Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vietti starts, the spirit is willing but the flesh is decrepit

I never thought I'd think this, but I have a real respect right now for the version of me that's stuck back in time three years ago. I trained a bloody lot.

We've just started rehearsing Vietti (ohj. Akseli Aittomäki, other performers Juha Sääski, Minja Mertanen and Elina Putkinen). We've been a very physical theatre company for quite some time now, and I've never had any tolerance whatsoever for the actor whose idea of a warmup is a cigarette and a change of shoes, but all of a sudden I am that actor and it's tremendously interesting. For me, I mean. This is the problem, basically, with everything in my life: I find really, really dreadfully dull things absolutely scintillating with the delightful promise of information in its most nuanced expressions. Well. What can you do.

So the point being that anyway my body is not happy with me, my calves are screaming, I think I actually may have lightly bruised the flesh on the bottoms of my feet on the concrete floor, my shoulders are complaining, each muscle group in its own little song of suffering, and then to add salt to it all, my brain hurts.

I've forgotten, in a way, how to perform. Or why to. Or something to that effect. For the past couple of years, in school especially, I've been attempting to work without all of those things that physical performers hold to be self-evident and sacrosanct: concentration. The use of the body in its entirety. Awareness of balance and figure and spatial relationship at all times. A sort of soft gaze that takes in the whole space without specific focus. Rhythm control. Breath control. Control control. These all used to be givens when I walked into a rehearsal space, and then too many people called me "theatrical" when I was studying performance art, and I got very, very interested in what the hell made me theatrical, and also got very, very interested in breaking the habit, playing with it, exploding it, fucking around with the methods of performance. The result, I am aware, is often messy, like someone who would have a great performance if they'd only bother to put in the extra bit of effort required. Or like someone who suddenly blanks onstage. I'm really into those moments. I want to know exactly what I'm doing when I'm performing and how I do it.

And but so I had very much thought that because it was so difficult to break theatrically trained habits, that I would never be able to lose them. Apparently I was wrong. I was really surprised in rehearsal to see my fellow performers go more or less directly to a kind of mode, a performance mode, because that is the tool you use in order to make a performance. It's like this: you want to put a nail in a block of wood. You don't even think about it; you go looking for a hammer. It's sensible, normal, and it has worked before. However, there definitely are other things you can use to put a nail in a block of wood, and they might be less efficient, uglier, slower or faster, but they are ways of doing it. Obviously, if any of them were fantastically efficient, they'd catch on and we wouldn't have hammers, and so it's reasonable to assert that the hammer is still the best tool--if all you want to do is get that nail in. However, if you're researching the act of putting nails in two-by-fours, you'd be missing something if you limited yourself to the hammer. And I find it very difficult to turn off, this tendency to treat performance as if it were a nail.

Which, this will basically only last until I have a clear idea of what I'm doing and why and how and to what end--and that's not nearly as daunting as it sounds, because it's also a fairly collective choice, with extra weight given to the director's input. I have gigs coming up next month with Kalevala dell'Arte, which is masked commedia, meaning it's one of the most stylized, set kinds of modes of performance you can ask for, but it's very easy to do because those questions of how and why don't need to come up anymore. You just train it and do it to the best of your ability. In the meantime, it's interesting to be stuck in an unpleasant place, which is how I feel--unpleasant--when in the middle of improvisations et al when I know for a fact that I'm following directions, and I also know (quietly but for a fact) that I'm breaking unspoken rules of theatre. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, I don't mind.

And so but actually where I'm going tomorrow is to hell. Signa's Villa Salo is where I'm heading, to have my brain taken off and rewired for me again. I don't even know what to expect; last time I saw a show of theirs at PSI 2008 or so I'd never heard of them and had no prejudices or preconceptions whatsoever, so this is very different as I've bought a plane ticket and I'm not planning on leaving the Villa for four days. I'm not sure if I'm excited to be going or dreading it; they're just that disturbing. What makes it complicated is that I find things that disturb me greatly to be, on some level, the most valuable things I can find. The other complication is that I'm a total wuss.

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