Thursday, March 29, 2007

Inspiration or something like it

So, after my last post which took stock of where our company stood after our retreat for "The Weimar Fairy Tale Project," Kiran and I struggled to figure out what the next step should be for the project. It was like writer's block but worse: co-artistic directors' block [cue dramatic outro music]! This has never happened to us before and it's very clear why it's happened this time. We've always started with either a style or a story or a something. This time one could say we were starting with a concept, but only in the broadest sense of the word. It is only through realizing the many ways this project parallels Stage Kiss that we were able to begin making sense of it. And now that Kiran and I have wrapped our wee wee heads around this big ol' beast of a project, we need to bring our collaborators back in and see if our ideas hold water (or anything else, for that matter!). After a week of discussion, I'd like us to hit the studio and try making some art and stuff. If, by early May, we (and I probably mean it royally here) don't feel like the project's off and running, we'll take stock again and see if we need to whip up a totally new project proposal.

So, here's what we've come up with:

In Kinderspiel (note the new working title!), Stolen Chair presents a transgressive and debauched drag performance which, instead of deconstructing gender, seeks to break down binaries between adults and children. Set in the world of Weimar Berlin, one cabaret offers access to the ultimate taboo, an opportunity to watch adults play as children do. After all, “child’s play” is too important to be squandered on the young.

Here's what this means:

The thing that emerged as most exciting from the retreat (for us, at least!) was not the transgressive power of seeing adults perform as children because, frankly, after enough productions of Peter Pan and enough SNL sketches, that particular effect has lost much of its edge. What actually seemed to carry transgressive power was seeing adults (clearly marked as such) play the way children do. At this point we felt torn between--you'll have to pardon the intrusion of intro-level undergraduate performance theory--Apollonian and Dionysian models. We were frustrated that the path which seemed to make the most sense was an Artaudian/Paratheatrical environment in which the audience not only watches adults get their child-like groove on, but also has an opportunity to indulge in that play themselves...all in all a very UN-Stolen Chair endeavor. On the other hand, we worried that the sense of play we were after would be crushed by the sort of repetition that a more formal production would require.

The world we're imagining might look something like this (much of this would just be contextual backstory, of course):
  • A group of characters drawn from the Weimar-era Berlin demi-monde have decided to escape the repression and depression of everyday life by creating a Kinderspiel club. (Kinderspiel translates to "child's play," "a play performed by children," and "a play performed for children.")
  • Their activities have begun to attract attention from the wider public, and what started off as a private club soon transforms into a major Berlin hotspot, though the proceedings face continual opposition from the Communists, National Socialists, and Capitalists, all of whom have different reasons for frowning upon such transgression.
  • The performance itself would be an extended session of "pretend," in which the Kinderspielers would create, with just the cheap props and set they have on hand, the world's greatest children's story, an anachronistic pastiche of children's literary tropes (ideally fused with the actors play as seamlessly as drag performance and Elizabethan-pastiche were fused in Stage Kiss).
It's our hope that the piece will:
  1. Be even more "emancipating" (as reviewer Will Cordeiro put it) than Stage Kiss insofar as its dedication to kid-logic will create a topsy-turvy world of unstable meanings and deconstructed dogmas.
  2. Allow a space for audience members (of any age) to break down (with delight) the usual divide between the social spheres respectively designated for adults and children
  3. Allow a space for audience members (of any age) to enjoy the subversive naughtiness of children's literature without feeling condescended to.
  4. Be a blast to perform given the balance between psychotically high-charged improvisatory energy and precisely scored performance.
  5. Use the backdrop of the Weimar-era's tensions between sociopolitical despair and liberatory sub-culture to explore how participation in transgressive performance can range from active subversion to passive escapism.
So, Chairs, have at that! Feel free to post comments on the blog if you want to go public with your thoughts, but it would be great if all of you could email me or the group list and let everyone know what you're excited about so we can move forward on this. And if you're not one of our collaborators but tuning in all the same, feel free to post away in the comments section as well.

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