— From the Fool —
I was driving this bus, which I never do, but this was a dream, so you don’t have much choice in the matter. We were going to a picnic, my friend Marge and some other people that maybe I knew, or else they’d just caught the wrong bus. It was a long drive, and I woke up a couple of times, which was risky because if you’re driving in a dream and wake up it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.
I was driving faster than I wanted to because I didn’t want the dream to end till we did the picnic, and then I stepped down on the brakes but the brakes didn’t work. This got me worried. I kept trying the brakes but the bus just went faster and I thought I should have practiced on video games, and we were going right through the crossroads. I think Marge said to slow down, but it wouldn’t have been so bad except we were driving backwards.
That’s not easy, especially if you’re asleep. I tried to turn my head around, but my face was in the pillow.
Then I got mad at Marge. This happens a lot when I’m awake, and I’d told her to make a list of what I had to do so I’d fix the brakes some time if I could get the bus to stop, but I think she never did. Or maybe it wasn’t Marge’s fault. Maybe I’d told Gail, a girl I knew in grade school who got good grades, but she must have gone off to some other dream.
They say dreams mean something. I guess this one means I should fix the brakes before I go to sleep. If I can find the bus. It looked pretty old, so it might be hard to get parts.
— From CB —
Saturday, our first preview performance of King Lear. Eighteen experimental subjects in our studio. It worked. After the show, I talked with audience while drinking a lot of wine. I felt as if I’d made a thousand fluffs, but I probably made only 500. Thought that midway we lost two people — our studio door is very audible — but found out afterward it was just one lady who went the bathroom, then came back.
It’s a strange journey. I sit there behind the curtain in the little aluminum box for half an hour, then I throw myself off the cliff — assisted by my mate. I ride the rhythm, and hopefully words come out that actually make sense. My sweaty hand gets stuck halfway into a puppet, so I slow to a ceremonial tempo and somehow manage to stumble over that hurdle. And at last, sweating like a pig, I come to the end of Lear’s journey.
So we were immensely gratified, but warned ourselves that second performances have always, for us, been real trials. There’s not the same shot of pure adrenalin as on the first, but you’re still not the master of the working. But despite warning ourselves, we made errors that had us crossing the rapids on the backs of alligators. Simply by making a wrong puppet exchange, I jumped over an entire scene, resulting not only in expository gaps but forcing the Fool — who operates tech cues — to scramble madly to get the music/lights/video back on track, and making us grope for puppets that were in the wrong racks from then to the end of the play. One part of my brain was playing the role, the other part prancing over the alligators.
It still worked. Somehow, the fact that we never broke rhythm, playing every wild panic moment as if it was fully intended, kept the audience with us and carried us through. Applause, talk, hugs, and more wine afterwards. And it proved — though I surely don’t want to experience that again — that the production’s odd vocabulary works and that we can take more risks with it, more moments when realities shift, gestural metaphors expand, and Lear’s world, like Lear, tilts on madness.
As Elizabeth wrote in a post, we’re at the start of one more goddamned & godblessed journey. Tally-ho.
— From EF —
Well, we made it, and we did it well. Lear, I mean, what else? This blog will now probably return to a wider spectrum of foolish thought, but through this span of our first previews, the focus of experience has been understandably narrow.
I mean, what kind of fool takes life and focuses it down to a burning-glass fire for a whole year?
Another speculation comes to mind. Who are the people who dare to come to these first performances, knowing that they are previews and that the rehearsal process is not yet complete? It’s a big risk, whether you know the performers intimately or whether you just want to see something done locally on a donation-hat basis. Good lord, 100 minutes without intermission, that’s huge. What if I don’t like it? What if they screw up and embarrass us all? What if my bladder doesn’t hold that long?
Saturday night, very few people had ever seen us perform before, and they probably weren’t sure what to expect. One diagnostic early in the performance is whether or not there is laughter. We invite that with a couple of broad bits, but it will take more work to make newcomers trust us. Sunday afternoon was packed with old friends, and they guffawed with ease. How to make that universally available?
The tech in this production is of a nasty complexity, and it takes flawless execution to get through the whole damn thing without having lights, sound, and video get out of sync. That’s what comes of having the Fool control it all from a laptop and a foot pedal. The first performance had a minor glitch, easily repaired, and nobody noticed.
Sunday afternoon was a horse of another color, requiring major in-flight adaptation without being able to communicate with each other directly, but we managed to get back to equilibrium. The essential thing is to keep the fabric of the storytelling intact, and I am proud of us for managing this without major kerfuffle. (No stage manager here, no techies, just a couple of bald-faced fools on stage with a laptop, a bunch of puppets, and a story.)
So I am now expressing great love and thanks for our first two audiences, who marched bravely into our studio to accept whatever we could give. Future audiences will owe them thanks, without having the foggiest idea why. Could that be an appropriate meme for living a life?
* * *
As we were preparing to spend the late evening sitting by the bedroom fireplace, the rain cut loose. In immediate gratitude, I walked out naked into the rain, lifted my arms, and hollered “Thank you, oh thank you.”
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© Bishop & Fuller 2015