Today was a little terrifying for me because Barney couldn't be at Urban Ministries so I had to (got to?) lead the session.
It started off a little scattered as we had quite a few new folks with us today and it took a little while to get everybody on the same page...and also because I am a scattered human being 85% of the time. The other 15% of the time I am a certified ninja.
After check in and housekeeping we played a favorite game of mine: "Yes/No/Maybe"...
Basically the players improvise a scene with each other (in groups of two or three) in which the only words to use are "Yes" "No" and "Maybe". Hilarity ensues and you usually end up getting some pretty good scenes. It's a great way to open discussions about interpretation, as while every scene has the exact same words, they are inevitably very different in tenor and tone depending on the actors.
After "Yes/No/Maybe" we took turns reading a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and shared our interpretations, deciding that the piece (Constantly Risking Absurdity) had a lot to say about the danger inherent in self expression...in daring to share a piece of yourself through art.
One of the Neighbors, Dukes, spoke eloquently of the power of silence and tension in communicating with an audience, and a new comer to the group, Lashonda talked about poetry/art as a way of seeing the world: "When God was on Earth there was nothing but Poetry" she said, which is in fact itself a poem!
In Other News:
There is a lot of Art happening in the community and you oughta see it!
*Children's Theatre of Charlotte opens Tales of a fourth grade nothing this week. I loved the book when I was a kid and the team at work on this production is a top notch squad of inspired wierdos, including Machine Theatre's own Barbi Van Schaik.
*C.A.S.T has Our Lady of 121st Street up and running until February 5th. There are some seriously rad performances happening in this foul mouthed and soulful production including Robert Haulbrook as a swishy drama empress with the largest wristwatch ever made. check it out at C.A.S.T's supercool space on Clement Avenue.
*Thursday night(Jan. 21) kicks off a 24hour performance art event at StorySlam called Platonic Voyage. It's hosted by our friends at DuggDugg, a radical contemporary art collective based in Charlotte who host awesome parties while bringing forward thinking performance and installation art to Charlotte. They are also bad-ass painters. for more info about Platonic Voyage and all things DuggDugg go to www.duggdugg.com
*Biniam Tekola is appearing in My First Time at Actor's Theatre of Charlotte and yes it is about that. I won't say anything else about this filthy filthy pornographic play but that it is up through January 23rd.
alright...I gotta run...there's things to do!
For Christmas this year, one of my fellow company members was kind enough to give me a copy of Finite and Infinite Games; A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse. The gift could not be more appropriate as my principles of performance center largely on the various aspects of game and play and how they translate to the stage.
This being the case, reading Carse's poignant and succinct manifesto has not only been both exciting and affirming, but has also resulted in the strangest of looks from my fellow bus riders when they see me openly weeping at Carse's beatific revelations in the midst of our morning adventures in public transit.
Firstly, I am not a simpering ninny who starts crying every time the buses are late. On the contrary, I am a stoic veteran of the Charlotte Area Transit System, having been dependent on the bus and my bicycle ever since I moved back in the summer of '09. While I wouldn't call the experience especially fulfilling, there is a peculiar sort of pride that possesses me on the bus. Or maybe it's just an aggressive front I put on in attempts to keep people from sitting next to me so I can sprawl out all over the back seat. In any case- I am not regularly moved to tears by the experience of route 23.
Anyway, Carse begins his argument by establishing that all forms of play fall into one of two categories: finite games or infinite games. While the former is played for the purpose of winning, the latter is played for the purpose of continuing the play. The Superbowl makes an excellent example of a Finite game. There are rules agreed upon by both teams, a regulated field of play, and a given time period for the game to take place. On the other hand, Bill Watterson provides a classic example of the Infinite Game with the iconic Calvin and his trusty sidekick Hobbes in a joyous engagement of Calvinball. No boundaries, no rules, no refs- the game is solely manifested through the delight of its' players.
There are a host of criteria that distinguish the two types of game, but this essential definition is the cornerstone of his argument.
So what's all the fuss about? Why do I get all misty over the intricacies of these games? Because Carse has been able to articulate the greater implications of these games in a way that is nothing less than profound. Carse has illuminated what I already knew to be there yet could not identify, and this illumination is exactly what leads me to tears.
Since infinite games are played with flexible boundaries and constantly changing rules and solely for the purpose of the play itself, infinite players are only impeded from play by their own death. However, according to Carse death is only an element of continuing the play:
"...[infinite players] do not play for their own life; they live for their own play...the infinite play of life is joyous. Infinite play resounds throughout with a kind of laughter. It is not laughter at others who have come to an unexpected end...it is laughter with others with whom we have discovered that the end we thought we were coming to has unexpectedly opened. We laugh not at what has surprisingly come to be impossible for others, but over what has surprisingly come to be possible with others."
...and cue excessive weeping during morning rush hour.
As an artist, I am constantly seeking some sort of affirmation that what I do is meaningful. The creative process is often frustrating beyond belief, making ends meet is hard work, and the real rewards of the profession do not lie in the fiscal success or failure of my ventures anyway. When the stress hits a certain level, I have to ask myself "Why am I doing this? Why didn't I become a dentist? Or an engineer? Or a Ninja/Necromancer for hire? Why am I spending all this time and energy playing with ropes and balls and other toys? " I always feel as if I have to answer this question for myself, or else my life's work up to this point has been for nothing. This being the case, Carse's arguments provide a compelling and simple answer: Create play for the continuation of the game. Create play with others. Create play with joy.
Best of luck in 2010,
Getting ready to go have dinner at the Lindsay residence to discuss songs for Act II of ThomThom...
BUT first I wanted to drop a quick note and do something we have not done on this blog before: recommend a book.
The Savage Detectives by the late great Chilean writer Roberto Bolano is one of the best novels I've read in years. It is an alternately funny and frightening ode to youthful pretensions and the meaning of "home", as well as those quests which stay with us long after our youth has faded. Intriguing both for it's formal idiosyncrasies as well as the warm heart at it's center, I can recommend it without reservation. It's a love letter to the Quixote in all of us.
Hey...now that I've mentioned it...what are you reading?
Holler back and let us know what novels, poetry, history, philosophy, etc... are fueling your fires at present.