Some things we’ve seen outside of the rehearsal room:
Casinos and missiles
Million dollar watches
The Grand Canyon (which is not in Las Vegas or NV)
and rain in the desert.
Some things we’ve done in the rehearsal room:
We’ve had a pool party.
We’ve dropped an atomic bomb on Jonathan Edwards, an 18th-century theologian
Ian has revealed that he can actually turn into a lizard on command.
Libby has eaten a mouthful of graham cracker crumbs from the floor
We’ve reenacted people we interviewed who work in the casinos
We’ve reenacted people we interviewed who play in the casinos
We’ve reenacted casinos themselves.
We’ve stomped, clapped, and sung “If you believe in Vegas, then you believe in God.”
All sorts of things have been done with laser eyes.
We’ve written over 150 pages of material. Today we’re starting a full push to tie together everything we’ve seen and written. Right now, everyone is sitting at tables scattered around the blackbox at UNLV. It’s very quiet, like a library. Well—a library with a very enthusiastic coffee maker gurgling on the side. We’ll see what comes out…
The house is still beautiful this morning. We’re trying to make the place our own. One of the first things everyone did was take pictures of the three foreclosure notices on the front door, as if each of us owning the image gave us some stake in the legally-limboed property we’re sleeping in. Continue reading →
We’ve been rehearsing for Heartland at ART’s Emerging America Festival. Watching the video of the piece from Toronto I was struck by how different we all look. I guess just younger, but also different somehow . . .
It is wonderful to be revisiting this play. The themes we were grappling with then seem just as relevant now as they did in 2005 – same war, same red state blue state divide (which Rachel Shukert who worked on Heartland in London at it’s earliest stages and who is from Omaha insisted back then was actually a urban/rural divide). Some of my lines as Bobby Kennedy have taken on a different meaning after the death of Edward.
We’ve changed the last lines of the Christmas Carol sequence. We’ve changed those lines literally every time we’ve put the play up, which feels fitting considering that the first part of Heartland that we ever put on its feet was the Christmas Carol section for Rachel’s Grad Directing class with Anne Bogart.
And now it’s on to Boston! (where I’ll probably get tomato-ed for my Bobby Kennedy accent)
the flight was smooth. and the set and costumes made it across on their boat.
we arrived in glasgow last week and set up digs at our favorite stone house on charlotte street. it was raining but spirits were warm. we had both a travel and and the next day off – a first for the TEAM. we have toured enough now to know that going to the grocery store first thing is a necessity.
i stayed on the top floor in a flat i have before. it is all pink and old and i love it. i have had the pleasure of having ms lana lesley as my roomie and we are cohabiting famously.we have grand coffee talks.
having the day off to recover from the let jag made a big difference in the quality of our health and of getting to work the next day. it was wonderful to be back at the Arches and walk by the rehearsal rooms where many characters in this play were born. we got to see clem and davey and rosa – who was 2 weeks old when we last met her and is now 15 months and quite the buddha baby. we played settlers of catan and busted out the famous grouse. our shows had full audiences of enthusiastic people, and many young students. we closed on halloween afternoon, and jackie and lj threw us a fab dinner party that night. i often refer to champagne as bubbles, but now i know here it is called fizz. and we had us some fizz.
lana had her first performances as margaret mitchell and she was wonderful. on the second night, i slipped on a coat and spilled an entire tray of drinks on jake. she won the prize for best onstage adlib during this ruckus. ” i wish we had drinks”
we flew to london on nov 1 and we delighted to find that our flats here have internet. it’s the little things, people. a french press and internet do a lot for me.the gals are staying in two little but clean and beautifully decorated studios. the gents are upstairs in a loft straight out of the real world, complete with taxidermied animal heads, a wooden stove and bean bag chairs.
we are playing at the Barbican here, which is a big step for us and a dream come true. we are in the small theatre in the basement, and it’s a perfect place for the show. i get to enter a separate building labeled stagedoor and it’s a fancy feeling. there is even a cafeteria for the people working there. again, the little things.
the shows have been great, and the audiences full and receptive. during our talk back night, there were several people who were fans of the show and had seen it in edinburgh last summer! also people who had seen heartland! hearing people speak so intelligently about our work is incredibly humbling and inspiring.
we have a week more of shows here and then to lisbon. we have a few days off there before we start work, which is very exciting. i have heard nothing but good things about this city.
for now, i am enjoying london and its beautiful markets – ah, the cheese! the flowers! the friends! the show!
We’re off to our first day of Tech at the Barbican in London! Glasgow was excellent – all sold out runs full of really excited university students who felt that our work was really speaking to what they want to be making in the art world. It was so much fun to be back with our friends at the National Theatre of Scotland and at the Arches!
In London we are staying in the hippest loft and apartments imaginable in a rad neighborhood called Hoxton, right in the middle of everything, and a 15 minute walk from the theater. And the theater . . . wow. It is just beautiful and staffed by wonderful people. It truly felt like we were part of the theater community here when Libby and Frank recognized the man who works the Stage Door Desk as a performer who had put up a Scratch of one of his plays the same night that we first presented a Scratch of Architecting!
what? the orchard project. a residency in the catskills where the TEAM got to work on the script of THE AMERICAN CAPITALISM PROJECT all day long in a red barn. all meals were provided, and wine at night. we slept in a brown house by a creek that turned into a raging root beer river when it rained. evenings were spent falling in love with the rude mechs, playing games, dancing, and making merriment.
who? jake margolin, rachel, matty, tater, libby, kristen, brian, and i were the TEAM members able to go. it was amazing to have sir brian hastert back the room after a several year absense caused by his attendence at the yale school of drama. frank boyd was on a journey across the country and jess, nick, jake h, and songbird heather christian were unable to attend. although i missed them all dearly, it was interesting and beneficial to work on a new script without some of the performers. in a collaborative process, i’m always thinking about the ego. my ego, and those dozen others in the room. it’s been a beautiful struggle over the years to balance the importance of the play as the whole, the experience of the audience, and a bunch of actor egos who want to play challenging amazing roles. because we were missing two key performers, the focus was strongly on making the play as a whole. we always write for all characters, but this week we also traded parts freely and did a reading where jake played heather, brian played frank, and i played jessie. i felt more like a playwright than i ever have, and it was a good feeling.
also falling under the question mark of WHO is the other people at the OP that week. is that a sentence? it is to me! the TEAM met dean for the first time, and he did not forget the tequila. we were happy and warm fuzzied to see ari, jake, and andrew again. we met this year’s core company- a team of apprentices in or fresh out of college. micheline was our rehearsal assistant and she was oh so valuable. she can also shake it on the dance floor. one night, the core company put on the most amazing cabaret i will ever see. i was genuinely moved by their sheer joy of performing, and fearlessness. i want to bottle that fearlessness and chug it.
the TEAM was lucky enough to be at the OP the same week as the Rude Mechanicals outta austin, texas. we had met some of them before, and had in fact been in Galway, Ireland at the same time, but never spent quiality time. well, people, it was love at first sight. our energies were so on the same page. the minute kirk spoon fed me some family meal that looked like it was going to be black beans and rice but was in fact some kind of wheatberry apple brown betty cold stuff, i knew it was ON. we played wiffle ball with mixed teams our first night, and the trash talking was truly creative. their spirit was infectious and delicious mixed with ours. it was really eye opening and exciting for me to see that people are making good work, and recognized good work OUT of new york. this city is wearing on me. the rude mechs have been around for 15 years and they are still going strong – and they have houses and stuff. that is so cool. i want that. we agreed to trade me for thomas in a semi joke that i hope will come true. micheline and andrew thought it was true and almost changed my bus ticket. i do want to work with you, thomas, so we will have to come up with a solution to that. maybe the trading just doesn’t happen at the same time.
work? we got about twenty pages of AMCAP written, which was RAD and totally necessary, since we are off to London in two weeks. We have development time at the Almeida, and showings at the end of this time. the vibe does not seem to be casual showing, and we are working with a choreographer there and so it was important for us to have some script to bring over. we got to listen to and participate in two readings – Leila and Louis’s – playwrights up at the OP. we saw some songs and dance from the rude mech’s piece I’ve Never Been So Happy. we did a reading of our script and got some good feedback.
games we played: euchre, wiffle ball, capture the flag, settlers of catan, and mafia.
there was also a prom. and we danced a lot.
and we made a bonfire and ate smores.
dear mom and dad i love summer camp please send me back next year i will get lots of work done and play very hard. i miss everyone so much already! there were fireflies and it was magical and i loved it. i loved it!
I almost spelled the name of the location correctly without looking (this title is correct – at least, from an Irish woman!)
So I am learning quickly what a glorious thing an artists’ retreat is. Wishing I was a playwright to get to do these more often! Tonight we had left-overs from lunch for dinner and just gathered and talked and of course that is still continuing on in the kitchen. I shared wine with the three “facilitators” (master artist folks) at one end of the table and was lucky enough to just hear stories of these wild pieces unlike anything I have ever encountered in America. I don’t know if that’s going on in the visual art or dance worlds and I just don’t know about it, but these works sound (and look – we got to watch video from this unbelievable archive one of the facilitators has with him) so incredible – simple. Elegant. Talked about Lone Twin. Jerome Bel. Inspiring.
Tomorrow Jess and I begin work on THE AMERICAN CAPITALISM PROJECT – my hope is to get a bunch of writing assignments out to the company in preparation for our upcoming workshop at the BRICLab in April.
In a bus from Dublin, 2 hours to Tyrone Guthrie’s estate, by way of London and New Orleans. Hearing we’ll be jumping another (bloody) hour ahead next week. Sleepstrewn through a highway bus astride cowflecked Irish country patch. Rachel is reading Marx.
The Irish gent across the aisle is speaking about clever insanity in the form of a megalomaniac to make something political happen – anything political can happen – in the wake of the political collapse. He is talking about personal power being transferred to the state and cheap labor and immigrants and whatever might be the next religion.
Last week, in New Orleans, we saw Brad Pitt’s green houses staggerring with sober Easter exhaustion through the still very vacant, and abandoned , now fields, of the lower ninth. We shoveled a back yard of glass shards, concrete bricks, and clay, and removed pigeon shot and complete bird carcasses stripped of meat, ensconced in their own fecal dust, from the walls.
Many people have not painted over the now political graffiti on the pastel dinosaur exteriors of their dying homes: dog food, SPCA, dog in back, 14 09, 0 (bodies), home- this was home.
Historically, I haven’t been much of a reader. Books that I have opened – whether it was to impress a stranger? in the morning by reading Derrida (sort of) on the R train or for high school AP English credits – usually didn’t get much further than the first few dog-eared, heavily notated, coffee stained in-the-wake-of-the-Roman-numeral-prefaced pages. On some level I can subconsciously defend myself by saying, Well, the writer probably took quite a long time mulling over the initiation of this, his or her, masterwork, and choosing the first few words, yadda yadda and etcetera so – soooooo – so shall I, probably.
But then I wouldn’t get quite that much pr any farther. Just the afterbirth of the preface or the baby’s first steps, and then I was done. And with a ten page paper.
Rachel Chavkin gets me reading books. Sometimes. In fact, the first full book I’ve read since I can solemnly remember is Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with Wind (I almost mis-typed it as DONE with the Wind, which would also have been accurate. . . ) We read this book for Architecting and I figured if I was given the honor and the privilege of playing Margaret Mitchell then I should really know it. Needless to say, it is a long book. And it took me, the skimmer and verbal scavanger that I have been, quite a WEE bit of time to do the reading of it.
So I have only read it once.
Then there was the book: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres. By Henry Adams. This was the FIRST book Rachel Chavkin gave me to read, when I was initially going to play Henry Adams. But I jumped a bit and used my old tricks on the Editor’s Note (which comes even BEFORE the preface) and needless to say, I was not methodically playing Sir Henry.
There is a bit in Mr. Adams’ Editor’s Note that I have procrastinated for many months now in sharing (I could say it’s been deliberation but basically I’ve just been slow to blog.) Sadly and also for better if the other option we are given to choose comic strip wise is worse, there is no specified equipment – a kind of bluetoothian dictator – to take my thinking about blogging and make it into a blog post. So – hence the delayment – so.
The Editor, he speaks about Henry Adams’ analysis of the Middle Ages as an “epoch. . . that must be considered en bloc, as a period of consistent unity as highly emphasized as was its dynamic force.”
So now we’re quoting here, bear with me for the first sentence: “it is unnecessary to say that Mr. Adams deals with the art of the Middle Ages after this fashion: he is not of those who would determine every element in art from its material antecedents. He realizes very fully that its essential element, the thing that differentiates it from the art that preceded and that which followed, is its spiritual impulse; the manifestation may have been, and probably was, more or less accidental, but that which makes Chartres Cathedral (and some other art . . . paraphrasing here etc) . . great and unique is not their technical mastery nor their fidelity to the enduring laws of all great art, – though these are singular in their perfection – but rather the peculiar spiritual impulse which informed the time, and by its intensity, its penetrating power, and through its dynamic force wrought a rounded and complete civilization and manifested this through a thousand varied channels.”
Thank you, Henry. [emphasis added]
The Civil War. Hurricane Katrina. Secession. Reconstruction. – Forces.
Audience members. – A thousand varied channels.
As we rowed this ship through 6 weeks in January, we met directors from England, families from New Orleans, students from Yale, professors from college, big minds from the New York theatre world and Polans, moms and dads, Southern belles relocated and now up north, businessmen, students. People seemed to hear something.
What is – why now – the particular spiritual impulse?
Maybe as our incarnation of Henry puts in our play, “From a revisionist historian’s perspective – ” – – looking back from here, at the top of March, what can I see that was happening? – –
Maybe we were looking at – How does an American place leave and can it ever come back?
The death of an Old South that the Civil War burned to shreds.
The death of a New Orleans that may or may not be reborn or want to be.
Can we reinstate to the South a sense of dignity here in the North as a kind of reparation for reputation tarnishing.
Can we imagine – through imagination and empathy if not through political alliances – a more whole country if we find love for the sever and are tender with the sutures?
The great movement of hope and change that came to the forefront of our poetic and political vocabularies with President Obama’s campaign emerged after Architecting’s racially rooted reading assignments were assigned. So to with the American Capitalism Project, proposed before Wall Street and Ponzi schemes hit the front pages.
I just relooked up peculiar. Relooked because it has been probably been since the 7th Grade, if I ever have. Of or pertaining to a specific group or odd, unique, distinct.
And an impulse – a motivation, incentive (that word is a hmmm for me for the next piece), inspiration. Usually to do something other than the rational. A force so communicated as to produce motion suddenly. The act of driving onward with sudden force. (I love those last two.)
Something I learn from building with the TEAM is that there is an exploitation of words – an explicit and a very large and concrete nature to inhabiting things that are stated, often very simply, but with consequential reverb. I try not to take those things for granted because the more I understand the word, the bigger the idea we can carry for the audiences . .
When I contemplate where these plays come from or where the next play might go, I am so far – continue to be – and awesomely have been very much amazed at how we tap into some sort of emerging context totally by accident and by default on purpose, and get to be a part of an evolving series of ideas and small but severing fractures of American identification.
The peculiar spiritual impulse that grasps us.
We don’t manufacture the impulse.
I don’t think that is my job, to manufacture the impulse, as a human.
So I think that this is really pretty cool.
However you are given to defining for yourself the word “spiritual.
It could be – and been down – a thousand varied channels.
I always write the name of the show in all caps. This is the way I feel about this amazing crazy journey we have titled ARCHITECTING ( among other things ).
The past few months have been the most exhausting and exciting months of my life, and I dare say, the company’s life ( and in these past few months, there hasn’t been much difference between the two ).
Some select memories:
Setting up our dressing room at The Public. At THE PUBLIC. Looking at Jess and saying out loud WE ARE AT THE PUBLIC. Doing a play we made. That we care about. Does it get much better? For those of you who don’t know, Jessie and I met on the first day of NYU, at The Freshmen Ice Cream Social. Ten years later, here we are. To be cliche and to not, we’re living the dream.
Playing a set with Frank at the LuEsther Lounge late night. A couple years ago, Frank didn’t play guitar. And I haven’t sung for anyone besides my shampoo bottle in ages. One rainy night in Dublin, in a college dormitory room and on tour, fed on frozen lasagne and British beers we watched Neil Young’s Heart of Gold movie. The we had some more beers and started making up songs. Writing songs and singing with Frank has been joy and wonder filled for me. Learning something completely new, and sharing it has been such a huge lesson. Oh there are so many new things I can learn to do! ( to be cliche or not ).
Living through the cough plague that swept the city and the cast. When I get sick, I get it bad. And let me tell you people, opening a show with twenty minutes of singing and then corset coughing is pretty painful. But the TEAM is a family, and there were cough drops of six different sorts hidden all over the set, and six different sets of hands ready to pass you one. I will always remember Carrie Campbell offering Melly a sip of her Makers Mark in the middle of a scene when I had a particularly wretched feather stuck in my throat.
It felt beautifully full circle to have so many NYU students see the show (Thank you Michael Krass!) and to hear their questions and comments. It was stunning to sell out in New York City, sometimes to audiences of total strangers. It was satisfying to share this piece we’ve worked on for well over two years with the friends, family, and peers that have been hearing all about it for ever and ever.
I ate a lot of vegetarian Matzoh Ball soup. Thanks, B+H.
It was great to be back at PS122. It felt like home, and what a feeling. Thank you, Vallejo.
It was magical to stand in the Anspacher, and feel the ghosts of its history, and then get to be part of the incredible list of shows that have opened there. Thank you, Mark.
I cannot thank enough all the crew and volunteers and helpers. Often I’m so distracted and tired I don’t get to thank properly the people who really really deserve it.Thank you. Properly and wholeheartedly.