Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 21 - The TMT Company

Back, left to right: David Moodey, Sime Viduka, "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Megan Schubert, Gelsey Bell, Dave Ruder,  John Hagan, Brian McCorkle, Aaron Siegel, Imani Uzuri, Kimberly Bartosik, Kimberly Young, Tom Hamilton, Betsy Ayer and Fast Forward.
Front: Samantha McHale, Amirtha Kidambi, Mimi Johnson, Bob Ashley, Samita Sinha, Aliza Simons, Madeline Wilcox and Paul Pinto.

other sides of fences

One of the great strengths of this production has been that it asks the singers to move, the movers to speak in song, the dancer to vocalize, and the four composer-performers in the back to dance sensitively. We've all been asked to concentrate on performative areas that we might not be used to focusing on, and everyone has risen to the occasion thoughtfully so that we're all a little closer together in discipline and I'm sure we'll all be better cross-discipline viewers & listeners.

I bring this up because for me, having a musical background, I'm now focused on how disciplines used to having a run of a show (and I mean a show, in which you're asked to take on more than just some notes or chords or whatever) probably produce performers who are more used to the end-of-the-run feeling than some of us are now. I'm sure withdrawal is withdrawal, and the sudden cessation of being asked to be a frog or a counter or a question answerer or a pose-replicator is always jarring, but I think theater and dance people are more used to it. It's been such a pleasure for me to figure out all these things, and by the nature of this piece, this weekend has been a terrifically thoughtful & fun time for me, and now I'm a little lost as to where to put my energy. Maybe I can try to find a good Chinese restaurant, or count three along with recordings of "Blue", or try to count along with the footsteps of pedestrians until their paths line up to my counts. Or maybe I'll just find a swamp to live in. I'm thrilled we got to perform as much as we did, but it's hard to leave!

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 20, between shows, the cast and crew cook veggie tacos.

Betsy Ayer, Dave Ruder, Sime Viduka, Megan Schubert, John Hagan, Paul Pinto

Faster than a speeding bullet,  Aliza Simons chops onions.

Dave Ruder, Megan Schubert, John Hagan, Paul Pinto.

Kimberly loves olives; Fast loves Kimberly.

Brian McCorkle and Esther Neff.

John H., Kim Young, Blue Gene, Sime Viduka, Dave Ruder, Kimberly Bartosik.

Fast Forward, Paul Pinto, Samantha McHale, Madeline Wilcox

Gelsey Bell, Dave Ruder, Kim Young, Megan Schubert, Aliza Simons, Aaron Siegel.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 19 - The Men

Waiting to begin....
Dave Ruder, Brian McCorkle, John Hagan, Aaron Siegel, Paul Pinto

Act I: Frogs
The Company (John Hagan center)

Act III: Four Ways
Dave Ruder, Brian McCorkle, John Hagan, Fast Forward (foreground), Aaron Siegel, Paul Pinto
(with Madeline Wilcox and Kim Young)

Act III: Four Ways
Dave Ruder,  Brian McCorkle
Act III: Four Ways
Aaron Siegel, Paul Pinto

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 18 - Dress Rehearsal

Act I: Frogs
The Company 
Act II: A Cool, Well-Lighted Room
Imani Uzuri
Act I: Frogs
The Company
Act III: Four Ways
Foreground: Fast Forward, Aliza Simons
Background: Aaron Siegel, Paul Pinto, Kim Young
Act II: A Cool, Well-Lighted Room
Kimberly Bartosik

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Technical Rehearsal at The Kitchen: November 17, 2011

The view from "Blue" Gene's keyboard.

Kim Young and Samita Sinha.

Stage manager, Betsy Ayer, adjusts Samita's battery pack.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Further photos from rehearsals at Douglas Dunn's studio this week. Now we move into the Kitchen theater to install and prepare for the upcoming performances beginning on saturday Nov 19!

Aaron Siegel, Gelsey Bell, Samita Sinha

Megan Schubert & Samantha McHale

Dave Ruder, Brian McCorkle, Jon Hagan, Aaron Siegel, 
Paul Pinto and Madeline Wilcox

l-r: Brian McCorkle, John Hagan, Megan Schubert, 
Samantha McHale, Paul Pinto, Kim Young, Samita Sinha, 
Gelsey Bell, Mimi Johnson, Amirtha Kidambi

Mimi Johnson & Madeline Wilcox
(Mimi standing in temporarily for Aliza Simons)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rehearsal for Act II

We had an excellent rehearsal for Act II today. Act II includes Imani Uzuri, Blue Gene Tyranny and Kimberly Bartosik. Here are some happy portraits from after the fACT. What does it sound like? You'll just have to come to one of the performances . . . but you'll have to move fast .

Vocalist Imani Uzuri and synthesizer maestro Blue Gene Tyranny
Our technical and artistic Wizards Tom Hamilton and David Moodey
Vocalist Imani Uzuri with dancer Kimberly Bartosik
Yes, it's vocalist Imani Uzuri again, this time with the composer.
mid performance, Tom Hamilton, Kimberly Bartosik and Robert Ashley

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

connexions, specs, & familiar gestures

I have only recently met Mr. Fast Forward. I have enjoyed being in his presence for these early That Morning Thing rehearsals. I think it's fair to say that our interpersonal relationship was taken to the next level at the previous rehearsal when I, along with the other "men" in the cast, was given the task of mimicking and sampling Fast's physical movements in Act III. This can be rather intimate, trying another person's motions on. In public no less!

In the rehearsal, the lowest hanging fruit of Fast's movement vocabulary was, for me, his tendency to hold & look at his lines and his frequent adjusting of his eyeglasses - Fast is answering questions from the "women", so there's a certain limited range of motion within the realm of the expected. The paper didn't register much with me, but the glasses had a notable resonance. I've been trying to think about why. Here's why I'm writing tonight; a possibly meaningless-to-anyone-else reason that I feel is important:

I used to watch a lot of His Prime Minister's Question Hour on C-Span, circa 2004-5. We got a few cable channels for free. It was a Sunday night ritual with my roommates. We'd delight when a timid MP from West Shropshire West would stumblingly offer a question on juvenile delinquency (there was a great British euphemism for it I'm blanking on), we'd revel in the slouching body language of the cabinet & shadow cabinet, but most of all we'd squeal with delight whenever Tony Blair emphatically took off his glasses at the peak of his responses. Regardless of your politics, you have to admit there's something theatrically wonderful in this oft-repeated gesture (there's great lead up starting at 2:00 in this clip), a way of making one's point that I could never pull off and most people would never try. And the way the thing's edited, you never see him put them back on, he was just always ready to establish a rhetorical climax and whip off those specs.

Where's the connection? Mr. Blair hails from Durham (I've been trying to memorize all 48 ceremonial counties of England for a few years, I'm almost there). Fast Forward has an accent that to me is hard to place, but I hear both familiar English & Scottish cadences in it. I could be way off base, but it seems logical to me (and I've been thinking this for a few weeks now) that he must hail from Northern England, perhaps even Northeast, given this accent (I've known Northwesterners, they sound different). Frankly, it's none of my business, just idle thinking. Nonetheless, as soon as I watched him touch his glasses, even though I don't think he ever whipped them off, a connection was made between what he's doing in That Morning Thing and this treasured dramatic nugget from my catalog of gestures. He's not even going to wear the glasses in the show in November, but I'm really, really excited for this section now. A tenuous connection that it took me a week to figure out is how I want to say: I think this production is going to be aces.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Earlier Recording of "That Morning Thing"


I was surprised to find this archive (supposedly of a performance from 1969 at Mills) of a complete performance of "That Morning Thing" floating around out there.

My initial skepticism was undone when I heard the now familiar sounds of frogs (someone out there thinks they're ducks) and the Smithsonian Folkways narrator Charles M Bogert (http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2421). Which is our cue to begin the process of Act 1 detailed near the beginning of this blog.

The "Other Minds" Archive which hosts this recording has this to say:
"A live recording of the complete experimental opera, “That Morning Thing” by Robert Ashley, possibly from the Dec. 8, 1969 performance at Mills College. Composed in 1967 this was Ashley’s second foray into the realm of avant-garde musical theater, and is a work for five principal voices, eight dancers, women's chorus and tape. The mainstream media’s reaction, as well as that of some in the audience, was notably mixed, however rather than being a commentary on the ultimate quality of the work it seems to be more an indication of the audience’s unfamiliarity with Ashley’s trademark mix of electronic and prerecorded sounds with the more traditional elements of opera. Certainly for anybody interested in avant-garde theater in general or Robert Ashley specifically, this historic recording of one of his earliest and perhaps lesser known works should be of immense interest and value."

Interested in where they got the information about the "mainstream media's" reaction to the piece, I found this site from the same archive which contains a review by Charles Shere, who defends the piece against "critical consternation."

He ends his review, which is quite a positive one, with "'That Morning Thing' will find its time and its audience or it will prove its own fears well-founded, and none of us will know the final result of our rejection of the life that has been put in our hands."

"That Morning Thing" has found its time and perhaps its audience as well, I am honored to be part of time, audience, and performance!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reflections of an Amphibian

She comes and goes, but not in that regular way with enough of herself parked laterally towards meaning. She goes only askew and still then with not much force--as though my barking is a quiet compliment instead of the empty yell it is. And even then it is a conflicted response, and mine an equally so request. Who is following who?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tickets for That Morning Thing are already available if you want to guarantee seats for someone. http://www.thekitchen.org/event/280/0/1/

Rehearsals week 1

 L to R: Kimberly Young, Samita Sinha, Madeline Wilcox, Dave Ruder, Tom Hamilton (background), 
Brian McCorkle, Robert Ashley (foreground), Aaron Siegel, Paul Pinto, Samantha McHale.

 L to R: Dave Ruder,  Tom Hamilton (background), Brian McCorkle, Aaron Siegel, Paul Pinto.

  L to R: Madeline Wilcox, Samantha McHale. Robert Ashley, Samita Sinha, Kimberly Young.

  Blue Gene Tyranny and Imani Uzuri

Friday, September 23, 2011

We commissioned artist James Lo to custom design and fabricate glasses to be worn by eight of the performers in Act I.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Performer Instructions

That Morning Thing includes three acts and an epilogue.
Here are instructions for Acts I & III


8 women are described in the score-diagrams as either “Standing” or “Moving.” “Standing” are in place “on stage” when the audience comes in. “Moving” women are in place “off stage” and are then directed by the men who ‘count’ to move them around on stage.
“Off stage” means at the sides of the performance area, but clearly in view of the audience.

The purpose of moving the women around is to put two corresponding women in hand-to-hand contact so that the lights in their sunglasses blink — and allow the audience to look at them.

Each man is counting, their voices are heard via a small loudspeaker located on the stage.
Each man is the “director” for one of the MOVING women. He directs her around on stage by means of a counting code.

Once again – ‘The purpose of moving the women around is to put two women in hand-to-hand contact so that the lights in their sunglasses blink — and allow the audience to look at them’.

 The counting code for the man counting and the woman being directed is:

“one”          (rest)                                     means move “ahead”
“one”   “two”  (rest)                                 means “turn left” (in place)
“one”   “two”   “three”   (rest)                  means “turn right” (in place)
“one”   “two”   “three”  “four”   (rest)       means “turn around” (in place)
“one”   “two”   “three”  “four”  “five”  (NO REST) means hand-to-hand contact with
another woman (the lights blink).

The most common direction is  “one” (rest), move ahead. The left/right/turn around directions cause the woman to stop moving forward and to turn to face in a new direction. Then, the forward direction begins again.
The (rest) has the same duration in the measure as is the spoken number. So, for instance, the “one” “two” (rest) direction [meaning: turn left] is three equal beats.

When the corresponding women make hand-to-hand contact, it  is maintained for 10 to 15 seconds. Then, the counting instruction — “one”       “two”          “three”  “four” (rest) — tells the woman to:
take a step back and to turn around and go away from hand contact.
The man counting determines the duration of the hand-to-hand contact.

The  “one”  “two”  “three”  “four” (rest) instruction can be used at other times, simply to direct the woman to another direction of movement.


1) two feet together
2) one foot forward for one step. The step is just the length of the foot.
3) other foot forward, to “two feet together” position
4) repeat this, alternating which foot goes forward

The woman’s speed is TOTALLY INDEPENDENT of the man’s counting speed.
Because of this move-technique the women all move more or less at the same speed.



When the “Man in the White Suit” (Director) appears on stage,
the WOMEN ask him “Questions” into their microphones.
The questions are mainly geography-philosophy questions:
e.g.,   How do I get to Grand Army Plaza?                   
        Where are the Cloisters?                                  
         Why are they way up there?                            
Where is the Upper East Side?                                   
Fast Forward will compose “answers” to be spoken into his microphone.
The answers can be unusual.
Question-and-answer combinations takes 30 seconds each — maybe
Some Questions will be asked while the previous question is being answered.