Wizard Clown Ghosts of the Killing Klub...
It's sunday morning. I've been here at the office for a couple of hours sorting through the past few weeks, and trying to wrap my brain around the next stage of ThomThom's development.
I suppose the first thing that needs to be said is thank you all so much. We had an amazing turn out. We nearly sold out every night, which is pretty impressive considering the theoretical 11pm go. While many folks understandably only had time for handshakes and congratulations before they went off to turn into pumpkins, those folks who stuck around to chime the late night bells and holler at the moon provided some really insightful feedback- which is what we wanted. It is a work in progress, so that feedback was more than just useful, it was simultaneously affirmative and humbling, a pat on the back and a shove over the ledge, a finger that points to all the work ahead of us.
Special thanks also go out to all of our Kickstarter donors, without whom this work could not have happened, all of the folks at CAST who somehow found a way to keep me from turning into an absolute loony tune (and also provided the space...) and to anyone who ever gave us an encouraging word.
While I fantasize about waxing witty and poetic here on the blog, I don't have the strength. I've got some more work to do, and an engagement with some root beer floats I must attend. But before I do, just met me say thanks one more time.
Today's entry is from Jenny Wright, playing Lizzie
I'm pretty certain Steve Martin is my biological father. I can't get him to agree to a DNA test, and my mother denies the whole thing, but its pretty obvious to me and anyone who has seen me tell a story, on or off stage. My long, lanky arms have a tendency to flail about as my absurdly long fingers, described by some as "delicate and beautiful" and other as "alien and freakish", stiffen and jut out from my hand. I'll admit, it can be quirky and cute off stage, but its always been a struggle to control on stage.
That being said, thank the gods of physical theatre for Barney Baggett! I've always been super aware of this physical dilemma, and have always made valiant efforts to play it up as a strength or find some way to hide it (props and pockets tend to do the trick). Such has not been the case since I began ThomThom rehearsals. Somewhere between endless hours of jumprope, sharing really disturbing childhood secrets, repeating obscene gestures, discovering the limits of my flexibility and doing a lot of riding on Jeremy Shane's back, I have gained some physical composure.
If every actor has a strength and weakness, I'll be the first to tell you that physicality is my kryptonite. Apparently, Mr. Baggett has exposed me to so much kryptonite, that I'm becoming immune. Granted, I'm not all the way there yet, but rehearsing ThomThom has certainly taken me miles further from where I started, then any production I've ever been a part of.
We have spent a lot of this process discovering and challenging our physical limits. There have been beautiful moments of "Yes! Oh my god! That's so perfect! That's it!" and intense moments of "Can I go further? I can't breathe! Is the air on? Why am I sweating so much?"
Speaking more frankly on the process, I'm certainly more accustomed to rehearsals that involve sit down reads, tedious blocking practices, stress filled techs, and endless notes of "louder, slower, the line is ___ not ____ and don't look so much like Steve Martin". Its the process. Its the work and its absolutely what I signed up for when I said "Mom, I've decided I don't actually want to be a dentist. I want to be an actor instead!" I love the process. I love the challenge and centuries prove, it can produce one hell of a play!
This is not the process for ThomThom. We have sat down and read and we have blocked and we will tech and I'm sure at some point, I'm going to get those notes, but overall, we have spent four hours every week night exploring the characters - their voices, their movements, their choices - its ALL about the story and HOW we tell it. This is new for me, and its exciting and challenging, and sometimes confusing and stressful. At times its been a breath of fresh air, and at other times it has been more like "ew... whats the smell?" Perhaps that's just from all the sweat...
Either way, despite the unconventional rehearsal time and over exposure to everyone's bare feet, I will come away from this with a greater sense of how important my body is and a higher skill of using it to tell a story on stage. We may not have had conventional rehearsals, but damn... this is going to be on hell of a show!
Also... Steve, if you are reading this, don't worry, I'm still going to make your genes proud!
Today's entry courtesy of Barbi Van Schaik, playing Kate the Killer.
Early on we read the text.
We made bold (some silly) vocal choices.
We got on our feet.
We've explored the way movement informs our voices
and the way our voices inspire the way we move.
We've explored chanting and singing - rhythm and tempo
we've moved as a group, been the blind and leading eyes
we've tapped and released demons - gestured obscenely
we've brought it down with Tai Chi - meditation in movement
we've raised the vibe like pouncing ninjas
and we always jump rope- like clockwork.
Tonight Barney said he noticed a sharp quiet focus when we jumped "milk"...
Me too - I think we jump lighter, quicker, lower, calmer
we trust each other more - trust feeling it out -
we have less fear of the rope and make fewer and fewer mistakes.
In order to beat, the group's heart requires an expectant and relaxed alertness
and when it clicks there is an ease
and then the story and characters are finally able to reveal themselves.
I told Rob tonight that I never want to push - but that lately I've been struggling to stay focused
and feel scattered
(more a symptom of my personal life circumstances and my natural wiring than anything else)
but I think we were all more focused tonight - we had a collective focus I hadn't felt
and in the space of that energetic support and willingness to connect
I found some things.
I allowed my voice to do want it wanted - go to a sharper, more grounded place of command.
My body became a kind of magical weather vane and
I felt the wind change
could smell lilacs and fires
and magic in the air -
clear as a bell and Kate.
And Jeremy's back!
Energy balanced. Stay with it - move on from here,.
Just before beginning this rehearsal process, I spent a lovely afternoon playing disc golf with a friend of mine at Kilborne Park. A few days later, I was seeking someone with the courage to rub me down vigorously with a coarse cheese grater, as I had contracted yet another awful case of poison ivy. Being particularly susceptible to this malady and without any sort of health insurance, I sought to relieve my itchy agony by taking benadryl by the fistful. While this did soothe my fiery skin condition, it also created a genuine concern among the cast and company that their intrepid director had developed a unhealthy dependency on over the counter antihistamines. Eager to prove them wrong, as soon as my skin condition cleared up I put the benadryl back in my medicine cabinet. Assuring the cast and company that I was finally "off the bennies" we continued our daily adventures into the merry and gothic world of ThomThom.
As the process continues, I am regularly stunned by how our chorus- a painted gang of unruly and nomadic criminal sorcerers- are really just grotesque extensions of simple human desires. Poor heartless Thom seeks authentic intimacy and affection, Savage Red desperately needs a sort of great personal validation, and the melancholy Lizzie just wants to stop turning turning tricks and cutting throats so she can go swimming once in awhile.
Flannery O'Connor said "...Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks... because we are still able to recognize one." So if this grotesque clan of magical time traveling hooligans are just amped up versions of our own essential needs, what makes them so freakish? To be honest, I really don't think they are. They are desperate for sure, and they might be bizarre in the basest physical sense (after all, they're still wizards) and granted- they do hurt people, I still don't really see them as totally sociopathic monstrosities. Perhaps their voracious appetites for affection, affirmation, and peace of mind have simply marked them. Maybe they have only been mutated by their own search for meaning. Maybe they just suffer too much from the pursuit of their desires, such pursuits leaving them scarred and ugly. O'Connor also said: "Most of us have learned to be dispassionate about evil, to look it in the face and find, as often as not, our own grinning reflections with which we do not argue, but good is another matter. Few have us have stared at that long enough to accept that its face too is grotesque, that in us the good is something under construction..."
So in the midst of all these ruminations, I have developed a terrible sinus infection of some type. It gives me terrible headaches, dizziness, even nausea, not mention the dreadful feeling that the inner airways of my face have been filled with rubber cement. So I went to my local pharmacist- a man I've known since my childhood, I should add- to see what he recommended. So as you may have guessed, I'm back on the pills for the time being- but please let me assure you, I'll be fine-totally fine. I just take these to make the pain and swelling go away. It's fine, I promise.
clockwise from top left: portrait of Thom by Luke Pizzato, portrait of Jean Louise by Chloe Aktas, portrait of Savage Red by Jeremy Shane, mind map created by ensemble.