Disturbed Balance

Anne Bogart's picture

Every autumn I arrange two museum visits with my first-year Columbia MFA directing students. On November 9th we were scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Museum of Modern Art on 54th street in Manhattan. But on November 9th the world into which I woke felt decidedly different. Actually, I did not really wake up into that day because I had not slept at all. Two hours before Hillary Clinton’s lead began its long descent, I began to feel catatonic. I sensed that something distressing was on the horizon.

The Ecstasy of the Privileged Moment

Anne Bogart's picture

On the evening of October 24th SITI Company will host a Noir Dinner, a fundraising event, in the wonderful restaurant known as the Library at the Public Theater where we will be honoring the brilliant duo Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal. The event promises to be joyful and delicious and I have been working hard with the SITI Company actors on a fun and surprising entertainment. But we need your help to meet our goal; all money raised in support of the Noir Dinner stokes the fires of SITI Company and keeps us moving forward.

Shared Heat

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I recently saw a Polish production of King Lear at the Venice Biennale directed by Jan Klata. But Lear was missing. Literally. At first the character of Lear was represented by an empty chair and a recorded voice and later by various visual projections. What the audience did not know and what I learned later, is that the actor who had originated the role had died a few months earlier. Rather than finding another actor to take over the part, Klata decided to deal with the actor’s physical absence within the context of the production. But this choice failed.

Resonance

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I lost count of the times that I have entered a room to find my wife Rena weeping amidst objects or photographs from her past. I watch how she gently and lovingly holds the objects that had once been touched by a cherished family member or gazes longingly at the visages of her children peering out at her from fading color photographs. These artifacts create tremendous resonance in her body and serve as a stimulus to vast landscapes of emotion and memory within her.

The Usefulness of Dissatisfaction

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Ric Zank and his company, the Iowa Theater Lab exerted a significant influence on me as well as on many of my colleagues during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The work was physical, imagistic, emotional and, to me, unforgettable. During rehearsals for a new production of Moby Dick in 1975, the lead actor of the company, the brilliant and physically masterful George Kon who was playing the whale, grew increasingly aggravated and upset. At one point his frustration intensified and escalated to a point that he literally ran up a wall of the rehearsal hall.

How To Embody Time

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As a midyear transfer student at Bard College, I stood on a long line to sign up for a popular theater class taught by Bill Driver, the chair of the theater department who would soon become my first directing teacher. Sitting quietly at a small desk, Driver seemed to ignore the frantic atmosphere of impatient students vying for places in his classes. After what felt like an interminable wait, I finally stood before him, surprised to find him relaxed and present with me, interested in who I was and where I came from. Despite the surrounding chaos, he seemed neither rushed nor harried.

Temenos

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Many years ago my T’ai Chi Chuan teacher Jean Kwok made a trip to Hong Kong. On her first morning in the city she walked into a nearby park to practice her form. The large park was filled with many separate groupings of people and individuals moving fluidly through a wide variety of styles of T’ai Chi Chuan. Developed by different families in China over the course of the centuries, there are literally hundreds of distinctly different forms of T’ai Chi. Jean walked around the park observing the variations in form with great interest.

Agency

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You are free to choose what you want to make of your life.  It’s called free agency or free will, and it’s your birthright.
(Sean Covey)

The moment that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanatta first encountered David Bowie on the cover of his record album Aladdin Sane at the age of 19, her perspectives and attitude were forever transformed. She said, “It was an image that changed my life. It was the beginning of my artistic birth.” She put the vinyl record onto a record player that sat on the stove of her tiny apartment and began to evolve into the Lady Gaga that we know today.

Bearing Witness

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For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.
(Elie Wiesel)

Poet and activist Maya Angelou wrote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” In small quotidian affairs as well as in the context of large world events, bearing witness to the suffering of others matters tremendously. The fact of being seen with empathy, especially in light of persecution or distress, provides the event an objective meaning. Bearing witness makes it real.

Energy

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Composer, music theorist, writer and influential artist John Cage, known for his delight in the unplanned and the unexpected, nevertheless recognized the necessity for an artist’s rigorous preparation and training. “Energy at its highest level,” he said, “energy that can be expressed by the movement of the human body, will not burst forth unless the dancers have had the courage to train themselves with extreme meticulousness.” 

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