Finding the Framework: Dance Performance

I set out to perform a dance in a show at some point during Finding the Framework, and by golly, I was going to perform a dance.  Due to schedule and mostly not being able to afford dance classes and recital fees for local programs, I made the totally reasonable decision to just produce another show and do a dance piece in that.

focofringe

Caution: Not a Step was a variety showcase that incorporated sufficient movement and musicality that parts of it could indeed be considered ‘dance’.  There were also the usual shenanigans – stand up comedy, handstands, backwards Shakespeare, and impromptu juggling classes with audience members set to ragtime music…

Juggling class.jpg

The show was in an arts collective warehouse on the outskirts of Ft. Collins and I had absolutely no time to market or promote the performance.  Somehow though, I still had larger crowds for some of my 30 minute acts than for some of my full Boulder Fringe performance of Outside the Lines.  It was great to get to bring a weird, experimental show to a community that was so ready to embrace the full fringe-eyness of the festival.

Throwing My Hat In the Ring

The 2016 Boulder International Fringe Festival is well under way now, with all of the acts having performed at least half of their shows.

Outside the Lines is probably one of the hardest projects I’ve ever done- certainly one of the hardest I’ve ever done without a larger creative team.  I’ve been working on the writing for 8 months, designing for 5 months, rehearsing for 2 months, and now it’s finally being performed for a paying audience.  I made it!

But then I look around.

To be realistic, most of the shows in the festival are better than mine.  There are shows in the festival that have performed in New York, Canada, Scotland, and Australia.  There are Off-Broadway actors, people who have been doing this for decades, people with sponsors, or organizations supporting them, or carefully cultivated audiences who will attend anything they produce.

I’ve thrown my hat into a broad and impressive ring full of artists.  I believe that I do have a distinct message, a story in my show that only I could tell.  I’m fairly confident that I have a premise and setting never before used by an American playwright.  But that’s not going to make my show stand out over the others.

I got reviewed by ALOC Media, the local indie artist press.  The review itself isn’t great, but it’s honest.  It evaluates the show in its context, relative to its neighbors.  I could spend years honing and refining my script and performance, and still be out of reaching the competition.  Adam Smith of the SF Neofuturists has a great piece, Theatre Show that makes bolder, more compelling meta-theater choices than anything I’ve seen live.  John Fico has a solo show Made For Each Otherthat does everything I’d ever want a one-man show to do (compelling story, song and dance, well-structured narrative, cross-dressing…).  Studio Playhaus, a dark horse group of young theater entrepreneurs, has toured up a marvelously polished production, EllieIda, that is jam-packed with fast paced physical comedy, well executed non-linear narrative, and powerful feminism.

It’s a crazy beautiful world of independent art out there.

Outside the Lines – Soundtrack!

Well, I set out in October with a goal for this year to produce a music album.  As someone with a horrible singing voice, only moderately horrible ukulele skills, and no music composition training, I had no idea what was going to lead to that result.

But over the year I’ve been realizing more and more how much I enjoy collaborative projects- specifically, collaborations with skilled and passionate artists.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve gotten to work with Nigel Deane on a number of shows in the past 3 years, and contacted him as soon as I decided I needed new music as part of my Fringe performance.  He’s worked tirelessly on the project all summer- flying in to Boulder for a week of rehearsals and recordings, and writing, editing, and composing back in Texas for 2 months.

Now the soundtrack is finished!  You can listen to all the tracks here.  I’m excited to be performing to this score in a frighteningly short amount of time now.

I hadn’t expected to be part of the creation of an album of new music in this context- as a writer collaborating with a composer to create symbiotic music and text.  While most of it is going to be a live mix of text and music, I really like the way Nigel mastered this track, bringing the music together with the spoken word of a non-representational flashback segment.  The credit belongs to Nigel, as well as my wife Grace and the guitarist Nathan Fenner for their skillful contributions to the album.  But as this is exactly the sort of way that I want to help catalyze new music projects in the future, I’m going to chalk this up as a Mission Accomplished for the album goal.  Yay music!

 

Outside the Lines- Set Design

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The set is ready!

I made some last minute changes involving me not wanting to have to do carpentry in the parking lot, and now I have all the final pieces for what building the world of Outside the Lines!

More info about the show.

Reflections on Mastershots

Mastershots

I first read this book in high school, and it was central to developing how I understood techniques in filmmaking.  I had read books about the styles of films, about screenwriting, and beats, and story arcs.  But here was something different.  Here was a book that directly connected the movement and focus of the camera to the movement and focus of the actor.  It created and explained the visual techniques for camera placement as a powerful element of storytelling.  As soon as I read it, I began incorporating these techniques into my film work, and created some of my best shots.  (I was going to include some of these as an example, but then I rewatched the footage I made at 17.  SO MUCH NOPE.  That’s going to stay buried forever.)

Rereading it now, I still found the approach to be both effective and accessible.  Many theater directors about how they’re not trying to make a play like film, not trying to convey everything in a detail oriented, realist fashion.  This book tries to help the aspiring filmmaker not make films like film.  It coaches tricks and shot set ups and dolly movement to create moments on camera that lead the viewer into the scene.  The camera is more than just a recording device.  It’s a part of the story, a contributing tool for character, storytelling, and emotional impact.

And if nothing else, it also gives you really good insight for seeing what’s happening when you’re watching a movie.  It gives the reader the ability to sit there watching a movie and go “ooh, they’re panning the camera down with the actor to mask the appearance of the antagonist and enhance the surprise.”

At which point all your friends will throw popcorn at you and tell you to shut up and stop ruining the movie.

Life Philosophies as Jim Carrey Films

  • The Truman Show- There’s a higher power, and it’s totally messing with us.
  • Bruce Almighty- Humans are the sovereigns of nature.
  • Liar Liar- Honesty and goodness will prevail
  • The Cable Guy- You can’t escape predestination.
  • The Mask- Our personal ethics determine how we relate to power.
  • Yes Man- We have no free will, accept the inevitable.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- The world is a horrible, messed up place.  Let’s not think about the parts we don’t like.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events- The world is a horrible, messed up place.  Let’s make it worse.
  • Dumb and Dumber- There is no intelligent life in the universe.

Troilus and Cressida Revisited

This winter I read and wrote a little about the play Troilus and Cressida.  It made my reading list because it was announced as part of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival‘s 2016 season, and I had never read it.  I attended their auditions for the season, but didn’t land a part.  I thought, “oh, well, at least I’ll get a chance to see it this summer” and that was that.

Then in May I got an email asking if I wanted to come in and help hang some lights for the festival’s outdoor space.  That’s the thing about arts immersion- when you establish yourself as a generally useful person, a surprising number of people start asking you to lend a hand on projects.

I was hired to hang lights, then when the lights were hung I was asked to work in carpentry for Comedy of Errors before it opened.  Then Comedy opened, and I was asked to help in the metal shop.  After the metal shop, it was over to the props department to help sew banners. And after the banners it was the crew changing sets in rep in the outdoor space…

I was initially asked to help with the first two weeks in May, before the festival even opened.  Now it’s August, and I’m spending all of next week as part of the team striking the festival.  It’s been a crazy summer, learning and practicing a whole range of skills that weren’t even covered on my list of fully immersive arts experiences for the year.  When I read this play a year ago, I never expected that I’d be getting to build and raise the gates of Troy every week this July, nor that I would get to tear them down myself before the summer was over.

Troilus and Cressida Set 4
Photo credit- Colorado Shakespeare Festival