Connecting to the SITI Conservatory

Dec 18, 2013

To my old friends and new ones at the wonderful  Inaugural class of the SITI Conservatory.  I started this 2 weeks ago in LA but forgot to post it. So pardon the belated entry.  j.


Hello from Los Angeles where people are all wearing jackets and coats as the weather here has dropped from 80* F last Sunday to 44 *F last night. Today is Friday and the temperature is supposed to drop to below 40 this evening as I write this in my office at UCLA. The campus is in Westwood just east of Santa Monica and the ocean so it does gets cooler here at night than downtown LA where I am staying now. Today was my last class for the fall quarter but I am staying to see an evening performance of a Greek comedy by a graduate director, I am especially interested in her work since Eliza will be applying for the SITI Summer Intensive at Skidmore….And that is somewhat common in my life out here now – how to keep and maintain my relationship with my company and so now to you, the members of our inaugural SITI Conservatory class.

I get the weekly schedule Akiko sends to the faculty and staff, I read and follow along with the class notes my fellow company members share with me… and I talk with Ellen about you often. Some of you I know quite well, some I have trained with and taught and the others I have met in your interviews or have studied your applications and probably saw you via Skype at the now infamous Cocktail party at my own apartment but which I missed. Now I am looking forward to being in the studio with you and seeing your work of which I hear many wonderful things. Ellen and the other company members speak highly of you as individuals and even more as a group … as a palpable company of indomitable spirits and fortitude and so I cannot wait to share Creative Lab with you and my company.

These last three months have been both glorious and sad. We all worked so hard and so long to set up and start this conservatory and now that it is going so strongly it is bittersweet to hear how well you are all doing in this grand experiment, so I share it via email and in what other small ways I can.

Here at UCLA I am also part of a new experiment, a multi-disciplinary collaboration between all first year MFA students, all actors, director and playwrights study and train together, they are writing, directing and creating 12 short plays that will be whittled down to 3-4 one acts plays to be presented at the end of the year. Next year each discipline will concentrate either on acting, directing or writing but for now we are together and sharing time, space and classes. In the training, that I lead, I have chosen to start with text that we work on in SITI classes as a way to stay and feel connected to the work you are doing there as well. We are not using the PERSIANS text but the DANTE and the Macbeth scene, which I have worked on with many of you. It is going well here but how I wish I had Ellen or Barney in the room once in a while or Tina and Daiva just a few of you for even just a day or two to elevate the class and lead by example, as I know you must all try to do daily for each other. Here no one has trained previously, although’ a few have some…exposure and while they are genky and very open to the new direction of this program I came here to lead I sometimes wonder  if they are getting sick of my voice. I talk about Ellen, I mention Akiko, I steal some images from Kelly, I lean on the years and shared experiences of all my SITI mates… and yours, in New York, Skidmore, Windsor and even out here previously in LA and we talk about the necessity of rigorous training, of aspiring to virtuosity and of collaboration and ensemble and perhaps in that way too I feel we are sharing experiences across the distance and continent.   3 days a week we have a big black box performance space and I so wish I could blink you all here for just one class. And they are making work –as you are, not in the same manner, not as compositions, here they are each writing a play and directing someone else’s, while also acting in another- and as I know you are, they are overworked, exhausted and somewhat stressed. BUT they are done now for the fall.

Earlier this morning we had an open class, we trained for 30 minutes then opened the door to guests for a 45 minute lec/demo and then a short Q&A, not unlike the way we have often ended training sessions in the SITI studio.  Later in the afternoon they had their final showings of scenes from their working scripts. Then we cleaned the space I said goodbye for the quarter, wished my students a good holiday and, came to sit here in my office to think of this past 10 weeks and the future two.  I look out my window as the light starts to fade here in West Los Angeles and see students walking by in thick sweaters and coats and remember that soon I will be in New York and catching the subway to YOUR studio and to come train with YOU. I look forward to that, to meeting you and saying hello to old friends and new. I can’t wait to see your ensemble… and hope you will accept me into it for a while.

Sincerely,  j.ed