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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Happenings at the Harman, Wednesday 3/20 at Noon

 If you're near downtown D.C. during the week, please join us (and bring your lunch)!

"Perfect place to set up shop."
"Have you seen the bloom of late?"
"Sort of thing we did for instants on the beat during that jazz number."

Mindscape spills into the theater space 
as actor and audience collaborate to create “a shared imagining,” 
something uniquely possible to live theatre.

Idylls Showcase

Happenings at the Harman Lunchtime Performances
 hosted by Shakespeare Theatre Company
Wednesday, March 20th at Noon

Stephen Mead, “A Street-Merchant Imagines his Riches to Come”
                                    (After an anonymous author of The Arabian Nights)

Harlie Sponaugle, “A Mother Feels her Estranged Daughter’s Labor Pains”
                                    (vide Colette)

Genna Davidson, “A Dancer Stretches her Legs”

The Forum in Sidney Harman Hall at  610 F St. NW, Washington, D.C
"Happenings lunchtime performances start at noon 
Bring your lunch and we will bring your shot of culture!"
Remember:  All performances are FREE and reservations are not required. Performances will last less than an hour.
 Special thanks to Hannah Hessel at STC for having us.

Stephen Mead/Street-Merchant
"just a tray of glassware..."

Stephen Mead trained as an actor at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Besides appearing in many stage productions, he has worked as a drama adviser to Goldcrest Films UK and written for Channel4 (TV). Stephen has made a specialty of DRAMATIC RECITATIONS (from memory) from the works of DICKENS, EDGAR ALLAN POE and other 19th-century authors. These bring poems and prose by these writers to vivid life without costume, make-up, lights or scenery. Most 19th-century literature was written to be heard as well as read, and Stephen Mead’s enthralling renditions of these pieces have gripped audiences in the UK and the US since 1987. Stephen has worked for London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Arts Collection Fund, the National Trust (UK), Richmond Adult College, Missenden Abbey Buckinghamshire, among many other venues. He has appeared on the bill of the world-famous Player’s Theatre in London singing Victorian music-hall. Stephen had the honour of being invited toperform his one-man adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Dickens Festival in Dickens’ home town Rochester, Kent, in the historic Guildhall three years in a row. He also performed a tour of Switzerland under the auspices of the Anglo-Swiss society. His appearances in the Washington DC area include All's Well that Ends Well for the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, Romeo and Juliet for Vpstart Crow Theatre Company, and Medieval StoryLand, a hit at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival;  he is also as an entertainer at local hotels, and has performed programs of his Dickens recitations including his one man show version of A Christmas Carol to acclaim at venues in DC and Virginia.  With the Idylls and SiGiLPAL, he's on his way to CapFringe in summer 2013 with Murder on the Bare Stage (see October entry).

Harlie Sponaugle/ Mother
"Quietly, but it's begun."

Harlie Sponaugle has been a singer all her life and several years ago was guided to study acting in a serous way. Her singing voice has been described as the Steinway of sopranos, seamless powerful, warm and full on the top and bright and clear on the bottom. Whether performing opera or art songs, or a play or musical, she strives to stir the souls of her audience by painting compelling pictures that speak straight to the heart. Her roles in plays and musicals include the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet (VPStart Crow); Grandma in Claudie Hukill (Venus Theatre), King Duncan and the Medicine Woman in Macbeth (Impossible Theatre Co.); and Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir (for the Young Hearts Foundation). Operatic and other singing roles include Amelia in Un ballo in maschera (Repertory Opera of Washington), ensemble in Regina (with Patti LuPone at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theatre), Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Riverbend Opera), and the Washington area premieres  of John Kander’s The Letter from Sullivan Ballou and Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Eudice for soprano, clarinet and piano. She earned her Masters of Music at George Mason University  and completed the Honors Conservatory program at the Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts. Her next appearance will be as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s opera Macbeth with the Riverbend Opera Company in late May of 2013, a challenge she looks forward to with great excitement and wonder. More info at www.HarlieSponaugle.com.

Genna Davidson/Dancer
"turning and swirling, veiling, unveiling..."

Genna Davidson is a professional actress in Washington, DC. She was most recently seen in dog & pony dc's A Killing Game; the Hub Theatre's Big Love (ensemble/fiddler); and Tattooed Potato's The Nightmare Dreamer. In addition to acting, Genna has been flirting with puppetry for a number of years and is producing and collaborating on a Wit's End Puppets original: The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet. Look for it at the Mead Theatre Lab in April and May, 2013. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2008 with a BA in Theatre Performance. 

About the Show...

All three pieces showcased today represent the development of a theatrical approach based on poet and playwright Magus Magnus’ years of engagement with the form of the Idyll - poetic monologue designed for performance. Such a practice comes out of interpreting the Idyll, originated by the ancient Greek poet Theocritus, as a “shared imagining” (with reference to its roots in earlier Mime and its etymology related to words such as Idea, Ideal, Idol, Images, and Eidolon). The actual medium of the Idyll form is imagination, and the performer works in cooperation and with the goodwill of the audience to foster the imagining of the piece.  Indeed, audience members themselves are encouraged to become conscious of this process, whereby they notice themselves engaging a communal mental space – together, we enter a landscape of the imagination.

A full treatment of the Theocritean Idyll as reconceived in its relevance and possibility for contemporary theater (not least with respect to what theater and theater alone can still do amidst the worldwide sensory bombardment of screens and media) forms the introduction to Magnus’ Idylls for a Bare Stage ( twentythreebooks, 2011).  This introduction was republished just this month as an essay titled “Imagination and Performance” in the journal Nerve Lantern: Axon of Performance Literature.  Nerve Lantern

Deepest gratitude to the three featured performers, Genna Davidson, Harlie Sponaugle, and Stephen Mead, all of whom have given a great deal of sustained time and effort to engage the process, and contributed their theatrical creativity, insights, experience, and expertise in collaborative development of a performance style effective for the Idylls form.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Performer Profile: Natalie Cutcher

This Friday morning, for our program titled A Shared Imagining: Beyond Self-Enclosure in Performance through the theory and technique of the Idyll at Towson University's 5th annual Geo-aesthetics Conference (see just previous entry), Natalie Cutcher will apply our theory and approach to "Leda" by Anne Ashbaugh, a poetic soliloquy. This will directly follow Anne's lecture on Penelope - I'm thrilled once again to present her "Leda" in a new incarnation with a new performer, beautiful as it is in its poetry and sensuous sense, and compatible as it is with the multilevel imaginative approach of the Idylls performance technique.

I called Natalie after watching her at the D.C Actors' Center Lottery Auditions this fall, and she came to our work cold, without introduction to our performances or participation in the Power of the Poetic Monologue workshops. 

Nevertheless, Natalie immediately accessed the poetry of Anne Ashbaugh's Leda during the first rehearsal, with an instinctive feel for the more abstract aspects of the piece's flights ("the pleasure clinging to our dying flesh surpasses god's, persists, but slides from the immortal frame not knowing how to end, stretching"), and since then she has brought out naturally, with flowing ease, the play - the clash - of  human encounter with the divine. Here, with the rape of Leda by Zeus as a swan, this encounter is violent, transgressive, under duress - all that is indeed there in her relation to the character, and yet Natalie keeps the lyric in her body as she moves and at times glides through the piece, appropriate to its mythic import.

The lyric in Natalie's movement: towards activation of the intrinsic power of words, the Idylls approach begins with a variety of exercises designed to connect to the script with immediacy, by-passing analysis; recently, we've tried taking spatial, stretching, dance-like passes through the words, and this has had an excellent effect for Natalie's Leda, becoming part of her performance and interpretation, giving her an ethereal glide in retention of flight and myth along with the realistic human psychology of coping with a violation - flight of poetic myth even in the piece's affirming human love and capacity over the divine.

From activation of the power of the words to conscious blocking of the imagination, Natalie has created multi-level access to Anne's poetry, ready to place - in the bare space of a conference hall - feathers in the air, a ringing in her Leda's ears, the bizarre divine egg in Leda's womb.

Natalie Cutcher as Leda

Natalie Cutcher is currently pursuing acting in the DC metro area.  She has previously been seen collaborating with Faction of Fools, Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, Source Festival, Washington Rogues, Arts Alive, and Empty Chair Theatre Company.  While earning her BA from Muhlenberg College she had the opportunity to study Commedia dell'Arte and clowning abroad in Italy as well as perform locally.  She is happily a member of the Ford's Theatre team by day.