updates connected to the book Idylls for a Bare Stage
& to performances of the Idylls
& other initiatives related to the Art of the Poetic Monologue

Thursday, December 27, 2012

and now towards 2013

Parading with the Idylls into the New Year!

Much in the works, and I'm finding myself orienting to the coming year in a number of ways with regard to the Idylls, and with regard to its (currently informal) framework for performance approaches to the form, and beyond: SiGiLPAL (Sui Generis Literary Performing Arts Lab).

Right around the corner, as mentioned in previous posts: Happenings at the Harman will host an Idylls showcase on March 20th.

As also mentioned in this space, "Murder on the Bare Stage" debuted at Bloombars the weekend before Halloween.  It is definitely a show - upon the experience of that night, we've applied to take it to Fringe this summer.  The intermixing of the Idyll form and Stephen Mead's specialty in dramatic recitation brought out the contours and distinctive effects of each approach, for an intense impact on the audience.  This, in service of the chilling nature of the theme.

Thus began our collaboration with Bloombars, a wonderful community arts space in Columbia Heights led by John Chambers, with poetry-related programming managed by Gowri Koneswaran, both incredible people to work with.   Upcoming soon there: I'm holding a workshop on the performance technique of the Idyll, titled Power of the Poetic Monologue, on January 13th, 2:30pm. This is an introductory version of the 3-part workshops I did at the D.C. Actors' Center in 2011, developing the acting and theatrical approach to the form.  The workshop also functions as an audition for performers interested in the possibility of paid performance opportunities through the Idylls/SiGiLPAL projects. More information about the workshops/audition at the following links...

Furthermore, I'm excited by the upcoming appearance of my introduction to Idylls for a Bare Stage in the journal Nerve Lantern, edited by the painstaking, thorough, and wonderfully sensitive-to-detail Ellen Redbird.

For the purposes of this publication, the introduction is titled "Imagination and Performance."

Idylls for a Bare Stage exists as a book (you can order it here), and also as a complete theatrical piece to be performed in order, all twelve idylls; at the same time individual idylls have been and can be performed on their own, part of what I've been doing on my own initiative, and as reflected in this blog.  Also, the book can function for actors as a high end source for audition monologues. 

Yet, beyond the work as a book and piece(s) for theater, there is the idea of the idyll, and its concomitant theory and techniques for acting and theater - the idea of the Idyll as a form, the re-interpretation of an ancient form for contemporary purposes.

This is what the introduction to the book (and its upcoming incarnation as an essay, "Imagination and Performance") offers; and this is what I'm trying for in the workshops/audition, "Power of the Poetic Monologue" - to activate an idea of, and for, performance which addresses  the question, what does live theater still have to offer uniquely in competition with every other form of media?

Well, for one thing, the word.  The live word, the living embodied in-person delivery of charged language.  The "poetic," in the flesh. Live bodies, bare stage - rather than going for expensive spectacle, I'm going for portable essence.

In developing the Idylls approach, there has been much honing in on a contemporary standard for the stage (or sidewalk) delivery of poetic language: much to avoid in both the theater world and the poetry reading world, all the varieties of pretension from staginess to "wispiness," from the overly intoned to the monotone...  an essential aspect of the idylls technique is a trust in the intrinsic power of words.  Each word speaks itself, if you let it.

From there - and this goes deeper into the nature of the form, delving into the etymologies of the ancient Greek word idyll and its cousins, as I do in the essay/book introduction - an exploration of the living invisible, basically: the relationship of imagination to performance.

We are actually working with the invisible, or the heretofore or nearly invisible: invisible, because imagined - conscious workings of the imagination, live.  This is something that cannot be done when involved with the intermediary of screens.

The Idyll form consciously works on at least three levels of reality (and part of the art is to make this conscious both to artist and audience):  the actor on the stage, the body/performer on the stage (visible); the imagined stage setting as created by the actor in character (actually invisible, but the audience sees it!); and then also, the character's internal life conveyed to the audience through the shared imagining - this is almost all invisible, but creates an unmistakable impact on the performance, one can tell when an actor is truly "seeing" whatever memory or projection she or he is putting to words.

The actor must actually imagine what he or she is thinking about, and the audience can perceive that - it is all apparently invisible, though likely we find clues and our brains put it all together from facial expressions, position of the bodies, even style of breathing...  the art - its artistic intention, its relevance and magic - is in revealing these levels of reality, making them manifest and conscious. 

I could also say, entry into this "shared imagining" is evolutionary for humans, a circumscribed engagement in group telepathy; at the very least, it opens up a temporary space for communion.

Anyway, the Idyll in performance is equivalent to some other modes of art demonstrating - or,
demon-starting (as I have it elsewhere, following my daimon) - phenomena.

The Idylls in performance and their uses/denial/phenomenology of invisibility might have resonance with one of my poems from Verb Sap, a poem also included in the 10th edition of Pearson Longman's textbook anthology of English, Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing...

Empirical / Imperial Demonstration

             The difference between
                    what is seen                                                  and what is not seen
                           what is heard                                                           and unheard
                                      what is touched                                                and intangible 

             isn't the difference between
                            what is there                                                and


Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetry in Community vid featuring Idylls on a Baltimore sidewalk


Check out this video on Baltimore-based Poetry in the Community.

PiC was one of the hosts of the 7th Annuel Cruellest Month Poetry and Performance Festival (CruMoPoPerFest) last spring.

As you'll find in the April archives, scenes from the idylls were performed as part of the wrap-up celebration of poetry month in Baltimore.  Idylls actors Stephen Mead, Genna Davidson, and Sue Struve performed in front of the Waverly branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.

All three of them show up in this video, created by Evan Bartos.

Stephen Mead is there at the start, in the midst of his rendition of  "A Street-Merchant Imagines his Riches to Come" from Idylls for a Bare Stage.

Sue Struve is seen in action doing "A Native Chief's Captive Woman Guards One Freshly Caught" beginning at :38.

And you can see and hear a moment of Genna Davidson's Antigone at :50.

More glimpses of each of them throughout...

Join Poetry in Community on Facebook here 

 My daughter Hero Magnus is in the video as well, beatboxing and singing at the open mic (she's in a black and white striped shirt);  you can hear her voice early on, and my own - I had a chance to mention how performance can create that temporary community of audience and artist (as driven by a shared imagining).

Overall, you might get some hint from this video of what an idylls performance is like live, on the street, and certainly it provides striking glimpses of the intensity and excellence Stephen, Genna, and Sue bring to their performances.