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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Making of Trojan Women: Part 2

Leon Ingulsrud, Ellen Lauren, and Makela Spielman. Photo: Craig Schwartz
The second part of a blog series about the creation of SITI Company's Trojan Women.

Day 8 – Katherine Crockett (Helen of Troy)

In Viewpoints today, Anne [Bogart] asked us to add vocal articulation. I found this particularly interesting as it allowed for the experience of finding a new relationship with the text without a predetermined one associated with word meaning. Am curious to explore and experience this again.

Next, we continued our Za'ar dance training [ensembles led by women], which I lead. It is challenging to find ways of teaching such an intense and particular art form when it is something that I too am just learning how to do. Also, since it is fundamentally an individual and improvisational expression where the participant is moved by the inner spirit and the rhythm of the music, there are many variations to explore. They all seems to revolve around the spiral and circular movement of the body and head in particular, and today we added this circular head movement to a spinning of the body. I still feel disoriented and “high” for quite a while after this, as I think several people felt. Maybe practice will make it easier, or maybe it is just about succumbing to this disoriented state and letting oneself lose control for a bit. Also, this dance is very demanding on the back muscles and we are all feeling a bit sore.

Christian [Frederickson] then led Ellen [Lauren], Akiko [Aizawa], and Makela [Spielman] in signing practice which will be entwined with Barney [O'Hanlon]’s chorus ode and will also include some of the Za'ar movement. The layering of voices, harmonies, melodies, words—antiphonal in nature, with the sharp expulsion of breath coming through at various moments—was deeply moving. I can’t wait to see how it develops.

Day 12 – Leon Ingulsrud (Talthybius)

We then had a report from GM (Gian-Murray Gianino) on Odysseus. The thing that really stuck out for me was that the virgin goddess Athena’s love for Odysseus was something that was unique in Greek mythology and that there is really no good explanation for why Athena is so devoted to him. She just really, really liked him. We’ve been talking about how the gods represent aspects of our selves. It’s so nice to see intense, long-term, irrational, non-sexual affection accounted for. A lot of GM’s info was from the book Odysseus: A Life by Charles Rowan Beye, which GM recommends as very, very readable and interesting.

Odysseus gives me a bit of a segue here into the three large-scale dramaturgical moves that we are doing with this production that distinguish our play from Euripides’ original:

1. Odysseus is in our play.
2. The role of the chorus is played by one male actor instead of a group of women.
3. The “Trojan Women” (Kassandra, Andromache, Hellen and Hecuba) are onstage together for most of the play.

So the point where we are staging is the point where my character, Talthybius, exits after Kassandra has had what Akiko calls her “coo-coo.” In the original, Talthybius takes Kassandra, and the bereft mother Hecuba iconically collapses to the ground. But in our production Kassandra is not taken yet, so the meaning of Hecuba’s fall and the extremity of her situation is of a different pitch and color. So Ellen brings this up and we have one of those big conversations, a “now the rubber is hitting the road” moment. For those of you who have been in this kind of a SITI Company day, it was a very positive, open conversation. Ellen wasn’t alone in having a hard time negotiating this moment and the ripples that surround it. It was in large part a matter of trying to find out twhat is behind Anne’s impulse to have them all there, and how do we make that situation dramatic, so that we’re authentically doing the play that we’re doing, instead of just “not doing Euripides’ play.”

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