La Mama Umbria – getting started!

5 Jul

The first day was amazing.  We took a tour of Spoleto with David and Steven in the morning where I bought far too much food stuffs to send home. They make this incredible topping here: artichoke, truffle and olive – YUM!  Also a Balsamic Glaze to pour on the Caprese Salads – heavenly.

Since we had the tour in the AM, we only had one workshop today which was with Neil and Marco.  They have been doing this interesting work together that they call “Author Directing Author.”  They became interested in each others work a few years ago and decided to write new pieces and then have each other direct the new piece.  As authors who normally direct their own work, it would allow them to work closely with each other, use the same actors and collaborate, as well as see the very intimate process that each other has.  They are bringing that same idea here to La Mama Umbria.  This workshop yesterday was a lot of “getting to know you” time.  We each spoke about what it was that we liked, where we wanted to go, how we got here.  The exercise itself was fascinating.  We went up to a table covered in pictures, and spent a few minutes, with a partner, discussing the postcard image we liked the most.  We chose 3 or 4 top images.  Then, we chose numbers and went to up the table when it was our turn to get a card.  Because some of us went later or last, often the images we wanted were not there.  Nonetheless, we had to choose an image as part of a team.  We sat with our image for a moment before we all went around in a circle and each spoke of what drew us to that image.  Once we had done that, we were more firmly embedded with our image – we were now rather attached to our image.  We were told to go off and spend 20 minutes and just write, in prose, how our image fits into a performance.  Is it the beginning, middle, end?  Is it just an idea?  A spark?  Is it literal?  After these instructions, just as we are headed out the door- Neil stops us and tells us to hand our images to the person on our left.  And then GO. We immediately have new images, we have just given up the one we have already begun forming a story about, and, in some cases where people did not get the image they wanted at all, it had been an uphill battle.  Suddenly we are to write about something totally new that we have not spent any time with in our head.  We all groaned and protested (ah, directors) but wandered away.

Needless to say, that was quite difficult.  I had a photo I loved and then ended up with one of the Flatiron building circa 1907 with carriages going past.  Here is what I came up with:

The image is part of a looping reel.  The reel starts with a man in a tophat getting into a carriage at the Apthorp building on the Upper West Side.  The reel follows the carriage down Broadway, past the Apthorp, down to Washington Square, and just as the carriage is about to get to the Triangle Shirtwaist Building, the film begins again.  This runs in a constant loop in a white box.  The audience is seated in the round, in a white space (black box, but white walls).  Surrounding them, projected onto all four walls is this reel, looping endlessly.  From the speakers come monologues (the actors are never onstage).  The text is the disembodied voices of the young girls who died in the March 25, 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  Sometimes they speak one by one, sometimes it is a cacophony.  Never do we see the actors.  The audience watches the reel of Max Blanck, owner of the factory, over and over and listens to the voices.  It’s not a long performance.

I was quite pleased with how that turned out, actually.  At first I was really annoyed, but suddenly I realized I could do this!

So what we will do moving forward is use actors Marco and Neil have brought us and direct them in a short script written by Neil and Marco.  You know who Neil is, this is Marco, and this is one of the actors, his brother Luca. The other actor and actresses last names I do not know.

I am very excited to continue this workshop!  Today we have that one and Stephan‘s site specific workshop.


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