Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Unseen part 2

We have had three performances so far. Unfortunately we've been rained out twice but we have been able to add dates and extend the run - the many benefits of a small cast, self-contained show where the company producers directors and supporters are all tightly intermingled. Also, the benefits of performing in a park - the space is always available to us and it costs zero money!
The three so far have been, from my p.o.v at least, been successful and we've had excellent audience feedback. No technical issues to speak of - or none that anyone but us would know about - and we've even been picking up stragglers: two nights I looked out directly at the audience at appointed moments and noticed new faces that hadn't been there when I initially stared them down at the beginning (during the Seance - I make my appearance in the centre of the circle and walk around the whole circumference making close eye contact with everyone in it. It's really fun to see how different people handle it - some giggle, some hold my gaze earnestly, some look nervous, some smile encouragingly) anyway so one night I looked up and there was a man taking pictures and he must have some very cool pictures because he caught us in tableau with the wind blowing our long skirts, and he found us at the end to ask what we were doing. And last night a man who was walking his dogs almost caused chaos when one of them ran over, obviously curious about the white billowy figures walking down the hill but the man spotted it in time, called his dogs and went to join the audience. It's fun and unpredictable, this site specific lark!
Rained out tonight unfortunately but a productive company meeting to add new dates and have dinner together (on our dirctor's parents, thank you Slack family).

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Unseen

It's show week!
I'm headed up to invited dress rehearsal now. Natalia will be attending and will be valuable in lending her keen physical theatre eye to any last minute adjustments we can make.

I'm going to attempt to give a sense of what this show involves since so few will be able to see it and it really is something special.

I'll start with a plot summary.

Amy is a graduate student at Columbia getting her Master's in sociology. She's dealing with some personal stuff that has been holding her back and keeping her from finishing in the alotted year.
The other day while walking in midtown, her friend convinced her to get a reading from one of many $5 street psychics. She does so for the fun of it but is surprised to find that the psychic has insight into things about herself that she's never told anyone. She could have dismissed it if the psychic hadn't also told her that she should get in touch with the past to understand her present - and Amy recently discovered, while procrastinating in her studies, that an ancestor of hers implicated someone in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, leading to the hanging of the girl she accused. Deciding that the discovery of a significant ancestor and the psychics' words were maybe some kind of synergy, Amy was relunctantly convinced to gather a group of people to conduct a seance to contact her ancestor, Laura Booth.
She chooses Fort Tryon Park around Halloween as the time and place for the seance and the psychic gives her a pre-recorded guided seance to take her through its initiation.
The group forms a circle, joins hands and begins to repeat a chant as instructed when a new voice shouts 'open your eyes!' interrupting the recording. Amy does, startled, and finds herself face to face with a young woman in Puritan dress. Amy is terrified but realises this could be the Laura she was hoping to summon. The apparition tells her 'do you really want to know what happened? Then don't blink. Don't look away'.
Laura performs a movemeny ritual that awakens the spirits of three other young women and a Reverend. They all walk away and Laura beckons Amy (and the group, though she can only communicate with Amy) to follow.
They are lead to a church where the Reverend preaches about the inherent sin of women and how the town must extra vigilant in light of goings on in nearby Salem. After his sermon the young women show the group a glimpse into their inner life - they are well-behaved good Puritan girls but impulses and feelings pulse inside for which they have no outlet or explanation, and to question them would mean severe punishment.
After church the four of them leave to go home. Laura, the unruly ringleader of the group, instead initiates a game of catch with the Bible that the Reverend (who is new in town and about whom little is known) pressed into her hands at the end of the service. She proceeds to run away with it, tearing out pages and scattering them. Her best friend Mary laughs, the new girl in town Sarah smirks and encourages her and Elizabeth, the most God-fearing, tries in horror to put the pages back. The girls continue on their path home.
Laura steps out of the story to communicate with Amy who asks why she is being shown this and who the other girls are. Laura explains that it was her idea to not go home, to run off and dance in the woods instead and that although the girls looked young, in truth they were all caught on the brink of adulthood with no way to navigate or control it.
Laura returns to the story to show Amy and the group what happened next. The girls dance and play and begin to run deeper into the woods, but Mary stays behind. Laura goes to find out why, and they dance together in the trees. Something changes between them as they do and Mary kisses Laura, an action so bold and unheard of that Laura is shocked. Mary runs away frightened and Laura turns to see Sarah approaching - she has seen it all, and Laura knows it. Elizabeth runs over to warn them that someone is coming. It's the Reverend, who is displeased that they are out in the woods at night instead of at home as nice pure girls should be. He blames Laura for the transgression but Sarah sees an opportunity to get Laura under her thumb and deflects the blame to Mary. The accusation escalates quickly and the Reverend fears they have been witches. Laura doesn't want to implicate her friend but she is terrified of what will happen to her if Sarah tells the Reverend who's idea it was and what she witnessed before he arrived. She agrees that it was Mary and they all set off to find her.
Elizabeth is afraid and decides to slip away and go home. She encounters Mary hiding, and tells her she can't talk to her or look at her because she's a witch and everyone will know it soon. Mary doesn't know what she's talking about and tries to get the truth but poor scared Elizabeth really believes that she is a witch and will not help her.
Meanwhile the Reverend, Sarah and Laura are searching. Sarah is subtly manipulating the situation by pretending to be concerned while shooting warning looks at Laura - she is enjoying finally being top dog. She persuades the Reverend to let them sit down for a while. Her new found power has started to go to her head and she begins trying to manipulate the Reverend too, taking his lantern and eventually touching his arm which sets in motion a game that she is too naive to play with a grown man. Laura witnesses, at first trying to play too but very soon trying to stop Sarah, knowing that this has gone too far. She can only look on in horror as the Reverend pulls Sarah in and kisses her - before getting up and running away, in spite of her fear being alone deep in the woods.
She leads Amy and the group up through the woods, her desperation becoming clearer as she realises what she has done by going along with Sarah's story and by starting the whole night in the first place.
Finally she comes across Mary, who demands that Laura look at her and acknowledge both what she has done and also that Laura was the only one brave enough to give them any sense of self or freedom.
They confront each other and eventually reconcile. Laura tells Mary to run, get out of town - but it's too late. The Reverend, along with Sarah and Elizabeth, has found them and Mary turns to meet her fate.
Amy is pulled into the story, taking the place of Laura as she said goodbye to Mary. Mary is taken away by the others, and the story freezes.
Laura asks Amy 'did you blink? Could you forgive me after what you have seen?' Amy asks if everything will be ok - she understands that to move forward in her life she needs to accept the part of her that she has been hiding and repressing. Laura tells her 'not for us, but we made our choices long ago. It's in your hands' before walking away into the darkness.

The End
I play Laura. Its pretty cool.
The whole show - soundtrack and interspersed dialogue scenes - is recorded and playing from iPhones using an app that syncs everyone perfectly. The cast all have Bluetooth wireless headphones (hidden under bonnets/Puritan hats!) And the audience all have their own set of headphones and a device playing the soundtrack. Because nothing is live it's more as though Laura, the conduit for this story, is beaming it physically or magically directly into the heads of those seeing it. It also means that anyone without the device or the headphones can't hear anything so passers by and dog walkers just see us dancing in silence which is quite funny to think about.

Next in the series, location photos and soundtrack!

Zombie (last week's state of mind)

I'm running on not enough sleep...so many coffees SO MANY COFFEES THIS WEEK, living out of a bag except I had to leave the big bag at work to pick up later because I can only take the small bag to rehearsal because we will travel all over a park and we do not have a stage manager who is also a donkey...that would be awesome maybe I should suggest to the directors that they invest in a show donkey...also, cute...SO one bag will be somewhere I will be elsewhere I will have to pick it up on the way home at 11ish tonight which will get me home at 12 then tomorrow I need to leave at 9 for rehearsal at 11 then go straight to babysitting then go and walk a dog then go to Williamsburg for a surprise party then go back to Manhattan for not a surprise party - it is an unsurprising party - then get home because it is my roommates birthday and then the day will be done and by then it will be December! Right? Where will my bags of various sizes be throughout the quest that is my day? I have NO clue maybe I should borrow the show donkey to help me carry all the things I need for all the things.
Whew! I'm the kind of tired where you get completely doollally and everything feels a bit like you're dreaming, but I'm still in the 'I'm going gaga but I think it's quite funny' stage. I anticipate reaching the 'basic tasks and functions like swiping a subway card or operating keys are insurmountable challenges and I can see no hope for the future' stage by 10on, after rehearsal.
Wheeeeeeeeeee! Rehearsal will be great though, these people are fantastic.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Buckle up this got really pensive and I wasn't planning that

Well I took two dance classes on Friday and my hamstrings are still pretty shredded.
This is upsetting because contemporary and hip hop were both hard work but not especially advanced or intense so should be well within the capacity of anyone calling themselves a dancer. They were, except for the fact that I have to modify so much of just the warm up to get through without really injuring myself due to my uncooperative legs. And even though I modified, I still ended up mad hamstring pain. This is in part due to many years of overstretching and reading muscle fibres because I wanted to - to quote an AMDA teacher - 'be a hero'. I unfortunately learned too late that being a hero in dance class - pushing your body beyond its actual physical capacity - actually benefits no-one least of all you. The compulsion is always there, though - to not push beyond limits feels like admitting defeat, and in dance world it's like an unwritten rule that unless you have an actual broken bone level injury you do not stop, unless you want to be known as a whiny little b****. For girls, as with just about everything, it is far worse. This is also an unwritten rule perpetuated by dancers - your teacher won't tell you to carry on if you're in pain (at least I've been lucky to never have a teacher who did).
The two classes I took on Friday were a solid reminder of all that but it's something I haven't had to contemplate for a while because I haven't put myself in a position where it's an issue.
I had to recently explain to someone why I was rejecting an audition they told me about. It was for a dance company called ALMA. I saw their website, I looked at their videos. I was a frustration combination of jealous and humiliated. I had to explain to this person that I would not get into that company because, as I can see from their videos, they want showgirl-type dancers with long legs and perfect hip rotation to allow them to kick high in any direction. A lot of the pieces were done in character heels - literally dance shoes with a 3 inch heel.  I've learned the hard way too many times how much my knees hurt after just a few minutes dancing in heels.
I had to explain to this person who has actually known me for five years that I can't do that. They said 'you're telling yourself no, why don't you try it and find out, I think it would be great for you'. While it is important to take leaps of faith it's also important to protect yourself emotionally and physically. If I had gone to that audition I would have been a fish out of water - as much as if I'd gone to an audition for an acrobatic dance company. And if by some miracle I'd been accepted, I would have put my physical well being and safety in jeopardy.
It's hard to convince people that sometimes it's ok to know your limits and protect yourself.
It was a weird moment and something I'm clearly still mulling over, don't quite have the answer yet.
But meanwhile the project I'm rehearsing for, 'The Unseen' is giving me wings. That is a company where I absolutely fit - even better, fit and then expand with them.

So I suppose what's so strange about feeling bad about an audition I'm completely wrong for is that there's no need because I'm quite happy where I am. I think this means that while I am finally starting to learn where I do fit in the dance world (for the first time) it will take a bit longer before I can quite let go of the part of me that wants to be a standard conventional chorus line-y type.

Ah growth.