Thursday, July 30, 2009

And the New Epic is called......

Some pieces (like 2007’s “Haunt”) start with titles. Others weed out the title as they go, eventually letting you know what they want to be called. Others never settle, and get named something that feels eternally not quite right, ever almost there. I know it’s not a big deal, but titles are important to me. They’re branding, they’re expressive, and they’re informational. And (although I’ve been told by many that I need to care less about the audience “getting it”) they’re a chance to communicate something essential about the piece in the language of words.

Which is why I’m so pleased that a title (of sorts) has started to draft up from the depths of our (approaching year-long) work on the AOMC’s new epic. It’s not final, certainly, and I worry that blogging about it might out it too early (when I first told Cristina and Lillie the tentative new title, I whispered it in their ears) and make it less fitting. But it’s time to share it with you. Drum roll please?

“90 ways to wake from drowning”

What do you think? Do you like it? Hate it? Before I tell you anything, how does it relate to what you’ve seen so far of the piece?

There are many variations (“90 vs. Ninety”, why 90? What about 27?, Wake or wake, Drowning or drowning, Wake/drowning? Drowning/wake?, and also a possible tag at the end of it – “(he knows she is making this piece)”) but however it evolves, title or not, the implication and the idea is there, and it’s really begun to loft the piece for me in an extremely helpful way.

What does it mean: to wake from drowning? It’s a curious phrase, yet one that appeared out of the blue on my tongue feeling normal and old, as if I had been saying it for a while now which, I haven’t. I think it does a great job of encompassing the entirety of all the different aspects of the piece – something I haven’t been able to do yet. To me it speaks to waking from the drowning sensations of dreams of past or future lovers and the different ways to do so – snap out of it heart racing and eyes wide, try to hold on to it as you slip back into reality, push yourself out of it fighting and kicking, go through the day unable to shake it off, part with it mutually, etc. It also speaks to the cyclical/purgatorial nature of the piece – Her arc of a constantly repeating struggle to pass beyond her current fixation/experience/location, and how she seems (at many parts) to be at the surface of “waking” but keeps being pulled back by His undercutting. It speaks to water – the universal symbol or image of sexuality (and memories of an English teacher writing “WATER = SEX, ALWAYS.” on the black board.) It speaks to the idea of multiple levels of consciousness and reality – some more based in reality yet less “real” than others – and His and Her traversal of these boundaries using unconsciousness as a means of transportation and osmosis. There’s something too about the closeness of physical danger to survival – when I say “wake from drowning” am I referencing the self destructiveness of the piece? The car crashes and falls and falls and falls? Maybe it’s the feeling that they’re the only thing that can get Her through the surface. It’s quite sadomasochistic, really: thud enough, and you’ll wake from drowning. Maybe.


It’s all Tom Robbin’s fault, really.

Even before she passed it along to me, my roommate had to keep reading me passages of “Still Life with Woodpecker” out loud. It’s one of those books. I read it as soon as she finished and loved it. The book has many, many things to love about it, but one of the things that I fell in love with was the reoccurring theme in the book of “how to make love stay”, not so much in content, as for its structure glorious structure.

Tom writes:

“Who knows how to make love stay?

Tell love you are going to the Junior's Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.

Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”

And that was it.
And I put down the book for a second.

And I smiled and/or frowned

(whatever I do when I’m thinking – you know better than me).

And I said: “Oh. 90 ways to wake from drowning.”

So that’s what we’ve been doing in rehearsal, and that’s what I’ve been doing every night and sometimes on the train. Writing a list of ways to wake from drowning. To say I’m pleased with what’s coming out of that structure is an understatement. It’s perfect. I’m not sure how it incorporates (movement-wise) with the piece yet – the idea was raised that maybe we’ll just write hundreds upon hundreds, and the 90 that are supposed to be a part of the piece (I mean, really supposed to be a part of the piece) will be included in the program, and nothing more. I like that idea. But they may be movement too. Some of them are too good not to be.

Here are a few so far from me that I’ve been happy with (more from the dancers, which are the really amazing ones, soon):

“Push your lover’s face under the surface of the water and realize they aren’t breathing,
just waiting. You will wake from drowning.”

“Let days go by, let water in glasses by the window dry up, forget to water your fichus. You will wake from drowning.”

“Let the cold sweat from the back of your neck press indents into pillows, leaving coffee stains of the him of last week. You will wake from drowning.”

“Pile bile spit lymph fingernails lemon rind in one hand and nipples cold sex sweat and sugar in the other. Rub vigorously, creating an exfoliating agent. Exfoliate. You will wake from drowning.”

“Barter with the drowning on the off chance that it has a consciousness.”

“Purse the word ‘rupture’ on your lips. You will wake from drowning.”

“List reasons why sex, elbows, a brown comforter, a white bed, and sounds of beltway traffic have nothing to do with waking, or drowning. They are, after all, just objects in a room.”

“No. no. no. no. nonononononono, please no. That is how you wake from drowning.”

“Kill cockroaches. You will wake from drowning.”

“Wait until one leg falls asleep. Run through empty wooden houses shouting everything but his name, and occasionally his name. Pull a splinter from your heel and use it as a toothpick. You will wake from drowning.”
We’ll keep writing and posting them (I’m setting it up so my dancers can either blog or tweet them directly via text message) and I thoroughly encourage you to send any you come up with to or post them in the comments of this post. We’ll keep you updated, and if any movement comes out of it we’ll post video asap.

But here’s the real question: are you awake, drowning, waking, or sleeping? Or maybe just sleep-walking into that luscious womb, that unconscious, time-travel-allowing void. You know, the one called “oh, it’s on.” We’re here, boys and girls, creating and rehearsing, and the piece is finally arriving.

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