Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Objecthood of Chairs

Okay, it somehow seems more real now that we have our funding in place, dates more or less booked, and even a poster template courtesy Rob K (see above). So I’m gonna go ahead and tempt fate and talk about this play I’ve written that will have its premiere at SFU Woodward’s this September.

It’s called The Objecthood of Chairs, and it’s a physical/dance-theatre piece about the romance between two men, as told through Western culture’s historical romance with chairs. We follow the men as they meet, move in together, and eventually part as the result of a freak accident that leaves one of the men in a wheelchair and the other wracked with guilt. Along the way, and in a largely presentational style, we are provided various “object” lessons in: modernist chair design; Shaker asceticism; the revolution in sociability and sexuality inaugurated by the Thonet café chair; the inherent cruelty of childhood games of musical chairs; and Buddhist sitting practices. In this way, the men communicate to the audience what they cannot say to each other about the necessary loss of autonomy that comes with asking for, and offering, unconditional support. The text draws on architectural theory and art history, industrial design and neurophysiology, poetry and pop culture to think through the relationships and resistances between bodies—and objects—as they move through space.

However, the text I’ve written is really only the starting point for a larger interdisciplinary collaboration with much more talented colleagues from SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts, in which we’re investigating intersections between scripted and devised processes of dance-theatre composition, and exploring the complementary integration not just of text and movement, but also dramaturgy, video, music, and design. As such, the theory of movement articulated by the script is being transformed and supplemented in thoroughly amazing ways by Rob Kitsos’ original choreography, Rob Groeneboer’s film, video, and image sequences, Martin Gotfrit’s musical composition, Barry Hegland’s lighting design, and DD Kugler’s direction and dramaturgy. Not to mention by the contributions of our performers, Victor Mariano and Justin Reist, a professionally trained actor and dancer, respectively (and SCA alums), who are making bold forays into each other’s disciplines. And then there are all the current SCA students working behind the scenes: as costume designer; stage manager; assistant stage manager; film production assistants; editor; video effects coordinator; etc.

We’ve been workshopping the piece since January, and no matter how the final product turns out, already it’s been an amazing process to see how the various component parts are coming together: how an independently choreographed sequence by Rob K gets married with a section of text to reveal something new about both the words and the movement; how both words and movement are transformed yet again by Martin’s free-form improvising on his electric guitar in the rehearsal studio; how a cinematic vision of independently moving chairs inside Rob G’s head gets worked through on a bare film soundstage downtown; and how lines I thought clunky or flat on the page come alive through Kugler’s coaxing of different readings and inflections and physical exchanges from Vic and Justin.

The boys will be completely off book this Thursday. Most of Rob G’s film sequences have been shot, and Rob K has set something like 10 or 11 separate movement sequences. We start intensive rehearsals in August, with an opening set for September 8th. Exact dates and ticket information still have to be confirmed, so stay tuned for further details.


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