Dear Devotion: a process of discovery

The idea for Dear Devotion first came to me sitting in the doorway at the top of the stairs in the hallway that separated this tiny French bistro from my ballet studio. I was probably about thirteen, and I was waiting to be picked up again. My parents were often late to get me if they were fighting which happened a lot lately. So I would bring books to read, but mostly I would write. This one day particularly riddled with angst I wrote a poem called Dear Devotion. I’ve always been highly critical of my work so I knew that objectively the poem wasn’t very good, verging on overtly sentimental and forced tragique, but the idea at the heart of it was fire.

I journaled about it for days, and weeks, and months turning that idea over, never quite satisfied with my conclusions, but I felt like I was starting to unravel a riddle far greater than I was. The poem was simple stanzas that repeat about a woman falling in love, getting married, making a home, and burying a man who can not, or will not, love her. She devotes her life and love to him but it’s never enough, and in the end bitterly rebukes him for all they have lost as he lays dying.

It was around this time that I was introduced to Taming of the Shrew and A Doll’s House. I was struck by how these women resembled the woman of my poem, of my mother, and of what I imagined for myself. Still a young girl I lacked the experience to contend with their noble struggles but I felt a natural affinity for them all the same. Kate’s longing and green sickness, and Nora’s determined naïveté. Somewhere over time these became woven into my tragic aesthetic and I knew I would write a play about them, but I needed a third to round out the comparison, all good things come in three. I read lots looking for the third thinking she would be a more contemporary heroine when I accidentally stumbled across Antigone at university at around age 17. Her fierce loyalty would round out Dear Devotion, and in my mind the three women became inseparable.

I have devoted much of my time since then to what I would call my research to develop this piece. From learning to write grants to training my body to collecting a million snippets and pins of design ideas to coming to a better understanding of my own history and relationship to these women and my femininity I have grown into the piece for over a decade now. The piece becoming more of itself as I have become more of mine.

Last night I presented what I will call my first public exploration of that work at a house party in the Sound & Silence HQ that I put together that very afternoon with the support of my dedicated friend and conspirator Tristan Hills. I took a thousand and one raw ideas I’ve been harvesting for years and wrought them into a shape that resembles the direction the piece is taking.

First we shaved my head, a cleansing as much as an aesthetic task. Then I rolled around in his backyard and marked the beats and transitions that I wanted to play with. After that we retired to the basement where Tristan showed me how to use Audacity to record the rough underscore for the piece in what felt to me like a record breaking time. The record breaking part definitely had to do with Tristan’s ability to intuit my needs as I abstractly explained what I wanted each part to sound like, and he let me muck around recording guttural screams and a hundred tracks of snippets of things that we didn’t end up using, while also fixing audio quirks that I didn’t know were issues, then at the last minute he lay down a beautiful guitar track in one take that cinched the whole thing together. It is no small estimation to say I could not have delivered the performance I did without him. The final step was to prepare the fake blood and paint my face doll white. The performance went off without a hitch, not to say perfectly, but beautifully imperfect and raw.

I can feel it in my bones that this piece is ready to be delivered into the world, and this small step is the first contraction. Just as this has been a long gestation period I intend wrestle with this at great length, but the time is finally right to commit my body to the pains of labour uncovering the gems that have been compounding thus. If ever I were to have a thesis project in my unschooled life this would be it. I look forward to sharing more discoveries as they arise. For now you can listen to the track we recorded for the performance below.

Advertisements
Standard

pomegranate seed

a dying star
a millennia flash in the pan
fated to shine brightly
then no more
for a few hours while
the glow leads you home
into the heart
for a time
when warmth in your cheeks
softly beckons
persephone home again
to give room for
life to fade and grow
fresh

I am but a wonton child
full of mischief
and idle temper
let me feel tempted by death
to relish in life
sharp contrast
pricking the rose bloom
faded before
it’s forgotten

again
great minds
plainly seeking
the impending tyranny
blank impetus
infatuating illusions
time marked
a crack
a start

  

Standard

5x Devotion

Have you heard? I am performing the first ever snippet of Dear Devotion at PUGO tomorrow night. This is both terrifying and exhilarating. This piece I have been incubating for over 12 years, and although I talk a lot of shit, I’ve been too shy to share it with even my nearest and dearest, but tomorrow all that changes. If you are in a 306 area code you should make yr way over between 12 and 2. This weeks reading list is heavily influenced by all the disparate pieces of this performance I am trying to hold in my mind. Read under the cover of darkness.

Enjoy

  1. Listen to Lily Baldwin: It’s Not My Own Trip via She Does – I think she might be my creative spirit animal/true love/personal prophet, I relate to so much of what she has to say about process and life and creating.
  2. Pedal Glossary: Defining Effects and Signal Chain via She Shreds – I’m trying to understand how I can use time based pedals in this piece to fill the space while still calling all of the shots from stage.
  3. Handwritten letter of advice by Molly Crabapple via The Provocateur – also check out her memoir Drawing Blood which I read in December and have been gushing over endlessly to anyone who will listen.
  4. The Feminist Movement Has a Capitalist Problem via The Establishment
  5. James Baldwin on the Artist’s Struggle for Integrity and How It Illuminates the Universal Experience of What It Means to Be Human via Brain Pickings
Standard

Director on directing: Dinner Tables

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my role as director, and my process for creating this piece now that our first lab is wrapped up, but the more I reflect on my role the more I reflect on the gifts everyone brought to the table to make Dinner Tables lab one a success.
Working with a fantastic group of people has been the greatest gift to this project by far. There have been a lot of different people through the ensemble touching it with their hands and hearts, and like a stone soup it is that much richer for it. My role as director of the process has been to gather the right people and ask interesting questions, offer inspiring jumping off points, and to really step back and receive what my team is offering.
We worked on the “what would I steal” creative principle, stolen from Eric & David at Ghost River Theatre, which means that we cherry picked moments, lines, images, characters, from a variety of sources within and without the ensemble. We stitched the best of them together into a thirty minute sketchbook presentation (another stolen concept) that we then offered to the community to see what they would steal and expand upon.
It is important to me in my work, but particularly in this piece to bring the community into the work and bring the work into the community. The two can not exist on polar extremes, and discovering what that key is to let them into the work is vital to the only kind of sustainability that matters as an artist– the sustainability of creative practice and the work.
The second greatest gift to the project was the funds and support from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to be able to pay this team a small amount to create the work. The work will never pay handsomely (or let’s be real even modestly most of the time) so it has to be enriching in other ways, but the only way we will be able to continue to be able to enrich our communities in this way is if we are also able to put bread on the table. This catch 22 is eased by the support of artist centered funders like The Saskatchewan Arts Board that see the value in investing in the development of new Saskatchewan works, and emerging Saskatchewan artists. Their support on this project also transcends dollars to be able to indicate a clear marker of support from our community of peers, and has allowed us the breathing room of time to be able to give back to our work and our community.
I was reminded so very much of Kat Cizek in this process that as a director “all the great stuff that happens isn’t really because of you” on your project, those happy accidents can’t be predicted and couldn’t be recreated through force if you tried. My only response can be the watchful eye, full of cares looking out for my brood, to steer them away from the things that might crush their spirit, and clear the path of obstructions so that they can offer their best work. As Steve Jobs put it: we don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do, we hire them so they can tell us what to do. All I can do is clean my ears out and pray for the stillness of heart to receive what they have to show me about the work. In the end when the work gets chaotic and the best offerings stand to get lost in the noise Kat says it best again “if something doesn’t feel right don’t let it slip through the cracks, even if other people are saying “it’s fine, it’s fine” you have to be the one to say “no it’s not”” a lesson in yin that I have been practicing more of since January. In the absence of things that are “good enough” all the things that really matter and fulfill me have had room to flood in– on this project and beyond.
I am so thankful for all of the support I have received on this creative journey and I look forward to sharing the discoveries from the second lab in the fall. Big thank you again to the team: Charlie Peters, Jennifer Dawn Bishop, Jared Beattie, Kathy Allen, Rob Roy, and Ingrid Gomez.

Standard

dues ex machina

The mechanics make her holy. In the details are where the hallowed reside. Snapchat saints and drunk text sinners. Decoding symphonies instantaneously the moment two waves collide. Open to interpretation our hearts beat to an unceaded rhythm. A schism between what is left to do and what’s already been. Love in the labouring to understand it. Truth in the moment it is forgotten. Dissolving disonance, intuitive destruction. Creation from the rubble of our own creating.

Bring back the divine interventions in our sick hearts turning these black diamonds into glittering beetles, fertile in their composition as tiny soldiers set to defend our defiant decay in the face of barren intoxication, with beauty and all things becoming intervenous weapons of internal combustion, engine for change out of what is already comfortable exposed in the dark as an uncooperative accomplice in our own blind imaginings of what is still possible.

In the beginning the end was already wrapped up in it crying like a new born babe for mothers affection. Mother dead in the babies womb as yet unborn. Tender embrace. Secret promise. Tempting fate. Wielding magic. A man walks into a bar and orders, a man and a fish and a gold mine walk into a bar and dance, a child walks into a bar and detonates, a man walks and walks and walks until he reaches an immovable object. Calamity invocation. An unstopable force solving for ex.

**********

Inspired by Astronautalis latest video Running Away From God

Standard

How far we’ve come

Today I am happy to announce our April sketchbook presentation. I could not be more proud of the work my team has put in over these last three months and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been cooking up with you.

Dinner Tables

We have been working hard since January incubating ideas, discovering stories, and exploring the bonds that connect us through good food, friends, and conversation. After three weekend devising intensives we have collaboratively created over 9 hours of recorded material and 28 pages of text so far exploring how we build community through the act of sharing a meal.

Some of it is silly and whimsical, some of it is heartbreaking and tender, all of it is brand new never before seen. We are selecting 30 minutes of the strongest material and concepts created to take for a test drive in a invite only sketch book presentation at 7:00 pm April 11th at the Two Twenty co-working space. You are invited to come take a peek behind the scenes and be part of the development process by joining the conversation, offering your impressions of the work, and sharing your stories.

Sketchbook…

View original post 153 more words

Standard

Her story

I am realizing more and more how important it is to the development of my craft to create with women in the room. Not just the token love interest, but women empowered to speak up, critique, cry, yell, make a mess, make mistakes, and roll around on the floor unrestricted by the omnipresent male gaze. Not only does the male gaze strip her of her complexity, her stories, and her history, she is reduced to the sexual chemistry and domicity of herself to serve men telling men’s stories. Her silence in the room is not noted because she is inexperienced, agreeable, over sensitive, or cold. 

It is still a radical act for women to support women creating work. It is still a radical act for man to invite women into their process as equals without first asking them to prove their value to serve the process or sleep with the director. It is still a radical act for women to create art and tell stories about and for women without trying to appeal to the masculinized universality. It is still a radical act for men to create and art and tell stories that celebrate femininity and give it room to breath without limitations or restrictions. It is still a radical act to pay women to create art and culture that reflects their wholeness, experiences, hopes, dreams, and losses instead of trying to reduce her to a singular voice for all women.

Most of my collaborators and close conspirators are men perhaps by default perhaps by fear. In part due to the internalized misogyny that still hinders my development of close relationships with women. In part because more often than not it is a man in a position to offer me a contract, critique my work, and add credibility to my voice. The women I work with are often self-depricating and humble, and work twice as hard to pull their weight as is asked of them. They are careful and gaurded about how they come across, what they are allowed to say, even the out spoken not wanting to directly call attention to their obviously unique position as a woman with a voice at the table. Understanding their bodies as a living sculpture, which angles and colors to work, how to present a pleasing figure on or off stage to land the part, promotion, gallery show. And often taking on the lions share of the work to care for and educate their peers as leaders in the movement. These are strong amazing women that I admire deeply so I want to see room for them to sprawl out and flourish without having to cater or apologize for taking up more than their fair share of space. 

How do we tend this plot of earth we call life so that we have room to grow? What do I need to create the work I want to create with women I admire? When will women have a room of their own not tied up in masculinized industry gatekeepers and taste makers?  Who are we bringing up as the next big thing and why?

Standard