Everyone Cried

Touring a piece is really different from everything else.
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What will they make of us?

So we bring this piece MORE to Austin, the most challenging and audience-unfriendly piece we’ve made. People who go for the ride of MORE often feel moved and provoked. But it’s a tricky ride to go on.

People don’t know our work, and I think that helps. They don’t expect funny, endearing, accessible. And they do go for the ride, most of them.We have the best talkbacks I’ve ever been a part of. Real questions are asked. When the three co-directors worked separately in the lead-up to MORE, did you miss your other collaborators? That’s a hard question to be asked. And a good one.
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Classes, Drinks, Documentaries

The amazing Phyllis Slattery plugs us into a ton of classes, talks, and workshops, like this one: Rebecca Rossen’s brilliant MFA class.

We have an amazing evening with the Rude Mechs, the brilliant Austin-based ensemble theater company.  They are a huge company: 6 Co-Directors and 28 company members or something ridiculous like that.  We have a delicious public conversation with them, savoring the moments of recognition, the fascinating evolution of their company.  Drinks, food, in a lovely old Austin guest house/home for art.

Like us, the Rude Mechs are having a full-length documentary made of their most recent piece. I told Lana, one of the Artistic Directors, that I didn’t think I could watch the documentary Byron Karabatsos is making about MORE.

LANA: What do you mean?  You have to watch it!

ANDREW: Well, are you going to watch the documentary about your company?

                     PAUSE. 

LANA: No.  No way.  Hell, no.

ANDREW: So I’ll watch yours and you watch mine and then we’ll go for a beer.

LANA: Deal.

THEY CLINK GLASSES AND GRIN.

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500 Plays

We ran into Josh and Matt from Rubber Repertory (“tiny riots since 2002”), folks Kate and I met a couple years ago. Their piece The Casket of Passing Fancy sounds brilliant. 500 offers, each one used only once by one audience member. 500 tiny plays for exactly one person ever. One person sees it, it goes away forever.

Who wants to help an alcoholic mother change her baby’s diaper?

Who wants forgiveness? Who wants me to call their mother?

Who wants an intermission?

Who wants to have a song sung on their body?

Austin 4Migas                          

That’s David eating migas at one of the (too) many tex-mex places we visited.  By the end of the week, we were pleading for bean-and-cheese mercy, dreaming of miso soup.

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More documentaries

Who are these filmmakers?  Shouldn’t they be covering Enron or whatever wars we’re in now?  Allison Orr uses a lot of people in her dances who are not professionally trained performers.  Her Trash Project brought 16 garbage trucks and 24 sanitation workers to a massive outdoor spectacle.

The last night we were there, I started talking to Allison about this Big Question I have:

Why are artists who are rigorous about community and situating their work NOT as rigorous aesthetically?  And why are aesthetically rigorous artists NOT rigorous about community?

We have separated those kinds of rigor, made them opposites.  I see it in my own work.  Allison has great insights: when you work in community, you are often limited in terms of time and training.  Sanitation workers are not prepared to rehearse the way professionals do.  They don’t have (or want, necessarily) performer skills of precision and the ability to remember set material.

But what about the reverse?  Why don’t artist making high art think rigorously about who it’s for, where it lives?

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No MistakesCan you make a performance where there couldn’t possibly be a mistake?  A performer falls, the music cuts off, someone delivers a pizza, the set falls down…..everything would fit.  No matter what happened, the audience would never have that sense of Mistake, that sense that something had failed, been violated, or shattered the consensus illusion.MORE is an attempt at this.  Dancers drop what they are doing, interrupt each other, play music then cut that music off, walk off the stage.  Music doesn’t begin or end with dancing.  Everything in the space is carried on and off by the dancers.

We talked about this idea during the talkbacks.  After one talkback, Jaclyn, a sharp artist and thinker, came up to me and said:

“There was one moment where I felt there could be a mistake.  When the dancers bring out the trees and stick them in the furniture, I felt that rush and anxiety that they could do this wrong.  This might not succeed.”

Yes.  She’s exactly right.  That moment is success-based.  I want to think more about that.

Austin 7Hotels, CryingTouring with Headlong is dang fun.  And funny.  Lots of meals.  Laughing fits.  Proliferating nicknames. (Andrew=AndyPants=Pants=Panties=Pantalones)  Lots of taking care of each other, especially through performing this provocative, dislodging piece.

During the last performance in Austin, one of the dancers begins weeping onstage.  Sitting on the couch, tears are quietly running down her face.  Up to that moment, the audience has been raucous, laughing and getting riled up.  They get quiet, focused, intense.  They give the dancers a standing ovation at the end.

We come together backstage and take care of each other.  It feels right.

And I want to go back to Austin soon.

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With hair like this.