Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the cogs are whirring

The old brain has been buzzing non-stop since yesterday afternoon when we wrapped up the Rowan workshop and fled back north to Rat City.

Beautiful day for a drive, heading up the turnpike with Wil crashed in the backseat, Pink Floyd's concert version of The Wall pumping through the speakers, rest-stops rolling by.

The three of us, (Wil, me and the Kid) were all physically exhausted even though we didn't do much more than watch. We talked about it a little, realizing that because the territory we were exploring was so slippery (the master/slave relationship, physical bondage, etc.) we had to be hyper-aware that it stayed focused on the zone of theater and didn't slip into psychological mind-game land.

We were working with young people and they were really digging it, it was wild stuff, but it was bringing up a lot of emotions and thought-patterns that in less careful hands could be used to screw with people's minds.

I kept thinking about that sociological or psychological experiment that a grad school ran back in the fifties where they randomly chose people to be guards and prisoners and after about thirty hours they had to end the exercise because of the emotional abuse that began and accelerated. "Guards" behaved outrageously, but also "prisoners" reverted to an infantile state.

Within, like, 30 hours.

Crazy how fragile our mind-sets and value-systems are when we get shaken out of our regular pattern.

The whole brutality thing is really just one part of Captain Overlord's Folly, but it's a thing that underlies the piece and something I want to get right.

But I tell you, right now I want to focus on spit-takes or pratfalls or something funny and stupid.

Can't do heavy lifting every day or you wind up with a brain hernia.

Or something.

"Brain hernia"?

Maybe a very bad garage metal band that never recorded a thing?

"We are Brain Hernia! Goodnight, Glassboro!"

All right. Back to work.


steve k said...

Stanford Prison Experiment, Johnny. Also known as FringeNYC 2000.

John said...

Now that's all too true.

And still somehow, funny.

Seriously, man, it was intense.

People shaking and losing their balance. After a minute.

No weirdness, me being as clear and as calm as I could be. People freaking.


Amy said...

The riders of Rohan salute you...and I still can't sleep...:)

Rose said...

Jesus, if you become Zimmerman I may have to change up blogs. He's a freaky, freaky man. The story of him not realizing how he's f*cking everyone up psychologically, until his woman friend comes and is like, "HELLO! You're crazy and this NEEDS TO STOP" is one of the scariest things I learned in high school. Scary things. Be careful mon amie.

John said...


I'm assuming Zimmerman was the prof in charge of the craziness at Stanford.

Everything was cool as Fonzie down at Rowan, back me up here, Amy, but man, it still got choppy quick.

Here's what I wrote down on the Friday before the Monday when we started. We stayed within these boundaries:

APRIL 28, 29
These are exercises designed to explore the practical staging of brutality and violence onstage.

This is separate from fight choreography, but all of the guidelines of fight choreography are helpful.

Safety first.

Must be practiced and performed like a dance.

Performer must feel fully comfortable with the move or sequence or it should be re-worked.



The goals of these exercises are to
- start safely working with rope, blindfolds and gags
-gauge audience reaction to different levels of bondage and brutality
-find “honest” interplay and behavior between bouffon and captive

Pair off and choose a master and a slave. Start by sitting. The masters start by listing the duties of the slaves and the slaves must respond with “Yes, Sir” or “Yes Ma’am”, depending on gender of master. Be creative, you can be silly, there doesn’t need to be any overt cruelty.


“You will wake each morning and sing a Sonny and Cher song.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“You will travel to Phoenix and run for mayor. You will continue running for mayor until you win the office or die.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Challenge is for the slaves to stay as simple and honest within their limited vocabulary. After a little while, the masters should pause between listing the duties. Both partners should pay attention to these silences, observe them.

Switch roles and repeat exercise.

One at a time, each team show the group some of the things you came up with.

Switch partners. Choose two stereotypes. Create short scenario. One partner ties up the other partners hands. Perform scenario. Tie up the other partner. Lead each other around while performing the scenario.


Same as above with blindfold.

We adjusted some stuff as we went along, as you do when you're doing something for the first time, but that was essentially it.

Very wild and wonderful work.

showard said...

speaking of violence and brutality congrats on discon violation Clancy got two only two letters from landlords attorneys today! still arguring over whos the captive!

John said...

Yes, Susan, I'm a free man in most senses of the word today.


Good to have that behind me.

Amy said...

Backing you up, John, it was incredible how everyone just snapped into those roles, even the sweetest most unassuming people just transforming.Nothing to do with the mind, but they say that smiling can change your mood because of the chemicals that are released to the body make you happier. It is pretty freaky how quickly human beings revert to submission. I was surprised at myself. Also you guys were very attentive supervisors. If anyone started getting emotional you were there to bail us out!!

John said...

Thanks, Amy.

Also, from a director's standpoint it was a trip to be able to watch the seemingly subtle yet huge difference between eyes down, eyes up, calm master, irritated master, etc.

All geared towards Overlord, for me, and so fucking helpful.

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