Persians Diary August 19th, 2014

Leon Ingulsrud's picture

Tuesday of week 5. The process of staging our play and the process of tech-ing it have intersected. Like a snake eating its tail, today we went back to working on the beginning of the play while not having quite finished the end of it on Monday night.

But for me the day kicks into gear a couple hours before leaving the Oakwood, when Anne, Ellen and I participate via conference phone, in an interview with one of the candidates to join our SITI Company staff. It was a reminder how tough it is for our people back in New York right now, and the load they are carrying as the bulk of the company works on the west coast. A big shout-out tonight to Michelle, Vanessa and Megan!


We began our rehearsal day with training as always. I have been finding it so deeply helpful to drill our Ancient Greek text in the context of training, so we did that a few times in the basics. We are working with some choreography in our first Stasimon which is deceptively difficult. We have a constant, and familiar pattern with the lower body and a more varied pattern in the upper body. It is a sequence that draws heavily on the Suzuki training, but as we work on it in rehearsal it is sometimes difficult to objectivize the physical issues of what we’re doing with these upper-body forms, so I wanted to work on that. We did the walks and Slow-ten with the variation of beginning with one of the forms and doing at least 3 changes per pass across the floor. It brought up some interesting things about the forms themselves and in Slow-ten it totally messed with our ability to maintain our traditional tempo in the lower body. hmmmm… I don’t know how to express how satisfying it is to have a training that can be THIS exasperating and revealing in a moment like this.

Viewpoints was “Clean Slate” “no agenda” but as Stephen pointed out, that’s already an agenda.  Anne is watching with Persians glasses on, so of course it led to conversation about the play. We got a little weird with the work today, but it is still obvious that people are concerned enough with the play that we gravitate towards it’s issues pretty strongly.

We’ve not been doing our “Specials” for awhile, so today we went back to them.

Beginning working on our Greek with Stephen. I had suggested last week that we try to learn the Epode to the Exidos (the end of the play) in Greek because, Shelby Brown has really opened my eyes to how amazing what Aeschylus is doing in this section is. So we worked on it a bit on our feet for the first time. There is talk about either doing the Epode in English and then repeating it in Greek, but we also played a bit with an idea Darron has that mixes some of Xerxes in English in, in a way that doesn’t upset the meter.

Our Parados is really coming along. At least indoors we’re beginning to really hear and play with the blending of our voices. We look at each other a couple of times and say, that sounds pretty good! More and more it becomes clear that the key to all of this is breathing. There are conversations throughout the day about how we need to find the breath together. 

I know I’m not the only one, but I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what it means to say the names that Aeschylus gives us of the dead Persians. Most scholars think he made some of them up, but even so, this is a Greek soldier who wrote a play chock-full of names of soldiers on the OTHER SIDE who are now dead. There are a lot of things going on in this play, but one of them is the moral GENEUS, of simply naming the dead. 

I think about the way in which I did not know Michael Brown, but his name now brings me into the turmoil that is Ferguson MO in a palpable way. How this centuries long race war that we have been conducting in this culture is finding yet another brutal moment to assert itself. What would it mean, for a civilization a 1000 years from now, to hear an actor say “Michael Brown” as a way of memorializing the tragic death of a person who died in a senseless war that they had perhaps forgotten? How do I reach back and say “Artembares” now? How do I honor HIS mother’s pain? How do I honor all of them…

Stalin said that “one death is a tragedy; one million dead is a statistic.” Part of what Aeschylus is trying to get at is the fact that statistics are filled with a million tragedies. He wants us to feel it. That’s AMAZING! HOW DO WE DO THAT???

AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGG!!! EEEOOOH!!! EEEEOOOH!!!


As we get to some of the other smaller choral moments we are all struck by how long it’s been since we’ve touched on some of this material. It’s rusty from inattention. Many things that must be polished.

Stasimon 3 which Bondo is leading is still a mind-fuck. Today, Bondo proposes a change in sensibility to it. Slow it down. Make it heavier. Weirder. I like this. Not that I can do it any better, but it feels right.

This movement messes with my knees in a major way. My right in particular is causing me a lot of trouble and I can track how it is affected by this particular movement. These are sensations that I learned to feel in A Rite. I didn’t listen to them well in that process and got myself into a lot of pain. I’m trying to be smarter now. Pace myself differently. Work on things in ways that spend my joint’s resources intelligently. A video that Darron shot of Bondo doing the sequence, using the iPhone’s slow-motion capabilities, has been very useful to me in my room in the mornings.

After reviewing some more of our choral text, we go back to looking at the top of the show.

Where do we come from? How do we find our way onto the stage? We try and then re-try. We eventually find our primal circle in the middle of the stage. We find our primal Ancient Greek voice. We try to find our way back to what it was we were exploring what seems like ages ago. And what that exploration was, was an exploration reaching even further back into the primordial ooze of theatre. To make the first sounds of the first play… We know it better now. Are we better at reaching back?

Then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, we are getting into costumes! We are experimenting with gold leaf and gold make-up on our skin. 

We are out on the Getty stage trying to start bringing all of the pieces together when we don’t even feel that we know what all the pieces are. We’ve barely hit a couple of key parts of the play in rehearsal and we’re in tech!

We hear the difference between what we’re able to do chorally in the indoor theatre and outside. We need to work outside more. We need to learn to hear each other out there.

We work up into the entrance of the queen and the day ends as Jed suffers what we all hope is a transient injury to his calf. I sincerely hope that it is a simple strain or pull and that this is the last anyone will hear of it.

In the car on the way home, somehow we recall the youthful days of bobrauschenbergamerica, and Akiko brings up how perhaps SITI Company should now move more into the aesthetics of Wabi-Sabi. G.M. is curious, so Akiko and I collaborate and try to expound about how Wabi-Sabi is a principle in Japanese aesthetics that speaks about the beauty of transience and decay. Wabi deals with the ultimate beauty of that which is rejected by society at large and is off the beaten path, while Sabi is about the inherent imperfection within nature and the passage of time.

Passage of time…

We are either frustrated by it’s speed, or suicidal about it’s slowness.

Hmmm…

What is a chorus?