Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Eleven Sources of Inspiration in 2009 and Resolutions for 2010.

Top Eleven Sources of Inspiration in 2009 and Resolutions for 2010.

1. "Ghostwritten," by David Mitchell.

2009 was not a reading-intensive year for me, I think I made it through just over a dozen books (compared to the over 40 books I read in 2008). This one book, however, has stuck with me. I loved Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas," and while this one isn't the piece of epic literature that "Cloud Atlas" is, it's haunting (and we know I like being haunted). I've only read it once, and it needs a second reading at the very least (as does "Cloud Atlas"), and its post-apocalyptic nature isn't apparent until the very end of the book but that's part of why the ending has so much impact.

On the subject of post-apocalyptic fiction, I'm stuck on it lately.


2. Leslie Jarmon, aka Bluewave Ogee.

Leslie knew how to make Second Life real, fun, accessible and useful for educators and artists. She was so inspirational in getting me to move forward (albeit very slowly) with Eurydice; in 2010 I resolve to apply for funding for this project and get it off the ground.


3. Dionysus in 69, re-created by the Rude Mechanicals.

I wasn't going to see this show. As much as I love the use of audience involvement and blurring the lines between audience and performer in theatre, it terrifies me. D69 was actually as safe an experience as it could have been, and watching the audience become a part of the show, being a part of that energy and excitement, was intoxicating.


4. Battlestar Galactica.

I have now watched BSG from beginning to end four times. I still don't really have the ability to explain its beauty, even and especially the last episode, which I can't watch without sobbing. What an awesome and powerful and truthful work of art that show was.


5. Sleep No More, produced by American Repertory Theatre.

I didn't see it, though I thought about getting on a plane to go see it. I read about it, and the concept is fascinating. Now all I can think about is the desire to stage a play or opera in a building, the whole building, allowing the audience to experience it as they walk through the rooms where different "scenes" are happening, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes synchronously.


6. "Anathem," by Neal Stephenson.

There seems to be an interest in quantum mechanics in art right now. This book doesn't warn you in advance, but slowly begins pulling reality out from under you as its main character begins to experience all possible timelines branching off from one event near the end. Which brings me to...


7. Terrible Things process blog, Katie Pearl and Lisa D'Amour.

Another piece of theatre produced somewhere else that I didn't see! But reading their process, their ideas in this blog was amazing. I've been using another application for online collaboration which I will get to, but this blog was a great example of how to allow the collaborative process to affect the finished product.


8. Google Wave.

I love Google Wave. I'm in the process of using it to work on a piece with Misha and DVT that will begin in January as an installation and work its way to an opera piece in the spring. It's not something I can run on my home computer yet - right now this laptop is having difficulty with this blog post so I'm not trying anything fancier - but having this giant white board to write ideas on, post photos to, etc. has just been FUN and has made the collaborative process more fun.


9. Misha Penton and Divergence Vocal Theater.

I contacted Misha early in 2009 after checking out DVT's website, and meeting her might have been the best part of the year. I love our collaborative relationship and hope it continues to grow in 2010!


10. Josh Meyer, Matt Hislope, and Rubber Repertory.

Lowell Bartholomee passed a long my name to these two when they needed an LD for Mister Z Loves Company back in April. Mister Z turned out to be one of the most positive theatre experiences I've ever had, and I look forward to more collaborations and friendship with Josh and Matt in the future. And they remind me a lot of...


11. Cupola Bobber.

Saw their production Way Out West, The Sea Whispered To Me at 2009's Fusebox Festival. I think it's probably the best theatre I saw all year, something I watched with an honest to god sense of wonder. If you live in Chicago, please check these guys out.


New Year's Improvised Off-The-Cuff Resolutions...

I resolve to be a better person - more patient, less reactive, healthier both physically and mentally, more supportive of those I love in my life and less concerned with those I don't.

I resolve to blah blah blah financial responsibility (for all values of "blah blah blah" that equal "do smart things and don't do stupid things").

I resolve to respect myself as an artist and designer - I will continue to seek out positive and fulfilling collaborative relationships, pursue solo projects, and learn how to better handle the more frustrating aspects of what I do. I will work towards producing Eurydice and also applying for the NEA/TCG Grant for Young Designers in 2011, always with the intention of moving forward with my artistic career and pursuing work outside of Austin or outside the boundaries of what I'm used to working on.

Now, to get some work done on the two projects I have coming up within the next month - The Selkie Project: Gestation with Misha Penton and DVT, and A Brief Narrative of an Extraordinary Birth of Rabbits with Salvage Vanguard Theatre.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bittersweet

This has been a difficult fall - not only did we lose Henry, but I lost two women in my life who have had a positive effect on me and on my work.

One was my grandmother who gave me an incredible gift a few years ago when she dug out tons of family photos, her family back in England, her parents, her aunts, her grandparents, and told stories about them all. I love those photos and hope at some point to really research my family. She was also one of the to-be-participants in "Omission," which is a lesson on not putting things like recording your grandmother telling her life story off until a more convenient time.

The other was Leslie Jarmon, who worked three floors below me in the tower and who I was just beginning to know and connect with on the "Eurydice" project. Apart from crossing paths with her frequently in the tower elevator, I met with her maybe three times, but her energy and love for Second Life was hugely inspirational for the project. Again, should've gotten to know her better, and sooner.

Good news: Misha Penton, Divergence Vocal Theater and I have been invited to create an installation/performance piece with the Creative Research Lab at UT Austin. We'll be creating this work in their space from the end of December through mid January, and the opening night of the exhibit will be January 23. We hope to feature a main chunk of the performance aspect that night, but even if you can only stop in to check it out at a time when we aren't there, the installation will also stand on its own outside the performance aspect. We're developing an opera piece based in Selkie mythology and the installation will be step in that process. The opera will premiere in spring 2010.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Loss of Henry

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, our 13 year old pain in the ass cat Henry died. He'd had cancer, and it got bad pretty quickly. We had him for three years, and he was well-loved by our friends as well as by us because he was so obnoxiously outgoing. If he wanted you to pet him, dammit you would pet him if he had to stand there and rub himself against your hand. He was also a great paperweight, doorstop, and world-champion at sitting.

In 2008 Henry became a fervent supporter of Barack Obama:



Henry firmly believed that black cats everywhere should be able to aspire to the presidency.

As evidenced by my previous entry, Henry loved to sit on random things. He was VERY adept at figuring out just what piece of paper was the most important thing you were working on at any giving moment. This is Henry sitting on the in-progress script for "Intermission" from 2007:



Just a couple of weeks before we lost him this video, called "Henry Drinks a Glass of Milk," made its way onto youtube. He was already losing a ton of weight but still very eager to have human food:




This video became popular enough to inspire fan art:



Our Christmas tree will have a little more water in it this year since Henry isn't here to drink it. He will be missed. A lot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Light Plots Henry Has Sat Upon

Henry on "Holes:"


Henry on my thesis notes:


Henry on "Trouble in Tahiti:"


Henry on "Black Snow:"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Goosebumps.


I don't know what it is about Antony Gormley's work, but it always gives me the chills.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

B. Iden Paynes!



I won for my work on "Ophelia," which was kind of surprising as I thought *if* I won it would be for "Black Snow." And I wasn't expecting to win, really.

Congratulations to everyone but most especially to my friends and co-collaborators with TUTTO Theatre Company (Outstanding Production of a Drama for "Ophelia," Outstanding Director of a Drama for "Ophelia," (Dustin Wills), Outstanding Production of a Comedy for "Black Snow," and Outstanding Set Design for "Black Snow," (Lisa Laratta)) and also Rubber Repertory (Outstanding Ensemble Performance for "Mister Z Loves Company" and Outstanding Theatrical Event for "Casket of Passing Fancy," which I didn't work on and seriously regret not getting to experience).

Full list of winners can be found here.

Currently I'm swamped (ha ha) in "Murder Ballad Murder Mystery," but I hope to have something to say on the process of that show as well as some thoughts on the wrap up of "Autumn Spectre" with Divergence Vocal Theater......sometime next week.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aesthetics and Uncertainty

I've worked with people in the past whose work would spontaneously take shape upon moving into a performance venue. No amount of meetings, planning, research, rehearsal, blocking would lead them to the same artistic product that being in the actual space and making it work would produce. I never thought I'd be one of those people - I am usually another type of person who plans out all meals a week in advance and creates ridiculous excel budget spreadsheets for herself. But working with Misha and Divergence Vocal Theater so far has been an exercise in being patient with myself and my apparent need to "make it work" next week in the space.

So many unknown factors come into play for this show. The space is a church, not a theatre. There is some lighting in the church but I don't know what / how much and we can't refocus it. I'm renting some stage lights, and I can get a general "plot" going for this but really, it will be a "these lights go HERE" kind of thing once we're in the space. The piece is song / dance / a little bit of spoken word, but without seeing it in person I can only get a rough sense of what it needs for lighting and video.

And of course there's the uncertainty involved in add me and video together.

This marks my fourth show designing not only lights but also projections. The first time - Rapunzel - I seriously edited in Final Cut Pro the way I play any type of fight game on the Playstation. I mashed the buttons until something cool happened. In a bizarre twist of fate that particular piece received some national attention and was invited to be performed in Prague. I had no idea what I was doing, but what I did worked for whatever reason. Maybe because I had no idea what I was doing?

I make a conscious effort when I'm doing new things to not try to hide the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing. Because of this I've half-adopted an aesthetic that's more "DIY," found footage-esque than clean and professional. That doesn't mean I won't one day need a more professional looking video design, but for now the projects I've been working on have allowed for this.

For Autumn Spectre I've been working on a number of short video pieces that will be worked into the performance. One piece in particular stands out to me - a girl in a white dress exploring a graveyard for four minutes or so. Austin actress Emily Tindall and my husband Travis came with me to the cemetery and just improvised from there. Later when I edited the video together to send to Misha, I said to Travis that he had done a great job of filming. He then watched what I had edited and said that I had used mainly footage taken unintentionally between "real" takes - like the camera swooping suddenly down to focus on the ground, or a random pan across a scene which allows us to glimpse Emily in passing before she's out of frame again. There's something almost more authentic to me in shots like those, though, as though that authenticity is lost by getting perfect images out of it. The imperfection implies another story that we're not told. (See previous entry on why I like to not have everything explained to me.)

The next big uncertainty with this video project will come on Monday when I arrive in Houston for the week. That's when we will take the actual performance Misha and company have created and see if the video actually works with any part of it. I have had ideas while editing these pieces, but theatre and design have both taught me that I need to be a little Buddhist about my work. As in unattached. For the piece above, I had listened to the music Misha sent to me several times and was flipping through images that really spoke to me until I found one of a face covered in twine. This picture meshed with a specific musical piece for me, and catalyzed the whole graveyard walk thing that we did (at one point in the video, Emily is seen with her head and face wrapped in jute). I edited the final piece with that song in mind, but the truth is that it might not work next week, and that's ok. Maybe a little scary, but ok. Maybe it will work with another song entirely. Maybe there's too little video, maybe there's too much, maybe it will distract. We won't know the answers to these questions until we actually see it and start playing with it in the church next week. It honestly makes the project more interesting and adventurous this way.

Monday, September 21, 2009

B. Iden Payne Nominations!

Just a quick post to say - last week the B. Iden Payne Nominations were released and I received two for my work on Ophelia and Black Snow with Tutto Theatre Company. The B. Iden Paynes are annual awards for Austin theatre given by Austin Circle of Theatres. My collaborators Dustin Wills, Lisa Laratta, Kim H. Ngo and a whole bunch of actors were also nominated...between the two shows, Tutto garnered 13 nominations! This is especially exciting for me as it marks the first (and second) nominations my work has received in Austin circles.

Other nominated shows I worked on: Cambiare Productions' Orestes, including Best Production of a Drama, which hopefully means my husband will get to make some sort of speech as the producer / artistic director of Cambiare, and Rubber Repertory's Mister Z Loves Company!

Full list of nominations here.

Longer actual blog post on the process thus for for Autumn Spectre is on its way.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Everyone wears a mask...

In the moments of my life where I have stuff to actually write about here, I don't have time to write it. My creative-thoughts-and-energies blog must make me look like I have the creativity of a toothbrush (most days we all feel like that anyway).

It looks like I'm going to be spending the next two months playing with shadow puppetry and LED's, dragging unsuspecting female friends of mine into the woods, tying them up and burying them in leaves and filming the whole thing, watching "True Blood" and figuring out how to build jars of fireflies (that are electric and not actually flies).

Wait. Do we actually have falling leaves in Austin?

OK, so I'll be de-leafing a few trees in the name of art.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Haunted.

I just finished watching the entire four seasons of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I didn't watch it at all while it was airing, so my experience and investment in its characters is probably different. BUT. I *loved* the ending. It was nearly perfect, if they hadn't had the silly robot montage and the "maybe this time will be different" preachiness.

I loved Kara. I loved her ending. I've read a lot from people who watched the show in the past week, and a lot of people really hate the way she was handled in the episode - simply vanishing, without explanation as to who / what / why she was. But I like being haunted. The lack of answers is what keeps me obsessed with something. These things keep me stuck forever on the work. Answers lead to closure, and some things are better without closure, forever circling through my brain, revisiting the emotions I was feeling at the time I first experienced it.

Other hauntings of mine:

1. Many, many Haruki Murakami books - but most specifically Sputnik Sweetheart. I will never, ever be free of the Sumire disappearance or the ferris wheel.

2. Picnic at Hanging Rock (the movie) - I love the idea of places that are so wild that they consume any one trying to make some sort of order within them. Australia is full of this. I don't want to think (or know) that some actual human being caused the disappearance of those girls. The idea that they took off their Victorian-era clothing piece by piece before vanishing entirely is much more interesting.

3. Speaking in Tongues (the play) - see above, basically the same thing, reinforced by looping coincidental interactions throughout the play, which make you wonder how strong a role that guy you passed on the street this morning will have in your life later on. We don't cross paths with hundreds of people, we cross paths with a few people hundreds of times.

4. Lost, season 3 finale - I just said to Toine that I wish the series had ended there. Last shot on the island - Jack finally making that call to the freighter and getting through, followed by last shot off island, Jack screaming that they had to go back. The specifics of what took place between those two points in time aren't interesting to me. The *feeling* that's created by them is what I want to explore.

5. That one, unanswered scene in Time Traveler's Wife.

6. Poland's Scenofest exhibit at PQ 07. I walked through this exhibit over and over and over again.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Make me a day, make me whole again

Two things today prompted this post.

1. Recent flash mob at Whole Foods in Austin. Well actually, the comments under the youtube video prompted me more than the flash mob itself. I always get sucked in to reading comments on sites like this (imdb or aicn would be the other main ones) and it always gets me riled up. As though I had never come into contact with the vast quantity of dumb people posting stuff on the internet. I'm about to make a bunch of assumptions about one of the posters, and I just want to say, this isn't actually about that poster. It's about people and their reactions to what other people call "art." I've heard that cynicism before, that something, whatever it is, that people are calling "art" is not art - and an awful lot of the times that I hear that complaint it's coming from someone who doesn't do anything they themselves would call art. I wonder how many people spend their time and energy tearing down the strange things that people around them are doing instead of doing something creative themselves. This destructive cynicism probably comes more from a place of fear - a lack of confidence in what one can actually create. If I think of it in that way, it actually doesn't make me angry anymore.

2. Thing the second: a guy riding down Dean Keeton on a bicycle. No wait, not a normal bike - this kind of bike. As I crossed the street I passed three people who were watching him, and I heard one of them say "why would you do something like that?" I really wanted to turn to him and say, why WOULDN'T you? (Because cynical dumb people will say things about you.) (Oh and also - because I don't want to break my neck. That's the only thing that will come out of *me* riding that bike.) But seriously - why wouldn't you?

In my head this is now coming back to my courage / stupidity thing - that a lack of fear (sometimes thought of as courage) and stupidity are the same thing. They both require a lack of self-preservation instinct. If I was afraid (enough) of what would happen to me (physically, mentally, socially) I wouldn't have done most of the things that have made my life fun and interesting. On some level I do care, but I usually manage to force myself past that, at least enough to do the thing, if not enough to stop caring. I am honestly far too socially stupid to NOT do what I want to do. I don't do one thing I'm afraid of every day - I do ten or twenty. The shows I work on scare the crap out of me, the people I work with, the job I'm in training for right now, the possibilities of future travel, installations, performance, teaching, creation, relationships I need to pursue, things I have to or will eventually have to admit to myself, people I will someday lose, people I will someday become and then someday cease to be. I'm actually pretty damn grateful I'm too stupid to not do these things - any one of them makes life far more interesting than standing in a crosswalk, deriding someone else's attempt to do what probably scares them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

20 things that inspired me in 2008 and 3 resolutions for 2009:

1. Synecdoche, NY. I can't even fully explain the affect this movie / experience had on me. I left the theatre sobbing, wanting to embrace life wholeheartedly, create anything that was true to myself and never look at another human being as a bit player in my own life.

2. Cloud Atlas. I've been delving an awful lot into postmodern literature in the past couple of years, and a lot of it is silly and pretentious. This one is not, it's beautiful.

3. Anne Sexton. Specifically, "Rapunzel," since it was that poem which launched "Transformations."

4. Noe Venable's song "Eurydice." Sometimes I discover songs in I-tunes that I had forgotten completely. When I found this one again this year, I listened over and over and over, trying to mentally build it into the Eurydice project.

5. Terami Hirsch's album "A Broke Machine." I didn't like it at first. It was weird and foreign and not comfortable. Thankfully, I figured out that I was wrong and now I love it. Plus, getting to meet Terami this year when she came to Austin to perform was a lot of fun.

6. The Frames' song "Fitzcarraldo." Glen Hansard is really good at ripping my heart out while he sings. This song has an epicness to it that leaves me drained afterwards.

7. The Hyde Park neighborhood with the homemade Obama signs. Everytime I drove through it, I had such an overwhelming feeling of having been part of something so tremendous. And I can find zero photographic evidence of this on the web.

8. Watchmen. I had read this a couple years ago, but this year I re-read it in light of the trailer and upcoming movie, about which I am obsessed.

9. The Nields' song "One Hundred Names." Because it was our first dance, and I remember exactly how it felt in that moment to hear this music.

10. The People of Paper. Gabriel Garcia Marquez + (Mark Z. Danielewski - lots of editing)

11. Second Life. Lots of unexplored artistic possibilities.

12. What I Loved. Life and art.

13. Keith Olbermann's Prop 8 Commentary. Because he's right, and you don't have a valid come back.

14. Jason DeCaires Taylor. Anyone whose work fits in with my drowned world / end of the world obsession is ok by me. His undersea sculptures are incredibly haunting.

15. Telemegaphone Dale. Another reason why I love Norway.

16. The Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies. How many media servers does it take to fill an Olympic stadium? And no, that small thing isn't the LED floor - the BIG thing that small thing is on is the LED floor.

17. Barack Obama. I was in the middle of the most surreal tech week ever, looking all over Austin for "big bulky flashlights that were silver or black" when it was announced that McCain had conceded. In spite of Ophelia-exhaustion on the part of everyone, the energy within the group of theatre artists that night was awesome.

18. Louis CK. Specifically because, in light of recent events, "can't I just be STUPID??"

19. Jay Long. His paintings/collages (which I saw at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar) are amazing and one may just eventually find its way into my living room.

20. Etsy.com. I am wasting hours of my life searching for beautiful, unique hand made things to give people I love.

* * *

1. I resolve, once again, to get healthier in 2009. This year I did great at this goal, then lost some momentum, but will be back on the treadmill and healthy diet in 2009.

2. I resolve, again, to continue my journey into a more frugal & voluntary simplistic way of life.

3. I resolve to get my butt moving on Omission.

Sputnik Sweetheart Sketching.

“And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own sepa...