Why my waxing and waning: same old manifesto

 

Two supply priests exhibited the elements that interest me. One possessed a deeply resonant voice which he employed in a wonderfully archaic homiletic style. He was in his seventies so maybe not so archaic for him. You could imagine a Nineteenth-Century American declamatory style of oration (and acting) at it’s best. But most effective was the way he linked his manner with his rhetoric. Use of ellipsis. Use of non sequitur. Use of wit. Effortlessly conjuring a theatre of mind and heart. The other was an African American man in his sixties. His style was not really what I associate with classic Black Gospel/Pentecostal style. More of what I would characterize as a classic, spiritually large African American “thespian” or histrionic (in the best sense of the word) approach. He stood in front of the altar, unanchored to ambo. His voice occupied a plaintive register, as if his voice was the sole representative of the human condition in its pain and longing for transcendence. Somewhat improvisational, but not built on repetitions as much as on waves of intensity. He very much evoked for me Grotowski’s notion of the actor as sacrificial agent with his address to us as also an impersonation of our collective sense of soul.

Yes, the rhetorical moves can be composed, documented, recreated. I’m more intrigued by what we might separate out as essential but unscriptable: aspects of voice and physical engagement, non-verbal energies of impersonation.

I have great admiration for Neo-Futurism (our current focus and project) as an attempt to precipitate the most compelling and effective aspects of what I would call a Theatre of Wit. It’s a conceptual compositional challenge. I can pretend to be clever if I set the scene properly, but my interests really lie elsewhere. Cleverness and wit of conception are not capacities I can use consistently to “make theatre.” It’s a put on, for me, a struggle to keep up, a frustrating deficit. So I wax and wane. Theatre guy but not a “theatre guy.” It’s not a paradox I enjoy, I assure you!

So I want to reaffirm my interests, primarily for myself. It’s easy to lose touch with them. As a potential performer, my goals and interests produce a great deal of fear and dread in me as I think about trying to bring such things to the table. I thought it might make more sense to collaborators if I tried to list these things, so you might understand my fears and see how you respond. Maybe what I fear is bread and butter for you. If so, I crave your input and guidance.

Not only must I be ready to bear witness to everything, but I must be ready to encounter everything.

I want to isolate, identify, contemplate, and celebrate every little moment, behavior, atmosphere, sounds, image, gesture, pause, accident, and notion. I wish to ponder those. I wish to compose with those.

There has to be a perverse push to intimacy in my actions. I must assume the same urge in everyone.

I want to try to converse using non-verbal, non-rational, embodied elements. I want these conversations to be both banal and sublime. I want to be happy when something goes nowhere.

I want to explore what these difficult and elusive components of a performing body trigger. I look for elusive terrain.

I am more interested in the audience’s response to events than in telling stories. I’m not good at telling stories, so I’m always searching for something for which I have a working facility.

I’m always trying to traumatize myself with the unprecedented.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want this to be interpreted as my declaration of a desire to scandalize or shock. It would be easy to exploit this manifesto for assorted personal agendas. That’s part of my fear and dread. Eliciting whispers and tittering is no fun for me. I guess I want the “push to intimacy” to be somewhat heroically philosophical and omnipresent, a give and take that flows as naturally as water. It may be an impossible ideal because it’s not something I can assume readily. I’ve witnessed performers/researchers assume it, but I mostly stood cut-off and uncertain about my role. It’s a difficult thing to ask of people. I fear asking it of myself. I’ve seen it and I’ve witnessed the conversations unfold (many years ago), but re-creating the climate and including myself as a motivating agent is difficult.

The supply priests encouraged me not to worry my interests are solely rooted in memory and past traumas. These performance possibilities are part of our lives and experiences now. It’s reassuring to be reminded of that. These elements are viable and vital. I will continue to ponder them.

What I have not done with this manifesto is draw far reaching conclusions for the kinds of work that might begin. I need to think about that. I invite others to do so.

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