In Process

Posted on August 18, 2011 by Haymaker

The skinny is that we’re geeks who make plays. Well, “make” might not cover it; we kind of tear and rip and punch and paste and tape and glue and gum them together from bits of our lives, memories, dreams, that short story from back in junior high, a Stones’ song, or the way Kermit moved his arms. We even hijacked the idea you told us yesterday. 

People are hot on the terms “repurposing,” “creative reuse,” and “upcycling” in Durham. They all mean to take something that had an original purpose and redefine it to use in a new way. Our style is similar. We collect fragments, and through our collaboration with each other and with whomever else is in the room, we attempt to organize all the pieces into something cohesive. It’s sort of like turning a bunch of empty candy wrappers into an insulated lunch box.

Two weeks ago we held a 40-plus hour intensive workshop at the Durham Arts Council to hone our Living with the Tiger script. We were transforming eight months of research, scene writing, character building, plot creation, and visualization into a performance structure. We cut characters and created new ones. We merged scenes. We created whole dance numbers from someone’s humming of a Chevy commercial. We developed sections of the play based on a plastic bobblehead, and imagined the performance space as if it was the offspring of Salvador Dali and Norman Rockwell. We played and rewrote, experimented and built, struggled with our egos and our exhaustion, and in the end…we emerged with the skeleton of what most would call a script.

If you’re performance geeks like us, you might call this process “devising.” “To imagine, to compose, to suppose, to guess, to purpose, to mediate, to describe, to depict, to scheme, to contrive…” is the definition that we lifted from Complicite’s teachers guide to devising (see below for the link). We are drawn to this style because devising lends itself to the free use of different forms and techniques in the creation process– movement, visual art, and music. Basically, it makes it possible to use anything in the world to create a performance.

There are thousands of examples, many from groups who’ve been doing this for a lot longer than we have, but we used this one in rehearsal this week. It is not what you might think of as theater, but rather an excellent example of disparate fragments forming a whole, compelling performance piece. Our theory and hope is that, like Mr. Reich’s piece, what will emerge in October from our collaged texts of literature, news articles, songs, interviews and personal stories will be something complex and detailed and meaningful to us and to you.

For much more on “devising” theatre see: The Rude Mechs, Pig Iron Theater Company, Complicite, The Civilians, SITI Company, Wooster Group, Elevator Repair Service, The Debate Society, 500 Clown, Neo-Futurists, the TEAM and on and on…(the list is endless, really)

Also, Complicite’s teachers guide. A wonderful packet on devising.

Or, for more on creative reuse in Durham, stop by The Scrap Exchange.

Finally, an excellent blog post from Deborah Stein on the nature of Collaboration.