Monday, January 30, 2006
Notes & Observations:
RED CANS – FINAL WEEKEND
January 28-29, 2006
Instead of at public park, rehearsal has been moved to Josh and Matt’s apartment, due to rain. Slick laminate floor. All furniture has been pushed into the hallway or leaned up again the wall. Inside here, it is private and dark and humid: is this a more likely ‘can’ environment, than the sunny sociable park?
Sliding for the cans, mobility, is easier on slick laminate than on the crumbling concrete of the old basketball court at the park.
During 15 minutes of “open canning” the cans are given flashlights.
Is it warm and comfortable in here, or is it stifling?
One of the modified cans, with the sacks attached, is called Stomach Can. One of the actor’s arm came out of the hole in Stomach Can, the other hung limply in the lose red terrycloth sack – does this sack represent a severed limb, a memory of dismemberment? A phantom limb? Or, are we catching these beings in mid-evolution? Will the sack, as we watch, become useful? Or is it already being discarded, a failed genetic experiment, that will disappear completely in a few more generations? The cans seem at a formative stage, mid-evolution. The loose sacks are appendages that are no longer needed, that are disappearing -- or maybe they are growing into something: in a few generations, that sack will be more like an arm.
Which is it? Is the sack growing useless, or growing useful? Which direction are we moving, evolutionarily speaking? Are we watching progress or deterioration?
Flashlights are used both within cans, and outside of cans (poking out through holes) to point toward each other and at audience. Flashlights with visible actor arm attached versus flashlight just sticking out of a hole in the can. One could argue that it is more interesting if flashlight itself is never seen. The light inside the can is more interesting. And instead of better illumining the human inside, the flickering lights make the actors’ body shapes more abstract, less identifiable.
There is music for this period of open canning – atmospheric and spacey. Feels like a moonwalk or an alien exploration. As the music subsides, someone starts beating from within a can, hitting the nylon from the inside, and then the others join in like a protest, or a demand for something.
When the flashlight has a focused beam, coming from inside a can, it is like an iris or retina, a cycloptic searching eyeball. When it moves about, it appears to be frantically searching for something.
Are these cans fossils from our collective memories? Our future? Our prehistorical past?
Seriously today’s rehearsal is a little spooky. Like we all might at any moment change states from solid to liquid.
The Stomach Can “reaches out” to other cans with its appendages– is this a positive development, or a regressive trait? Is this a biological reflex, a learned behavior, or a bad habit it is trying to quit?
When the flashlight beams seem like little heartlights – when they flicker or flip off and on, they seem like some kind of beating organ – are these cans robots or tadpoles?
Are the flashlight beams investigative organs, like antennas?
Are differences among cans (head bumps, appendages, etc.) birth defects or evolutionary leaps?
There is a creepy, fast, manic shuddering within certain cans, with a flickering flashlight beam, which is weird and unsettling in this dark and dank environment.
This private, swampy and cavernous rehearsal space and the atmospheric music are so very different from the public park environment. Whole different feeling: not so delightful, instead it’s more alarming and darkly amusing.
Stomach can falls on its side but the loose sack becomes suddenly turgid, and sticks straight up into the air – rigor mortis? A sign of something? Is this the end? Does the can animal procreate as it’s dying?
As the music stopped, the cans filled the void by making sounds, various comical bodily noises.
Elizabeth suggests a possible climax to the performance: Use flashlights plus a weird lighting effect to reveal what’s inside the can, show the actor’s faces, a final reveal.
Does the production need “can shepherds” to herd the cans to the correct places, and to make sure they don’t get hurt? Or maybe a pole or hook or a crane, some outside force, could wrangle the cans. Some machine’s arm.
Are the cans cultish? Are they headed toward mass suicide, like lemmings? Are they a failed design, one that is about to self-destruct? Maybe that’s the climax: the failed cans self-destruct, in all manner of arresting ways.
Josh: maybe there will be a ‘mock’ can onstage, that will be crushed flat by a heavy object dropped from above. The audience thinks there was an actor inside…
The actors might wear costumes of total red, head-to-toe red, like inside a snail’s shell, and they may leave a slug’s trail.
How to achieve mass liquid spurting forth from a can?
Cole’s idea for this rehearsal: Cans act out stories from the Bible, just announce a title (“David and Goliath”) and then the cans go about representing the story.
During open canning, Rosaruby asks to be zipped completely into one of the modified cans – complete sheathed and zipped, at both top and bottom, tightly into the short nylon cylinder sack, with a flashlight inside. Inside the can with her flickering flashlight, she lies on what may be her back and begins to shudder – fast, rhythmic, and seeming to reach some kind of culmination. A masturbating sack? Do cans reproduce alone, by budding? Then, suddenly, she thrusts both arms out of the small holes at the top of the can. Her arms are exactly as long as the height of the can, and seem very masculine and even a little frightening. So very strange. A little bit Todd Browning’s “Freaks,” the “one of us, one of us” mantra. She lifts herself (still completely incased, zipped into, the short nylon can) with her arms and moves about the room on her hands in a muscular fashion, blindly grabbing ahold of everything in her path. These muscular, moving and searching arms and yet no head, no other defining feature. These arms make the cans seem even less human, more bizarre. Like something born without a face or a conscience. A bully with no brain.
At one point she places the flashlight down at the bottom front of the can, and with her arms out, and the beam of light shining forth from her crotch, it’s as though she’s presenting biology in its most basic state: a lighted tip, moving unthinkingly toward you.
But then, the flashlight can be removed, and moved to other areas of body. In how many ways are these cans differently abled?
The flashlights beaming on and off within separate cans seems to beat like a semaphore between cans, a way to communicate. Also, seems like other cans are peeking at what their peers are up to. (Even though in actuality, it is still difficult for the actors to see what’s going on within the other cans.)
Rosaruby lies on her back in her can, flashlight beam facing out at us. Her lifted and curved legs within the can create a frame for a small diorama: she makes finger puppets in the shape of a beating heart, and then she actually beats the bottom of her can, the sound of heartbeats on the nylon membrane, an impenetrable membrane? This can seems very separate from others and alone, stuck inside can but still trying to communicate.
What if we hear true sounds of distress from within a can, like the sounds of an actor who wants to be let out of the can, but no one comes to let them out? Is it part of the play, or is it the real sound of an actor’s distress?
Rosaruby’s hands slapping the laminate floor – this is a good sound.
What if the cans with arms and hands out attempt to assume classical Greek poses?
Are the cans prehistoric or more fully developed than current humans or are they robots?
Should an unrelated body suddenly enter the performance? A giant cowboy piñata? Someone dressed as a piñata? A child? A child in costume? Reminded of Pierre Huyghe film
“Streamside Day” part of which features a parade in which children are dressed in strange slapdash half-animal costumes, slightly degraded, and someone is dressed as a menacing collection of moving boxes. Seems to go along with this question of: where are we, in the history of evolution, and in which direction are we moving?
When multiple cans have their arms thrust out, the cans can link arms in interesting ways. More like a mollusk, can extend or retract parts of its body in and out of its shell. Actually, it’s a little sickening. But in a good way.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
was sort of a bust. Rainy weather, actor conflicts, etc.
BELOW: new dramaturg notes from the sunshiny days of Red Cans Week 2.
Notes & Observations:
RED CANS #2
January 15, 2006
Cole: what if each can has a unique sound/signal, like a clap or a series of claps or a hum, so that the cans can recognize each other, and also the audience can recognize each can? Does each can have its own personality?
Should each can be recognizable throughout show and storyline, or is individuality among cans unimportant or even undesirable?
Modified cans: the “King” can is the height of two cans. Other cans have what appear to be their inner organs on the outside, loose red terrycloth sacks hanging off their nylon exteriors.
During rehearsal two outside forces threatened the cans. A toddler approached an active can and made several loud noises, possibly meant to convey the sentiment “I can see your shoes, did you know that I can see your shoes, hey!” The actor inside the can did not recognize the noise as coming from a toddler. The second incident involved a seemingly mentally challenged man who, as we arrived at the park, was occupying himself (innocently) whacking at tree branches with a plastic light saber. In the middle of rehearsal he approached the active cans and for a moment appeared to consider whacking at them, taking them for inanimate objects. However he did not whack and the cans were never aware of his proximity. What is a dramaturg’s responsibility when it comes to protecting the cans from onslaught? What would it be like to have a wholly foreign and potentially threatening body enter the world of the cans mid-performance?
Favorite move of this rehearsal: two actors switch cans during performance, a slow crawling out and crawling in. (Identity linked to the cans, and not the actors inside the cans?)
When it’s cold outside, the cans are like a blanket or a windbreaker or a tent. Actors seem naked and unprotected, without their cans.
Utter stillness works well in can performance. When all the cans are perfectly still for an extended period, there is a significant build up of anticipation.
Are the actors miked within the cans? Can we amplify their breathing, the sounds of their stamina and of their strenuous work?
Caitlin suggests that the actor in the King can wear extra long funky-toed shoes.
The King can ‘breathes’ by slowly pulling its height down to the ground, collapsing each segment one at a time, and then releasing, inflation and deflation. Interesting.
I like when cans seem to be ‘figuring it out’ either as pre-planned choreography or because the actor in the can is actually figuring out how to navigate a move onstage, or how to get out of a jam, or how to reorient themselves. Fun to see these moments of discovery.
Another favorite: Deputy can has a long tube emanating from its interior that occasionally leaks or sprays fluid. (Actor has strapped hot water bottle to his body inside the can.) This long tube snakes along behind can or coils beside it. The actor sometimes used his feet to kick the tube into the right place. At one point he rocks with excitement as the tube slowly drains itself of liquid. Entrails? Urethra? Enema? (a la Wooster Group “To You The Birdie?) There is a drain in the ground of the rehearsal space – would be cool to incorporate a found element like that into the performance.
What will be the climax of this performance? For example, “The Release of the Water.”
I like when Josh and Matt walk amongst the cans during rehearsal, leaning down to whisper directions to the actors – are they gods or roadies?
Will there be recorded ‘commands’ that direct the cans during performance?
It is interested when we hear laughter from inside a can. A joke we are not in on.
How close will the audience be to the cans? Patterns and meanings change when the cans are seen from above at a slight distance.
At one point three cans fall over at the same time, and they fall in such a way that the audience sees ‘up the skirts’ of the cans to the bodies inside.
while cleaning my room last week (long overdue), I stumbled upon the above document... a ramshackle list, probably compiled in early 2002, of elements that matt and I hoped to include in future rubber repertory shows. four years later seems like as good a time as any to reflect on our progress.
*synchronized swimming (check, but not by us.)
*prison meals (not yet.)
*dildo danse (check.)
*original or public domain or pomo sampling (check.)
*old people eat! (yes they do!!!... but not yet.)
*pornofuq muse (abandoned.)
*Gay food old people parade (I have no idea what this means, or if this is one idea or three, but I'm fairly certain we haven't done it.)
*best and worst show (the idea was to use a survey to determine what elements would be included in people's ideas of the best possible theatre and the worst possible theatre, and then to create works that strictly utilized said elements... still interests us, but not yet.)
*Hunger (not since this.)
*group singing (check. And if you're curious, the song was "Some People" from Gypsy.)
*props (big dreams in 2002! check. check. check. check. check. check.)
*non-trad staging and lighting (check.)
*slapstick torture (check, but only tangentially.)
*Wiley Wiggins (not yet, but the target is within reach.)
*children's section (?)
*fisting a cow (bartender!)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Today we put aside the games and small group work and blocked a 9 minute scene that contained a few of our favorite tableaus from previous rehearsals.
CANS 1,2,3,4 clustered in group. Still. Family? Post-coital?
CHARGER CAN in background, charges back and forth.
KING CAN at basketball hoop w/ duck whistle.
CHARGER charges CAN ONE and knocks it over. They switch cans, Butoh-style, and get back up.
CAN ONE begins assuming the actions of CHARGER.
DEPUTY CAN enters from far away. A thin tube hangs from a hole in the bottom of the can. 3 claps, ALL CANS pop to attention. An unknown liquid begins to spray from the tube. ALL CANS bounce and scratch with anticipation.
KING CAN begins to duck whistle.
ALL CANS except DEPUTY surround KING CAN in a semi-circle. Some clapping is heard from inside the cans.
KING CAN deflates, inflates, deflates, inflates, deflates, inflates, deflates, inflates as surrounding cans bounce gently.
CANS turn to look at DEPUTY
DEPUTY turns away
CANS violently begin pressing as close as possible to KING CAN. Suffocating.
After much smothering, CANS 1,2,3,4, and CHARGER all topple.
KING CAN, sagging a bit, carefully leaves its post and walks through the wreckage to the deputy. Whistle? Clap?
DEPUTY straightens the KING CAN into an upright position.
KING CAN AND DEPUTY exit.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Matt and I met with visual artist Lucy Lenoir last night to work on modifying some of the cans. We took a trip to CVS pharmacy for supplies. Bought a combination douche/enema/water bottle system, a sewing kit, some red felt, and 13 boxes of candy canes (holiday merch was 95% off).
After learning to sew and to properly operate a hot glue gun, we created the following specialty cans:
*one can with secret windows near the bottom
*one double-tall can with secret windows near the top
*two cans with exterior stomach pouches and puppet-like openings to collect or expel objects (i know that sounds a bit grotty, but i swear to god this will be a family show)
We begin again tomorrow, in the park... But FIRST, here are some notes taken during last week's rehearsal by R. Beegle, dramaturg extraordinaire:
Notes & Observations:
RED CANS #1
January 7, 2006
Cans are strangely evocative – they magnify elemental emotions acutely, when they perform the simplest action: run, fall down, walk slowly, turn in a fast circle.
Would be interesting to play against this tendency – work to strip the cans’ movements of any currently recognizable emotional content. What would you be left with? It would be cool to subvert the impulse to feel ‘emotional’ about the cans in any kind of traditional way. Better to invent a whole new way of feeling.
And, WHY the magnified emotion with the cans? Do they represent victims, or children? Do we relate to the struggle of captivity and confinement? Do we even care about these themes at all or are we just having a good time?
What’s the deal inside the cans? What is the meaning of ‘confinement’? Possibilities: Fear. Captivity. Privacy.
What ways can the cans work around the confinement? Fight against it?
Are the cans scary or funny?
Shade vs. sunlight within the can:
When outdoors, the sun can make can/actor too hot very quickly –
light cue as torture device?
Darkness as a soothing reward?
Theatrical devices ‘control’ the cans
How light cues cause emotional/physical response both within can,
and within audience
Cans falling over = sympathy, empathy, ‘turtle on back’
==vulnerable, embarrassing, victim, merely human?
The Ideal Look:
No ‘head bump’
Compressing the body in, focusing inward
Arms tucked in (no elbow bumps)
A scooting motion, a lift-and-place instead of a drag
Things to do with the cans, things the cans can do:
Responding to sound cues within the cans.
“Herding” the cans
Be shockingly athletic within the can.
Different shapes of cans due to different sized people inside each can
Raise and lower can – from within, and from without
Kicking things from inside the can (setting objects into motion)
Sucking things up into cans and depositing them elsewhere
Change direction of cans based on sounds
Synchronized movements of cans (Rockettes style)
Turning in place (a 360 degree turn)
How to cans express victory?
The cans as children.
The cans are sweet and funny.
The cans as torture chambers for very bad people.
The cans as humiliation, as pure vulnerability, as our toys to do with what we will.
Distance has different measure when one is within a can
Good sounds can be made by the cans themselves – nice crumpling sounds. Sounds can both communicate can-to-can and can-to-audience – 2 modes of can communication.
What message to the visible feet send? Feet are the only ‘human’ part visible…
It’s good when the cans try and fail.
Will there be a moment when the cans come off and we see the actors?
How do cans fight and compete? Is there blood or bodily fluid?
A mass grouping of all but one can = terribly sad! Especially if the group is making a collective
noise, and the left-out can is making no noise, or a different noise, like one plaintive wail from the solo can…
How do the cans awaken/activate? When do they rest/turn off? Who is controlling them?
Waves of abstract noise from within the cans, become a pattern --- for the audience there is a sense of ‘what does it mean’ because it sure seems to signify something. Again, magnified meaning.
A hand clap as a question, from within the can. Answer comes from unexpected place.
Cans bump into people.
Are there evil cans?
Some cans have secret moves that they alone are capable of performing.
How are the cans individualized? Are they numbered or named?
How many different ways of dying are there for the cans?
One can only goes forward and backward, never turns around – we never see its back.
Use lighting to make inside/embryo visible – see what’s inside the can?
Use an empty can ‘husk’ onstage and see how other cans respond.
Create a language of movements for the can, like choreography.
Reaction of unsuspecting audience members the first time they see cans: wonder, delight, confusion. Do they think it’s a children’s show, or a scientific experiment? How to control the way the audience will first encounter the cans.
People zipped top and bottom into can, like an embryo, and then rolling or crawling. What reaction from other cans? How is this kind of can related to the others?
For the actors: what happens at that moment when the “want to be let out of” their can? What are those feelings? Tired or panicky or what?
Sunday, January 08, 2006
The first weekend of the Red Cans workshop was fun and enlightening. Children between the ages of 2 and 10 were especially drawn to the mysterious activity of the cans. Adults didn't always know what to make of it. Was this some sort of new exercise trend? Were we occultists? After two days of heavy scooting, the title of the show took on new meaning as performers noted their bruised, swollen buttocks.
And now the first of several participant reactions that I'll be posting as the workshop continues....
Courtesy of Cole Wimpee:
"working in the park today and watching at times when the wind would blow in and move unoccupied cans a few inches or a couple of feet, made me ask myself, 'what sort of weather or environment do the cans live with?' if performed indoors, it'd be interesting to play with one of those large utility fans just offstage that might be turned on and aimed at the stage so that an unmanned can can be blown a bit, or to see how it can affect the cans while we're in them. could the fan blow hard enough to simulate a wind storm making the can's ripple? if it created an interesting effect, it could also have a dual function of cooling the actor's inside the cans if it is far along through the show that they might begetting overheated. does it rain in red can world? little red drops of water? or those little round, red, soft candies falling from the sky? or red 'snow' paper slowly falling? might a can itself fall from the sky? if a lighting or electric storm were to occur, would the cans (like a herd of cattle) get shocked and light up and sizzle a bit? and what if a can overheats and smoke comes out? what are their seasons? season cycles? It seems we can discover more about the cans if we can determine the circumstances of their world. lastly, I am curious as to whether one of the cans could be surface-treated in such a way that the red color becomes very faded so at one point it could be introduced as an ill or degenerate member of the group..."
Friday, January 06, 2006
Red Cans workshop starts tomorrow. Fire in the rehearsal space, so we're relocating to the park. We like to envision this piece in public settings (city streets, shopping malls, etc.), but it will be strange to be so public on the very first day of rehearsal.
In other news: Both At Home with Dick and Holes Before Bedtime made it onto the Austin Chronicle's 2005 Top 10 lists. Read all about it here and here.
In other news: Both At Home with Dick and Holes Before Bedtime made it onto the Austin Chronicle's 2005 Top 10 lists. Read all about it here and here.