Monday, September 14, 2009

the day at hand

It is so good to get away—especially somewhere so different. I spent the past week in Fort Worth, Texas and I really loved it. I was there directing Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain for Amphibian Stage at the lovely Sanders Theater. The show runs through September 20th—and I’m really, really proud of it. The actors’ and designers’ work is inspired and truthful, and the whole Amphibian team are a bunch of amazingly hard-working, brilliant and artistic people.
I also got to go to two museums in the past couple days as my schedule opened up-- The Modern and The Kimbell—and those experiences added a hefty serving of joy and inspiration to my already-awesome time here. I was moved by the works of Gerhard Richter, Nicholas Nixon, Philip Haas, Anselm Keifer and Francis Bacon that I saw, but my favorite was the exhibition of William Kentridge’s work at the Modern—and his process of charcoal drawing, erasure and stop-motion animation is a bit of an exploration of many similar themes as the play I was working on… this quote from him is more eloquent than I.
“The final state of each drawing becomes a record of this painstaking process of erasure and addition—a palimpsest evocative of the emotional tension between forgetting and remembering. The making of each film was a rediscovery of what each film was. A first image, phrase or idea would justify itself in the unfolding of images, prases, and ideas spawned by the work as it progressed. The imperfect erasures of the successive stages of each drawing become a record of the progress of an idea and the passage of time. The smudges of erasure thicken in the film, but they also serve as a record of the days and months spent making the film—a record in slow-motion.”
It was especially resonant because I have vivid recollections of going to see the 2000 exhibition of his work at the New Museum in NY. The drawings and films had a profound impact on me, for their artistry, and also for his subtle but potent scrutiny of socio-political events close to him; namely, apartheid in his home of South Africa.
For me making a play is much like building a relationship with a person or with a work of art or literature. It takes some time to connect, there may be false-starts, missed connections and so on, but gradually, a bond is forged and intimacy follows. Something grows where once there was nothing. For a time it is all-consuming and then, often too quickly, it is over. The thing, the convergence exists only in memory. As the Walker character describes in Three Days of Rain, it is still there. “Old things scraped away to reveal older things, like a palimpsest, or pentimento.” I do not type the words without hearing Caleb Scott (the actor from my production) saying them.