July 13, 2010

When You Play Chess with a Gorilla...

I've just returned to the States after a month abroad. And, I've just turned 30. And... I just chopped off all my hair after ten years of growing it down my back. Needless to say, a lot of changes are abounding.

My trip abroad profoundly changed how I think about my Three Sisters project. The style of presentation that I have been so gung-ho about for a year -- gone. Living in a country with a recent revolution and upheaval fascinated me. Maybe it isn't the style of acting that I need to worry about, but the political and social structures confining these women. Maybe oppression and revolution are the key to why these women just sit on their butts and drivel on about Moscow and having tea.

Spending my month abroad studying visual arts has, in many ways, taught me more about directing than studying theatre or theory or performance. I was able to go off into my own little corner of the world (an open-air wood shed, to be exact) and work. No collaboration, no talk talk talk, no give-and-take, just me. I used my hands to color, draw, paint, build. The birds were my background music, and a couple of chickens visited me at 3pm everyday on the dot to make sure I was busy at work. I had a dog friend who stomped all over my project with his muddy paws, which gave me the freedom to let go of a project I was struggling over. I fought with the rain and the mud and the occasional bird, I hid from the sun, and I looked forward to hearty meals and dips in the lake. I was the artist, the sole artist. Just me and my imagination.

I learned the most important lesson -- art grows. Art changes. Art has to keep on moving. And if I'm stubborn and hold onto that one little idea and refuse to let the art breathe, then... misery.

Three Sisters has to grow and change and keep on moving. The grandiose ideas I had in the beginning were certainly good ones, but... maybe living abroad and being a visual artist has to show up in this project. Oppression -- imagination forced into a dark corner. Revolution -- ideas running free. If Jan Urban, the Czech dissident, taught me anything, it was to take a deep breath, put on my bicycle shorts, and get ready to go.

We're about 8 months away from the premier of Three Sisters, and it's going to be a good 8 months. There's the writing, rehearsing, producing, designing of the show. Then, of course, I have a thesis to struggle over. And classes. Jobs. Applications for things to do after grad school. More thesis writing. More thesis writing. More thesis writing... but all I can think about is Three Sisters:

Who are these women? Why won't they just move? What is wrong with Andrei, and who is this evil woman he married? Why are they all so stagnant, so desperately horribly stuck in place? And why do I care? Why do I care? Seriously, why do I care? Because we're all stuck in a cycle of oppression and revolution, and sometimes it's nice to just sit down and rot in place, letting the world slide by and take care of itself.