Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Five Things: Notes After All of the Techs.

I have had a crazy three and a half months and have hit a three week window of lovely downtime. Catching up on reading, research for upcoming shows, games, hanging out with the cats, remembering that I have friends, and planning a very huge, very exciting, very SOON next chapter in our (Travis's, mine, the cats') lives.

1. Today is 4/8/15, and 4:23 flew by without me realizing the significance. In recognition and celebration of this auspicious day, which won't happen again for another 100 years, I direct you to Javier Grillo-Marxuach's "The Lost Will and Testament of Javier Grillo-Marxuach." It's an absolutely lovely piece about the show's early process and the creative process in general, and a sort of answer to those people who want black-and-white, who want to know yes-or-no, did you make it up as you went along? Because art doesn't work that way. LOST has a huge part of my heart. LOST reminds me of grad school, and inviting people over for pizza or chicken curry on Wednesday nights and bonding over this crazy show, and of the summer I interned at Cincinnati Opera and the company manager had to replace my TV on the night of the season 1 finale. For me, there will never be another LOST. There may be better shows (and there are, and have been - "Breaking Bad" was as close to perfect as a series can get from beginning to end) but they won't share the love, significance, and sentimentality in my life that this one did. Learning about how that was all created, the passion that went into it, the mechanics of it - beyond words fascinating and so familiar, even if I haven't been a part of a massively popular landmark television show.

2. Even though I have time off, I am unable to get back to the gym and unable to go running. Since January, I have teched and opened five shows, and my entire self-care routine has been disrupted. During focus for "Crime and Punishment" in March, I misjudged a step on the many-leveled set and went down about 12" landing on the side of my ankle. It was a pretty bad sprain, still swollen a month later. I had already decided to skip the Warrior Dash on March 21 (I signed up awhile back) and thankfully never registered for Tough Mudder. But I would really, really like to be able to manage the stress again, and my one attempt to work out this past Monday demonstrated that I still need to take it easy. AND. Since I have a couple of weeks off I am going to commit to strategizing diet & exercise for the next round of non-stop tech fun. This is an ongoing battle for me, figuring out how to eat, how to keep exercising when my usual routine is gone.
My foot, the day after.

3. I recently had a piece published on HowlRound, about the design process behind our January show "Deus Ex Machina," which was an enormous success. You can read the article here.

4. Travis and I went to see "It Follows" on Friday night. This led to a discussion and ongoing brainstorm (in my own head) about horror films, what is "scary," what "being scared" even is. I had expected (because of what I'd heard about the film) to be scared by the movie and really wasn't. There was one moment towards the beginning where I jumped, followed immediately by the thought "I am so tired of seeing women mutilated on-screen, even if it IS a trope and they're making use of it." I am not sure if the intention was to make me jump out of my skin, or to dramaturgically analyze the film, but I'm pretty sure that I can't do both at the same time. I have thought about what movies have scared me in the past, and there are two that I can honestly say scared the ever-loving s*** out of me, not only on the nights that I saw them but for years to come, and those movies are "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "The Blair Witch Project." In both cases it was the unknown, unexplained, ambiguous story/plot/endings that had me. At age 14 I wasn't really able to deal with a movie as non-literal as 2001, and not knowing what it meant - and you have to admit that the music and imagery are very ominous - kept me up at night for years. (I think my dad deeply regretted ever showing it to me.) "It Follows" had moments that tickled the same part of my brain that was terrified back then - there are several times when your eye catches someone in the background of the film and fixates on that person rather than on the actors in the scene, and that's pretty unsettling. The ending of Blair Witch is what had me in hysterics when I saw it in Augusta, Maine in 1999 - it's just a continual ratcheting of tension and suspense right up until a final image that took me awhile to digest and understand. That summer, I was an electrics intern at the Theater at Monmouth and my room was in an attic, in a house in the middle of nowhere. Walking up the stairs that night was terrifying - to get to the attic I had to pass a floor of the house that resembled (to me) the house at the end of the film, and for weeks after I was running up the stairs to avoid seeing that space. "It Follows" has one actually scary element in its mechanics, and that is the knowledge that once cursed in the movie, there is no escape, there is only putting off the inevitable gruesome ending as much as possible. THAT tension could have scared me. But by and large, "horror" movies don't. Travis believes that what I actually am experiencing is what he calls being "disturbed," not scared. Literal imagery doesn't do it for me, gore and violence doesn't, and knowing the resolution/entire plot/meaning of it all doesn't - take away those things, and you might be scaring me. Other movies that have scared me a bit: "The Others," "The Orphanage," Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon," "Picnic at Hanging Rock."
This will stick in your head for awhile.

This, to me, is different from how I feel about the absolutely revolting "body horror" movies. My reaction to the trailer for "The Human Centipede" was well-known for a number of years, and recently hearing Filmspotting's review of "Tusk" had me nearly reliving that. I haven't seen either film, but I know that I would not be ok if I did. Is that being scared? I don't know. Is it being disturbed? Oh yes, deeply, though it's not the same. It's not haunting. There's nothing there that is unclear, nothing that I don't understand, I am just very much not ok with those films.

To the people at Monmouth who dressed the blow-up doll in a flannel shirt and stood him in the corner of my room in the attic, I still haven't forgotten or forgiven. That was dirty.

5. Why do I keep reading post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction? I'm currently in the middle of "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel and LOVING it. I am beyond excited for "Seveneves" to come out next month. And David Mitchell, oh David Mitchell, you have unseated Haruki Murakami and become my favorite writer and it's largely due to this sprawling metaverse you're creating in your novels that extends through time, through the fall of mankind and its aftermath and is so spot-on that it feels like YES this is what is going to happen. It's a running joke with Travis and me now that he picks up a book I'm reading, reads the description on the flap and doesn't get past the words "dystopia," "post-apocalyptic," or somethingsomething feminist/exploitation of women.

And speaking of post-apocalyptic fiction, LOST and being unsettled, disturbed, and scared - the Southern Reach Trilogy is another recent read. I devoured those books in a couple of days and I don't know that they will ever leave my head.
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