The Unrelenting Spirit

March 28, 2011

The Unrelenting Spirit

Amid unrelenting destruction arises an unrelenting spirit

A divine call to action, a human tide of resistance

If chaos is inevitable then too our self-preservation is endemic, in our DNA

And when the alarms sound we naturally respond to them

New York, Japan, Chile these is where our spirits diverge, where our humanity is showcased.

The New York firefighter, the Chilean miner and the Japanese boatsman, these are warriors cut from the same cloth, displaying their natal colors proudly but battling the same forces.

And we the spectators, the public, physically unharmed but spiritually disrupted, we too are cut from the same cloth. And our tools are just as powerful. Facebook, CNN, Twitter, church: these are our forums, our places-of-action, where we prepare and attack, to maintain dignity, to provide stability, to usher in progress. And through it all, our divergence continues, this natural progression to become one spirit. Through products of our own human imagination, we create human connections, the Sunni emails the Catholic, the Muslim pings the Atheist, the Hindu tweets to the Jew, in small acts of synergy, pulses of progression.

And after the smoke clears, the spirit doesn’t fade, the fire doesn’t die out, rather the warriors and the spectators continue on this divergent path, freshly-educated, newly-enlightened… the fire swells, the spirit shines brighter.

So that when this unrelenting destruction swells again,

The unrelenting spirit will respond again, stronger and more powerful than the time before. And ever-divergent, unified.

This is endemic; it’s in our DNA.

–Cesar Guadamuz
OMG NYC correspondent

video from OMG field trip to Malcolm X Park, Washington, DC, March 20, 2011:

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Oh-My-God-Oh-My-God-Oh-My-God, what the hell do I write about this piece? This piece, this piece, this piece! This piece, which has roiled like whitewater in our minds these many months. This piece, which has both gnawed at our ankles and set off a thousand compact florescent lightbulbs of the mindbodysoul.

Yea, and I mean YEA , like they say in the Bible—sounds like “YAY” but with a deeper voice and loads of gravitas—YEA, I say, YEA, we have walked through the valley of rambling and meandering philosophical discussion, from Genesis to Revelation, from the Bodhi Tree to the Joshua Tree, from the Alpha to the OMeGa.

And LO, we sit now in the fumbling darkness, in the muck, lumping chunks together and molding, shaping, scraping. But YEA…LO…ummm, forsooth? No, no…VERILY! Yes, verily, we we have faith, yes we have FAITH, despite our snark-laced generation Xness, that some light will shine through in the end.

Creating theatre under pressure is a crazy process. But look what pressure does to coal over time. I’m not saying this piece will be theatrical diamonds, we don’t want to raise expectations so high. I mean, we don’t have a ton of time here. Forget about “diamonds are forever” because the fact is diamonds TAKE forever…maybe we should shoot for cubic zirconium? Would the audience even notice? My point: the pressure of the deadline, the knowledge that lights will shine on what we’ve been up to, it’s incredibly galvanizing.

Things are going well. Synapses are firing. We’re cutting away what’s unnecessary and working to put together the greatest gift we’re able to muster with the tools and the time we have before us. We’re working through the pesky barriers between vision and language and starting to find our stride. And we’re looking forward to bouncing things off some real live actual people who have heartbeats and eyeballs and saliva.

Until next time,

Patrick

PS – Quick reminder on our performance dates. Book your calendars!

All performances are ticketed at a “pay what you can” basis, and will take place at DC’s Source Theatre (1835 14th St. NW) on the following dates:
Monday, April 11 (8pm)
Tuesday, April 12 (8pm)
Sunday, April 17 (7pm)
Monday, April 18 (8pm)

Veronica, on Arizona

March 12, 2011

This video comes from the underpass that connects Tucson downtown and Tucson hippie town; yet another borderland where the transient momentarily dwell. Is there a collective sense of identity or purpose that arises simply from sharing the moment?

Can DC relate?

As the physical manifestation of OMG’s theoretical discussions comes to be, I am excited by the challenge of meeting new minds and the creative exploration that follows. While I was in Tucson, the terrible shooting shocked the town. I attended the memorial where President Obama, among many others, spoke. The event was called TOGETHER WE THRIVE: Tucson and America. The “poem of hope” in our programs rings to me now. When such atrocity is rampant, a humble artistic endeavor can fall easily to wayside, but words like these aid in reminding us that our humanist curiosity is worthy of action.



TO THE NEW YEAR.


With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible.

–WS Merwin, US Poet Laureate

Yael chimes in!

March 7, 2011

[Here’s a quick post from Yael, our terrific documentary filmmaker who Jason met serendipitously on a plane coming back from London last summer. Please check out her recent film A Slim Peace, which has screened on the Sundance Channel!]

It’s gonna be hard to top Jason’s terrific report from our Thursday meeting so I wont even try to! I will use my first-ever blog posting to say how fantastic this process has been so far. First off, its been wonderful to meet Jason, Veronica, Patrick and Cesar and the new folks coming in to the world of the devised soon to be OMG piece!

The process over the course of a few months of talking lots about identity, spirituality and translating these themes into a theater piece has been wholly engaging and challenging! Now we are getting into the thick of the process. Our active and creative exercises are starting to bear fruit and serve as inspiration for vignettes for the piece to come… Also, reflecting back on the several film shoots we have done… grabbing my camera and mic and going out with the group to interview folks from our list of five questions…

How do you define yourself? Our distilled questions work well with most and the conversations can quickly become personal and revealing of someone’s personality, stage in life and past regrets or dreams for the future. I think we have some great material and we’re looking for a video editor to help us! I think we found one!

Excited for the coming weeks as our momentum builds closer to the dates in April… OMG that’s soon! See you on Monday all for the next rehearsal!

OMG finds its feet!

March 4, 2011

OMG! March is our month! Our full team (minus our NYC correspondent Cesar) met for the first time in months last night, and we are beginning the exhilarating work of creating art (can we call it that yet?) out of the raw materials and “data” we’ve collected. We also discussed using this blog as a way to keep a record of ideas and images discovered via the rehearsal process, and to share some of that with readers. All of our core collaborators will be posting here within the coming weeks, so keep checking in!

Prior to rehearsal, Patrick and I discussed the importance of ritual as a unifying theme not only within our piece, but within rehearsals themselves. As we make the transition from “head” work (brainstorming around a conference table) into “body” work (getting up on our feet), we want to maintain a level of physical awareness and connection to each other. To that end, we began with some warmups led mostly by Veronica, just back from her directing gig in Arizona. Yoga! The numbers game! Zip-zap-zop! Poor Yael, a filmmaker in a room with all these hyperactive theater people. 🙂

With bodies now present, we dive in. I have a green gym bag overstuffed with books: mystical poetry, texts on religious topics, Renaissance and modern art books. I dump everything onto the floor (my poor 1920’s era copy of Eliot’s Four Quartets is taking a beating!) and we each take a few minutes to select a piece of text or an image which resonates. Going around in a circle, we all share in the “show and tell” style we’re now used to. What do you like about the piece you’ve chosen? What grabs you about it? Is there an image that’s usable? Veronica chooses a poem dealing with Freud, Patrick picks a mystical poem from Darshan Singh, Yael grabs a small bit of ee cummings text, and I find an image from Magritte called ‘The Tempest’, which Veronica gasps upon seeing – apparently she has the same image on a postcard, and is one of her favorites. (Rehearsal synchronicity moment #1!) We discuss what makes the image compelling: as the heavenly clouds cross over traditional boundaries into the everyday, there’s a beautiful blending of worlds. Might we use blocks onstage to create a similar effect? Could be. However, we will probably not use a fog machine. 😉

At this point Veronica is anxious to show us some video she shot while in Tucson, so we watch that for around ten minutes, and brainstorm about possible ways to incorporate video into our piece. The video (will embed here soon) is striking compositionally: Veronica happens to be filming a lengthy poem on a cement floor of a subway station; while she’s doing this, a homeless man interrupts her, and we watch the organic transition into Veronica asking him our questions. Both the setting and the honest reflections of the man (‘How do I define myself? I am an alcoholic.’) leap out from her computer screen. How to use any of this in the piece? No one’s clear on that yet, but there’s something in this for sure.

Our first “special guest” arrives: Gabby, a terrific local actress whose work most of us know, and we continue on with a staging exercise. Splitting into two groups (Yael/Veronica/Gabby; Patrick/myself) we select text from printouts of interview answers we’ve received from people from all over the country, the pages of which which I have scattered on the floor in the rehearsal room, and try to pair these up with images.  Over the next twenty minutes both teams create a piece, performing them for each other. (Allow me to give a shoutout to Jo and Tom of The Performance Corporation, who spearheaded the Swampoodle development week I attended in Ireland last month; as my primary experience with devised theater, I’m hoping that many of the exercises we worked with during that week, which I blogged about here and here, will help to inform the OMG process moving forward.)

The ladies begin with Yael standing, reading from one of the responses in sort-of loose “hippie” style; the piece then morphs into a Gabby holds a “knife” to Veronica’s head, which is positioned upside down to us. The staging is jarring in its brutality and confrontation. Gabby asks the questions repeatedly as Veronica shouts back “Prefer not to answer! Prefer not to answer!” (Which was one respondent’s answer to five of our six questions!) The inspiration for this image, the girls later reveal, came from the Caravaggio image below, ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac’.

Another bolt of synchronicity (#2!) is realized when I share about a terrific Caravaggio documentary I had watched that very afternoon. There’s clearly something in Caravaggio’s personality which resonates with OMG: Caravaggio was a brawler, a murderer even, who shocked the bourgeois by creating sacred art via the the most irreverent means, often incorporating his barroom friends into what were supposed to be sacred paintings. One story I remember from the doc is how he allegedly modeled the painting below (‘The Death of the Virgin Mary’) by using the corpse of a drowned prostitute as a model!

The piece Patrick and I devised was initially inspired by a response to the “what are you most proud of?” question, in which a new father first answers “My son,” then goes on to describe the process of watching his one-year old grow. With this in hand, I searched for an image, and the first page (synchronicity #3!) of a book of old photographs I opened up shows an image of a father baptizing his son in a pool of water, in front of a crowd of community members, ca. 1900. We pre-record the text onto my iPhone, set the “audience” in the same place where they’re located in the photograph, with us in line next to them, and silently act out the journey of a father bringing his son into the water for the ritual act of baptism. In a funny twist, we neglect to tell the girls to stay in the “audience section” and they follow us into the “water!” (And wow, I found the image online!)

Overall it feels thrilling to get up on our feet, especially given that we’ve been so involved with “talking” about our concepts and visions of what this piece will be. Beginning next week, the goal is to invite more and more artists into the room, adding elements like music and dance, even lighting, and see what comes out. As we pack up, Patrick assigns us “homework”: track where we overhear people (or even ourselves) saying “Oh my God!” during the course of the day. I’m writing this the following morning and already have two to discuss!

Keep checking in folks, and if you’re so inclined, please follow us on Twitter. Performances of OMG will take place the evenings of April 11, 12, 17, and 18, at Source Theatre in DC. We’re happy you’re here!

OMG shifting into 2nd gear…

February 28, 2011

Hello, interwebs!

Forgive us our lack of posting, but behind the scenes things have been buzzing along for the OMG team. We’ve met bunches of times in conference rooms and cafés, and though our brainstorming process continues, we’ve accumulated just about enough “data” to start the process of getting some raw materials up on stage. We’ve also been in talks with a wonderful dancer and even a magician (?!) about their involvement, and we look to add more artists of different stripes over the following weeks.

For now, I want to post here the questions we’ve been centering our work around. Mind you, these are whittled down from an original list of about 30, but we’ve found that these questions represent a sort of condensed version of the larger list anyway. People respond to them in a variety of ways, most of which are consistently thought-provoking and point toward larger themes which we’ll want to explore in our final work. (Should anyone come across this blog and want to particpate, please contact us at omgdc@gmail.com; we always, by the way, recommend that people have a good glass of wine in front of them before beginning!)

Also, in my next post I’ll start including a few examples of some of the text we’ve received in response, and I’ll post more over the next week as more come in. Also also, this week we’re thrilled to get Veronica back from her directing gig in Arizona; she’s been sending us a few updates a week from the land of the cactus, but now that she’s back our exploration process can resume in full. More news to come!

1) How do you define yourself?

2) When do you feel most alive?

3) What are you most proud of?

4) Where do you find hope?

5) What does life expect of you?

6) What is your image of God, if you have one?

an opening leap

December 23, 2010

Good morning world!

I’m so pleased to set up this blog for our OMG theatrical experiment. Our creative team has been building this concept for the past few months and we’re hoping this blog will now provide a public forum for further exploration. We’re thrilled that our project was chosen to be a grantee of the Mead Theatre Lab program run by Cultural Development Corporation (CuDC) of Washington, DC, a terrific group of people assisting us with logistics, rehearsal/performance space, and development. We have performance dates for our preliminary staged reading lined up for April 2011 at Source Theatre in Washington, DC.

So what is OMG? We think it’s about using the open-ended nature of the creative process to uncover some answers to a few persistent, human questions about our place in the world. What moves you? What’s your place in the world? Sure, “OMG!” is one of the most common exclamations in contemporary society, but why? It seems to work as shorthand for bliss, for exasperation, somehow simultaneously indicating belief and disbelief, and it seems like everybody uses it. So we’re on the street interviewing anyone who will talk to us, and we’re capturing on-the-spot impressions and images people have about spirituality. We want to harness some of the power of social media as well; please follow us on Twitter and help us find some answers: What are the things you dream about but can’t seem to put your finger on? What are the larger questions of life and existence? And what forms would answers to these questions take on stage?

Our creative team of Washington, DC and New York City-based artists (Veronica, Patrick, Cesar, myself, and our documentary filmmaker Yael), will be posting here regularly with some of our findings, and with further questions, so please check in and feel free to pose some of your own thoughts and ideas. You may end up seeing your thoughts on stage!

I’ll cap off this first post with a Billy Collins poem, the relevancy of which should be apparent. Cheers, all.

Jason

OH, MY GOD

Not only in church
and nightly by their bedsides
do young girls pray these days

Wherever they go,
prayer is woven into their talk
like a bright thread of awe

Even at the pedestrian mall
outbursts of praise
spring unbidden from their glossy lips.