Thursday, September 21, 2006

Closing Thoughts

"Click on any image to enlarge." How many times have you seen that. I put it at each post for the person who doesn't know that I've put it at every post before this. Ironically that phrase embodies the journey we have made. To magnify, to look closer, to expand. To click and enlarge.

This was a special experience - dramaturgy on a play where Tuttle the writer is Tuttle the director and the piece takes place on very common and familiar turf. What value could I add? I wasn't sure. But I hope and trust that my work enhanced the atmosphere, the connection of the actors to the world, and the connection of the audience to the play and to the company.

Last night of rehearsals and after all the photojournalizing I inflicted on the cast and crew, Tim the designer insisted on capturing pictures of me so there's a couple here. One in the role of Margaret and the other, also ironically, under the exit sign.

I found this process as a dramaturgical exercise to be pure joy and yet end in some despair. Because I've had a taste of dramaturgy, I want to do it all the time. But because it's only a taste, I have much to learn. There are books to read and scripts to critique and I'm thrilled to learn, but the doer in me wants to do do do. So I step back. Tuttle does The Tempest next. Begins rehearsals in the next few weeks. Am I ready to tackle the Bard? Yes and no. I don't like to do things half-heartedly. If it's not sold-out passion then it's tepid and I'm not deserving of the opportunity. And if I'm unsure what I'm doing then I may hinder, not help. And that would be a travesty.

If I've learned one thing about dramaturgy through this collaboration, it's that passion is positively correlated to the contribution and that, in turn, is positively correlated to the outcome. So I venture forth with a new and improved mental horizon. I thank the actors and crew for receiving the flow of images in rehearsals. I thank Tuttle for being an open director, Ilana Brownstein for aligning my skewed impressions of what becoming a dramaturg involves, and I thank God for the gift of theatre which has been a constant resource for inspiration through all sorts of times in life.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

11 images and people

11 people came together tonight. as captured in these 11 photos. people work hard, they sometimes have to trust strangers, and with great fortune they can become friends. click to enlarge...

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Interview

It was a very visual night last night at rehearsal, and a great day for the cast and its major strides made.

I did the dramaturgical task of interviewing Tuttle..... it was pretty interesting to be on the Q side of a Q&A and transcribing the talk.

Click on the links to view. The text is included below each link. Pump up your computer volume - it's audible at full volume.
Segment 1: Writing Origins
JL: So let’s talk about your background, where you came from, what got you started in theatre, what got you started in writing. I know that you started young, right?
BT: I started young in the usual sort of theatre ways. As far as taking writing a little more seriously, I first started writing in my freshman year of high school. I was sent to my room and I didn’t have any cool things to play with so I wrote a rip-off of The Giving Tree and read it to my parents and they cried and I was ungrounded, and that got me writing. And taking it seriously my senior year of high school, I fell in love with a girl, didn’t really know how to talk to her. Her parents didn’t really like me so I didn’t really have an opportunity to talk with her. So I wrote her a play. And that ended up getting performed, and won a small award or whatever and that kind of got me hooked.
Segment 2: On Directing
JL: What made you gravitate towards directing?
BT: That was a very natural sort of gravitional pull there. When you tell a story, you want to be able to tell every aspect of it…
JL: Right.
BT: … so directing was a very natural fit. There’s definitely evolution. I always sort of have a natural sense of being in charge (laughter) which isn’t what it’s about at all, but um, I evolved into sort of trusting more, the more I got to direct. The concept of the atmosphere and the world sort of coming in the last couple of years, an understanding of helping everyone get into a kind of place and my job being to set that tone of that world and then letting the actors play. That sort of directing concept naturally evolved out of directing and directing and realizing, you know, that actors weren’t your puppets.
JL: This is like the least amount of direction I’ve ever seen you give.
BT: It’s been less and less and here we are sort of a week before the show and a couple of days ago it was very nightmarish, it was "Oh God" and I didn’t do too much expect put more trust into the situation and it seems really to be paying off. The more you let them find truth, that’s all we’re trying to get at. And as long as I can set actors up for realizing truth s is what matters and I’m setting up the world around them to exist and to be truthful and it’s going to go great places. We watched this huge rehearsal today and it was phenomenal, all the stuff they were doing, and I didn’t tell them where to go, not out of laziness but there it was.
Segment 3: The Current Season of Magic
JL: I always thought you were very aggressive (laughter) when it comes to starting a theatre company and you have a five-play season ahead.
BT: Yep.
JL: It’s exciting. Magic Happens is the theme. Do you want to talk about how you came up with that? I know it’s a running theme in all your plays.
BT: Yeah, it was a little bit from reading some Gabriella Garcia Marquez (sp?). It was a lot from really understanding what I enjoy and what the company enjoys doing and so, a lot of it has to do with the ordinary but a lot of it has to do with what’s really special about the ordinary in what we see every day. And it just sort of clicked in that all the plays that were coming together, there’s this huge sense of wonderment about simple humanity. And, you know, a guy on a chair. We wanted to take an entire year just to explore what gives you those goosebumps, you know, so that’s what it’s about.
Segment 4: The Current Play
JL: So let’s talk a little bit about The Unnoticed. When I first read it, I was pretty impressed. It reminded me a lot of your earlier work, Under Her Umbrella, with more of an optimistic tone.
BT: Mmm.
JL: Can you talk about why you wrote it, what were you trying to achieve?
BT: I started writing it for a friend, actually. I just wanted to make a friend of mine, who has worked with me, just make her smile. And then it kind of extended into becoming this experience that as I see so many things happen in Boston and where I walk, these amazing things, but nobody blinks when they walk by them. There’s a guy in my neighborhood that a character’s based on, and he’s incredible. And my relationship with him has grown over three years of being in Boston . And finally understanding even what he’s saying to me and it took three years to do that. I’ve felt unnoticed a lot of times and I’m sure everyone does. I always look up at rooms in buildings that I might walk by and there’s lamps that are on and I’m always wondering what’s going on there, and to be able to spend a couple of hours exploring what’s going on in this nook of Boston is what’s exciting.
Segment 5: The Not-Too-Distant Future
JL: So 11:11 has been in existence now for, what, like 6, 7 years?
BT: A lot of years.
JL: And been in Boston now, this is the third, fourth?
BT: Seems like third or fourth.
JL: So what are you looking forward to, like, what’s your big, grand plan?
BT: Jeesh.
BT: I’m looking forward to having a community, like, honestly. That’s why I’m excited about, having a season and being able to afford theaters beforehand, is that people can get excited about what we’re doing and get involved in it and go, "Wow, in this season of Magic Happens, in the spring I can’t wait for this play about Cambridge," and then get some input before, during and after. Not about the product but having the sort of sense of plays being alive, and the company sort of growing with them, and continuing to grow who our community is, and how they get involved. And meeting more bands that we can work with, from a creation standpoint and from an audience standpoint, we feed off of our community. And so it’s sort of like a positive version of a virus (laughter) where we feed off each other and the whole community grows. I can’t wait till we’re even bigger and people are doing season subscriptions.
JL: Is that why you chosen Boston , because of the musical, theatrical, like, it seems to be a hotbed.
BT: Yeah it’s a hotbed. Just the atmosphere. Completely different kinds of people that all exist in one city. A lot of extremes of diversity as far as racial, and economically. It’s this huge, diverse area kind of stuffed into this great place of history. And as far as the United States goes, it’s about as historical as it gets. And I love being in a place with that sense of history but that’s also going somewhere. And it’s cool to be by the ocean too.
BT: So yeah, that’s why Boston .

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Erin's Ending Smile

Click on photo to enlarge.

Day Dreaming

Click on photo to enlarge.

In Thomas' Room (video)

Turn up your volume on your computer ...
CLICK HERE to view video.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dark footage

The tone at rehearsal was pointed. In a good way. There was a sharpness, a crisp sense of processing that made the time seem like a 2-for1 almost. We tried calling Marballi for Thomas' development (the character was based on him) but alas it was mid-afternoon workday for him in CA. I spoke with him after rehearsal and he said he's not reachable until after work, so we can try him at rehearsal's end one night this week.

Tuttle read the dramaturg notes aloud to the cast. They need tweaking. The cast is to add their thoughts of ordinary things. I'm to cut any sort of commentary (two sections) and embellish what's left with more vivid detail. And the title is A Collection of Happenings. and not Dramaturg's Notes, which makes me glad that it is more artistic contribution and less academic.

I am to interview Tuttle this week for the program and the website. Excited to see how that comes out. Sounds like he wants part of it in the program after all.

Was a tough night for shooting anything. The overhead lights were all off and I didn't want to manipulate the atmosphere for the sake of documentary so I shot and hoped whatever could be gleaned would be at least audible if not visible ... it's on the way. Slow uploading and the fine folks at google video take a while to debug it (so opening it won't generate an error report). I hope to get to it tonight after rehearsal, which is after the Dramaturgy Workshop at BU that Ilana's teaching and said I can audit. Can barely wait for that. Hoping no fires at work keep me from it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Notes anyone?

Tuttle asked me to write the dramaturg notes for the program, paying attention to the fact that the program's purpose is to bring the audience into the world. So I set out this weekend to compile a piece, not too long, not too brief, that would succeed to set the tone.

Seeking a little inspiration to pen it, I listened to Henry Rollins writings online. (Click on the image then scroll to the sound samples if you'd like to give a listen too.) Tuttle had mentioned his "Black Coffee Blues" and so I knew it shared elements with the the tone of the play. Indeed it does. Invisible Woman Blues struck a clear chord so I decided to quote it in the notes.

Dramaturg's notes that I've seen are typically musings on the play, its world, its characters, its origins, etc. A third person objective take on the production and the process leading up to it. Tuttle's request was out of the norm as far as I knew from what little I've surmised. Wasn't I meant to provide a standard dramaturgical breakdown of the play? No actually, I thought. Because really, when the director is the playwright and the play is his final draft, the need for a dramaturg in the traditional sense is diminished. Right? I mean, certainly the next 11:11 production, The Tempest, would benefit far more from a dramaturg than The Unnoticed, correct? Then it hit me. This is what makes dramaturgy so cool and even cooler exploring it as a first go with 11:11.

This experience is anything but standard, cookie cutter, traditional. It's fluid, vastly diversified, full of possibility, and therefore potentially ever-changing. So it made sense that I wouldn't follow any particular academic formula when it came to the program notes. They would simply serve as an extension of the work so far: to be a partner to the play and the process, facilitating thought, encouraging discourse, offering imagery, and compiling the discussions from the rehearsal process. Tuttle's thought about a list of ordinary things peppered with extraordinary events sat well, and I built upon this concept to bring moments from rehearsals into the notes.

Here they are ...

Dramaturg’s notes

"People travel to wonder
at the height of mountains,
at the huge waves of the sea,
at the long courses of rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars
and they pass by themselves
without wondering."
–Augustine (354–430 A.D.)

How do we pass by ourselves without wondering? Without noticing? What other seemingly simple elements of life go unnoticed?

A girl sketches a portrait in the Sargent Gallery.
An old man waits for the T.
A homeless woman asks you for change.
A boy chases a squirrel around a tree in the Public Garden.
Several dozen people spot a manatee in the Hudson River a thousand miles from its natural habitat.
Your cell phone rings.
The garbage truck makes its biweekly rounds.
A car alarm sounds.
You hit snooze for the third time.
The Globe gets delivered.
A Tucson man lifts a car to save a boy pinned underneath.
The smell of leaves burning lingers into your living room.
A weatherman forecasts partly sunny skies with a chance of rain.
A thunderstorm hits.
The airport experiences delays.
You put a load of laundry in the dryer.
The dentist’s office leaves a message about your next cleaning.
An albatross feather blows in through your window.

Recurring ingredients came to mind in discovering the world of The Unnoticed. Not necessarily in the play, these ideas and images held a place for however brief moments in the evolution of the characters and their relationships through rehearsals ...

Urban anonymity, foreign world, explosions from nowhere, water overflowing, Jay’s anger, kites flying, imagination, possibility, Erin breaking, untouched, strange, Marie’s stillness, sight felt, distance sensed, using light like it was water, Jeff’s presence, a blue that brings tears, ambulance sirens, a dog barking, candles and marshmallows, Thomas’ passiveness, singing beach, doors closing, dial tones, oceans opening up, being reborn with all of the knowledge and none of the scars, come sit on our wall ... welcome.

"Before I fall asleep at night
I close my eyes
and wrap myself around you
I can feel your breath on my neck
In my mind it’s real
you’re real
Just writing about it
makes me stare at the wall
for minutes at a time
like I’m in a trance.”
– excerpt from Invisible Woman Blues by Henry Rollins

Julie Levene, The Unnoticed Dramaturg

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Movie Time

Video footage from rehearsal last night. These are the clips. This is a test post. Still working out the kinks in viewing them...


Thomas Scene

Thomas and Erin



Tuttle and T-Bone Talk


Week 2 Begins

After a week of table work, we started getting on our feet. It worked out that I was sitting behind Brian so I could document some really eye-opening direction and see the perspective from the director's point of view. Here are some images from rehearsal. Click to enlarge.

I also filmed some footage with my camera which came out amazingly well. I can e-mail if interested - I can't post movie files to the blog but if I could upload them to another site and create a link here, I would. Looking into it. Google has a beta program for movie uploads - that may work.

A thought occurred to me - it seems that a lot of people in Boston in their 20's smoke. I wondered if any of these characters would. The group thought maybe, maybe, Matt, but perhaps only in a party atmosphere. Brian suggested I research it and sure enough there is evidence of a trend in quitting.

Nearly 65% of smokers ages 16-24 tried to quit smoking during the previous year, according to results from the National Youth Smoking Cessation Survey, a two-year, longitudinal study of more than 2,500 smokers aged 16-24, were presented at the 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health Conference in Washington, D.C. Smokers whose parents smoked were half as likely to quit smoking as those with a parent who either had quit or had never smoked.

The blog will be on vacation this week. In the next 2 days at night I have to get fully moved from my North End apartment to Somerville and then Thursday I fly to Philly and drive from there to Virginia for a sibling gathering at my brother's vacation home over an extended Labor Day weekend. Happy laboring all.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Day 4 Table Work

The discussion centered around the actors' persectives on their characters' different worlds. It was awesome that Brian was able to conference in Benji from Ohio who is cast as Erin's boyfriend, Matt, and have him on cellular speakerphone to share his thoughts on their relationship. Benji arrives in September. His thoughts were very much in line with ours. We discussed the roles of Marie, Beth and Margaret and then set out to do some character body work and a brief improv.

I took a photo for the press packet showing Beth and Erin. They capture the tone of the play very well at this point in time. Click to enlarge photo.

Melissa brought up the squirrels on the Boston Common and how they run around trees as children chase them, seeming to know it's a game, and eat from people's hands. She also mentioned a strange creature that was spotted in Boston but not from this region.
More talk of the list of the ordinary vs. the bizarre, the unnoticed vs. the noticed, for a dramaturgical insert to the program. Interesting concept came up the day before of putting the programs like scrolls in bottles with a little sand in them, and I wrote Tim the designer on Brian's suggestion to see if he could secure a bunch of bottles in his travels.
We discussed another manatee siting in Cape Cod and we speculated if it was the same one that was in the Hudson River 3 weeks ago. Associated Press news reports say "It is not known whether the manatee is the one seen earlier this month near Manhattan Island in New York. That manatee was tracked as it swam north along the coasts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

As For Comedy

In the arena of comedy, Woody Allen's name came up and his style and character used as a discussion point for the role of Thomas. His commentary on comedy can be found at - track 3 "Stage Persona" is particularly interesting. These are not comedy routines. They are his insights on comedy and how people receive it.

John Coltrane

The significance of jazz and comedy came up last night and I found a bit of John Coltrane that evokes a sort of autumnal, directionless milieu. It's called Stardust and can be heard at - track 1 - simply click the Listen icon for a sample.

The Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen

Manatees and Mermaids

Discussion on the feather at the opening of the play and paralleled to the manatee which is linked to mermaids according to Wikipedia. A discussion of mermaids, how the play's characters never utter the word mermaid. So the audience will never truly know. I shared an image of a bronze statue in Copenhagen of The Little Mermaid. Brian wants to use it as the model for the sculpture in the play.

Avoid the expected interpretation. What is expected?

New addition to the end with Marie being the name on the neighbor's mail. The old woman neighbor nobody ever noticed. The mail that Thomas got and never gave to her.

The idea of a dramaturgical insert for the program. Ask the cast for a list of the ordinary and compile this list but intersperse it with the unexpected, the miraculous. Like the manatee. As for the manatee...

I heard about in the Hudson River. Why would a salt water mammoth creature venture so far north out of his normal habitat (Florida, Virginia usually the northernmost) to explore the Hudson? Here's the article from CNN and another from the New York Times...

CNN: Accidental tourist: Manatee cruises Hudson River
Monday, August 7, 2006; Posted: 9:45 a.m. EDT (13:45 GMT)

NEW YORK, New York (AP) -- In the heat of summer, all sorts of tourists head north to cooler climes. This year, a manatee has joined the crowd, cruising past the nightclubs of Manhattan and continuing north.

The massive animal has been spotted in the Hudson River at least three times in the last week -- first off the Chelsea and Harlem sections of Manhattan, then to the north in Sleepy Hollow in Westchester County.

"It was gigantic," said Randy Shull, who said he spotted the unusual visitor Sunday afternoon while boating at Kingsland Point Park in Sleepy Hollow. "When we saw it surface, its back was just mammoth."

Last month, trackers saw the manatee as it swam north, first near Delaware, then Maryland, then New Jersey. By Saturday, it was seen in Manhattan.

Kim Durham, rescue program director for the Riverhead Foundation, a nonprofit group devoted to marine mammals, called it a "bona fide" sighting, but there isn't photographic proof.
It is unusual for one of the creatures -- often associated with the warm waters of Florida -- to travel so far north, although they have been reported along the shores of Long Island and even Rhode Island.

Manatees are an endangered marine mammal. Florida wildlife experts counted 3,116 in their annual survey in February.

John Vargo, the publisher of Boating on the Hudson magazine, said his alert about the sightings was met with disbelief by some boaters.

"Some were laughing about it, because it couldn't possibly be true," he said.

"I'm 70 years old, and I've been on the river my entire life," Vargo said. "I've seen dolphins and everything else, but never a manatee."

Other articles online:
New York Times: Massive Manatee Is Spotted in Hudson River By JENNIFER 8. LEE Published: August 7, 2006

Discussion on who opens as the unnoticed and who is revealed as the unnoticed. Click on image to enlarge.

Discussion on the purpose of a role like Margaret. Provides perspective. Serves as witness. Click on image to enlarge.

An image from a book that Mel brought to rehearsal, The Lucid Dreamer by Malcolm Godwin. Observation: very different people crowded into a place with a disproportionately sized would around them. Click on image to enlarge.

A poem from the same book. Click on image to enlarge.

Another poem from the same book. Click on image to enlarge.