Well, first things first. You know today was Darron’s birthday. Mine was Friday. “Back in the day” D and I used to host a shared b’day bash every year with our friend and colleague/board members Chris Healy (who shares the day with me) and Dan Smith. I’m sure there are stories there not appropriate for this diary. Ellen Lauren and I reminisced that we used to lie on the roof of the old dorm in Toga Japan on this night and watch the annual meteor shower to celebrate with red bean pastries and one-cup sakes for many years running. I was greeted on the first break Friday with “Happy Birthday to you …” and a ShooFly pie AND a chocolate cream pie that Ellen M. made! Apparently my son Paddo told her that I liked shoofly. What a brilliant treat. Thank you again Ellen. Then Saturday “all those whose names don’t rhyme with ‘Taron’ should go to the green room.” We all arrived and decided to sing “You are the Sunshine of my life” to Darron instead of “Happy Birthday”. This time Ellen M. made chocolate chip banana bread AND peanut butter cookies. That girl brung it all i’m sayin’. So thank you Persian Peeps on behalf of both of us. Saturday night Marianne and I hosted an informal Korean Taco night at our apartment for everyone. Lots of kimchee and spicy pork and sweet beef and good, fun eating and conversation to celebrate the end of another week and Darron’s b’day.
Saturday’s 12pm – 6pm rehearsal flew by after several days of 12 – 8 so that we could spend the evening hours working outside. After training we spent time with Stasimon #1 singing and doing the movement (march). That is really coming along. We realized that some of the singing lines had morphed or been exchanged and Darron helped us get back on the correct parts we each should be singing. Then we worked the on Stasimon #3 which is the step sequence in the meter of the Greek text that we have learned. This is proving so tricky. We’ve trimmed the meter some and tightened the text up. I’m trying to find a kind of feel or style for it. We are few, a happy few, but few, and so I need to think about how it works on that big stage. Really it’s not about dancing or movement invention. It’s intended to be a) a visual/psychological remembrance of the original metric poetry of the original Greek and b) a visual quote of what we imagine the Greek chorus was doing in their performance — dancing left and right while singing the text. And I hope that it works as a rhythmic change to propel and surprise. So it is not about virtuosity of dance, nor spectacle … just another way. It proves tough and we all have trouble remembering. And, as Ellen referenced in her last diary, she is there quietly working with us in the extreme upstage, as she says, to replace the luminosity games she hasn’t been playing to preserve her mind and memory.
I’m excited about these last two scenes we’ve been working on. First is the reentrance of the queen as Ellen wrote about and then the Ghost of Dareius raising. Ellen is right. The entrance to the queen and the goings on thereafter are tricky. We are singing it. Ellen for her part found not only the singular golden bowl (such a smart solution), but a way to play this which is so simple and compelling, and, dammit, elegant. And it’s theatrical. We’ve constantly been reminding ourselves that yes we have to be true to the psychological, the historical, the tragical, the comical, but also to the theatrical. What is our sensibility and how does it jive or not with the historical? So lovely and smart and simple Ellen. And then we sing. Again, this is a smart group and beyond thinking just about the singing parts and difficulty, the conversation turns to STORY. We work that out, and try some ideas to fix the staging. So many ideas, but we try something. Anne rushes to the stage and says, “I cannot express how strongly the first, simple choice we made is.” Meaning our original choice. And so we are clear and go back to it and work on the singing.
As for the Dareius scene, I was really nervous. We’d found a theatrical and elegant suggestion how that would go when we were outside a long time ago, just f@*&king about with the sculptural body parts. And we thought maybe we’d gotten lucky on that one and had it in hand. And now that is about as far from what we are doing as the moon is from mount Olympus – Or Salamis from Athens on foot.
I think this is as far out there theatrically and staging-wise as we’ve gone for some time. Really trippy and risky and so true to the chorus sensibility that we are always reminding ourselves we are tasked with maintaining. And then Stephen starts speaking – when he is ready and when conditions are right. It’s a matter of patience on his part to set the timing just right for us all, and tone so that he can carry a large story while setting the pace for the chorus and queen, and action, always action, as the messenger said a long time ago, “… when every instant cried out for action.” I can’t recall doing anything like this in our history and if so it is very old school Or, it could be UNDER CONSTRUCTION which is what it feels like as we make and perform it. Just between you and me, I think there’ll be a little improvisational element in it every night that we do it. Super fun to work on.
And here comes Xerxes aka GM screaming into existence and we stop him short and once again to end the day. Big question in the room how this entrance is going to happen, and what we want to say about it. That is what we want to say about it as a company, as contemporary Americans, as global citizens, and as artists tasked with representing the voice of Aeschylus now. Sorry GM. We’ll tackle this tomorrow and beyond. As for for last night and today, believe me the birthday party, Korean taco night voices of this marvelous group of celebrators echoed opinions and theories late into the night. All in all a proper celebration, and late night incantation. A mix of simple demonstrations of love and friendship, and drunken entertaining juggling.
And their ghosts resonate today on the day off as, I hope, the company got their laundry done, their calls home made, their bills paid, their groceries got, and some time to sit quietly, relax, rest for what will be a long week ahead.
Finally, I’ll end with this from on company member: “It’s a strange play. If we make a strange production it’s not our fault.” I say, yes, how to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange again.
Love to all and thank you for the kind wishes. As Chris Healy said, okay, let’s take another lap around the sun … starting tomorrow.