New Works or My Recent Thoughts on Women

I am always thinking about women. About myself as a woman. About other women and how they might see themselves as women. And always, I am thinking about what that really means – to be a woman. It is a very difficult question to answer. Should I embrace my maternity and femininity, my strength, my emotional intellect, my scientific intellect! Should I embrace the way in which I am different or the ways in which I am equal. A wise (but boring politically correct) person would say “Embrace it all, all that is you, because all of you is woman.” That’s nice. That really is very nice and hippy dippy and accepting – but for me, and I don’t know about you, that just isn’t all that comforting.

The first thing that I always go to is the societal differences between men and women – the cultural “norms” that have shaped the female psyche for generations and continue to today in more than just the obvious ways. I can get worked up just like any other And because I am always thinking about these things some things appear or materialize all on their own. The below painting, for instance, came into fruition due to a fleeting thought I had while I was trying to fall asleep earlier this week.

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LITTLE RED HEAD

The head of Little Red Riding Hood appeared to me on a decorative display. Her head is not on a pike. She has not been executed and mounted to prove a point to my enemies. She has been, instead, preserved for future generations to enjoy and observe. Now, before I get into this too deep, here is another piece that poured out of me this week:

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THROUGH A KEYHOLE

Here we are taking the perspective of a peeping tom, or someone of that habit, through a keyhole to find a woman gazing into a vanity with a skeletal face gazing back.

There is something off putting about both pieces, I know. Showing them to my family I got double takes and looks of confusion. The two pieces seem unrelated other than their off putting nature. They are different in tone, mood, color palette, and subject. But in my mind they are two peas in a pod.

I did not start with their connection in mind, but after both had been conceived of I saw their relevance and it was ground breaking for me. Together they are Women on Display. A theme I think, if you think hard enough, you can locate in your own life.

I don’t care who you are or what your status on feminism is! You cannot deny that women are showboated more than men on a grand scale. Women are dressed up and dressed down to prove a number of points. They are beautiful always – if they aren’t beautiful they are not shown because “All women are beautiful” so why shouldn’t we gaze upon them! I am all for body and beauty positivity. But really, WHY ARE WE FIGHTING TO BE STARED AT!?  Why do we want to be on display? What kind of gratification or satisfaction or validation do we gain from it! Why do we need to be validated thusly?

These works are of women on display. But it is at the viewers prerogative. The subjects have not chosen to show themselves. For Red someone took the liberty of preserving her beauty, her story, her strength. She has been beheaded or stripped of her identity to be placed in the annals of time, to live on the mantel to serve as some sort of guide or warning or treasure – she is no longer a woman but a commodity.

For the other, she is unaware of being watched. She is found naked of even her face. She is not what is expected. She does not live up to the expectations of the viewer. She is other worldly, but not in her beauty. She is alone and the viewer has stolen that from her. Stripped.

There are arguments out there that say that women are just more prone to vanity. There are studies about the hormones in a woman’s brain that say women are born with the instinct to connect. Women do have larger areas for emotion but they also have larger brain capacity devoted to language and communication. It is not innate for a woman to throw herself up on a billboard to yell “Look at me! Aren’t I beautiful??” But a lifetime of magazines and beauty products and accidental, but harmful, words from everyone around us lead us to believe that we are beautiful, and if we aren’t there are certain people who will think that we are, and if there aren’t then there are products and tips and tricks that will make you pretty if not beautiful. Don’t worry, someday someone will just want to sit around all day and stare at your outer beauty or your inner beauty or whatever.

Accidentally harmful. But of course we want to tell the women in our lives that they are beautiful. But I wish we didn’t. I am tired of being on display.

 

Meave

Yesterday I sat down and cried out of envy of my sisters.

Both are younger than me and I am not very old to begin with. We are all artists. I am a theatre artist, a director and a painter. My first sister is a singer and a songwriter and a damn good ukulele player and my second sister is the most wonderful little dancer. We all share a common goal though, despite our spectrum of interests…

The best way to explain that goal is thusly: Meave, the youngest sister dances with a school that goes to competition. That is not its whole focus, but there are many girls in the school who look forward to it. Now, competition dancing is the farthest thing from art that there is and in a family full of artist this little fact does not, even for a second, escape our attention. But it was Meave’s fist competition and she is seeing all of these pieces that are put together for the sake of technique or thrown together to display one cheezy wow factor like an awful prop or costumes or ridiculous “message”. None of the dances were choreographed from any piece of soul or made to express any suffering, passion, love or despair. It was all purely for the sake of competition.

Riding home with my mother that night Meave was very upset – My mother was a dancer too, a ballerina and a modern dancer with the most amazing vision that it still makes me cry even though she hasn’t choreographed in years. She was trying to pull the reasons out of Meave, as one has to when dealing with my youngest sister. Meave slowly reveals that on top of her disappointment with the quality of work expected, she was talking to the other girls from her school and she asked them what they want to be when they grow up. Flippant answers like “I want to be a Rockette,” “I want to be a dance teacher.” And other such things with not much though behind it.

Meave was crying when she admitted “Mama, I want to change with world!”

With dance. Meave is 13 now, maybe 12 when she said this. She has found her passion and I have never seen anyone of any age work as hard as she does to achieve the things that she has. I believe in her ability so greatly, so much more than my own.

And yesterday she was at this amazing workshop and she was being acknowledged in front of the whole place and was being complimented and praised. And I sat there, 8 1/2 years older than she is, and I cried because I never thought I would be as good as she is and will be.

I felt disgustingly inadequate to be a part of my family. I immediately went out and began working on a play with my partner to feebly try to reassemble my ego.

That helped a little.

I can’t ever stop thinking about what I want to be. I will never stop reaching for it. I can’t. I shut down, lose focus and stop caring about my life when I stop trying. I lost meaning when I stop trying.

So why have I been so stagnant these past few months? I am waiting for my train to roll into the station. I am waiting for that door to open and a conductor to tell me to get my ass moving and get on the god damned train. I know that sounds lazy, like I can’t do it for myself. But I know – I know when It is time. It is so obvious to me. I just haven’t been trusting that. I need to go with my gut. The same gut that tells Meave what she wants out of her life and guides her into the next move.

I am biding my time. I am playing the long game. I just keep forgetting that.

And so it begins…

We had our first meeting today. It was only an hour but I go the point across – the point of the project, the basic and beginning skills neccessary for the project, the needed commitment to the project. And then we played a little.

My main goal of the project is to study. I want to expand my understanding of the Viewpoints method and in order to do that (for me) I must do it. We started with the circle. The typical circle with soft focus, a collective breath, and then they must all begin walking at the same time. I, the director figure, cannot tell them when to go. THey must feel it for themselves. The group must come to the consensus that it is time to begin. There is not to be a leader, it must be an organic group decision.

It is always the same for every group that goes in initially. Beginning takes a long time becuase it is a new group, they do not know each other yet (at least they do not know the various energies in the group even if they are their closest friends). So everyone just stands in a circle and tries really hard to feel that impulse, to recieve the divine message that says “GO!” It did not come. But! What did happen was cool. There was a moment with the group all sort of stood up straighter, all of them leaning onto the balls of their feet, ready to go. The floor was creaking with their weight changed and slowly but surely they took that first step. It was not entirely in unison, but it was good for a first time. I did not have to stop them because of an obvious leader. No one was forcing it! That was the beautiful part. They were nervous, afraid of forcing it, but they knew that they were listening for something. We are still working on understanding what that something is.

While starting was hard, stopping was even harder. I had them do this exercise twice, with a different exercise in between, and it was the same both times: they were willing to walk until their feet fell off. No one was going to be the one to initiate the stop and they sure as hell could not trust the impulse to stop as a collective. I could see it on thir faces, this building frustration and terror. About 2 or 3 of them were terrified of doing it wrong (which in this case is really hard to do. Follow your impulse and try to listen and you’re good!). At least 1, possibly 2 others were more confidant in this arena. Both had worked with me before and one of them had done other projects of a similar nature. What was cool was watching the one who had done a lot of this before get very frustrated, knowing that she could lead the group so she could just stop, but also knowing that the group had the impulse and were ignoring it. This will be a point of focus next meeting.

We also played 2 down 3 up, which is an exercise which involves the group maintaining a certain status while, at the same time, the individuals within the group are making choices. The group must maintain 2 people crouching and 3 people standing. An individual is free to choose which one s/he wants to do or when they want to move into it. The lesson is dual: trust your impulses (becuase the tendency is to doubt yourself and change your choice because someone else beat you to it) and to trust your group (which most cannot do right off the bat). What we elarn is, that once the actors give over to the energy of the group they relax, they stop second guessing and the move smoothly through the exercise. The group will take care of me and I will take care of the group; I am me and us all at once. It was the beginning of this groups awareness.

We will be meeting again soon, I hope. And then we will really start to get into the Viewpoints one by one, building this group up!

I am very excited and very thankful that I still have room to play.

Getting Ready

I am assembling the group now. I have over 7 people I think. I would like to have 10. Mostly women right now, and one man has said yes. I need to ask a few more people. I am in LOVE with the ensemble. When people truly come together there is something magical in the experience. The content of this group is paramount. I have to get people who are open and will not dig their heels in when asked to try or to trust the group. THe individual must both be alone and part of a whole at the same time. If a group member is resistent it is obvious and harmful. Assembling the right group is the first step.

The first meeting is the second.

My first time.

I am directing student. I am about to graduate from undergrad, but even then I will call myself a directing student.

life under water

I wanted to start a blog because I have ideas that I want to hash out. I have ideas that I want to share in a forum where others who have similar thoughts can see them. Maybe help me. I have ideas that need to be developed and nothing is better for that than the public forum of the internet…or so I have been told. I have never been one of those people who can share their every thought online. But maybe, sharing well thought out thoughts will be easier than putting every menial bit of babble that come to mind out in public.

I am starting a Viewpoints project this semester with a group of close friends that I worked with and experimented on in the past. If you do not know what the Viewpoints are then you should look them up. The Viewpoints as developed by Anne Bogart and Tina Landau. I have been doing my best to study and practice this method for the past three years. It is a method based on ensemble work and awareness of space and body. Of course I am over simplifying it, but it is an amazing technique that brings about such honest work.

I am going to be recording the progress of this project here. As well as some other thoughts and questions. I really enjoy doing this kind of research, both academic and physical.

As a director, my artistic work within the theatre happens in rehearsal. I am not the start of the show, I do not lay myself out before a crowd. I do not get to engage in the dialogue between performer and audience. All I can do is find the story I would like to tell, the concepts and systems of human nature I would like to explore, and bring this world to my actors. My art does not lie in how I communicate with designers, or even the final look of the play. I am responsible for the concious and vivid work that is created between me and the actors. To me, the art of theatre is all in the process. The work is never done. And that is what I hope to accomplish here.

Truly,

MissSpentLife