Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking Free: Trisha Denton's Orkestrika's Box

Orkestrika in her music box.

This Sunday I attended one of the six performances of Orkestriska’s Box at the Black Box Theatre in Burlington. Trisha’s Denton creation lasts just one hour: her silent actors move to an original score by local musician Randal Pierce, while the music box dancer Orketriska looks on from a human-scale music box, a box which protects her from aging and from the elements, a box in which she performs the same routine day after day. The story is mythical in its simple charm and while the story drives the plot of this short tale, the magic of the work arrives from such details as the stop-motion animation depicting the dancer’s nightly dreams, the exquisite lighting, playful costumes, the soft and steady voice of Denton narrating Orketriska’s daily routine… wake, oil and perfume, house cleaning, stretching, scales….and then, tired, she sits to watch out her window.

The pitch-perfect acting of each scene offered a cabaret-like playfulness: the experience of listening to the music and watching the silent acting engages—I think—a different part of the mind and body. When we stop relying on the language of dialogue or narration, of the voice, we listen from a different place; perhaps a more magical, through the looking glass, sort of place, a place where one becomes engaged as more than witness or watcher (the eye of the gaze).
 
the actors of the world with Ork watching from her box
 

This is perhaps what I found most interesting post performance (because I was fully engaged for that one enchanted hour). For years people have been playing around with the idea of theater that engages the audience, that breaks the, I believe it’s called fourth wall. I find such attempts to engage the audience slightly trivial in that they mostly come from a noncommittal place—here, folks, get involved, they offer but the audience is never prepared for this or really actually able to engage and as quickly as the wall drops, it is replaced and we return to passive watcher. And, by the way, I’m fine with passive watcher. I realize that during movies I am identifying with characters and living vicariously through them. But, as a grown up, or maybe as an artist, I think of story more in terms of how I can steal it for my own art or reject it so as to render it not my competition.

Art like Orkestrika’s Box in Burlington, I wrote to Denton, makes me feel like I am right where I’m supposed to be in the world. At times, I admit, living in this smallish-town, I feel like I am made to watch one big fish in a little pond after the next, tossing off performances and art that lacks heart and risks nothing. But when I am given a gift such as Orkestrika’s Box, I am again reminded of the wealth of talent in my community along with the possibilities and potential that exists here for all of us.

 I am also reminded of how hard we must work to manifest those delicate dreams that come to us ever so slightly in the wee hours or odd gardens, here and there we catch a glimpse of our muse… but to harness our visions we, as Denton well knows, must expose ourselves, must risk the elements, must eat heartily of the table of creation, and work our mother-fucking asses off… that we might break down the walls of our safe and static beauty and create.
Stay tuned.... I am currently in the process of interviewing Trish Denton about this performance and her work as an artist.
Orkestrika breaking free

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rejected: A toast to rejection just in time for Thanksgiving




OK, I confess, I have been sending essays out for publication in literary journals. It’s not like a big confession. It’s a little confession or a let me get this off my chest confession. But obviously, writers send their work out. Every writer knows this is a daunting affair. I tell other writers all the time that The Help was reject 60 times before it was picked-up, published and eventually made into a major motion picture that grossed oodles of moola. I like this fact, but not because someone is going to publish my great American essay and I’ll break the bank. I just like to remember that rejection happens on every level in publishing and that as a writer I absolutely must stay dedicated to the work, the joy of the give and take, the push and pull, the struggle and elation of writing.

 

I go up and down on a weekly basis. This is not a disorder, I’ve learned—just a normal part of life, especially for a writer or someone who is hyper-conscious of avoiding activities that numb and nullify. I allow myself a night or two occasionally to roll around in the mud of self-obsessed self-hatred and abuse. I tell myself mean things from time to time, such as, “Oh, why don’t you just give up. You’re such a loser.” While such thoughts are passing fodder for the better days when I’m more on top of my game, my husband recently toasted at my birthday party, “Look around the room (pregnant pause). Emily sometimes thinks she doesn’t have any friends…but look at all of you…” I quit listening at that point because I had to focus on maintaining a smile rather than tackling him to the ground and shoving the last of the Chevre cheese down his lactose intolerant throat.  I can’t bear such exposure, even among the most intimate of friends. Though, I can, after the fact, revel in the humor of self-obsession, sort-of. My husband means well and has no problem with other people reading his intimate journals, even the ones from grad school when he was a total wack-o or the ones from when he first met me and fell-obsessed. He avoids humiliation by having no secrets, nothing to hide, and feeling no shame. I guess we could say, Yeah for you! You accept yourself, but he has his doubts just like the rest of us.

 

What I have learned from him, however, is that getting my fears out in the open, confessing my weaknesses to others, laughing at my fool heartedness, helps me feel OK and I think it helps others feel better too, because they can (mostly) relate to the quirks of my human condition (oxymoron).

 

As I was saying, I’ve been sending these hideous things out, begging literary journals to publish me and getting a few rejection emails in return. My frien Sarah Braud texted me back this morning to say I could expect 50 rejections to 1 publication. So, I’m keeping track. Right now, my post-graduate school count is at 10 rejections and 1 acceptance, with 8 pending. My goal is to write a post for every rejection (or acceptance) letter I receive and submit at least 50 times this year (also, not randomly submit everywhere, but in a well-researched  fashion, submit places where I think my work fits, etc.) I’m hoping this will help me to 1. Send out more work and 2. Keep up with my blog.

 

Posts your thoughts on rejection here…pretty please!

Love and Kisses,

Emily