One of the observations commonly made about the TEAM’s work is that there are a lot of ideas at play in our plays. A review of Mission Drift in Portugal’s Público called it “an intelligent, urgent, cerebral show”, which suits us just fine! After all, the mission of the company is to ‘dissect and celebrate the experience of living in America today’, and that experience is, as any waking American might tell you, a complex one. The job we are attempting to do is take what can seem like an inchoate mass of theoretical, historical, and editorial ideas, wrap our arms around them, root them in the hearts and pursuits of humans, add a dash or three of pizzazz for the stage and make it a play.
This is a post about the first part of the process (although it continues throughout, to be sure). For any TEAM project, once we have selected the larger intellectual/experiential sphere in which we’ll be partying for the next 1-3 years of development (i.e., “What’s the deal with American-style capitalism?”), we put ourselves through a kind of immersion therapy in and around that subject. So for Mission Drift we essentially had two arenas ripe for research: Economics and Westerns. We read classic texts of economic theories, we organized lectures on the finer points of the mortgage-backed securities crisis, watched documentaries about corporate influence and malfeasance, and listened to hundreds of hours of economics podcasts. And on the other hand we watched westerns! And read them. And read books about them. And histories of The West. And theories about the mythological underpinnings inherent in stories of “The West”. And so on. The shared bibliography of influences for Mission Drift contains dozens and dozens of essays, articles, books, and movies consumed by one, some, or all of us.
I know the classic axiom of writing is “write what you know”. And I get that I think. But for me half the fun of writing new theatre in this way is to tackle something truly huge and perhaps unknowable, learn as much as I can along the way, and then wrestle with what we find.
How much of what we read, watch, or otherwise absorb winds up in our play? Hmm, hard to say. The slightly cheeky answer is all of it, right? It’s all in there somewhere, in the bones of the people directing, designing, and performing. Can I point to the lines that were inspired by Cormac McCarthy or Adam Smith? Surprisingly sometimes yes, for instance the moment where Catalina renames Joris “The Wealth of Nations” is probably in some distant way related to Adam Smith, but a lot of times it’s just about giving us the confidence to weave a tighter dramatic fabric, and when we come across a tear know that there’s a lot more material around to look to.
And here’s a collage of a small number of titles from that bibliography that took an embarrassingly long time to photoshop together.
First things first, please note the jaw-dropping view from the tiny balcony behind one of our apartments in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon.
The view of the river from our back terrace in Lisbon.
Second, Lisbon has the most amazing sardines anywhere. Third, WE SOLD OUT OUR THREE DAY RUN AT CULTURGEST! Mission Drift is a go!
The audiences have been exceptionally gracious and wonderful here. The language barrier has not proven to be any impediment to these crowds. The folks who speak English as a second or third language have said that they followed very easily, and others indicated that the humanity of the story was plenty clear, but they always had the supertitles if they needed them.
The feedback from the audiences has been truly gratifying and inspiring. A woman thanked me after the show for the experience, and for giving her so much to think about. When I asked what kinds of things, she said we helped her understand something about America, about who America is in the world today. And there is of course the fantastic twist that has us performing a play about capitalism in a theatre that is housed entirely within a big, beautiful bank, the Caixa Geral.
And of course it just feels great to be finding the rhythm of these characters, these journeys, and this play. Musical. Play with music. We are learning more everyday about this thing that we’ve created. One more performance to go this evening, and then tomorrow we pack up and take the train to beautiful Coimbra!
More updates to come as our internet access hopefully improves at the next stop. And keep your eyes peeled for the future blog post detailing and photo-documenting the truly gourmet sardine experience.
The wait is over! The TEAM’s Mission Drift cast album is for sale and you can own it right from here. Use this widget to download songs individually, or better yet buy the entire album and get the 6th and 7th “album only” tracks thrown in. What better way to celebrate Independence Day than with brand new music from a hot American composer and the Theatre of the Emerging American Moment? No better way.
Having just finished our preview at ArtsEmerson, we’re kind of over the moon. We had a small invited audience, and the feedback was extraordinarily helpful. I know I heard one of the most profound and erudite comments we’ve ever received. Like so many conversations I’ve had before, this gentleman launched in saying “I loved so much about the work, but here’s my problem…” And then he articulated how the piece moved between three narrative levels: a concrete contemporary story, a historical saga, and legend. He said that he felt we had a major piece of text, in which a character tells a myth about two ancient gods, in the wrong place in the play. The moment in the play he was describing is a moment that’s been around for a year, and is beloved by the company, but we haven’t QUITE been able to wrestle it into place. And it was amazing to hear him describe it that way because suddenly this thing we’d been working with instinctively comes into focus on a conscious level. We’re now entering the last editing phase, continuing to trim, and continuing to shape the movement of the show. And then, LISBON. COIMBRA. EDINBURGH. SALZBURG.
Please donate, get yourself a copy of the Mission Drift Cast Album, and help us cross the finish line…
I suppose they call it a MegaBus because it’s allowing me to sit in a seat on it’s second story, laptop on my lap (plugged in and charging!), and connected to the internet so that I can write a blog posting. If that’s not Mega, then I assume there’s some other bus out there with a self-cleaning, heated-seat, solid gold toilet and if there is I look forward to pooping in it. Until then, this excellent MegaBus will serve as Libby, Rachel, Mikaal, Heather, Amber and I travel to Boston to join the rest of the Mission Drift team who made the trip yesterday – and prepare to tech and preview the show at Emerson University. We have spent the past three weeks and several hundred draft pages at our home space in Crown Heights chiseling the dialogue, crafting the scenes, dancing the dances and singing and re-singing the sweet, sweet songs. Tomorrow morning we will arrive on the set that the excellent folks at Emerson have built for us, and we will start to let the pretty pink snow fall. Then after our extra special one-night-only preview performance next week, we will pack the set up and slowboat it across the Atlantic so it will be there for us when we start our European tour in July.
The creation and gestation of Mission Drift has been a long and interesting one. Creating a play about capitalism and the American appetite during these particular years has left us no shortage of fascinating and pertinent real life stories to examine and bewildering research to pour through. This process has had its ups and downs for me, for us all, but when we finished our final run through of the show in Crown Heights last night before hitting the road today, I felt a kind of total-body inspiration from the experience and awe at my insanely talented collaborators. As I walked through Brooklyn, a matter of blocks from where Libby’s and my characters, Joris and Catalina Rapalje, lived 400 years ago, I had a feeling like we might really have hit something special here. And as I ride a MegaBus from the tip of New Amsterdam to the heart of New England, I am so grateful to be putting on a play that seeks to tell a story of America.
As you saw in Rachel’s earlier post, we’re recording an album of the music from Mission Drift. We’ve started the process, but we need your help to get this baby finished—get some backing for those vocals, get Bender (our producer) back to mix everything til it’s perfect, and get some shiny packaging for the actual CD! We’ll be selling it on tour, on Amazon, on iTunes…everywhere!
We’ve got an IndieGoGo campaign going, with more details over there. Any amount of help is appreciated, no matter how small—if you aren’t able to support us financially right now, help out by posting our campaign to your Facebook page and emailing your friends. The TEAM is a family, and we’re at our best when you join the party. Please help us get the word out and meet our goal!
I am sitting on the couch being useless (or rather, getting much work done on the marketing front) while Tater bakes bread (no joke) in the kitchen and the beautiful Mission Drift cast records vocal tracks for our cast album! What a trip…
It’s funny watching them carry on one-way conversations with people I can’t hear. And suddenly everyone was just reminded that it’s Friday the 13th. And it’s remarkable watching Heather, and Bender (the amazing guy recording and mixing the album) bounce back and forth on this. Thinking about people who you know are extraordinary, but often don’t get to see full on in their element. Thinking about “Bring your daughter to work day.”
Time for our Annual TEAM Spring Benefit! It’s in the evening of May 5th – and feast your eyes on what we have in store for you.
Pies made with care. Pickles made with love. Poker played with punch…that is, Spiked Lemonade. Performances inspired by and/or dedicated to this great nation of ours. And if that’s not enough to tire you out, there will be a DJ’d dance party to put a finishing touch on the evening – all played out in one of our favorite home fields, the Three Legged Dog.
Featuring Americana drenched performances by:
The dashing ADAM RAPP
The charmers of THREE PIANOS
The warriors of THE PONY PALACE/FOOTBALL
The body chaos of LAURIE BERG & SIRI PETERSON
The glory of MARTHA GRAHAMCRACKER
And the grooves of LPFUNK.
Here’s the ticket breakdown, sweets:
$100 MVP (Dinner, Shows, Unlimited Drinks, a steal if you ask us): Join us at 7pm for a gorgeous meal at NYC’s new The Fat Radish: “You’d be a regular if you could,” The New York Times.
Unlimited beverage service, and dessert served ala mode. You’ll be chauffeured to the benefit in style by our own Ben Gullard.
$50 TEAM Player: Join us at 8pm for unlimited American beverage assortment all night, including refreshing spiked lemonade stand, pie, and performances.
(Limited number $30 Artist Tix)
$20 Latecomer: In a show? Working late? Come on over at 10 PM or after for drinks and dancing.
We would love to see you there, lovely.
DINNER FOR MVP’s WILL START AT 7PM at THE FAT RADISH – 17 Orchard Street – IN THE LOWER EAST SIDE!