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Meeting, 5/4/06

We met again in the basement room of the Newmans.

We discussed Marc’s ideas about how our Telling the Truth exercises could be molded into a performance that would not be simply an evening of monologues. To wit:

  • Dale and Ginny could begin telling “The Charlotte Story,” and the audience can tell that each is, besides sharing it with the audience as a whole, giving a special wink and a nod to another person in the audience.
  • These “privileged listeners,” as Marc called them, might comment, might contradict, might share their version of the story.
  • Other stories might spring up, through revelation, contradiction, explanation. Lying might occur.
  • The audience begins to wonder how much of what we’re saying is true (which they would anyway), especially when other cast members begin to share their recollection of the “memories” being shared.

After some more discussion, we played with Dale’s “Dog Story”:

  • Dale told a simple version of the story.
  • Michael interrupted with his own evaluation of dirt clods as projectiles, plus a quick comment on how he got a bloody nose from one.
  • Kevin, assuming the role of Dale’s brother, flatly contradicted the emotional basis of the story, i.e., he didn’t know why they had attacked the dog. Dale had a new slingsot, Kevin said, and deliberately led the attack.
  • Marc began musing about how the story couldn’t make sense, based on what he knew about Dale.
  • Melissa made the comment that her mother, Dale’s sister, would never have thrown anything at a dog and in fact would have adopted it, having done so with Melissa’s own dog.

Marc did his piece, posted elsewhere on this blog. It is a thoroughly self-conscious “art” piece, and a third of the way through it, Dale began an eye-rolling recapitulation of the evening in question to Kevin. “Marc” got mad at “Dale” for interrupting him, and “Dale” hushed. But, Kevin said afterward, “Dale” still undercut “Marc’s” story with the “true version” just by the expression on his face.

We discussed other ways this could be expanded on:

In a performance strategy that Dale called radiation, we could begin with a story being told up front like that (we have all been imagining this being performed at Gallery Row), but then commentary and new stories spreading from the stage to the tables and soon the whole room is full of performances. Like NTC’s murder mysteries, the audience has to choose what to pay attention to. They can’t hear it all.

We moved on to William Blake’s Inn. After a little futzing with the speakers, we listened to all fifteen pieces. Commentary followed:

  • We discussed performance options: dance, puppets, large sets, small sets, children, etc.
  • We developed several ideas for a framework scenario:
    • three children on the road, from somewhere to nowhere, and they encounter the Inn
    • three children at a stuffy Victorian inn, being seen and not heard; they attempt to play with a little puppet theatre (tiger, rabbit, sun, moon) but are shushed; the handyman gives them a little carved tiger, and they have a vision of the Inn
  • Marc had the idea of Blake being a constant, kindly, removed, sometimes scary presence, always at work on his engravings of the guests, which he hangs for viewing as each guest takes the spotlight.
  • Kevin discussed the idea that Dale’s music needed expanding. Since it started as a song cycle, to be sung by a chorus, obviously some expansion will be required to give room for any stage action. Dale commented on the differences between the pieces that were written first and the most recent ones and how he had written the recent ones with staging in mind.

The floor is now open for discussion.

In attendance: Marc, Dale, Melissa, Kevin, Kim, Michael, Billy


  1. Turff wrote:

    Other ideas:
    Thinking of the connections of listeners/confidants/conspirators as a network, with varying protocols or as a web that binds them inextricably together, yet in ways that are not common to one another. Various ways of making the connections included interruptions (verbal and non), physical disruption, “inserted discomfort”, thrown bits, uncomfortable silences, “walk-ins”, etc. We also discussed possible staging ideas, such as starting the event with all the trappings of a traditionally staged event, only to have it deteriorate into something that looks conspicuously disrupted and off the script.

    Dale also talked about being publicly nude a fair amount.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  2. Turff wrote:

    I suppose I should have made it clear that the contents of my post above were focused on the Art of Telling the Truth.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  3. marc wrote:

    I sent some recapitulations out into the loop. Let me re-print here:

    (The first was in response to Dale’s question about a when and where for performing AoTtT; the second was on Wm Blake)

    I don’t want a deadline to be our only effective motivator.

    The taste of a great process was present at the meeting last night. I was
    enjoying what we were doing too much to mess with it by talking about
    performance dates so soon. That’s me.

    Surely there are other ways to encourage the little woodland creatures to
    venture from their safe forest homes and try the crumbs we are offering.

    I encourage more of you to try making a little Art of Telling the Truth
    piece. A variety of styles is welcome; so far we have a “couples” anecdote,
    a childhood recollection (kudos to Kevin for his Ken Lyles), and an artsy
    self-conscious performance text (which was too much fun to make fun of).
    Collaboration on a piece is possible if you prefer to work that way. Why
    not a song?

    These pieces will be our raw material for putting the performance together.
    We have an insidious plan; come find out what it is.

    I realize it doesn’t seem real until we’ve put our group on the map, so to
    speak. We want to already have our first production behind us, so we can
    get to work resting securely on our reputation. I say, Fear not. Getting
    there is too much fun.

    One thing to do a this point, maybe, is to start playing with performing the songs to see what kind of events emerge. What kinds of performance experience for singers and listeners unfold? Could we make a cd of accompaniment wave files? If the “storytelling” impact of the songs is clear, it might open space for imagining complements to the performing of the songs.

    And what about the “sharing” of songs among two or more soloists where appropriate?

    After our meeting I’m compelled to try and “synthesize” all of our ideas into one imaginary world, just to see what happens:

    An artisan is putting touches on a pale, tepid sign, “Nobodaddy’s Retreat.” We see the gloomy guests inside the gloomy inn. A Tableau of Misery. We see a family arrive, prim and proper and humorless, Mother, Father, Grandmamma, perhaps, and taking up the rear in quiet resignation, the children. The ghostly staff welcomes them. Everyone takes tea. Dreadful. Stuffy. Only the artisan perhaps whistles and goes about his business with a touch of mischievous jovial intent. The Children practice being seen and not heard. An old man reads scripture as entertainment (oops, just alienated a few, sorry–but I’m trying to be loyal to Billy Blake). All listen quietly. A clock ticks and chimes, etc.

    The artisan comes in to try and light a fire in the fireplace. Conspiratorial glances exchanged between the artisan and the staff. A wink from him (it’s Blake, of course) enlivens them. A fire suddenly roars out of the hearth and Blake walks into it. The children take note of this with some understandable alarm. The staff is amused. The children approach the fireplace. The dour adults seem not to notice, warmed as they are, no doubt, by scriptural fire. A toy car rolls out of the fireplace. One child picks it up. Blake pops back out of the fire and invites the kids and the staff to come along. Even the cook sneaks out of the kitchen to join the fun. They follow Blake into the fire. (Just because Rowling used fireplaces for transport doesn’t mean its now off limits. It’s more about the idea of “walking into the fire” for our purposes, anyway)

    We might then witness the car as full-size and capable of transporting the group.

    Upon arrival, Blake steps out of the car with a new sign, replaces the Nobodaddy sign with another one he perhaps puts finishing touches on after arrival. The staff are invited to enter first. Then the children. It is the same interior as the previous in, but now it is situated against limitless sky. The adults in the drawing room have been replaced by creatures, fantastical figures, the staff in new costume. The walls in the drawing room can be flipped out, not only letting in more of the skylight behind, but revealing new, magical surfaces. As the walls flip out, the rest of the Inn is revealed, all three stories, as if architecture could flame out of the earth, spires the tips of flame reaching heavenward.

    The Inn is already full of children who invite the new arrivals to join them. We have now the transformative space of the Inn and the more open abstract space of the horizon and the heavens available for performing, for tableau, for dance, for puppets, images. Perhaps the small puppet theatre was originally covered in dust, neglected in a corner of the drawing room, a few sad paper puppets set upon its stage. In Blake’s Inn the puppet stage is a focal point. And Blake is giving the children fantastical figures to place upon the stage. Might the musicians be located in various “rooms” in the Inn.

    Random notions: during the Tyger sequences, at some point, the children watch a pas de deux, one dancer dressed in fiery red, the other in black, the energy of the dance merges them into the energy of the Tyger.

    Again, this is just an attempt to recapitulate our discussions from last night into a different form…

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  4. Dale wrote:

    If we use the idea of the Victorian paper puppet theatre–where the puppets are really no more than pasteboard cutouts on sticks–then our full-size puppets can also be two-dimensional and it will seem natural.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  5. marc wrote:

    Actors and dancers wearing these paper puppet pieces that are jointed at the actor’s joints, even at the neck. I can see a puppet character tilting a head up, and the two-dimensional head piece tilts up.

    If we use “traditional” puppet representations in a “Victorian” graphic style, then we can have fun creating scenic juxtapositions in which these paper puppets appear in incongruous and imaginative settings, after the spirit of Willard’s poetic discriptions of the impossible. Whimsy.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  6. marc wrote:

    Or a “Blakean” style, of course.

    So indulge me for a moment in my fondness for Blakeana.

    Old man with bad eyesight reading scripture with a magnifying glass in the drawing room at the beginning, everyone respectfully listening.

    At the end when we return to the drawing room (Ah, mustn’t me always return…) the adults are transformed somehow due to Blake’s influence. The Old Man has now clearly lost all eyesight and become Milton intoning passages from Paradise Lost.

    Blake admired Milton…you see.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  7. Dale wrote:

    Kevin says “public nudity” like it’s a bad thing.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  8. Dale wrote:

    To answer a question two or three comments back, yes, I can make CDs for everyone. I can also print out the piano score as it stands for anyone who would like it to mark on.

    I can foresee a time very soon where I will need to create a separate blog for WBI, where we can brainstorm ideas for this major project. Or should we keep all that here?

    There’s a fabulous program called Curio which allows you to brainstorm and store and sort and all kinds of cool stuff. I’m going to start a Curio file for WBI where I can drop all our ideas. I can then export it periodically as PDF or PowerPoint or even webpages.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  9. marc wrote:

    Can you work with images in Curio? Sketches, etc. Scanned items, jpg, etc? I’m thinking about trying to move to an exchange above and beyond text as soon as possible.

    This is an aside, but while I’m there. Could this Curio program work with the High School One Act Play development site? Which could become part of Lacuna. In brief, we’ve talked in the past about creating a resource web site for high school students and teachers who might want to build their One-Act Play entries for competition out of a year-long collective creation process.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  10. Turff wrote:

    I am appalled. I passed no such judgements about nudity, expressed or implied. One might even say that some of my best memories involve nudity.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  11. Turff wrote:

    Another thought on the puppet thing: if pre-transformation, there are puppets of rabbit, tiger, and the guy with jelly on his hat, then I think the parents and other gloomy types should be puppets on the other side, while the rabbet et al become of greater dimension.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 1:47 pm | Permalink
  12. Dale wrote:

    Curio handles everything, and can either link to the original file or actually embed the file itself. Go look at the website,

    It does not, however, function as an online gizmo. Otherwise, it is exactly the kind of thing you seek.

    Friday, May 5, 2006 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  13. Dale wrote:

    Since we are adapting a song cycle for what we would like to become an international children’s thing, we will need to keep an eye on exactly what said international children would be doing in each piece. I’m adding a children’s bits list to each idea space in my Curio file.

    Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  14. Dale wrote:

    Here’s a link to a staged version of a Victorian toy theatre:

    In case you were wondering what one looked like. (Yes, it’s already in my Curio file.)

    And look at this:!

    Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  15. marc wrote:

    I will at some point look at these things. Whew!

    I like the idea of parents as puppets on the “other side.”

    I wonder if there will be an amiable agon over this issue of family.

    In fact, I’m even curious at Willard’s take on Blake as “father” figure (for the Tyger or the children).

    I quietly bristled inside at the first attempt to impose a “Holy Family” componenet (as drab and uninvolved as it may be) because I want to be Blake’s advocate. (And I realize that Willard’s Blake is not my Blake; I need to keep that in mind). Blake was rather radical and revolutionary in his views on the power of the imagination to transform reality. “Family” would read as hypocritical and institutional, an imposition of control on the human spirit. Hence my fondness for the idea of children unanchored, children as free pilgrims.

    The trope of “escape” from a stultifying family environment, seemingly a liberatory gesture, still can keep the Oedipal anchor at full weight.

    Hmmm. I will keep thinking and questioning how the “family” is ultimately portrayed.

    I am trying to be delicate because I don’t know how many interpretations of the phrase “family values” exist among our numbers.

    Saturday, May 6, 2006 at 11:58 am | Permalink