Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fault Lines

I auditioned for the University of Chichester / CIIS MFA in Performance Making on Saturday. We were given a prompt and asked to create a 2-4 minute piece around a one-word prompt. We weren't told much else except that the pieces would be assumed to be unfinished and that we would work on and with them during the audition. This is a record of what I did.

Prompt: "Faultlines"

Act One: The Setup
I mention that my work is about connections, so I'd rather have a conversation than perform a piece.
I hand out lined paper labelled "faults" at the top. I invite the audience to write down any faults they see/hear/witness (open to interpretation) as such reflections will make the event more "performative." I check to see that my phone has been turned off.

Act Two: The Conversation
I sit in a chair (noting that it also lends to performativity) and mention my costume: slightly dressier than usual, as befits an audition, though likely more conservative than a Master of Fine Art, anyway helps with the idea this is a performance, although really I'm just going to talk a bit about myself, things that are on my mind, in the hopes of some connection.

I talk about these things:
Window Washer Falls 11 Stories
My current marital status
My possible move away from San Francisco
A friend I haven't seen in a long while who is ill

During my conversation about each topic, I reassure the audience that everything is fine / all is for the best / things will be okay. The window washer was, at the time of the conversation, at SF General.* Things that are hard become easier, despite the upheaval of change. My friend is in treatment. Etc.

Act Three: The Call
My phone rings, and I tell the audience "I have to take this."** For the phone call, I have a script; at the end of the script I say "I'm sorry" to the audience, and exit. This is the (approximate) script:

*He is still "fighting for his life"
**In fact, I had set a timer on my phone in Act One. In actual fact, the timer didn't go off in the audition; I rushed through the conversation and found myself with nothing further to say and 12 seconds remaining.

Was it successful? Did I convey what I was trying to convey? On Saturday morning, both yes and no, as evidenced by the feedback I received. I really enjoyed the mode of feedback, so that will be the subject of my next post. But what was I trying to say?

I wanted to demonstrate that our crises are often kept private, and the privacy of our catastrophes makes them similar to fault lines: running beneath the surface, likely to erupt in both spectacular and small ways, largely ignored or denied by others and often ourselves. "Everything will be okay." And to highlight the tendency of people like me to apologize for things that aren't our faults, while ignoring the things that might be. And to feel the futility of saying "I'm sorry" to someone else's catastrophe. I wanted the audience to feel a personal connection to me as I revealed faults (metaphorical and literal) as a reminder that these faultlines lie in each of us, and that acknowledging them in others is an act of empathy.

By chance, as I was preparing earlier in the morning, I came across this interview with StyleLikeU founders Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum, and Tallulah Willis. Note Willis' use of "faultlines," and the What's Underneath Project's use of personal stories to promote empathy and connection.

(to be continued...)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Artistic Inspiration Week - Nov 2014

D.I.Y. by Rob Daniels, Skywatchers at Tenderloin National Forest (sadly, missed it - I picked up this postcard after the fact) and Infinite City by Rebecca Solnit.

Update 11/25/14:

I added the links above.

I've also been reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.

And here's some more info on the process of creating Skywatchers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday - 2013 SF OMPF

Playwrights' Foundation is hosting their fifth One-Minute Play Festival benefit. I was delighted to see they chose photos of two of the plays I helmed for last year's festival for this graphic:


Working on both pieces was a highlight of my November-December 2013 -- particularly these two, by A-Lan Holt and Madeline Mahrer, that called for some lovely and tender theatrical moments. Both playwrights were also able to attend rehearsals along the way, which is always fantastic.

Joan Howard and Nkechi in In-to-me-see by A-Lan Holt. Photo by Jim Norrena.

Marlene Yarosh and Soren Santos in Summer by Madeline Mahrer. Photo by Jim Norrena.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Calling all City Creatures...

Here's my latest:

I'm embarking on a multi-month exploration of our personal relationships to cities. Working title: City Creature.

I don't need to say much about the changes that are sweeping San Francisco right now; that's a part of my impetus for doing this, as a matter of course. But there's lots more to explore, and I'm excited to begin.

My exploration will take many forms... at the moment I'm fascinated by the ways in which we imagine the places we live to be living beings, and the relationships we have with these imagined creatures. As a first step, I'm collecting the imagined creatures of others. Your imagined creatures.

These creatures have seen a lot of changes in the Dogpatch

I love worksheets and forms, so I've created one that you can use to describe your city to me:


I'd be delighted to hear from you.

You can follow micro-blogged moments of my exploration on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook and the like with #citycreature -- you can use it to add to the conversation as well.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

O Best Beloved

I should probably let you know about www.obestbeloved.org and the current status of our summer tour: it is on! August 3 through Sept 14 at a park or public space near you, aboard our mobile stage (currently a work-in-progress) named FluxWagon.

FluxWagon in transit. Model by Joan Howard.

FluxWagon unfolded into theatrical glory. Model by Joan Howard.

We have two new ensemble members and are having a spectacular time getting to know their characters, Arby Darby and Princess Gwen, devising new bits for all the characters, and working on two new stories to share.