monsters of the sea//outline

Working Title: Monsters of the Sea (or Monstrosities of the Sea)

Form: Mix of Live Performance and Media (Film & Sound)

Dates: Spring 2013 (April-ish)

Venues: Theater in My Basement living room (seats 20-30), downtown galleries, other living rooms, Tucson galleries, spaces in México, San Diego (?), living rooms in Los Angeles

What's the story:
The central story, the skeleton or frame, starts with Odysseus setting out at sea by himself, with the intention of hiding himself in the trappings of a new adventure.  He is in a state of permanent spiritual exile, and wants to make a decision to go to Ithaca, but wants to acknowledge that he will never get there.  So it's just an impulse to move into an unknown area in order to have an adventure, because he is restless and anxious.

On the way, he has a memory of someone he used to love, someone who was lost, like a Eurydice who  went to the underworld and didn't come back.  His memory of her is enough to conjure her image back from the underworld, and she joins him on this raft in the middle of the sea, surrounded by monsters.  But she is also a monster, someone who is created from memory, and is not at all who he thinks she is.  He is also a monster, because he wants to believe that she is who he wants her to be.  So she becomes this kind of Frankenstein, someone created out of desire and longing, but is stuck inhabiting a body in time, a body with its own wants and desires, but with no memory of her own to go on.  She begins to become real, making an identity based only on what happens from the moment of her conjuration.  He begins to become less real, living in an identity that only knows versions of a past that are all fragments of his imagination of that same past.  She is also in a state of permanent spiritual exile, and is looking for something to become.

At the same time, he is pulled out of these moments with her when news from the Land of the Dead comes that his father is sick.  He goes back and forth between the realms, visiting the Land of the Dead, and the Sea full of Monsters, trying to find something about his father that can heal the father.  Of course, he is the father, or has become the father archetype, and his healing will come in finding out that he's the one he is looking for.  Coming to terms with a new identity that does not feel like human skin just yet.  Her journey then starts to twist, as his visits to the underworld make her lonely for her home, which she does not yet understand is imaginary.  So she is also breaking free from an old identity, one that defined her, even though it was terribly uncomfortable, and gets to come to life for the first time.

That's the central story, but there's a lot more that revolves in and out of this.

But so far, the characters, there are five.

HE: Odysseus, son becoming father
SHE: Eurydice and Frankenstein
FATHER: A ghost figure who is not yet here and not yet there, a wounded warrior.
FERRYMAN: Trickster figure who controls passage between the here and there.
NARRATOR: She guides the central story, sometimes is a figure, sometimes appears as narrative text and voice.  Throughout the story, she becomes more entangled in it, becoming a kind of mirror of SHE, becoming real, with real desires and impulses.  The Narrator is entirely witchy, but all of these characters are witches.

This is a loose structure, then, for the performance that counters this.  In real time, there are the same characters who may have the same names, but are extensions of the performers in their real identities.  They are, in a sense, then, actors who are trying on these mythic identities, but trying to maintain their own individual lives.  As the work goes on, they become more entangled, and their real desires and impulses start to mirror the ones in the mythic story, to the point where reality and the mythic level of events will overlap.  We all enter into the project with a profound sense of spiritual exile, and  make attempts to find our way home (to our own Ithaca) through the romantic discourse of revolution.  As people/performers, we are trying to articulate a real revolution for our time, one that is based on the possibility to maintain many identities at once (through variations on themes of race, class, and gender). There is also the desire to make these realities manifest, but we are stuck inside a performance, so our tools to experiment with these revolutionary ideas are through magic spells (better to call these "works," or "kangas" in Kongolese cosmology).  There are "works" then, in the central story, but also "works" in live performance, where we can enact these mystical rituals that will also involve the spectators in some significant way (in this last one, then, I'm revealing my impulse here to play with the notions of ritual in performance, looking at how they are effective or affective when they are presented on video, and how they work when they are done by live actors.

So the bulk of the preliminary work, then, will be in setting a space where all the actors can come together and talk about their own experiences with their own constantly-shifting identities.  We will explore alternative identities, altar-egos, for ourselves, and focus on performing the versions of ourselves we most want to see representative of ourselves for any particular moment or series of moments.  Rock Stars, Magicians, Warriors, Divine Lovers, Ghost Lovers, and any extremes that suit the comfort level of the performers.  At no point should anyone feel like they're being coerced into performing a version of themselves that is not based on their own desires of what they want to be (the central story is concerned with the tangle of representations that happen when we are forced into becoming something that suits the desires of another human being, and these meta-narratives are about finding the possibilities for liberation within ourselves for who we desire to become).

So there's a story that serves as a framework, and there's a secondary reality where real life has the possibility of entering into something that will resemble art.  The secondary reality, then, ourselves performing ourselves, is the real meat and fat of the thing, and depends entirely on the involvement of the performers.  But it's basically a framework for allowing us to collectively create a space of magic, a place where magical actions are performed by ourselves on ourselves.  It sounds very time-consuming, but I'm imagining that the bulk of this material can be mined through a few sessions that should feel more like interesting people hanging out than anything else.  From these sessions, we'll pull the bits that we like the best, and integrate these into the live performance that we'd present for the spectators.  The central story is one that can be told with a combination of image, sound, and text on video.  I've put together those kinds of narratives before, and pretty quickly, but this other level, involving the actors in a more personal way, is something that I've skirted around, but never fully invested in.

So the level of experiment in this is very high, which might be anxiety-provoking, but the level of fun is also very high, and I'm much more interested in creating a situation where we can discover things about ourselves, and perform versions of ourselves in a magical act of setting ourselves in a position where we can have an empirical experience of becoming.  And I should say, at the risk of an artistic reputation, that I am always much more interested in creating spaces where we are all able to remain friends, rather than making a work of art that destroys our delight in working together.  Without that sense of delight, there is no reason for doing anything.  I would also love, love, love it if this were a bilingual production, because the myth of Odysseus, that longing for a home that is no longer there, would translate in lots of places in the Americas if this becomes something we can tour.

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