How to lose sight – November/December – Seeing out of the back of your head

This year, as stated in my previous entry, has been full of business. And busyness. I’ve been rushed off my feet for pretty much the whole thing, which I don’t necessarily find to be a bad thing. Now all my projects have ended and I’ve settled down to finish this last, beautiful piece before Christmas.

Who knows what 2012 has in store for me? I really don’t. Kinda wish I did. But if it has even one rehearsal period like the one I’m experiencing now, I think it’ll be great.

The thing about theatre – the amazing, wonderful thing about theatre, is that when you have time to just experience it, it’s incredible. This year has been a bit frantic, I think, leaping from project to project like the world’s going to end. That has its appeal because I love to be busy. I love to be in it and learning as fast as I possibly can.

This rehearsal period is about putting into practise everything I’ve learned, and just being creative. And that’s amazing.

The piece was created by Michal Imielski and is the second part of a trilogy of works. The piece is devised, which makes me very happy, because the fun involved in just throwing ideas up in the air coupled with the refining of those ideas into a piece that will challenge, excite and entertain an audience is almost a lost medium of theatrical creation. One that is often dismissed because of the time and intensity needed to work on a piece to strengthen it.

The piece is based, as the title suggests, on people that have, through one method or another, lost their sight. Some characters were blind from birth, others were brutalised. What we’re telling in this house (yes, it’s a site specific piece performed in a house) is based on true stories and using actual technologies.

I went to Melbourne over the weekend. My first time on an airplane in four years (far too long for a seasoned traveller). Since I was going on holiday, and my character at the moment seems to have an invested interest in travelling, I put on my sound recorder at times and just sat with my eyes closed, describing what I thought I could hear, touch, smell, taste in the air. Some things frustrated me, like drills blocking the sound of a crossing, or people talking too closely. Personal space, as someone that is visually impaired, works in many ways. You have to accept that people will expect it to be reduced because you “need help”. What if you’re incredibly independent?

My character has been blind from birth. She’s had no other way of living, so of course she knows how to take care of herself. She has to. She doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she doesn’t need to. So when people want to help her, what does she say, or do? It depends on the circumstance. If she’s with people that she can be honest with, she’ll say she’s fine. If she’s with people that are honestly trying to help, she’ll let them. If someone is forcing her to do something she doesn’t want to, she’ll fight back. It makes sense.

So my character went to Melbourne with me. She heard tram noises, and pressed the button at the stop that would read the timetable and due times to her. She touched beautiful fabrics and heard great street music (better than sydney). She felt the hot, dry sun on her arms during the day, the suddenly chill air on her skin at night while she sat at a bar and had a drink. She saw things she’d never seen before. And yes, she SAW things she’d never seen before. And when she returned to her hotel late at night, she slept like a baby.

The incredible thing about devising is that as a writer, you have to learn to let go of the idea that your text will be perfect, or near perfect, and grasp the idea that whatever you say will be the absolute truth at that point in time. Prior to refining and setting the text, every thought you have, every word you say or sound you make is a part of how the character, or the group, feels, and is precious in its own right.

The three devisors I’m primarily working with are all writers as well. I’m not sure how they’re finding the process of not writing, but I remember in the beginning especially, I found it hard not to try to censor myself, or edit as I spoke. The problem is that if you hesitate and don’t say exactly what you’re thinking, you’re missing an opportunity for someone else to pick up the idea and turn it into something else that could be perfect for the finished product.

And I think this piece will be incredible. Which is quite a wonderful way to finish a year.

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Train to Nowhere

(Sophie sits on a train alone. She is, or has been crying.)

I never thought it would end up like this. Sitting on a train, bawling my eyes out while the love of my life is on the other side of the country. I promise you, I didn’t plan this. I swore off men.

I don’t hate them, I have nothing against them, but they’re not for me.

Yeah?

Yeah.

I…it wasn’t a conscious decision. It never is a conscious decision. It shouldn’t be. When you lose someone, you need time to yourself. Time to breathe, time to realise who you are, and what you were before them, figure out who you are now.

 

People change.

We all change.

That’s the point of life, right? To change. To grow, like a tree: bud, flower, bear fruit, take in the sun and die.

Don’t get me wrong. Dying’s not bad… I mean, yes, it’s bad…but it’s part of life, you know? It’s part of this stupid life and why can’t I get him out of my head? (She laughs) Did you see that? I’m sitting here, passing time on a train and my thoughts go from death and dying – not the happiest of topics, to how long I have to wait until he’s back.

How long I have to…

 

someone told me that heartsickness – that deep, pounding feeling you get when you want to rip your heart out of your chest because the feeling of your nails piercing your skin would be less painful than what’s inside you? – you know, heartsickness. Well, someone told me we feel that because one day, the people we love will be gone, they’ll be dead, and we’ll still be here so our bodies try to get us accustomed to the pain by giving us small doses of it throughout our lives. I also heard that pain is just a mild electrical signal going through the brain it’s not really real really there it’s just a survival mechanism.

So the next time someone says ‘just get over it’ to you, because you love someone and they’ve left you, or they’re not there, you tell them what I’m saying now:

If your heart hurts, if you feel pain because you don’t have that person, it’s your brain’s electrical signals, and those feelings are just as real as if someone chopped off your arm. (With unexpected force) So bugger off and let me feel what I’m feeling. Because it’s gonna keep happening.

 

(A moment)

 

Have you ever seen someone crying while they’re on their way somewhere? Have you ever got on a train, or a bus, or been walking through the park and seen someone sobbing their heart out silently? Did you go to them? What a world we live in that most people out there wouldn’t stop to find out if someone’s okay. Yeah, of course you’ll help a lady with her shopping, if she’ll let you, or help a blind man with his guide dog on the escalator, but with tears? No one knows what to do. Something holds us back. It’s like now. On this train. (Beat. She looks around)

There’s no one here. No one here next to me. No one sits next to you because they don’t think you want to be sat next to. They think you’d rather be alone. Well right now, I could do with someone.

Sonnet 17

‘If I could write the beauty of your eyes,

And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say “This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne’er touched earthly faces”‘

This is the sonnet of the day. Well, actually, the stanza of the day.  I’ve spent a lovely part of the day with various sonnets,  getting angry, getting upset, or lovesick, or… lovebetter, I suppose.

I have decided on a colour coding system, as well as a method of linking them:

Each sonnet first has a character list. Some, like sonnet 119, only technically has one character.

Building the wall

“I”. I’ve also decided that the characters can’t be gendered unless they’re already gendered. So

“I” is never male or female at this point.  “I” is such a full character, it’s entirely likely “I” is (I may start to refer to “I” in the first person. Don’t be alarmed) could be three or four people of different genders.

There are obviously sexual references, and some more subtle sexual references. They’re coloured dark blue. Anything relating to nature is dark green, while anything pertaining to human nature is light green. Body parts are pink, love is (of course) red, the “child” “I” speak of is light blue,

as is any reference to creation. However, the child is also a character, and I’m treating “it” as such.

I can’t tell you in words just how happy it makes me to spend a morning, just a morning, reading a sonnet (sometimes for the first time aloud), analysing it as a miniature monologue and reading it again with the knowledge I’ve gained as the character. It’s a huge amount of fun, as a writer, an academic and as an actor.

Wall complete

I’ve never referred to myself as an academic, but I suppose in this particular instance, I’m researching, reading, learning and exploring before using the information I’ve gained in order to further my knowledge and present something new to the world.If that’s not an academic, I don’t know what is.

I wish everyone could see what I could see. Through their own eyes.  And then tell me what they think of it. Perspective. Asking people to look, and then asking them to think. Think with
me. It’s such a colourful world out there. All these sonnets, with all these colours. When my whole wall is covered in colours, it might just show me a sense of the fullness and the roundness and the being-ness of a human being.

Working a sonnet

Technically, all of these poems should be light green. Together they make up a snippet of human nature.  Isn’t that amazing? All the poems that flutter on my wall when a breeze comes in. Aren’t they simply amazing. I wish you could see it. It’s like the poetry’s alive on my wall. Alive in my room. Without doing anything at all to the poems, this could be installation art of the finest degree.

I think I just found my set.

Sonnets

Shakespeare and I have a very interesting relationship. I want to speak all his words from memory, and he’s okay with that. The problem is, I don’t want to speak them in order, necessarily.

I didn’t get to spend as much time with Shakespeare as I wanted during high school, or during acting school. There was too much ‘other stuff’ going on for me to get what I really wanted from the words. What did I want?

The sounds.

Look at his verse. Iambic pentameter. They say it flows easily and sounds so right to the ear because it matches the rhythm of our heartbeat. It also, in my mind, flows easily and sounds right because it matches the rhythm of our hearts and minds. I’ve felt the jealousy Hamlet feels because someone’s stealing his mother. I’ve felt the need to test a man’s love the way Cleopatra does out of insecurity. I’ve felt the joy of freedom that Rosalind experiences in Arden, and I’ve felt like mouse to the ‘black lady’s’ cat in the sonnets.

And that’s where my connecting stops, because I’ve reached the subject of my new project. The sonnets. Shakespeare wrote one hundred and fifty four pieces of poetry outside his plays that flowed as a story without necessarily meaning to. I’m not sure, I’d have to ask him. The way I see them, they’re a stream of consciousness. A perfect stream of consciousness.

I would like to state here and now that I’m not an academic. I haven’t done nearly enough research on Shakespeare beyond what I know from school. I’m intrigued NOW, so I’m going to say things that are probably point blank wrong.

Feel free to correct me, if this is the case.

What Shakespeare managed to do, or seems to have managed to do is write the equivalent to haiku about his life. I use haiku, because I believe it’s the purest form of poetry. To write a good haiku, you have to really examine the subject of interest and distill your thoughts into 17 syllables. Shakespeare’s poetry is more expanded, but every single word lives in its own right, and has to be understood in its fullest to even begin to see where his thoughts were when he wrote them.

Having just written that, I’ve just realized how big a project I’ve decided to undertake.

I want to understand the sonnets. I also want to redefine them into another story. The sonnets are a mixture of (almost entirely 14) iambic pentametric lines. If they can make one story, in theory, they should be able to make another.

Imagine, for instance, if rearranged line by line, they could show you the way ‘the young man’ and ‘the dark lady’ thought about Will himself? Or another story entirely?

I don’t know if anyone else has thought to do this. I don’t know if anyone else is crazy enough to consider it. Or is willing to devote the time to something that could yield nothing but an understanding of language.

But. It’s that but. Is it not worth devoting the time to these miniature masterpieces simply for the purpose of exploration? I have three months that I have no projects outside of my own control (i.e. performing in someone else’s media). Why not spend that time playing?
Maybe I’ll find a new Shakespearean work.

The Shakespeare Code.

Or some such.

It’s a chance to marry contemporary thought with elizabethan words that I will have much fun playing with.

Wish me luck.

You may not see or hear from me for three months.