For a long time after landing the gig, my mind careened and clutched and babbled when I considered what to write. "I have nothing to say," a calm, clear, ravaged voice intoned from the center of the mayhem. Ultimately, the piece would begin "...sometimes it feels like there is nothing left to say" and end with "The redeeming mystery lives on in the vast ocean and slender strands of silence; where naked hearts echo and listen and dream dreams like primordial memory of breathing underwater."
It is good writing. It has occurred to me in the two days since the Festival ended that silence prevails in my life and is most profound when I am alone. As well, I note that my life is mostly solitude and that even during the interludes when I am in physical proximity to others, I breathe Solitude and Solitude breathes me.
Subconsciously, I think of performance (speaking specifically of contexts in which there is a mutually acknowledged audience/player protocol in place) as highly disruptive of solitude. As I approach a performance date, I sometimes get scared and am driven to desperately guard solitude and resist contact with ... people. Inside my own head, I make the transition from "alone" to "in front of people" awkwardly -- almost every time.
I performed "In the Silence" five times over the course of the Festival. The repetition was instructive: I had the opportunity to study the transition, in theory and practice. Most of what I learned still lives in too integrated a place within me to translate into words yet; but here's a first stab:
- Performance is enlightened practice of Presence. There is a tendency to invest undue attention in the trappings: blocking, lights, costumes, publicity, memorization, etc. To think and think and think about these things.
- The thinking is not the performance. The thinking is thinking.
- Sometimes "connecting with the audience" becomes the theme of obsessive thought. This can result in either a heightened sense of needing something from them (applause, laughter, attention, etc.) or needing to be seen by them or needing to give/teach them something. This feeling can grow so large and central that it feels like an altered state: I lose touch with my body; my voice sounds from somewhere far away. I don't exist in time and space.
When I feel this way, I will often forget my lines.
- In performance, I am a messenger. I bring word from the distant land of solitude and prayer and play to share. The word is full. It is food.
- I have a new respect and appreciation for inspired Direction. And for rehearsal, which is not about fixing things in stone; rather, it's about a deepening playful awareness of the work. A time for free play with the available elements -- script, physical features of the space, light design, etc. "OK. With this much space, with these objects in it, and these lines to say, what art can we make?". -- in exploration of the question: who is this character and what does she want?
- Paradox observed: state of solitude grew more pronounced with each performance. Similar to the expansive feeling I get sitting silent in a forest, by the final show I had an abiding sense of the great, silent Unknown that surrounds and holds me and the audience and all of Life, throughout my performance. Something akin to the way I once perceived God. An awareness of the complex simplicity and simple complexity of Being.
To be continued......