Filed under: Performance | Tags: columbia heights art salon, Performance, salmagundi, washington irving
“With baked, and broiled, and stewed, and toasted,
and fried, and boiled, and smoked, and roasted.
We treat the town. Fee Faw Fum” Salmagundi 1807
Salmagundi: The etymology of Salmagundi stems from the French word salmigondis which means disparate assembly of things, ideas or people, forming an incoherent whole. And there is a lot to be said about the incoherent whole. It’s a beautiful paradox. A mish-mash, slap-dash assortment of things bound together.
Salmaguni the recipe dates back as early as 1565.
Salmagundi the periodical or (the Whim-Whams and opinions of Launcelot Langstaff Esq. and others) first published in 1807 by Washington Irving
I performed Salmagundi at the Inaugural Columbia Heights Arts Salon in Washington DC on January 16th, 2010
Here is a sample of text. I’ve chopped up the original text and given it some alternate rhythms, a mish-mash of contemporary spoken word set against some of the older ways of writing.
I delight in everything,
An old coat for a new idea- yes!
Strangers- hell yeah!
And being as I am, delighting in new things and eccentricites
I am particularly attentive to the manners and conversations of strangers
Oh Gotham Gotham! Most delightful of cities- how does my heart swell with delight when I behold your spaient inhabitants lavishing their attention with such wonderful discernment.
But scarcely a traveler enters this city whose appearance offers anything original
Yet, I form an acquintence with him
And I suffer manifold afflictions
My curiosity: punished
Punished by the endless stupidity of a blockhead
Punished by the shrill verbosity of a coxcomb
My curiosity: punished
My shopping trolley: murdered
My groceries: JUST GONE
I delight in everything,
An old coat for a new idea- yes!
Strangers- hell yeah!
I would prefer to timetravel with bullocks through a Carolina SandFlat
than plod through heavy unmeaningful conversations.
I would sooner hold sweet converse with the wheel of a knife sharpener
than endure monotonous chattering.
These strangers who flock to this most pleasant of earthly cities
are generally birds of passage whose plummage is as gay as anything I own.
Do you hear what I am saying:
Strangers flock, birds of passage, plummage:gay
My curiosity: punished.
For their notes “heaven save me” are as unmusical as those of the classic night bird
the ancients selected as a symbol of wisdom.
Those from the south, it is true, entertain me with their stories of horses
and it is excessively pleasant to hear these ‘four in a hand’ gentlemen tell tales of their exploits.
Those from the east have often induced me to doubt the existence of wise men of yore,
who are said to have flourished in the quarter
And as for those from parts beyond the seas, oh!
My master ye shall hear more from me anon!
If anyone wishes to know my opinion of the irish and scotch,
well she may come to me and ask and I will give her nothing but the truth.
But the french…I must confess are my favourite
and I have taken more pains to argue my cousin Pindar out of his antipathy to them,
than I ever did about any other thing.
When, therefore, I choose to hunt a monisour
for my own particular amusement,
I beg it may not be asserted
that I intend him as a representative of his countrymen at large.
Far from this——- I love him, that right merry monisour as he possesses the true secret of being happy; which is nothing more than thinking of nothing; talking of nothing, and laughing at everything.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: community, communityarts, DC, opinion, Performance
For me, art doesn’t imitate life, art is life, which is why I work inside the community, not over there or above it. All humans are creative beings, we all have a right brain and we all have a story to tell, so lets share that. Something beautiful and amazing happens in the room when an audience and a performer has a connection, it’s magic and we are bound together forever by it. It’s even more extraordinary when the performer on stage speaks as them self, from their world, a local person whose voice would have otherwise been unheard, silenced or ignored. But now it’s on stage, it’s deeply personal and immensely powerful.
Ok, so I am an Australian performance artist and a community theatre director, currently living in Washington DC selling my Dad’s Aussie Wine. I love being at my creative edge and thus I thrive on working with collaborators from different disciplines and to work with non-performers. I spent 5 years directing community arts professionally in Australia (with Shopfront and Sidetrack) so it was a shock to the system to try and find paid work in DC. There is a lot of theatre here and it’s a particular kind of theatre, almost all of it happens on a stage while the audience sits in the dark, there is a script performed by union and non-union actors. Yes, there are grants one can apply for to run community projects and there are plenty of non-profit community service organisations that will welcome an artist with open arms. But where are my contemporaries? It seems there are very few people here who speak the language of theatre for social justice, while also being active in their practice, one of them is Melanie St Ours who I just met very recently, after being in DC a year already. Why did it take so long to meet in such a small city of only 500k people?
It is also puzzling to me that this is city full of non-profits and social services, a city full of art and culture, and yet the intersection points are hard to find. And when I say that I don’t mean the community outreach arm of a big arts company where they go an teach in low income schools. I mean a dedicated integrated practice of art in life and the radical use of art for social justice and community building.
But yes, DC is a ‘cultural city’, there are lots of free museums and galleries, A few wonderful happenings and events I have found are The Capital Fringe Festival, the Source Theatre Festival and Artomatic where I continue to meet creative people and see their work. There are places for physical performers to train like the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange , Arachnea Air and if you are into the art of circus/fire toy manipulation you can learn it at Contradiction Dance. All this stuff is of interest to me, but again… lacking the diversity of perspective offered by a gritty performance created within and by the community itself.
In November 2009 I initiated a relationship with Miriam’s House a local community home for women with HIV and AIDS. I worked with the women for nearly 8 months, to collect stories/poems/collages and photos to pull together in a public arts show and live theatre performance for their Anniversary Benefit. Throughout the process I had been searching for a collaborating artist to work on the project with me and finally found Melissa Klein, from DC’s Puppet Underground who came on board in the last few weeks of the project as a workshops/writing facilitator. It was a beautiful project, one of the residents actually performed her story on stage, others were in the audience, their poems, photos and collages hanging around the room in an installation. We raised $10K that day for Miriam’s House. It was an amazing project, a fascinating community of women to work with. But where are the other projects like this in DC? With so many non-profits and so many complex social justice issues, where is the art that reflects these stories?
But despite my reservations about making art in this city, and my frustrations with it’s disconnectedness and shortcomings, I feel a movement brewing in the city. It began on the weekend of January 16th 2010 The Inaugural Columbia Heights Arts Salon, showcased the works of local artists, featured in four local homes each overflowing with a different artform. Three hundred and fifty people wandered through the Salons that night, and as they cruised the streets from house to house, something magic was happening. When someone opens their home, they stakes are high, they are saying they trust you and it’s powerful. This was art born from the community, happening inside the community, it was raw and amazing and drawing on the traditions of Columbia Heights past when the activists and arts would get together in basements and jam– usually with Punk Music.
Initiated by CHARTS (Columbia Heights Arts) Foundation, who formed in January 2010 this Salon Series is a winner, and in my eyes a perfect model for arts in community and similar to the model used by Puppet Underground. If you have had some extraordinary Arts in Community experiences, please comment, I would love to hear from you.
Filed under: Performance
Lola L’Orange. She came to me in a vision, she came with a series of gestures, actions and a super cool costume. But what of the tension between these two art forms? As I began to put her together in rehearsal I have come up against some intriguing questions about the nature of each performance genre; how they both complement and sometimes contradict each other. This, my latest creative venture, is proving to generate a fascinating conversation between me and myself, so I figured it would be good to put my thoughts out there and hopefully have some input from you all.
At the crux of the matter I have been trying to reconcile the interplay between Burlesque and Clown. If burlesque knowingly plays an audience with the intention to entertain and tease in a very adult space, while clown is characterised by childlike whimsy, awe and miraculous accidents, then how do they fit together? Can a performer embody both? If you forget about the Burlesque performers tendency to dip into striptease and the Clowns tendency to attend children’s parties — aspect of each art form which seem to set them wildly at odds with one another– the genesis of both these performance styles stems from vaudeville traditions of parody, playfulness, irony and political commentary.
I have trawled the internet searching for my contemporaries. There are very few. Among them is a woman from the west coast “Bombshell Betty” who fuses the art forms in ridiculous paradoy; clown attempts burlesque, stripping down in an utterly ridiculous manner, getting caught in her clothes. I laughed and laughed it’s totally slapstick, she’s embraced the clown’s accidently prone nature, the fool who fails again and again and finally succeeds, and we love her for it when she whips out some pretty hot tassel twirling. But what of the eternal child the wide eyed wanderer, the being who takes everything so literally and so personally… how would this clown survive burlesque?
Lola will squeeze as many dimensions of clown as possible into a Burlesque show, and does she even strip? This will remain to be seen as I still have questions about the male gaze and the potential ’empowerment’ of striptease that many performers speak of. Personally I’m not really feeling it and I think I will need to find some seriously subversive angles and motivations to perform this element of burlesque.
I will continue to document the evolution of this character and I welcome your comments.
Filed under: Happenings
I’m looking for 2-4 creative companions, who are making work in physical theatre/dance/performance art and want to indulge in a summer creative development to jam new work.
These sessions would be like a creative development for both your work and mine. You bring something you are working on to share/ jam and also be ready to feedback and discuss the work of others. I love collaborating and know there are benefits of this even in solo work.
I am a performance artist working across movement and text. It’s not realism, it’s more about rhythm, aesthetics and storytelling. Ideally you’d be working in this territory also.
In February I ran Movement Lab which was an exploratory space for performers to work through a variety of stimulus for the creation of original movement scores. I led a full day of exercises with nine people from different disciplines- dance, theatre, movement and hybrid performance. We all found the process stimulating and worthwhile. So I hope some of you might be interested to come back and play again.
At Movement Lab I was exploring myself as a director, trying out new exercises with a group of performer/ creators. Now, I have the beginnings of a solo piece I’m developing and would love to workshop it with other artists to get feedback and go deeper.
I am seeking shared leadership and can offer you my perspectives as a director and performer. The structure of our days and how we manage our time will be up to us. We could construct exercises for each other, ask questions, feedback, move together, reinterpret each others material, basically do what we do best… switch on our creative brains and dive in!
See my resume for more info about me and hit me up with an email introducing yourself and your work if you are interested in coming out to play: firstname.lastname@example.org
Filed under: Happenings
MOVEMENT LAB: THE MOVEMENT ARTIST’S PROCESS
How do we begin the creation of a movement score? Where does the impetus to move come from? Do we conjure an image from within to inspire physical creation? Do we create from external stimulus; sound, light, a kinesthetic response?
MOVEMENT LAB is facilitated by Australian performer/director Kate Clugston to explore a movement artist’s process for creating work. Playing with internal and external stimulus we will generate images and assemble short scores. There will always be someone watching, we will feedback to each other reading what we see, informing each others experiments.
This is a workshop for highly attuned performers/creators/choreographers you must have at least three years training, high level sensory awareness, be physically fit and have the ability to articulate your work and make observations about the work of others.
Interested people please send your bio (not a list of shows, but rather an explanation of who you are as an artist, referencing your training/performances) and a statement about why you are interested in participating in the MOVEMENT LAB to email@example.com.
When: February 2009- yes the date has passed. NOTES from participants and my reflections to follow soon.
Where: Source Theatre
Reflections on two exercises at Movement Lab
COMPOSITION FROM TEXT and reading what we see on stage
Using a table with the following columns: Tone/Image/Action/Gesture/Character/Quotes. We listed words to describe the tone of the piece, pulled out images, actions/gestures, referenced moments of character and listed actual quotes to encapsulate what the piece is about. The table would then provide raw material for a new 30 second composition.
We all noticed the task is deceptively simple as there are endless possibilities for invention. I worked with a couple of people to bounce ideas and they found their instincts were right on. I reminded them about artistic license for repetition, and to be conscious of choices available to them with regard to using the space. Everyone used the tools they knew best to make an impact with their chosen elements. Terah made a character driven piece, he engaged with us directly and rolled through some shapes punctuated by pieces of text. Courtney used abstracted gesture (head flicks, tapping fingers with precision on the body) and a single word ‘whatever’ to create a mashup of references to the text. Darrell worked on a powerful diagonal playing with distance and audience relationship, we became his scene partner as he declared his suspicion for us. Binah held a great shape at he top of her piece and made a few playful glances at us, a few of us agreed this was a playful moment which invited us in from the start, as she came toward us with the text ‘feed me’ while rolling on the ground like a creature some felt this was sinister—“does she want to eat our soul” others read this as playful… as if she was enjoying the experience of asking so much that perhaps she would not mind if she was never fed’. Gwen’s piece was linear; she played the role of storyteller and created a narrative alongside a physical journey through the space. Lily had us in a corner and performed close to us, blending literal delivery of text with contemporary dance. Anu really worked her relationship with us, she had a dynamic sense of timing and slid between the inner state and public face of the character- the piece communicated all the violence, madness and manipulation of the character only with three quotes and a few repeated actions/images and that maniacal laughter. Russ held a long stillness at the beginning for his piece, Anu was captivated looking for the moment when the performance begins for the actor and noticed Russ ‘drop in’ to the piece as he parted his lips, a subtle but clear signal. Russ worked with character, and blocked a stage path going back and forth from the chair to us – he created a particularly striking shape while biting his nail before finally going to open the door. Lily noted there is a world of possibility out that door- a world beyond the stage world- inviting curiosity from us.
MOVEMENT INSPIRED BY CLOTHING
Everyone grabbed an outfit from the bag and put it on. We had 5min of play time to find a few moments of stillness and movement phrases we liked, which we could then reference for the showing.
We added an entrance, explored some of the material while allowing new things to happen as a result of now being with an audience and exited.
There were plenty of cues for laughter in these pieces as many performers embraced surprise with their entrance and some outfits inspired a playful sense of embracing ridiculousness in the performer.. ie Russ and his superhero/rockstar style confidence against the silliness of his red’n’black skit with suit jacket; Darrell in riding pants with police jacket performed a horse trot matched with sudden drop n roll; Gwen’s ritual placing of the shorts on head up against her hero/boxer victory arm raise was a funny reveal of the public/private life of the character. Anu’s piece was read as a study of stages of womanhood as she moved fluidly between child, sassy woman eyeing someone off, and an older/ injured/pregnant woman. Each character interacted with the clothing and was physically very different from the next. Russ, Gwen and Anu all worked with their strengths and embraced character inspired by the clothing. Lily, Courtney, Binah and Terah all worked with images which in different ways concealed their humanity, they became moving artworks of colour, shape and rhythm- exploring the limits and movements of the fabric in ways that we could almost be compared to puppetry-Lily and Terah as manipulators of fabric to create alternate beings/creatures. Courtney’s inspiration came from the ‘pirate’ cuffs of her shirt to inform a repeated wrist action. I saw a harlequin, someone else saw a chandelier.
Overall it was fascinating to see how each artist approached the tasks, coming from different training backgrounds each performer had varying attention to different elements of composition. In my facilitation I used the language of Viewpoints: tempo, duration, floor pattern, architecture, kinesthetic response, spatial relationship, repetition to talk about the choices (conscious or not) that performers made.