Friday, November 16, 2012

Back At It Again. (Post missed from early 2013)

" I fell asleep holding an Appleseed, woke up holding a tree."
~Aesop Rock

This evening TheMASSIVE went back to work.  Starting with the diligent recovery work of Courtney Hischke, a piece originally set on teenagers is now being translated to the bodies of talented, intense, electric adults.
The Cast:

Jennifer Becker
Laura Chiuve
Jessica Deahr
Rashiff Hughes
Rebecca Hutt
Sunny Kallas
Katie Kempen
Jacqueline Sinclair
Morgan Williams
Tucker Worley
Jennifer Zurkowski

For those of you not in the know, our little company was selected to "light it up" at the Spring to Dance Festival this year.  For those of you IN the know, you know that I can be an EXTREMELY competitive mofo. I ain't afraid of anyone.  Let's cut the crap, this festival is big.  Presenters and the best companies in the Midwest will be at this festival. I want to do one thing at this festival: WIN.
I want to beat every single company that presents that weekend. I want this ensemble (that looks like a goddamn coed elite volleyball team) to sweat and push and move and express to the point that anyone before us is forgotten and anyone after us is resented.  I am being honest.  That is who I am internally (and externally).  I want to destroy the competition and, given the talent that will be at that festival, they ARE competition.  I want the fact that they are better than us on paper to be stomped underfoot of the reality of our live performance on stage.  I will say this simply, Any of the names I listed above are not only capable of delivering me just that, they WILL deliver me just that. They will deliver that to their community.  We saw a brief glimpse of it tonight.  The work undertaken over nearly 2 years is beginning to look like something substantial. Something big... You see where that is going. Won't beat you over the head with it.

"I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all."
~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

Today I explained the nature of this piece to them, atypically avoiding eye contact.  This piece is about motivation.  At a point when I just couldn't come up with a reason to make dance, the only possible thought was that I know what I want to see and sometimes the thing that keeps me creating is the anticipation of watching what i was created. 
My hubris and humilty are at 11 right now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's on Your Mind?*

*This is a blog I asked my assistant director to write a long time ago, back in February.  It has gone many places and he has asked many questions.  Here is a small window into the creative process that is making, new theatre. Enjoy.

I’ve been working on writing this blog post for about three weeks. No joke. There have been at least 3 drafts of the post. At one point, I spent 2 hours staring at blank page. Watching the cursor blink. Hoping that one of the times it reappeared from where ever the hell it goes it would bring with it a stream of words that would make up one of the greatest blog posts ever written. I mean, this is going to be my first post for TheMASSIVE blog. It has to be great. It has to match the caliber of the artists we work with, of the work we create, of the mission we hold true to. It has to be great.

Then again, maybe not…

What it has to be is honest. Like the work.
What is has to be is clear. Like the work.
What it has to be is entertaining. Like the work.

I am over thinking it.

Actually, that is a good place to start. My propensity for over thinking things is actually one of the reasons I love TheMASSIVE so much.

TheMASSIVE’s first show But What About Asian Dudes was also my first experience in the world of Dance. My role on this production was twofold. I was the Assistant Director, during the rehearsal process and I was slated to be the Light Board Operator during the run of the show. As Assistant Director, one of my responsibilities was to help Kyle write the text that was to become the script he would use during the performances.

At first, this seemed like an easy proposition. Kyle created a document that I was to work from. As he conducted interviews, created choreography, and the show started to take shape, that document grew. There was plenty of information for me to work with. I need to take his words and pare them down.


The thing is, this proved to be much more difficult that I had originally thought.

Because there was so much information, I wasn’t sure what to include. I wasn’t sure what to take out. Remember, this is my first Dance show. So did I ask questions? Did I make my concerns known? Of course not! I was smart, I could figure this out. I just had to think about it.

So I thought about it.
And thought about it.
And thought about it.
I thought about it so much that by the time Load-In came around, I was as lost with the script as I was with this post.

Load-In for the show started at 8am on a Tuesday morning. The tech schedule was ambitious to say the least. We set out to do one week’s worth of work in the span of 36 hours. Kyle, met Nick our Lighting Designer, and Dane our Producer at Stage 773. They spent that morning hanging lights. By the time I showed up around 1pm, over 50 instruments had been hung and everyone was waiting for the dancers to arrive. Dancers, by the way, who had been working there assess of for the last 4 months.

I had a meeting to run off to, and this is where the curse of over thinking things took hold and almost crushed me.

As I traveled to and from the theatre, I thought about the work that I had left to do. I thought about all of the work that Kyle had put into the show. I thought about all of the lights that Nick and Dane had hung. I thought about our amazing dancers and all of the time and energy they had expended in bringing Kyle’s work to life. I thought about Courtney and how she was steadfast in her attention to detail during the rehearsal process. I thought about all of words that Kyle had given me, and how lost I was in all of them. I thought about how I wasn’t sure what the hell to do, or how I could match the work all of these people had done. I thought I was going to go crazy.

I returned to the theatre after my meeting, lost in the woods of my mind, in time to catch Kyle before he left for his house to keep working on the sound track for the show. Nick and Dane were going to stay at his the theatre to write cues for the show. It was decided that I would tag along with Kyle and he and I would go back to his place, finish the script and the soundtrack, and return to the theatre in the morning.

Back at Kyle’s place, we set out to finish the script. I hadn’t exploded on the way from the theatre to his place, as I was praying would happen, so the jig was up, I had to do something. First thing I did was pour myself two fingers of Makers, it’s a great script writing trick I made up. My nerves calmed, we began.

We started at the top. Devised a plan of attack and started to execute it, only I really didn’t have any idea what the hell we were going to do. I kept thinking about Nick, Dane, Courtney, and the Dancers. Instead of focusing on what we were doing, right then and there, I started to get in my head again. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Frustration took over, and I felt like we were at a dead end.

I was over thinking it.

Around 3am, on the Lawrence Bus, somewhere between Western and Broadway, I became a part of TheMASSIVE.

Frustrated with myself, heading back to the theatre to face all of the people that I respected so much with not much to show, and a bit drunk, I broke. The questions and concerns that I had kept to mostly to myself, flooded out of me. I let loose a rant of Dennis-Leary-like proportions. As if confessing to a crime, I confessed every detail of my actions.

Kyle listened. Laughed a little. Then, told me to stop over thinking it.

The rest of that week is one that I will forever treasure.

We wrote cues. We slept. We laid down Marley. We ate. We rehearsed. We helped each other. We


I realized that my biggest mistake in over thinking about my part was that I wasn’t alone. I was part of a
bigger thing. A massive thing. Wait, THAT’S IT…

That is the most important thing that I want you to take from this post, and that experience.

We, the cast and crew and staff of TheMASSIVE, may "be" TheMASSIVE, but we are not alone. You are a part of TheMASSIVE, too. I found out on bus, in the middle of the night. Hopefully, you can find out at our next show.

OK, I think it’s done.
It’s honest.
I hope it’s clear.
I hope it’s entertaining.
--Jesus Contreras