Updates from the Bad/Grace/Land

I’m writing from the Apple store where they’re helping me organize my 105,000+ emails that I’ve never deleted or organized. Unsure what people mean when they say “archive”…

This morn we were back in rehearsals for RoosevElvis, our new duet featuring Libby and Kristen as Elvis and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively. We’re preparing to head to London on Saturday where we’ll be presenting a workshop of the evolving piece for SUPER early feedback. This process is always an awesome and painful one. We have spent a total of 2 weeks working on this, plus the hours each of us spends outside of the room doing research, and trying to fill our brains with ammunition to use on each other. On the plane to Seattle last week I watched Viva Las Vegas (nothing tops that Ann-Margaret dance – so so oh so weird), I’ve been reading Edmund Morris’ extraordinary trilogy about Teddy, found Libby a really good Elvis tee-shirt in Vancouver (overpriced and oh so worth it).

You can’t really be an open vessel in this process. And you also fill up REALLY fast. So two weeks into this. And btw this was a work that really started as two solo performances for these two ladies, and then I was describing them to Taylor Mac, and he grouped them together with a smile and said, “Two women in fatsuits.” And then there was one. And clearly Elvis and Teddy are two American MEN, both large (at later points in life), both famous, KINGS of their worlds. But honestly it was hard to say beyond that why these two.

And yet as is often the case, what’s mushy in the abstract gets grounded and explodes quickly in the rehearsal room. It’s why the vast majority of the TEAM’s resources go towards time together. Teddy in Kristen’s artistry begins to form as this invincible, conniving, brilliant, irrepresable nature freak who wants to both worship and kill and own all he sees – part imperialist, part rapturous young man, part prudish Victorian idealist. Libby brought her interest in this country’s mass food production (meat plants, corn subsidies, omnivores’ dilemmas), her love for the radio and the culture of listening to radio, and it’s all doubling up to form this dense, emotional knot of Elvis/Elivs obsessed/constipation/trans/lost-and-found beauty. Jake Margolin – whose excitingly working as Associate Director on this (in addition to performing in 2 other shows) as the TEAM keeps growing and shifting in a heartfelt (if occasionally clumsy!) attempt to serve our growing and shifting company members – is doing some fucking amazing writing. And I’m finding layers I never expected as I think about Teddy as this awe-some and frightening epitome of conservative male imagery, and Elvis as this hybrid-being (his music co-opted, stole from, and blended race; his whole being blended the sexes and helped blow up this absurd idea of binary gender structures) that scared the shit out of the dominant culture…

Likely little or none of this will yet be articulate or present in the workshop we present in London next week at the Almeida. But the hunches keep us going. And I’m excited for this journey (which is gonna take us to the Badlands, Graceland, and hopefully lots of motels in between).

-Rachel

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