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