The Hiding Place – in hiding

The last… Eight months… Have been fast, painful, slow and hectic, and a whole new understanding of the arts from a new perspective that I haven’t had since I joined the industry.

At the beginning of the year I was asked to co-produce The Hiding Place, and as I write, I’m sitting on a train headed toward the theatre for the first preview. Kendall must be terrified. I hope she’s not stressing too much. I’m later than I wanted to be.

But anyway, this new perspective. It’s a strange one. Being in the industry without feeling like I’m in it. That’s where I’ve been this year. At the end of last year, I was very tired. So tired, in fact, that by late February, I had what the doctors could only describe as ‘Chronic Fatigue’. I have since changed doctors, and my current one refuses to give me that title, because she doesn’t like to give in to not knowing what’s wrong with me.

The result of this fatigue is that I haven’t been able to perform for the most part, or have had to be very careful what I accept, and how long it plays for. I also haven’t been able to see performances for the most part because by 5pm, I’m exhausted, and more often than not need a nap in the middle of the day. It’s limiting, and made me feel helpless and pathetic.
Putting all that aside, it’s left me with a lack of inspiration, especially in the light of also reading a bachelor of psychology (which I do love).

So I’m going to the preview tonight of The Hiding Place, at ATYP, and I’ll take the next day off because I will be exhausted (and need to finish my uni assignments). More than that, I will revel in watching the art and the listening to the glorious words, and soak in the glory of knowing I have done something to help this production.

And on Saturday, I’ll brush my little Afro, put on a pretty dress and go back to that theatre for opening night. And if I’m really lucky, I’ll bounce (or crawl) into another performance later in the run. Probably a matinee. And I hope to see you there.

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Inside/Out. Pre-reading. Ever. Out loud.

On Wednesday at 7pm , I will be hearing Inside/Out read to an audience for the first time at the Queen Street Studios Studio 10. I give time and details purely because anyone is welcome to come and hear the play. I would love to hear many different responses, and am looking forward to it as much as I fear it. Tomorrow will be the first time I’ll hear the play read aloud without me reading any of the parts myself, and with a man playing the male role. The play is definitely ready to be heard. The characters have been dancing around in my head for so long they seem to be real people. The situation they’re in has changed and changed and the world they live in has been pummeled so much that if I keep writing without an audience, without another brain for the words to echo through, one of two things will happen: Either I’ll go insane from hearing voices, or the piece will become stale to the point of untoastable.

I have to admit, I’m scared. Writing a play and having a play read to an audience are two completely different things. As much as this is now the fifth draft, it is still enough me that it’s an intimate thing to share with anyone.
The first hurdle has been crossed though. Sending the play to anyone is the first hurdle. You don’t have to be in the room with them while they read it. You only have to be there if you want to know what they think afterward.

Luckily I won’t be alone. I’ll have the incredible voices and support of Corinne Marie reading Fay, Erica Brennan reading Liza and Peter Maple reading Mark. If nothing else, they will sound good.

Maybe every joke will fall flat, ever dramatic moment be laughable, every metaphor die a horrible death.

Then again, maybe not.

Gotta find out sometime. I guess.

Do I?

Wish me luck.

 

Excerpt from Act One, Scene One

Houselights are on during Fay’s speech.

FAY: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to tonight’s performance of “Inside Out”.
I won’t ask you to turn off your mobile phones, because either you will because you’ve been to the
theatre before and it’s an automatic reaction, or you won’t because you’ve been to the theatre before
and never bothered to before, or you’ve never been to the theatre before and have no idea why you
should turn them off (phone signals can interfere with sound systems and performance quality),
or you won’t because you’re a fuckwit that thinks the call from your phone company about how
you’ve used up your minutes is more important than the show you’ve paid to see – and everyone
else’s enjoyment, time and money. Anyway, what I’ve just done is drawn your attention to your
phone, or the phone of the person next to you that they haven’t turned off, or the phone you lost, or
the phone you found, or bought recently, or sold, or don’t have yet out of protest, or don’t have yet
because you’re waiting for it to become fashionable… You’re thinking, I hope, about your phone.
Liza enters, staring out at the audience. Mark, upstage, stares at her.
What if I did the same thing with mortality? What if I said that you were going to die, and reminded
you of it every five minutes of every day? If every conversation ended with it, every joke was
based on it, every tick of the clock was a reminder of it? Or maybe if you were afraid of something
everyone has to deal with at some point in their lives – dust, sunshine, blood, touch… other people…
Liza exits and returns with a piece of fabric that she sews. Mark watches.
We’ve all had a busy day, week, month, year, you’ve paid to see this piece of theatre and come in
after a glass of wine or a beer, and here you are, sitting down, praying I’ll get on with it. So here
it is. This is my life. It’s my life as much as it is yours. You are not obliged to do anything unless
you wish to do so. You don’t have to stick around. (She grins) You’re not getting your money back,
though.

2011: A thankless task that should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

As I look at the sonnets plastered on my wall, slowly filling with notes (very slowly filling with notes), I look back on 2011 with a certain grateful fondness. A sort of “that was supposed to be endured because I needed to know, but now it’s over. Phew”. I loved 2011. I loved it because it was a year for me to explore the arts industry – especially the independent scene that I have impossibly, hopelessly fallen in love with – a year to figure out what I wanted, what I enjoyed, and what I could make a living from, if I gained more experience and knowledge. It was a time for doing the learning I couldn’t have done as an amateur artist before acting school – I wrote, performed and sang then, too – and it was a time for doing the learning actors are actively persuaded from taking on, because it draws them away from their “true calling” on stage, TV or film. Well, I’ve never been one to follow the crowd purely because there is one. I’ve attempted to perform in every aspect in theatre this year, and this is what I have noticed:

Independent theatre is highly unnoticed in it’s beauty and daring.

Playwrights don’t receive enough help from the government or other artists (though Augusta Supple is working diligently to change this with Towards a Writers Theatre).

There aren’t enough younger producers.

The world is slow to change its beliefs regarding gender.

Artists are willing to work for a lot less than they should be.

Writing is as much a part of me as my right arm is a part of me (and possibly more useful)

Rumi is an incredible poet that should be a part of everyone’s lives.

Hybrid theatre is an untapped beauty.

Blow up dolls are surprisingly good actors.

This is not an exhaustive list.

I have, I think, performed every role in the theatre this year. Working through the not-at-all complete list, I aided the producers of three plays, managed the stage of two, wrote one, performed five, assisted the director on one, devised one, lit one, operated and called one, controlled the use of weaponry for one, used weaponry for one. I’ve been pushed, pulled, kissed, ignored, cried on, supported, raised, taught, broken and put back together, moulded and shaped into something I don’t even recognise as the actor I was at this time last year.

I’m pleased. I set out last year to learn everything I could about theatre. It’s a medium I love, a medium that thrills me and connects with me in a deep and fulfilling way.

I like to think I succeeded. Or began to succeed.

I know now that I love to stage manage, in fact I believe I have the mentality for it, but that it’s a thankless task that should only be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

I know now that I am willing and able to learn to be a producer, because there are not enough producers because it’s a thankless task that should only be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid. (On that note, I shall be commencing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business double degree this year – the better to understand the business side of the industry)

I know now that light on a performance space as much as the space itself, is another character in the performance, and can either help or hinder what we wish to see. It can bring a piece to life, or destroy it completely. Again (you know it), technical work is a thankless task that should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

I know now that directors all have their methods, and while they may not know what the outcome will be, they always have an idea, and it’s the idea that sustains them through all the rehearsals they feel haven’t changed the piece, and all the meetings with the producer that remind them how little time and money they can really use. It’s a thankless task, and should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

I know now that writers do not communicate with each other enough. I know that they hide their work because they fear something that is a part of them becoming destroyed by the world of commercialism (not really. They fear a part of them being destroyed by themselves). I know that I have not read enough new plays this year, but I have read enough to see that there is incredible potential that is untapped in the industry. I know now that writing is something you must yearn to do, and be fearless about, otherwise you lose the ideals you started with in the first place, like the gossamer strings of a web as a spider builds. The writer’s job is to build the world without anyone noticing that it has been built. It is a thankless task, and should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

I know now that actors are intensely passionate about what they want, what they know and what they don’t. I know that they want to be involved with a process rather than told what to say and where to stand. I know that they have ideas too. I know that they are not puppets, they are living, feeling, breathing creatures that are as creative as all the above. I know that a good actor is a smart actor. I know that acting is a sport that needs training. I know that training comes in many forms and I know very very many incredible unknown actors. I know that I am an actor. But I also know that I am not an actor. I am an artist, and in this industry, I am aware that there are more artists than actors. It is a thankless task that should be undertaken with extreme caution if not paid.

This is the industry I live in. And guess what? Very little (if any) of it is paid. But all these people come together to create something amazing. Day after day a writer, director, producer, designer, manager has ideas. They have ideas.

Ideas.

And I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this. Ideas, when shared, bring an incredible oneness to humanity. Sport is another way of seeing this oneness. Religion. Dance. Music. Love. This drawing together of people from so many different experiences that we can’t comprehend how many ways in which the same task could be done.

This is what I shall be taking into 2012. Ideas.

I will be sharing my writing, directing, performing skills, and giving as much as I can to producing. I will be producing and directing my own work, Inside/Out, because I would like to learn more about directing and producing work without destroying someone else’s writing. I will be rearranging sonnets and creating new work for as many people as I can. I will be offering my services as an opinion writer to other writers, to other performers, to as many people as may want them.

I’m not a master of anything. I can only give an opinion, a humble and rash and emotive opinion of what I see and how I see it. I read a piece of script and have a reaction to it. That is all. A performer, a writer can only do so much alone. So I want any writers that read this, and any friends of writers that read this to know that if you need someone that will cast no judgement on your work, simply offer an opinion: “You’re not alone. I’m here. And while I may not have the answers, sometimes it’s just nice to hear someone tell you what they think.”

I’ve said on many occasions that I love words. I love the way they sound, the way they taste and the way they smell. I touch them with my tongue, with body parts – when I’m signing, I touch them with my hands and eyes, when I’m blind, I touch them with my ears. Beyond touch, I love the way that a word order can be entirely new. I love that humans have developed this incredible way of taking random words and putting one after another after another to create something that only they could have imagined. Only they could have written those words in whatever state they were in at the time. Just as a thousand different actors would have a thousand different reactions to the same six words “to be or not to be”, a thousand writers with a common story would write it a thousand different ways.

It is a force to be reckoned with.

A thousand minds – a thousand thousand minds – and this is the one that creates.

It’s mind boggling. And stunningly beautiful.

Thank you 2011.

How to lose sight – as we stumble towards the close

Tonight was almost a sold out performance, and it got me thinking about comedy, energy and emotion. A couple of days ago, I made a rather offhand comment – “I love playing with people’s emotions” which sounds evil, except for the fact that when you look at it technically, that’s my job. As an artist, my job is to allow an audience to feel what they want to feel. Before they can do that, though, they have to know what they’re “supposed” to feel. What I love about theatre is that it shows our most basic human reactions. Such as laughing and smiling. A psychological reaction (try it), if someone smiles at you, you need to smile back, even if it’s not noticeable, in order for the brain to register the fact that they smiled. If you’ve ever listened to conversations in a language other than your own, you’ll understand what I mean when I say a joke has a sound. There’s a particular inflection we as humans use when whatever we’re saying is supposed to be funny. A sense of anticipation, longing, before a punchline.

And sometimes punchlines aren’t verbal. Sometimes they’re physical. Sometimes they’re really very subtle. But as humans, we can all read them. It makes me wonder about life through the eyes of someone with autism, when it can be harder to read emotions in people, or understand the complexities of inflection and pitch and tone.

All of this came to me as a response to the audience that joined us tonight. As I said, it was a very busy household, and what always intrigues me is how an audience knows that what we’re saying is a joke, or serious, or that they’re supposed to react in a certain way. Having said that they are being led to react in a certain way, they could react in the opposite way, and that’s incredibly interesting in its own right. What I meant by comment stated earlier was that I love to see people react. I love a snort of surprise, or the huff of insult, or the honk of horniness (yeah, ok, that’s enough). And that’s what makes it all worthwhile for me. Because when they leave, they’ve been thinking. I know they’ve been thinking because they’ve been responding. And that’s what’s amazing about “How to lose sight”. Michal’s managed to very carefully pick at the strings of what makes theatre theatre and put together a performance that everyone can take something away from, whether it’s a sense of relief after being in a claustrophobic house, the sense of watching a movie, the sense of adoration or dreaming or collaboration or togetherness. The house is the forgotten star of the show, and while people may think the piece wouldn’t be as interesting or intriguing if it weren’t in a house, isn’t that the point? It WOULDN’T be as interesting if it weren’t in a house. We know that! Explore the idea with us that everything that exists is a performance, from the moment Pollyanna and Barton meet you at the theatre, from the moment you leave your house, the clothes you wear, the scent you put on your skin, the way you shaved that day – they’re all part of this performance. Aren’t they?

So if that’s the case, everything we say that’s funny – all the jokes, the tenderness, the soulfulness, all the moments – stemmed from you. From what you did in the lead up. Because none of the show would have been any good without audience participation, and I’m not a huge fan of performing for myself. NO. Theatre is for sharing. It’s not, and should not be exclusive. If it’s exclusive, it should be… something else. I can’t even say art. It shouldn’t be art. It can be Art. Art for art’s sake. And it can go somewhere else. I create for other people to react to. Acting is reacting. That’s what I was taught when I was ten. Acting is merely someone on stage that is reacting to something else on stage – be it temperature, emotions that were left behind, emotions that are there, an audience and what they brought with them, something the someone brought onstage with them…the list is endless. What is there not to react to?

On top of all that, it was wonderful to have a woman tell me she honestly believed I was blind.

What a day.

The Electron

She stares into the audience blankly as they are seated. There’s no music, no sound, and she doesn’t move. She sits on a chair, but it looks as though she’s dancing. She’s dancing and singing and flying and then
She looks up. Not at the audience.
She looks up as if she saw something there that was not.
Is not. Could not. It makes her want to cry, this nothing.
This something that did not use to be. Eventually it is too much and she looks away. Into herself.
Deep inside.
The sun. The sun. It blinds her, overwhelms her, overtakes her. As though she’s moving too fast. Too slow. The sun is moving, she is moving. She spins so fast all the follicles of hair on her body individually sway and pull away from her skin. All the particles, all the atoms, electrons, positives negatives drawing away from her, tempting her to follow, daring her to try. The moisture leaves the air. It is dry, cool. Hard. She looks up. She looks at the audience. She looks up. Did they see that? Could they prove it? Could you prove it?
I saw it. I saw it. Did you?
Am I alone? You’re here. You’re right here. I see you. I hear you. Sniff. I smell you. May I taste you? Can I climb inside your skin? May I hold you close from within your body?
I want to be a part of you. I want to keep you near me, draw breath as you do, see as you do, live as you do.
I sit facing you. I look at you. She looks at you. If I keep looking, will you mind? Don’t mind her, she’s reading you. She’s trying to see what you see, how you see. If I couldn’t see, I’d still see you. With my body. My heart. My chest can see you. With my soul.
I can’t be you, but I want to be. No, she is you. There’s a theory (impossible to prove) but there’s a theory that says there is only one electron in the universe, bouncing back and forth through space and time. So I am you. You are me. She’s me. We are one electron. Or we could be. Want to make electrons sing? Hum? Can I be inside you? I don’t like to be in here. In here is locking me in, locking me out. You know sometimes I feel like I’m outside my own eyes, my own body, knocking at my eyes, hoping to get inside myself. To hold myself close.
No one holds me like I hold me. No one touches the way I touch.
I want to touch this.
She sits.
But I want to touch this.
She sits.
No! I want to touch this now!
Sit down!
If you do not listen, you will feel.
She sings.
Once in a universe dark and cold
A star was born that felt so old
That children who did not exist
Went to bars and just got pissed
On alcohol that just gave way
To sunshine on a brand new day
Can you be mine? Please?
I mean. I know you belong to someone else, but that’s not what I mean. What I mean is
She has trouble with words
No I don’t.
She doesn’t, but finding them
Is not as hard as she thinks – I think –
Be with me. You don’t have to be mine. Really. I don’t want you to be mine. But if you could just
Hold
My hand? Her hand? Sorry, they’re often cold
It’s not attractive, but it is often the case, can that be ignored?
She hopes so.
She looks up again. Sees the birth of the universe, the birth of life and love and chocolate and guacamole. Raises a hand to the sky. From below it does not look like one hand alone. It looks like two hands. Two hands in a permanent embrace.
At the birth of the universe.
A shiver runs down her back.
The world is so big. And she is so small within it. And yet so large.
So infinitely large.
One electron in a sea of one electron.
Thinking, feeling, breathing
TOO MUCH
She cowers, hides in a corner. TOO MUCH.
No. Yes. Too much for one electron. An electron so lost in a sea of one electron. Forming eyes, face, hands body love, hate, loss, discovery. Tears, saliva, cumming.
Cumming.
Coming to a halt. A stop. Yes? No. Electron running. Running.
To what? From what?
What do you think?
What does she think?
Everything. Sights. Sounds, smells, the question.
The question? Yes. The question. The dreaded question.
The one that always requests the same answer.
Answers that don’t fit. Answers that are pre-determined. Jarring.
Why ASK THE QUESTION?
Waste of breath, time, an electron.
Has to be asked. Has to be answered.
Always.
How are you?
Yeah, I’m fine.

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.

On reacting, and “A Quiet Night in Rangoon”

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Inya Lake's costume

I’m a very emotional/reactive artist. I was taught in my first acting class ever when I was 13 or so that acting is reacting. It’s a common view. I ended up taking that idea into every part of my practice. Now when I think of writing, it’s a reaction. It’s a reaction to the things I see, or smell or taste or hear around me, and sometimes a reaction to the things I don’t sense around me that I feel I should. There are so many things in life that I don’t fully understand yet – and that’s kinda okay, cause I’m only 22, and I’ve already experienced plenty to be getting on with.

There’s a lot to react to that many people don’t react to, and that confuses me sometimes, until I realise that of course people are reacting, but they may not necessarily show it. I’m thinking now about the audiences of “A Quiet Night in Rangoon”, which closed last week. I played Inya Lake, the calm and understanding almost mediator. By nature, my character understood both sides of the story, and yet cared about neither. Because my character didn’t have a story arc per se (more on that later – she did have one), I spent more time trying to understand the reactions of the audience. Quite early on in rehearsals, Paul suggested I look at the reactions on the child “Kitty’s” face. It was incredible. Humans. Humans and their emotions. The child could have such incredible emotions, and yet I knew she was leading herself astray. She would be crying and I’d know that she would be fine. She would be fine, then not so fine. And then she would die. It was very simple.

I mention this, because when it came to the last scene of the play, I spent a lot of time observing the audience. Yes, I had lines to throw in here and there, but the reason for those lines jumped, almost line by line from the characters on the stage, to being applied to the audience. And the reason that started to happen was the audience started to perform for me. I started to read their expressions, their movements. They were deeply disturbed by what they were seeing. I could see it in their faces. Every one of them. There were those that would touch their faces, or lean forward. There were those that looked away. There were those that laughed uncomfortably, or sobbed, or twitched their feet. Even those that managed to stay almost entirely still had jaws and mouths that moved unconsciously. Some of them looked at me to try to escape what they were experiencing, and I connected with a few of them, but they couldn’t escape it because I was both in the scene and watching them. Something I learned fairly early on in life is that people get uncomfortable if you keep looking at them with the barest hint of a smile on your face. It’s highly entertaining to play with. Try it. You can make people do whatever you want. It’s not just about staring though – you need to understand what they’re trying to make you do by looking at you, or what they were doing before they realised they were being looked at.

But this isn’t what I was driving at. What I’m trying to access and share here is the fact that I could not have been as still and as “calm” as I was without the audience feeling for me what I wasn’t allowed to. I react with them. They become another character. Especially for a character that exists to watch things happen.

Oh, and my character arc? It was an arc that you could only have experienced if you saw the show every night. As a 200 year old man made lake, I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t do anything. I had things done to me. I suppose I could say I enveloped all eventually. Eventually everything came back to me, and I accept all who come. But being a lake is a little like groundhog day. You see everything happen, but you can’t have any effect on the outcome. To keep things fresh, I tried something new every time – new ways of trying to connect with Piper, the visiting Aussie journalist, new ways to try to get through to the Monk. One night we made contact – he was more than a little shaken. I could see it. New ways to try to touch the child. The major saw me and tried to connect with me, but I am just a mirror. I am only what you want to see.

The play got filmed. I really wish it could have been filmed by a camera that sat on my shoulder, because the story I got from my place watching was probably very different to that the audience got. I suppose it would be the same from every point of view.

There’s so much I saw and learnt about the human condition from playing a character outside and free of those bindings – like love, happiness, life, time. It was a very soulful role to play, and I’m glad I got to play it.

I’ve ended up somewhere completely different, analysing my role in “A Quiet Night in Rangoon”, but that’s okay. It all comes down to process, and that’s what I’m trying to explore at the moment. My motivations and methods of working. And I seem to have established that I like to feel my way through things intuitively and reactively, so all is not lost. Right. Back to sonnets.

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Clothes