Directors Lab West: Day 7

Looking back on my Day 5 post on endurance, I have to laugh. Back then, I thought I was pretty tired. Ah, youth.

Day 7 began with a bang; Indy Convergence visited us to give a crash course in their process of bringing artists together to explore and share ideas. They run a 2-week residency program in which each artist brings a project to work on and teams up with other participants with similar interests to get started. There are some great personal accounts on their “flash blog” on the home page. One thing you can’t tell from the website is how kind, generous, and open these lovely people are, and yet, with each artist driving the project she or he is passionate about, they do achieve rigor in the safe space (related post). It feels different in a 2-hour workshop, of course, because we’re being guided through exercises rather than doing “our own work.” But one thing that can be achieved in that short time is creating a free-to-fail mindset. Cindy Marie Jenkins, one of the steering committee members of DLW and a recent participant in Indy Convergence told us, “I never ever feel like I’m in my comfort zone, but I always feel safe.” When we broke into groups, I ended up performing in a piece of physical theater, and I didn’t even realize until later that I hadn’t felt self-conscious at all.

In the afternoon, we introduced ourselves to our fellow lab participants. It sounds weird, I know, because we’ve been here a week and we know each other’s names by now. But interestingly, the fact that we all knew each other a little bit made it a much more digestible, personal, and honest. I tried not to repeat things that I had said at the bar, and I was able to focus on my fellow lab participants without taking furious notes or trying desperately to memorize their names. With each of us allowed 3 minutes to talk, it took nearly 3 hours to go around the circle, which is tiring in a different way than unexpectedly ending up in a physical theater piece.

“Crescent City: A Hyperopera” at the Atwater Village Performance Warehouse. Photo by Asher Kelman.

What will probably stick with me most about Day 7 is the performance of Crescent City: A Hyperopera, the debut production of a new opera company called The Industry. It was wild, inventive, imaginative, challenging, exhausting, controversial, gritty, physical, beautiful, jagged, perplexing… but as I’ve said before, I’m not writing reviews here. The performance takes place in a warehouse, filled with 6 installations by visual artists which make up the various locations for the story. The audience sits in a 3/4 thrust around these installations… and also on a high platform on the 4th side of the warehouse, and also on beanbags in the installation of a drag queen’s performance space, and also some of us got to be “pedestrians” and walk around the 3/4 thrust as we pleased. (This walking and standing for 2 1/2 hours is part of why the piece is exhausting. But to be fair, I was already exhausted.) Live video feed onto four screens in the space solved the issue of not being able to see into an installation that was across the room or blocked by other scenic elements, as well as providing a place for supertitles. By the end, I had figured out that if I couldn’t see, I could move.

Oh, rules! They were being broken everywhere last night. For example, one piece of advice from a founding artistic director this week was something along the lines of “Don’t try to knock it out of the park with your first show. Stick to something you know how to do.” Director Yuval Sharon said in the talkback yesterday that for Crescent City, “the road map was to figure out that there wasn’t one; the road map only goes day by day.” So you could do what you know, or, well, you could do a hyperopera.