Wednesday, October 9, 2013

foot falls

In the Summer of 2004 Oscar Olivo and I made a piece together called Radio Sintesi (simultaneous translation) that we performed in my studio at Nest. It included an excerpt from Beckett's Footfalls. I played May, or Amy as she is referred to later, and he played my mother. He lay on the floor in a hospital gown and I was also in a hospital gown, and socks. It was done in almost total darkness as the sort of prologue to what went on to become a very chaotic piece. (The piece used a matrix of sections and several bells and timers and 'chance', and also included me ACTUALLY washing the audience member's feet whilst wearing a bubble wrap plastic bag on my head and speaking fake Asian languages. There were also 14 televisions and 14 vcrs (this was a long time ago) between the 'audience' and the 'playing space' in a low, crumbling-ish wall. Each television had a super long cord plugged into it and each of the 14 audience seats had a headset through which the audience could listen to the audio, and watch the video, on one of the screens. The video footage consisted of a combination of major life events in my family (birthday parties, prom, weddings, etc), Oscar and I talking about culture, and also just very casually sort of gossiping about life. He had just recently been diagnosed at that point, and though he was a spry 22 year old, mortality weighed heavily on both of our minds. Today, that section of time feels so close. I can imagine walking through the side door to the building (68 Washington Street) and entering that whole world. I can remember the smells and the sounds and the angst I felt and the freedom too.
One of the reasons all of these memories came flooding back is that I went to see Hoi Polloi's production of Beckett Solos (Cascando, Footfalls, and Rockaby) tonight. Alec Duffy directed and Leila Goldoni performed. Julian Rozzell, Jr. lent his voice to the first play, a radio play. The major thrust of Mimi Lien's scenic installation was the tinfoil paper that covered the walls, (or is that a permanent element of Jack, HP's new theater?), but it wasn't two-dimensional, it looked like half-eaten mounds of ice cream or a volcano-speckled lunar landscape. Leila Goldoni is 77 and starred in Cassavetes' Shadows among other films. As she told us in the casual conversation after the performance, she was also a dancer and is a "very physical person." She talked about how her modern dance background meant she was used to abstract things and didn't need a play to be linear. She felt like she really got Beckett, when you 'look at the words on a page it looks crazy' but 'when you come off the page' it's alive. Knud asked her about the first time she saw a Beckett play and she said it was 1959, at the old Beverly movie theater in LA. Waiting for Godot. She loved it. She also met Groucho Marx and told that story too. About how he said she was very funny and she asked him if she could be a comic and he said, :no! You're too beautiful. Nobody can laugh at a beautiful woman!"
Anyway, I loved the production. It made me think of so many things and also gave me so much room to explore in my own head. You could check in and check out. I love that about the repetition in Beckett. The rhythm.
It also made me think so much about the last two weeks. My close-up window onto the cycle of life. Time with an 89 year old and time with a 1 year old. Both blood relatives. As my mom pointed out, in many ways, these two ladies are struggling with the same basic physical things.  Of course, the hardest part about aging, when your mind doesn't go, is that you know you are helpless. You have all of your faculties, all of your self-consciousness, all of your ego, all of your pride, all of your wisdom, and none of the physical strength or stamina you used to have. You lose the ability to feed yourself. To clean yourself. To dress yourself. To do all the things you know how to do.