Moved by a Clown

It has been a busy weekend. Rehearsal went late Friday night, and I was up early Saturday to help Friend Kate finalize her moving out of the loft that parented Kirkos for years. I inserted a break of a few hours to hold a rehearsal with Friend Anna on her clown piece, then it was back to the verities of moving out. The rest of the weekend was a lot of rehearsal as we come closer to the opening night for A Lie of the Mind. In fact, I just arrived in from our first run in the space. As these things so often go, everyone felt completely disconnected from their work, floating in the endless ether of a new, permanent space and sudden costuming. We'll get past it, and by Wednesday. We'd best, anyway. Opening week brings reviewers and an entire acting class one night. The time until then is to be spent in "tech," which, for the uninitiated, is the time just before opening a show when everyone recognizes all the stuff they were supposed to accomplish yet haven't, and rushes around trying to do that, simultaneously revving the metaphoric engine of the whole production up to eleven.

Does that count as a movie quote? I think not, as "eleven" as a gauge of anything has entered the public lexicon apart from any actual awareness of This is Spinal Tap.

The subject of this blogination, though, is that Saturday spent in the deconstruction the Kate's loft and Anna's clown piece. It was a revelatory day for me. Not in a noisy, declamatory way ("Hear ye! God is dead! Thanks for listening!"); rather as a day of much to do, no time to do it, and irregular but powerful moments of recognition. In fact, narrating the events of the day chronologically doesn't serve it best, methinks. First I uninstalled some shelves, then I complained about Kate's stereo already being moved, then we shredded documents.... No. Dumb. So where to begin?

Well (and good), the first thing to note is a few aspects the essential nature of Kate, at least insofar as I know her. Kate:
  • Loves every thing and person that she loves so much that there is no undue haste when it comes to saying goodbye to said thing/person.
  • Self-justifies with the best of them, including Clinton, with his eternal question of what "is" is.
  • Has principles so beyond question that they occasionally create astonishingly time-consuming obstacles in situations in which the rest of us would probably figure, "Oh, so what if that public trash can is overflowing? I'll just precariously balance my disposable coffee cup atop the ruin of western society."
Which is all to say, Kate simply can't do anything of any significance simply. It's part of what's so lovable about her, and makes her an amazing director/leader. So the loft move became a months-long epic that, in spite of such time spent in prep of that ultimate departure, still had a lot to accomplish in its final stages. I didn't accomplish much in terms of sweeping, effective measures for getting the remainder of her things into boxes. I mainly focused on tasks which, as a result of a shoulder injury, Kate shouldn't attempt herself. Anything that involved reaching up, or lifting weight, basically.

And in the process of this total of about six hours, I said my last goodbyes to the loft. There's something about a space that has fostered your creativity and effort that makes that space a kind of home. It becomes as personal a space as where you lost your first tooth or your virginity, you know? It can, anyway. I've lost touch with that feeling somewhat. I used to have a ritual of saying goodbye to a theatre at the end of every show. Now I mainly only do it for spaces that have held multiple productions of mine, when I'm uncertain if I'll ever return to them. The ritual is simple (and not scary, involving very little mammalian blood). I just stand in the middle of the space, alone, and say a little. Maybe I speak a speech from the show I did there, or some Shakespeare (that just always sounds good), and usually I literally speak the word "Goodbye." And when I say it, I'm saying, "Thank you." Froo-froo, I know. But hey: It makes me feel real.

What was this for the loft? It was more little stolen moments. I sang (Bohemian Rhapsody and tunes from Rent, no less [Nat, calm down.]), took photographs when we broke for lunch, reminisced with Kate and, ultimately, practiced throwing knives at the wall I helped build when they moved in. YES. Knives. They were my pay for my help that day. In so doing, I covered a lot of the bases for what Kirkos was, and . . . in my mind, anyway . . . may someday be again. It was weird, unabashedly sincere, sentimental, beautiful and chaotic. And now, it's part of who I am, as performer and person.

For over two hours, in the middle of all this light-removal and reminiscence, Anna Zastrow and I convened to visit with her clown, Helda. It went well, I thought. Her goals were very much focused upon getting a sequence in better shape for her upcoming performances. I wanted that for her as well, but also had a priority to revisit her clown with no assumptions. In conversation with Anna lately, I have heard much that I identify with: a certain uncertainty, a disconnection from her creative id (that's id, not I.D.) and doubt. Plain ol' doubt. I don't know where these feelings in myself will lead me, but I'm confident Anna's clown is a valid, living character, and that she simply needs to revisit her and listen to her to regain (or rediscover) that validity.
(Uninitiated: I'm speaking here of red-nose, or occasionally Lecoq, clown. It's hard to synopsize that theory in a sentence, but essentially the idea is simple. Each person has his or her own clown, a single character as individual as the person and rather representative of that person's id, or free will, unbounded by society-as or other inhibitions. Along with this goes the idea that what people appreciate in a clown is his or her unabashed flaws and difficulties. [Anonymous--Don't freak out. Think of The Little Tramp.])

So Anna and I discussed much, then I put her through an exercise that my clown teacher, Grey Valenti, put me through when I was receiving my (somewhat limited) training. I asked Anna to enter a room in her clown character, and to imagine that she was there for an interview, though she wasn't allowed to speak. This created a situation in which she had to express herself, yet without parameters and in a context in which there were great consequences. Anna took to it with gusto, and before too long she was no longer making choices, but allowing her instincts to make choices for her. It was great, and frightening, to watch. I kept thinking, "Am I a total bastard to put her through this? Do I really know what I'm doing?" Yet she stuck with it for over ten minutes before I called an end, and ultimately found it helpful. As we moved on to reexamining her established routine, we both had in our minds a priority for allowing for her clown to speak for her, and listening when Helda had something to contribute.

That work was rushed, and of necessity technical, but valuable both to her piece and to our burgeoning working relationship (see 3/12/07 for a bit of history). We succeeded in creating a working space in which I felt I had something of value to contribute, and she felt the ownership and creative daring to challenge my opinions as well as simply try them out. It was great. I only wish I had more time before her upcoming show (April 14) to play like that.

As I moved on, of necessity, to the next effort after Kate's loft and Anna's clown (leaving the loft--for the last time--in slightly more orderly disarray, and Helda hopefully in more disarrayed order) I felt a wonderful gratitude for having work to do, and that work being the sort I care about. Soon (read: already) I'll be back to angst over difficulties in the birthing of A Lie of the Mind, but hopefully amidst that angst-ination I will recall that gratitude. It's a powerful blessing.