Saturday, April 03, 2010

Drowning in what is there

"When someone is following the stream of transformation energy, doing it - performing - with the ancient vibratory songs, the resonators in the body can begin a very complex dialogue with themselves. A dialogue which is not at all guided consciously by the doer but led more by the "inner action" itself."(Thomas Richards Interviewer: Lisa Wolford. The Edge-Point of Performance)

Bent Out of Shape Productions' The Drowning Girls recent Saskatoon performances March 24 - April 5 at Backstage Stage Persephone Theater surfaced a thought frenzy that always lays close to the surface. What do I witness in a performance?

Daniela Vlaskalic, co-writer, actor and co-producer has stated "... we all ended up writing and creating the play together. That was 1999." The ten year journey has been mostly lauded throughout as hugely entertaining and visually mesmerizing with positively sparkling comments. "From conception to execution and performance, all the elements are gloriously realized." Some voices questioned the "Style in fact, totally triumphs over potentially deadly serious substance." & a script where "Unfortunately, there is no tension." Still clearly the function of enjoyment & fun is, as Helen Shaw writes on Upstaged, well ... important.

At the opening sold out performance the audience rose to its feet with an enthusiastic ovation. There was no denying the clean, clever imaginative action. The splashing, dripping, showering and drenching water was indeed the fourth character driving the gulping, spraying and breathless rhythm while both concealing and revealing the wedding dresses, viels, blue bouquets and newspaper props of play. The three white porcelain claw-footed tubs with functioning shower-heads gleamed stoically, silently & threateningly not only a murder object but more a metaphor for the historically rooted husband George Joseph Smith who was eventually hanged for the murders of the seven women he married, three of which he drowned in a bathtub.

Beth Graham and Natascha Girgis joined Vlaskalic with bold, confident and studied, sometimes stylized and other times poetic, eloquent movements. They flowed through the dark narrative, vaudevillian sketches and poses of women perched at the close of the Edwardian era with careful distance. Their delivery dazzled whether ironic church hymn singing (wish I knew the song for the middle aged couple next to me chuckled knowingly), mocking Scots brogue or court room antics. Their speech though earnest resonated with good humor. The lighting designed by Narda McCarroll was a counterpoint to the wild water ruthlessly sharp and precise pinning the actors to the black and white tiled stage floor. Often the spot and cross lighting exposed the vulnerable women caught in the social mores of the day yet eerily still contemporary.

What I experienced was a collaboration of artists fully engaged in smart, open-minded theatrical creativity. I felt an empowerment which explored an unwritten story of victim. The point I wish to examine is what did I witness.

Once I believed theatre was carved on body memory in the tangible space between actor & audience. That esoteric, strange and complicatedly compelling space where energy is exchanged. The invisible space within and without.
"Normally in theatre (that is to say, in theatre of performance, in Art as presentation), one works on the vision that should appear in the perception of the spectator. If all of the elements of the performance are elaborated and correctly assembled (the montage), an effect appears in the perception of the spectator, a vision, a certain story; to some degree the performance appears not on the stage but in the perception of the spectator. This is the nature of Art as presentation. At the other extremity of the long chain of the performing arts is Art as vehicle, which looks to create the montage not in the perception of the spectators, but in the artists who do. This has already existed in the past, in the ancient Mysteries." (From the Theatre Company to Art as Vehicle Jerzy Grotowski in At Work with Grotowski on Physical Actions. p. 120)

Now I witness energy transformation in artists themselves. A quality of active receptivity in the singingness and dancingness which allows a play-force. I witness a state of body resistance cultivating a flexible and empty acceptance to be a channel open to encounter. I witness the capacity to play in the conjunction between the rigors of all the raw material elements of craft and the flow of spontaneity. This happen stance occurs in an informal and discreet way. I witness how it rewrites my subjectivity and how it kicks my ass with its transformative power. I witness an uncontrollable quality.

In The Drowning Girls I witnessed a solid quality of a seeing what is there - controlled presentation fostering ultimately predictable effects.

- See: Theater

:: note :: ... whatever the performance opening up cannot be over calculated ... beg to open ... let dreaming adrift ... release wanting ... release expectation ... who knows how we experience ... open the soul and journey in a heartbeat ... cartoons found at Mimi and Eunice drawn by Nina Paley ...