. Like the wind outside my stone hut, time is whipping by and it seems our 6pm rehearsal end time arrives approximately one hour after our 10am beginning. I arrived early and we picked up straight-away with our physical warm-ups from the previous day, including yoga poses, deep self-massaging (“find the poison points!”), and balance exercises, and today we added some vocal warmups led by Rachel.
What activities will they have in store for us today? Our first task is to assemble in groups of three and create staging for pages of text given to us by Tom. Sitting for a quick table-read with my partners Rachel and Chris, the language is already funny and cheeky and I’m loving the fact that though obviously there will be serious parts, we’re all getting the sense this show is going to be irreverent and entertaining. Since we’re allowed to use any location on the estate, we head outside and after a search, end up staging our text on the staircase of the main entrance to the estate. Our key word is “imagine” and we play with the idea of using the vast physical space in front of us, rushing from the field in three directions toward the “audience,” which we place on the top of the estate entryway. Given the lavish surroundings, the line “this once was a rundown parking lot” is a nice opposite. Our piece reminded me very much of assembling similar text-based pieces in Joy Zinoman’s Greek class years a few back. We start to build creative momentum, but only have a short time to finish our project in. The other two groups are funny and well-structured; one makes thrilling use of its location in a ladies room and the other deftly employs slapstick.
We continue with a group improvisation, exploring our own visions of what this piece might mean on an individual basis, then devolving into an all-out physical war between factions of the cast. (All in good fun, of course.) It’s cool to know that even if our impulses only generate a tiny portion of what eventually ends up in the piece, that it’s still our process this week which will help to set the tone; MJ would later refer to this as “spaghetti work” – throwing things up on the wall to see what sticks. (I should also state I’m learning a great deal about process-driven theater, which I hope will inform the OMG project we’re currently developing in DC!)
Next we’re given a video camera and split into groups to create short films which explore historical elements of the Swampoodle and the Uline Auditorium. Our piece centers on overcrowding; the other group creates a striking piece telling the story of anonymous census names through closeups of bare feet walking slowly by the camera. We then split off into other groups – a common question today was “who haven’t I worked with yet?” – and told to choose a photo for which we are to “recreate” a story of the moment preceding. Both groups pick domestic scenes ca. around 1910; the first group uses hilarious, Chaplinesque movement and finds some Duke Ellington to accompany, while our group “plays ourselves” before freezing in place uncomfortably for a good 90 seconds. (Long shutter speeds in those days, folks.) We end the day with music; two new groups are assigned texts (both giving poetic directions for areas of the Swampoodle, ca. the 1850s) for which we must compose and coordinate music. The first group lines up and bursts forth a tight, jig-like melody which ends up in a spritely round. When our group goes up, I make my debut in the Sean nos style of singing (or at least some version of it), improvising a melody in the flavor of the great singersI’ve been schooling myself on (it’s harder than it sounds!) and joined halfway through with a pub-style melody we came upon in the mere 10 minutes we had to assemble the piece. Have I mentioned how great it is to work alongside such talented, focused, and giving artists?