Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Note About Perchance to Dream

My studies of Dalí and his art first inspired me to write Perchance to Dream. I am so intrigued by the notion of the subconscious mind and its role in our life. Dalí’s art was called “Surreal” (as if anyone didn’t already know), meaning it is an unedited rendering of the images seen in the mind’s eye. There were many Surrealists in Dalí’s day. However, Dalí distinguished himself by creating art on a greater and deeper level; he himself was the piece of art. Dalí lived his life around fulfilling his desires, the desires we all have, deep from the subconscious. He had the modest goals of achieving nothing more than worldwide fame, unending sex, and fabulous wealth. In his youth, Dalí as a personality was as infamous as his art, for, really, they had deliberately become one and the same. The ingenious thing about Dalí—the reason I call him the greatest artist ever to live—was because he was wholly (and I mean wholly) devoted to his art, so much so that he had crafted a complex, swirling universe with its own physical laws and logic, a universe he expressed onto the canvas. To put it simply, the art pieces Dalí created did not comprise their own world, but instead were reflections of the actual—though, necessarily, imaginary—worlds he lived. There is a difference. Dalí’s paintings do not exist as some other thing, something separate from reality. Instead, they depict a reality quite unfamiliar to us, though it is a reality that is importantly all the more real precisely because we cannot see it: it exists only in the subconscious mind, which is indeed more real than the series of patterns that our conscious mind fabricates and we take for granted as existing in front of us. You see, Dalí tapped into something that to my knowledge has yet to be tapped in to, being the true nature of things. True art, he would say, is that which is uniquely human, that does not imitate nature but enacts nature. And getting in touch with our subconscious mind is the path to true self-knowledge and self-actualization, and the only way to become mentally-healthy. Dalí was in touch with his subconscious—so I say—but his life would certainly dissuade anyone to argue that he was healthy.

The interesting thing about Dalí’s life is that he died an unhappy, yet he had achieved that worldwide fame and fabulous wealth. Did his life prove his art to be meaningless?

The Neo-Freudian psychoanalyst C. G. Jung hypothesized that all humans throughout all of time were/are connected by a sort of universal, primal memory that manifests itself in similar ways in art and literature. His called this theory the “collective unconscious.” It is a theory to which I prescribe. In terms of Dalí, then, his reality is our reality, which if you’re familiar with his art is a scary thought. This, though, would be essentialist and gloss over the truly unknowable nature of the subconscious. Dalí’s reality was uniquely his; because he was a human individual, his version of reality is different that anyone else’s. What we can gain from Dalí’s example, though, is how complicated accurately portraying the contents of the subconscious mind is. But, if we examine the theories of Jung and Dalí, and combine them together, we get a sort of beautiful perspective on the nature of the world, culture, and history. It is beautiful in how it gives us a panoramic vista of the human mind. But, like all sublime visions, it is impossible to describe using language and futile to portray logically.

This all has a point, I promise, for this is where Perchance to Dream comes in. Obviously, there are many intellectual ideas and many intellectual people behind the play’s provenance. But ultimately, it is the feeling the individual gets after watching Perchance to Dream that matters. Emotion is human, and art that produces emotion is human. The great American poet Wallace Stevens said in “Man Carrying Thing” that a “poem must resist the intelligence.” I agree with him, and I translate his statement to drama. Just like a Stevens poem, Perchance to Dream can be independently felt, and thought about. Enjoy.
-Jason Sebacher, Playwright of Perchance to Dream

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Directing and Designing Endgame

The relationship between directors and designers and Beckett can be terrifying. We are faced with artists who have tried and “failed” to create Beckett’s worlds. Reading Lois Oppenheim’s Directing Beckett is like witnessing some kind of scholarly WWF match of great minds who defend their work as well as (is some cases) quickly dismiss work of other artists like (poor, poor) JoAnne Akalaitis. One would think some of the artists in the pages of this book had violated some biblical code based on the reactions of some of the directors. Xerxes Mehta:

stage directions, which solicit the images, are the play and that a director or performer who adds to, subtracts from, or alters them in any appreciable way is not tinkering with interpretation but, rather, creating something different, not by Beckett. (pg. 184)

Akalaitis defends her work by saying, in response to what a director’s role is for the play:

You create the play. The script is the starting point. The script is dramatic literature. The script is not the play. The play is an event… I don’t think about interpreting or creating. I think that one does it. One does the play. There is this very silly reaction toward directors as auteurs- that, if you have a visual idea, if you do more than put a tree on a stage, you have violated the author’s intentions. Are directors ruining plays? It’s really a very false, a misguided, notion about what theatre is, because theatre is what happens on the stage. It’s about design and actors and director and audience. (pg. 137-138)

Akalaitis led a hugely criticized production of Endgame at the American Repertory Theatre that set the show in an “urban” setting that resembled an empty subway tunnel. Many directors and designers of Beckett considered this choice so irrational it should not be allowed to be seen by the public. Beckett himself said he wanted “nothing to do with it” and had his name removed from the production.

So what is our role? The Dead Pinocchio Theatre has established itself as an ensemble of artists who work together to create a vision for a play that ultimately belongs to the playwright. Endgame will be our first non-original work. It seems fitting to start with Beckett as we negotiate our relationship to an already established playwright with much respect and, ultimately, controversy surrounding him. If the playwright is the ultimate “owner” of the play, what is our job as directors and designers (and, later, actors)?

Former Albion College theatre professor Dr. Jennifer Chapman (to which we credit the story behind our name) said that by placing boundaries and restrictions on educational drama work, we increase the creativity of the activity. Perhaps this is true in our case with Beckett. Beckett tells us that Endgame is set in a “Bare interior. Grey light.” Wonderful. He does not specify what kind of grey. Is this dark grey? Light grey? What’s the difference? To a designer, how close a shade of grey is to black or white is rather significant. Beckett gives us a palette. It is our job as the artist to use the paints he gives us to paint the picture.

Our production of Endgame will be inspired by the images that have come of the areas surrounding Chernobyl in Ukraine. Most specifically from a town (Prypyat, Ukraine) that housed many of the workers of the power plant and their families. Some images are included here. They are hauntingly beautiful. There is something so truthful about these images for this play. The citizens of Prypyat had no other choice after the accident put to leave their homes and take nothing but themselves because of radiation poisoning. Their lives remain here in a kind of stasis of what once was. (“Once!”) Nothing can live here anymore. But yet, it still does. For some reason, some of the residents of the abandoned Prypyat have decided to return to their homes, living every day knowing they are saturated with deadly radiation that is killing them. But still, they remain. In their own endgame.

It is not our goal to take Endgame to Prypyat. I have no desire to be the next Akalaitis. (Though I whole-heartedly support her production for the record…) This is just one place where it seems that we can live. Our design can live here. Our actors can live here. (Or not live here, if you like.) How does this affect our design? This gray is a light gray. It is a sterile gray. The remnants of the world that was left behind may be scattered on our floor. Beckett has written for Clov to pick up and organize “things” on the floor but does not mention what they are. What is haunting about the stasis of this story and these images is that this world, in our play, is actually inhabited by people who are living the same kind of stasis.

My hope is that Beckett would approve.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Interested in Doing More for the DPT?

If you would be interested in writing, directing, acting, stage managing, or anything else for the Dead Pinocchio Theatre, any Albion College students are welcome to come to our weekly meetings beginning next semester on Fridays at 4:00 PM in the DPT. You can get on our email list by emailing MAF13.

All our our plays have been selected for the spring season 2009 but if you are interested in writing or devising something for the DPT Board of Directors to consider adding to the fall 2009 season the deadline for submissions is April 1, 2009. A proposal form is available from MAF13 as well.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Endgame Auditions

Auditions for Endgame by Samuel Beckett
Director/Designer - Keith Medelis, Stage Manager - Emily Thomson

Saturday, January 24, 2009 from 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
at the Dead Pinocchio Theatre (Stockwell 106)

Auditioning actors should expect to be at the audition for the entire two hour block of time. Callbacks will be held from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM. Roles are available for three men and one woman. Auditions are being held in January but the performances will not be until April 23-26, 2009. Rehearsals will begin on Monday, March 30 and will continue Monday-Thursday from 7-10 PM. Auditions will consist of readings from the script. Interested actors should email stage manager Emily Thomson at ET13 to obtain the audition sides. It is strongly recommended that actors wishing to audition read the script before hand. The text of the play is available online at http://samuel-beckett.net/endgame.html.

Announcing our Spring 2009 Season