Monday, January 30, 2006

Introducing JP Higgins

This from John Patrick Higgins, who plays both the Spanish Envoy Jorge Vasquez and Walter:

Several thoughts.

Today, I got pants!!! A few days later than some of the others but well worth the wait. God, thank God for costumes- I do love them. It reminded me of a production that I did in grad school of As You Like It where the entire cast wore black suits/business casual clothing how terribly dull! I wanted to yack every time I put it on. It is so much more exciting to have cool pants with hidden folds and zippers! And RED!!!! Sure, that other play was about the acting but what a marvelous thing to be excited about every piece of the puzzle. It makes you raise your game, forces you to the next level. (sorry for the sports analogies, but I've been watching the Australian Open all week.)

The rehearsal process to this point has been a very different experience for me. In the past, I usually leave the starting line sprinting. By the second week, I'm ready to open the show and can't understand why everybody isn't off book already. This is completely the reverse. The first week, I felt like the worst actor ever. But every rehearsal I pick up a small (or large) piece of the puzzle. There are so many elements that want to have their say- some demand that you listen right away, others tell you to bugger off and come back on Thursday. It's been a delight to gather the pieces. Today it was the music and pants (if your pants are speaking to you, you should probably listen). Tomorrow, who knows? Thank God for not knowing.

Super impressed by the cast- doing the monk train (don't know what I'm talking about? well, come see the show then), looking at everybody working so hard for 15-30 seconds of stage time.
Lesson of the week- I've heard it before, but never truly believed it- work on one thing at one time. This week- the dialect. When that's solid, then the action. Then the physicality. Not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pants & Fights

Last night Jessica (Ford, costume designer extraordinaire) stopped by with three pairs of pants for us to try. They're customized rave pants--super-big red numbers with lots of pockets, and they make a delicious swishing sound when you move. In addition to fitting them to our various bodies, Jessica has made them unique to each character, mostly by removing parts--they were full of fabric to begin with. The result is a basic, uniform quality that still expresses something specific for each person. This is really ideal when you're trying to create another world. That way we all fit together, but without blurring the essential differences between individuals. And there's more customizing to come: hidden features, transforming zippers...super-fun stuff. We may post a little teaser up here before long. We need a little visual pizzazz around here.

We've also been working on the fight between Sam Nash and the Envoy from Spain, Jorge Vasquez. We've got it basically blocked, and it's pretty vicious. (Let me say, JP Higgins is not someone to mess with.) I'm excited to see how it changes once the music & sounds are added.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Yesterday's quote of the day

Kevin, on the Narrator:

"It's almost like I'm a game show host where the contestants, if they win, get to kill themselves."

Friday, January 20, 2006

We have Musical Inspiration!

A post from Rika, with a wealth of music research:

Music from Tuva

I have just been reading up on the Republic of Tuva, on the boarders of Mongolia, China meets Russia. I have a CD that literally is entitled Cowboy Music from the Wild East. It is FASCINATING (mp3 coming soon). This is truly where east meets west.. As you read you will see why there is a relationship to the show we are doing, and how Pete and I can meld sounds to create multiple layers of "intricate" sounds thanks to the modern technology of looping. The music here is throatsinging meets everything else...but this is a great discovery for me and it's worth a listen. In a way, the loop machine can create sounds that, a Tuvan cowboy can make with a single throat! :) Also, if you type "Tuva" in iTunes you will come up with all kinds of interesting Tuvan music, from traditional to 'explicit' rock.

Several Tuva links here.

Indonesian Monkey Chant aka Kecak - interestingly enough, I discovered the root of this dance/chant is a love story! :)

Bali's Kecak Dance- Of all the dances seen on Bali today, the Kecak dance is perhaps the most dramatic. Taken from the Hindu epic Ramayana, the dance tells the story of Prince Rama and his rescue of Princess Sita, who has been kidnapped by the evil King of Lanka. Unlike other dances, there is no gamelan orchestra accompanying it. Instead, a troupe of over 150 bare-chested men serve as the chorus, making a wondrous cacophany of synchronized "chak-achak-achak" clicking sounds while swaying their bodies and waving their hands.

Indonesian monkey music

Tibetan music and long horns

(Note--when over half your post titles end with an exclamation point, you can be justifiably accused of overexcitement. The madness ends here.)

We have a Graphic Designer!

The illustrious Tim Eggert will be designing the publicity materials for the show. Check out his online portfolio.

We Have a Title!

It took a good deal of discussion coming up with a title for the latest play. The title of the original, "The Love Suicides at the Women's Temple," wasn't really appealing or accurate for Lucas's adaptation. Among the choices to replace it were:

Shootout at the Suicide Corral
Love Suicides at Motel 6
Love Suicides at the Heartbreak Motel
Cowboy Monk
The Ballad of Cowboy Monk and his Lady Love
A Girl, A Monk, and a Love Suicide
Tough Lovin' Ever After

This last one was deemed the most promising, but "tough lovin'"was considered a little too pop-psych. Submitted for consideration were "rough," "dead," and the eventual winner, "hard lovin'." We added a subtitle to lend a little more of the show's flavor, and voila:

Hard Lovin' Ever After
The Ballad of Cowboy Monk and His Lady Love

Mark your calendars, folks: February 16-19 at Access Theater's Gallery space, complete with wild theatrical genius.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Character through Gesture

One of the hallmarks of the work we do is an attentiveness to detail and precision, especially with regard to movement. We spend a lot of time in rehearsal crafting gestures and movements that reflect character. What that builds up to is a movement score that shares space and time with the musical score and the text--the balance of these elements is a major part of our artistic interest.

Last night's rehearsal was primarily about finding gestures for the characters we're playing. We spent time on more general things--how characters move, walk, stop, respond to the world around them--as well as specific ones, i.e. how do you choose to punctuate a piece of your text? How do you move, and where does the movement come? On the words, or between them? Over the course of a line, or sharply? How big a gesture is appropriate to the character and to the situation? And what gestures are just more interesting to watch: more surprising, funnier, more graceful?

The answers we come up with are all intuitive, based on the script, the story, the research we've done (images, sounds), and any number of random things that it would be hard to identify. But somehow they're both personal and entirely germane to the play.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Fancy Yellow Mohawks

When it comes to headgear, let me say--we are well equipped. Today we all got to try on our monk headpieces for the show, and they are truly incredible. There's a sort of Roman helmet look in yellow felt, with a big muppet mohawk on top. The color is actually closer to ochre. They're amazing, and they make for a compelling bunch of heads. We also got to try on our puffy red pants, apparently acquired from a rave distributor. Sartorially, we're in good shape. Jessica Ford, our costume designer, is doing great work. We thought about posting some costume sketches here (they're wonderful, too), but in the end we decided against it. Come to the show and be surprised.

Rehearsal was highly productive. We did preliminary work on several different parts of the play (or whatever we're making--see below), starting with the opening, which is an introduction to a particular temple's monks, known for their practice of a special endurance test. We spent a lot of time working on the test itself, which will definitely be tough on the quads, as well as on the introductions to several of the characters: Sam and Jenny (the love suicides of the title), the Narrator, the Envoy.

We also got to meet Pete List, who'll be collaborating musically on the show. Pete's a beat-boxer, guitarist and singer, and we got a brief look at the work he does, which involves looping vocal tones and rhythms and then building on them with effects and live vocals to create intricate sounds and really hot beats. Very psyched are we all to have him on board.

I should stop, because I sound like a cheerleader. But it really is very exciting to be back at work with such a great group. It's going to be a thrilling show, I do believe.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Here we go!

Well, we're on our way. Saturday was our first rehearsal. The whole cast was in attendance, except Bobby, who will be joining us from Cleveland at the end of the month. Also there were Jyana, Lucas, and Sean, who will be doing our "environment design."

It was a great, productive first meeting. We read through the latest script draft, which is very exciting--the elements of the story remain, but transmuted into something contemporary and eclectic and full of room for music and movement to help tell the story. We also got a look at the costume sketches Jessica prepared. They're gorgeous--think cowboy monks in mohawks, with individual unique details for each character. We ended with some performance work--some physical brainstorming on monk endurance tests and character movement.

All in all, a fun and encouraging day. What's especially exciting is the feeling of progress, that we've learned a lot since we were all together last, and yet we've picked up pretty seamlessly from where we left off. Can't wait to meet again...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What do we call what we do?

It's an incredibly busy time for Active Eye at the moment, as we gear up for work on our latest production (an adaptation of an 18th century Japanese play by Chikatmsu--check it out at the AE home page, link to the right). Part of that process is drafting our fundraising letter, to send out to the people who've been supporting our work for the last few years.

One problem we're having is finding a simple word for what we make. Plays are the traditional choice, but as Rika has pointed out, when people hear the word "play," they think acting, they think dialogue, they think sets and costumes, but they don't think music, and they probably don't think movement either (talking about a general audience here). So what do we use instead? Suggestions have included work, stage productions, and performances, but while they're all adequate, they don't quite give an immediate feeling of what we do.

Any suggestions? Those of you who've seen our work--how would you describe it?

Monday, January 02, 2006


Hello, everyone, and here's a blog for us! Hopefully this will become a lively place for all of our fans and interested folks to write breathlessly about our latest production. In that spirit, I'm utterly thrilled to have gotten the latest script draft and I can't wait to read it. Hoping you all had a great New Year...

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