Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Unexpected: Weeks Three and Four

Oh my, how time flies when holidays happen! I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. I seemed to embrace the festivities a bit too much (how delicious!) and have gotten behind in blogging about our process.

Well, week three went much better than week two at least in terms of my brain not exploding. The ensemble did composition work creating small performances quickly, we talked about the inevitability of death and Maira Kalman’s ability to make seemingly insignificant just as important and all intertwined with the inevitability of death. Life continues on, so it seems.

We cut loose a bit and went on a field trip to the MCA and out for beers afterword. The artwork, space and visitors to the MCA gave us a lot to talk about. Changing pace a bit (and adding beerin a loud pub) enlivened our discussions about our own project. Sometimes it’s so good to mix it up a bit.

Because we had less time working out ideas on our feet I decided to give the group some homework. We also all really liked some of the writing that came out of out workshop with Erika, so I wanted to continue with everyone riffing on chapters and ideas from the book to see where that would take us. My plan was for the homework to give a solid base to move forward
with our in-session compositions. But just because I have a plan, it doesn’t mean that’s how things are going to work out.

As often with devised work, the unexpected leads to new and wonderful things. As hard as I try to keep things organized and on schedule, things pop up that HAVE to be dealt with and worked into the schedule. It is both the blessing and curse of devised work because it can be an endless cycle if you are always following a good idea that sparks up but it can also lead the group to clarity and togetherness in a way that could never be planned. Humph. What a conundrum.

I've tried to account for a certain amount of this in our current process, but honestly, I'm not sure if I've failed at my initial vision for this laboratory phase or have made a wiser decision to move forward in a new way. I won’t go much in to it, but let me tell you, these homework projects were fantastic. I’ll leave it there for now, but in a couple of days I’ll tell you all about how we are
moving forward and what happened in week five.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

From Our Director: Week Two

My Brain is Exploding

It has been one of those weeks (and maybe this is always how the
second week of a project goes) where soooooo much has happened
creatively that I am utterly overwhelmed, inspired, exhausted, can't
turn my brain off, nervous and excited. All at once. I had to look
back at my notes just to confirm that all of the feelings I'm
wrestling with were caused by the events of this week because it seems
like maybe it's been two weeks or a month. But, nope, just this one
little week. Here are the things we've done that have me a churning:

Monday: Everyone brought in their version of a map of the book The
Principles of Uncertainty. The results were stupendous. Such
beautiful works of art and such an interesting insight into how we all
see the book in different ways. Then we had a big ole discussion
about what an inter-active tour IS and why we are using this book as a
springboard to create one. I tried (as much as is possible) to keep
my mouth shut and listen to what the ensemble had to say. I could
have mediated on that alone for a week.

Tuesday: We did some composition work on characters from the book
we'd like to see come to life. We met The Humpty Dumpty Man, Sally at
the Lunch counter, Lolita with her British but Brooklyn accent,
Maira's father and two of her aunts and a grandmother, two Vita
, and one of my long time favorites, Megan Boyd. It was a hoot and we
made some great discoveries about different way to incorporate some of
these characters, feels like it's just the tip of the
iceberg in terms of what is POSSIBLE to include in our tour.

Friday: I went and saw Liz Lerman's The Matter of Origins at the MCA.
Seeing evocative performance always rattles me a bit, but
particularly when I'm in the middle of creating something. The
second act of the dance performance everyone was invited upstairs for
tea, cake and conversation. And for a dancing scientist. We had tea
and cake in Between Now and Five Billion Years! We did not have a
dancing scientist.

Saturday: We did a writing workshop with the lovey Erika Schmidt. She
guided us through a number of prompts honing in on simple objects,
voice, and family/personal history. As a performance ensemble we
don't usually sit down and write for six hours and instead of being a
bit of a relaxing break from crazy on our feet compositions, it was
mentally exhausting. It did produce some excellent writing that will
give us a great foundation for further expansion on our feet but man
did it tucker me out! Erika did bring a big pot of leftover
Halloween candy so I ate a peanut-butter cup. It was delicious!

It was a tiring and hard week, but man, I really loved that peanut butter cup.

-Libby Hladik, Director

Friday, November 11, 2011

From Our Director: Week One

Getting Back To It - The Uncertainty Project Renamed

This past Monday we re-started rehearsals for Phase Two of Three on our devised work based on Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty. (Check it out, it’s an excellent book!) Some of you may have seen the culmination of Phase One of this project last May when it was titled Between Now and Five Million Years at Elegant Mr. Gallery. The title of this project has actually been a major point of contention, at least in my inner monologue. So guess what? We got a new one!

Before we ever considered a title for the piece, I just started calling the it The Uncertainty Project for a while last spring (often with and exclamation point because they seem so enthusiastic!). When I brought up the idea of collectively coming up with title to the whole ensemble, we almost had mutiny. Actually, if I remember correctly, I think every single person had a solid idea of their own and didn’t really like any of the others. Not in a mean way, but everyone just felt theirs was the strongest and could interpret the others in a vague or even unseemly way. I suppose that’s what’s happens when you are dealing with existential topics and whimsy.

I’m sure I have the list of all of our titles in my notes somewhere, but it was so confusing and overwhelming for me I don’t think I’ll look to hard for them. I tried at first to be the great mediator. Then when that wasn’t working, I tried to return to my initial gut feeling. Well, my gut feeling was never all that clear in the first place which is why I thought a group process would be a good idea. But it just muddled everything even more.

I decided we should go with Lindsey’s suggestion Between Now and Five Billion Years. Lindsey was somewhat more objective than the rest of us at that time, having spend a few weeks on her honeymoon while we experimented in rehearsal and became attached to specifics rather than the whole. The title is a quote from the book about the fact that between now and five billion years the sun will explode. It is both terrifying because it will happen and ridiculous because it might be five billion years from now. That seemed to have the ambiguity and poetry that we wanted.

Unfortunately, the poetry just didn’t stick with me. Maybe it was too ambiguous. When I would think about it this summer while I was road-tripping around the county with my sweetheart and miles away from out work on the project I never thought, “Now whats next for Between Now and Five Billion Years?” It’s possible that it’s just too many words. I always thought of it as The Uncertainty Project.

So this fall in preparation for our rehearsals (or laboratories as I’ve decided is a better name for these fall sessions of experimenting) Lindsey and I tossed around many ideas for a new, stronger title. Lots of variations with “Impossible” and “Uncertain” and working some of our favorite quotes in to something title-ish. Lindsey is much better (patient) about working though these things than I am so I was glad to have her working with me. When I would throw my hands in the air saying, “This is maddening!” She would go back to asking what we want from our title. We want a title that is compelling on it’s own, even though it’s tied to the book we love so much. We want to to be a guide to us as we continue to develop material. We want to to convey some sense of our theme. Here is where we landed: The Rest Unknown.

For this phase of The Rest Unknown, I’ll be posting on the blog about once a week to reflect on our process and give anyone who would like to read about it a bit of an insiders eye. If there is an aspect of our devising process you’d like to know about or a question you have from reading any of Maira Kalman’s work or even if you’d like to tell us your own idea for a title for our piece, please post a comment.

-Libby Hladik, Director

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We've missed you...

As many of you know Genesis has been dark for the past year. We took some time off to think about our process, pursue connections/ collaborations with other artists AND celebrate the marriage of our wonderful artistic director Lindsey Barlag Thornton to Chicago actor/director Michael Patrick Thornton!


Just last month we held a workshop performance of our new work Between Now And Five Billion Years. Directed by Libby Ford, the piece is based on themes from the book The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman. We had audience members send feedback and will pick back up on devising and refining this fall. STAY TUNED!!

In the meantime, watch Maira Kalman talk about her book/ our inspiration here: