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So, when it was just two of you puzzling it out and doing research and offering fiery proposals, which seems appropriate, given the subject matter, you eventually got to the opportunity at the New Ohio Theatre.
JAS: I think one of the exciting, sort of exquisite parts of composing—because we’re using their words, I call it composing a script—is that the narrative is composed not only from words. It’s not only textual, it’s poetic visuals, it’s movement-based, it’s vocal scores. It’s a wonderful way of envision playwriting—all the disciplines form a coherent language. It’s the difference between what is told and what is seen and what is heard.
EF: There’s definitely moments in the piece where the writing of the play has occurred in the space as opposed to with a pen and a paper and computer. There are moments where what’s happening physically and visually is carrying the storytelling in that moment.
So when we went to the Ohio we thought, okay, let’s dive in to the big pool and give it a go, and it was a wild frenzy in a way. A lot of work happening in five weeks time. We made the decision not to officially open it at that time, we really kept it as a workshop and at that time people started to see the work and then from there we started to have a different discussions about where would it go, to actually open.
One of the last questions I’ll wrap up with, because I know you two need to get to rehearsal, is what you’ve learned in the process of making this show—in terms of the subject, collaborating, design, any of that.
EF: For me my brain goes into shards because there’s there co-writer brain, and then there’s the performer brain, and there’s different things in each camp. In terms of pieces I’ve authored or co-authored, this has been the longest one in terms of finding where the text really lives. I found it endlessly fascinating, this process of letting the words talk to us—how did they want to be structured. I wouldn’t even necessarily say that it’s ever really done, in a way, because we always find new things. It’s really been a relationship with editing—what is it to edit content, the order of it, how much is said, how much is not, and what comes first, what comes second, third, and why.
Performer-wise, I wouldn’t even know where to begin and end, simply because it’s so intense to play Alice. With acting I learn something every single time I’m trying to get up and rehearse, every time. And the general theme of what I learn, again and again and again and again and again, has to do with present tense and the timelessness of the present tense. And that every time I slip into past or future, it’s potentially a pitfall. Jill?
JAS: I am completely enchanted with working with the set, I must say—it’s infinite in what it offers and how it dances with this particular text. And also just tapping into the concealment drama of what Alice underwent in prison, not knowing the truth about very much, all the misinformation that was given to her. And the role of the gaze and the sort of cinematic structure that the frames of the set create, sort of, I don’t want to say controlling, but framing the visual information.
And there’s no replacing time, actually spending the time in the room. The proposals, I find, are just so effective because you can talk an impulse right out of the room, right out of your own body. But if you just try it on its feet, and think on it—each person, in their own head—having time to think about how something worked on its feet, before we make a decision, before I as a director make a decision, it’s such a rich process to work that way. And you begin to develop, and I’ve heard people say this so much who have been in ensembles for years—you develop a language that is very intuitive. I know in the fall it was often remarked upon that Erica and I finish sentences with one another because there’s a sort of tacit agreement or ability to communicate. You can feel that, when it’s in the room, and it’s been very much in the room, and on this particular project, so I would say that’s something that I value so much.
Is this making of proposals in rehearsal a new way of working for the two of you?
JAS & EF: No.
JAS: Much of my training was split—on the one hand, you know, I learned a lot of theory and I certainly have felt a critical approach to art-making, but also, on the other hand, the practical training was really about training, hard—physical and vocal training. So, there’s a balance. Sometimes we sit and we have to go back and forth and talk things through and other times I think it’s best that we just get on our feet and not jump right to judgment, to let it sit.
I wonder if there’s a way to encourage audiences to do that?
JAS: You know, I studied anthropology and I always liked the idea of a participant-observer—that observe but they really engage.