Monday, April 16, 2007

Peter Brook

Peter Brook visited a small housefull of us at the Harbourfront Studio theatre today (April 8). I felt a little giddy recalling the teenie eenie run of TransCanada that had played there two years ago. Something I'd written for Cliff Cardinal and Lena Recollet, directed by Cowboy Nolan, had inhabited the space that Peter Brook was taking up. I love this city.

He began by speaking to the importance of space and its influence on the work. The moat between himself and the house seats distressed him, as he wanted more of a dialogue than a lecture. Made me smile to picture Cliffie jumping out toward the Canada Day crowd two years ago with a big damn plate of glazed dougnuts- how the kids whipped out at him like frog's tongues.

Jani Lauzon asked him to speak to multi-culturalism. He noted that the term "multi-culturalism" was a horrid one. He said that ultimately work on a global scale is more powerful when one works with people who come from a variety of sources. He said that people "absorb the rhythm of their source" and became quite animated when he observed how immediate the exchange is between two people when they have different rhythms. "The moment there is a meeting, something can be shared, exchanged." This led to a question about his interest in South African stories.

He spoke of the way that all forms of creative expression were outlawed in the townships under apartheid. Reminded me of how those in power came to Canada to study the treatment of the First Nations (specifically the reserve system) when formulating the system some decades ago. Ultimately, it seemed as though the vigour that came from finally developing their theatre legally was what drew him to work on South African works.

Andrew Pifko asked about whether Brook had noted the emergence of any styles in the theatre of late, whether for better or worse. Brook responded with "style is something one should never be conscious of." He observed that someone is always hard at work on "next week's cliche". He spoke to the drive of a project and how basing it in a certain "style" is not genuine and generally crap. "If it's a style, then it must be abandoned."

Somebody I couldn't see asked about auditions. Brook thinks them an evil that are sometimes necessary in spite of it all. He knows working sessions to be much more helpful for everyone, as compared to the lone nervous actor spewing his memorized solo work for three to five minutes or what have you. When working on multiple exercises with other actors, those casting do not judge whether the actors are fit to the project, they come to know it.

Someone at the back asked whether Mr. Brook could trace the moment when he decided he had to become a theatre creator. Brook took exception to the usage of the word "Creator". He said "I hate. Hate when people presume to use the word 'creator'." He thinks it pretentious. I later giggled when Mr. Marc Bendavid sheepishly admitted it was he who posed the question. I use this word regularly, in spite of the fact that my own preferred spiritual term in reference to a greater energy than single humans is The Creator. Theatre is creation- creation of a storytelling experience among people in a space.


This post is old now, and I will conclude it when the impulse strikes me again. For now, I just want to send it off...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

once i had this dream of you

Did I ever tell you?

I dreamt your head was bleeding all over you, pouring down in thick red globs, running fast in places, bright red and shining. You were stumbling around, drunk from loss of blood. It was a bright wide open space, broad daylight downtown. A hotel lobby and business all around. Pieces of your head were on the wall, on carpet, in your mouth as you smiled and on your t-shirt, an old white one. Leaking down into the waistband of your jeans, making you warm and sticky, forming crusts of dark brown red in places. You were breaking your head against the wall, I could see, but had set that aside for a second.

There was something about the way you looked at me that made me see I was the only one who might try to save you. Thought you should be saved, knew you to be a thing of pain and beauty. Everyone else could only see the damage. You told me without talking that you were going to keep pounding. -after you’d looked over the lobby full of complacent citizens, people in professional clothes, preoccupied with being busy, moreso than with being people, confirmed that they were not good company, you would continue mashing the organ that holds you in it, pulp it out of thinking on it anymore. You told me deep inside of me that you would let me save you.

I was scared to take hold of you, not sure of where your wounds were, knowing you had been breaking pieces vicious for a time. I know that this has taken you over before, but not like this. You veered back to the wall and I grabbed your ribcage whole. Your legs gave in and I drew you into my arms- encircled you, pulling your poor head against my heart, willing it into mending with my hands.

With this I break myself against you.

Did I ever tell you that I dreamt this dream?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

good thursday

This play, Quilchena, is generating its own momentum. Affirmation that there is more at work on this than just little ole me.

First, an invitation by Cahoots Theatre Projects to apply with them to have me housed as their playwright-in-residence for 2007/2008. Wow. My first offer of this sort from a professional company. A company that is so well matched - what good fortune. Fingers crossed, lads.

Second, SummerWorks lets us in! Really? Oh, my. This will be an adventure. I already anticipate my greatest overall challenge will be keeping the play within the time limit. Best to focus on a logistical concern rather than... oh, it's my first directing work. It's the first one person show I am writing, and the story will affect the people who make up the community I come from... these are far bigger than me. Ultimately they will work out as they will. It's only for me to check in that I am moving from a place of good intention and toward furthering communications. (I'll repeat to myself as I rock back and forth under the kitchen table)

Am presently trying to figure whether a 2nd draft and workshop are achievable before I run out of province to get wrapped up in Thy Neighbour's Wife. I suppose if I've been looking for the nudge, the SummerWorks news is it. Is it unreasonable to ask people to come to a second reading already? I feel like I ought to be paying them, which means I should do. One ordinarily finds it challenging to get people to go to theatre for free- and that's only sitting in a darkened room watching people make-believe. Asking them to interact, engage and discuss... is that more or less?

Personally, I prefer inclusion, but my normal-o-meter has never been particularly functional.

This blog is really useful as a means of sorting through my foggy scramble-head to sift out the topic-specific stuff. Piece by piece, thoughts get clearer. I am ever more dependent upon the keyboard to stitch together my own coherence. I get the feeling this would be an oddly ironic final entry before the last tenuous shreds of my sanity finally go the way of the dodo.

"It all seems so clear to me now..." and I'm discovered by my landlady stripped naked and eating a skinned cat in the neighbour's bluebox. Christ.

Hey, isn't tomorrow his birthday?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Oh, yeah!

Every so often I am happy to discover that I have been wrong about something.

'Bout a year and a half ago, while in the midst of having a play of mine produced by a company that had an existing infrastructure and staff and an annual budget and all of that fancy stuff, I found myself battling disinterest in the form that my play was inhabiting. Not theatre itself, but naturalistic (in fact hyper-realistic in this case) theatre. I kept saying to my closest friends "I love the team on this, but I'm kinda over this play." While the story was still one that I cared a great deal for, and I was honoured to be working inside the nurturing environment of Native Earth, I was feeling uncomfortable with the structure of the play. I suspect, only now, that this was largely a product of fear.

As is my general custom, I prefer to criticize my present state harshly before anyone else can. It's safer and I don't ever have to be surprised by anyone's judgment because mine is already in full bloom. This keeps me in a near-constant state of discontent, which serves to keep me from getting lazy, but also makes for a lot of flagellation. All around it's a tiring thing to maintain and prevents me from gaining perspective of the motivations for my behaviour until well after the fact. Good to be aware of this, now to take steps to alter this pattern. Anyway... enough tangential blather.

Last night I saw the Company Theatre production of Tom Murphy's A Whistle in the Dark. My regret is that I was not early enough to sit front and centre. The show was, at times, uncomfortably intimate in the best possible way
(a phrase used by a friend of mine to describe his experience of sitting in the front row for my play, Dreary and Izzy). There was acting work going on that absolutely drew me in. It has become a rare thing to be able to shut out the noise of my life while experiencing storytelling of any form: plays, films, books.

This was the first I had ever seen of Joseph Ziegler's work, having avoided most things Soulpepper. Frankly the privileged white male dominated empire that is Soulpepper makes me feel like wretching. Too bad, cause Ziegler rocks the Casbah. Other reasons I might have missed this show: it's not a new work, it's not Canadian, it's all white, it's mostly male, it's at the Soulpepper space... more of my own baggage impeding the enjoyment of this rich life, I suppose. Good reasons to go include: it's Irish, it's from an emerging company, I have repeatedly been told to catch it by friends who know me well, there are reportedly good actors in it. The only one I already knew to be fantastic is Sarah Dodd.

Also outstanding were Allan Hawco (who I had never seen perform- holy shit he is a powderkeg in this play), Aaron Poole (who spent much of the play listening while vibrating and doing it with such commitment and in such a creepy/menacing way that he was utterly compelling), Richard Clarkin (who I'd seen do Uncle Scar umpteen times while I was living in an usher hell sponsored by Disney, but have never seen really live a character. So so fine. Thorough, full and layered.) and Dylan Roberts (whose character you just immediately adore and want to have over for lunch).

To sum up, realism has made a welcome return to my heart. Will I write more of it? likely not anytime soon. Will I see more of it? likely not, as it is so often executed so poorly. It ought to be the easiest thing- we live in reality for the most part, don't we? I was holding that as a truth for the past year and a half (that it's a simple thing to get right), but really I have so few examples of people getting it right. How blind we are to our own ordinary glory. How unobservant. Is that also borne of fear, or just laziness? Poor self-esteem as a race? Living half-numb?

Right, so... who else has done this well?

The Actor's Repertory Company with their Pinter this summer past. Siobhan Power had stellar moments in Rubenfeld's Spain. Am I forgetting something? Someone? OH! Caroline Cave in Tremblay's Past Perfect. Hm.

Actors. Falling in love with acting and actors again. Spring fever indeed.