The Aesthetic Experience

Recently I was at The Globe. Yes, I know it’s a reconstruction, (actually I visited the carpark of the actual location as well!) truth is I am ready to give a standing ovation at any time to this fact as Sam Wanamaker is now my personal hero for all his hard work and patience on the matter of reconstruction. Visiting The Globe was a milestone in my life and I definitely will never forget it. 

Taking in the wonder that is living history, at The Globe in London England, 2014
Taking in the wonder that is living history, at The Globe in London England, 2014

The new theatre with Wanamaker’s name is unlike anything I had ever seen. I have read books, written term papers, watched movies, and seen plays ABOUT the time period (Jacobean in this case) but never had I been in a living history museum to one. Because truly that is what both theatres are: triumphs in preservation that people can now participate IN history rather than just witness it in books and pictures.

Inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse  photo by Pete Le May
Inside the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
photo by Pete Le May

The Globe iss in off season until the weather shifts to a more comfortable temperature – so my friends and I booked tickets to Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for The Knight of the Burning Pestle which turned out to be the perfect fit for us. It was exactly the right amount of historical nods: to entertainment: to experience. The groundling heckling, the archetypes, the space itself! Oh the space itself! It was all candle lit! No electricity!

We stood, yes stood, in the Lord’s Box which is to the immediate house left of the stage. We were basically on top of the stage, right by the balcony of musicians. (You can see it there in the picture ->) I didn’t even mind standing for 3 hours! I was so engaged by the space, the actors, the story – all of it was, in fact, overwhelming me.

I started to cry. I had a body rush of adrenaline and I wanted to laugh but I cried instead. I was having an aesthetic experience right there at the first intermission of Knight of the Burning Pestle. My friends laughed, half jokingly, at me for doing so – but I can’t blame them. It’s hard to explain what I was feeling.

Aesthetic Experience is “…a sense of being both an observer as well as a participant, a sense of being both detached and yet involved. A sense of timelessness in the event often occurs, and time is expressed as being either compressed or dissolved; that is, it is described as being extremely focused in a moment or a person or a place, while at other times it opens out and expands into a sense of the infinite, the limitless in scope or space…often a peculiarly heightened sense of wonder, elation, or awe accompanied by a fresh awakening to the sense of one’s smallness in the face of the vastness, the limitlessness…an experience involves often a sense bordering on delight.

-http://www.collaboration.org/98/spring/text/08.aesthetic.html
Me at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, post cry
Me at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, post cry/AE

I remember when I was in high school when my art teacher, Mr. Craig, was trying to explain to me what an aesthetic experience (AE) was. Technically this experience is “your personal interaction with a work of art.” He tried to explain to me that when I have that almost black out feeling, that body shiver, that catch of breath in my throat when I see theatre – that THAT is an aesthetic experience. My body is reacting to the art. I seldom get a full AE from visual arts, I sometimes get it from music, but the most intense ones are from theatre. I always felt silly for them when I was a kid, not understanding that the knot in my stomach from watching shows at the Pantages Theatre combined with the giddy feeling I was having – I just thought I was the crazy little redhead everyone told me I was (I was a bit high strung as a kid, gee that’s a surprize.) But that intense bodily response was a connection to the show, the actors, the theatre, the audience, the WHOLE experience. I was having an AE. It started when I was 7 and I saw The Phantom of the Opera. What a show to throw me! That show was built to give you an AE: everything was over the top beautiful.

And so I was hooked. I remember walking out of the theatre and beaming up at my mom saying “I want to be Christine Daee!” and my mom saying “Oh, hunny, you can’t be Christine, she’s not real. She’s an actress.”

And so here we are. The reason I’m an actor is because I’m an AE addict. I want to GIVE that feeling to people. I want you to feel that connection with art. I want you to have that feeling: that body buzz when the curtain opens; that head rush of joy when the sword fight is flawless; that stomach ache as the ingénue pleas for her life; THAT feeling. That is what I crave every time I step into a theatre.

Next Big Thing: Writer’s Interview

A writer friend, Chloe Whitehorn, tagged me in her writer’s “interview” that will be shared with other writers all over the web! Here are my answers:

What is your working title of your play? It’s called “Everything But The Cat…”

Where did the idea come from for the play? As an actor and sometimes playwright for the City of Toronto Museums – the most natural way to express my grief for the passing of my brother in 2010 was to write a play about it. The play is not just about death, but more about the topic of loss. Who we lose, what we lose – this can be relationships, the death of a loved one (or stranger), items that we hold dear – everything can be precious. Even your cat 😉

What genre does your play fall under? I would say Dramedy in the form of a Not-So-One-Woman-Show

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  I would cast myself! Ha! As a Canadian theatre creator I think it is necessary to make work for yourself, it’s not just a survival technique (hey I get to pay myself in this blockbuster right?!) but also it ensures you are making the type of art that moves you – that fulfills you. And if I was booked up I would cast Emma Stone, as long as she dyed her hair back to red. I love her work and her fantastically genuine presence on film.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your play? 

Loss is sometimes greater than leaving your umbrella on the subway.

Will your play be self-produced or mounted by a theatre?  So far it has been picked up by the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre for their 2013 run. I will have a one-off reading/staging of my show on March 23rd 2013. From there I am planning on filming it so I can submit for some grant proposals. Ultimately I would love to tour it to high schools or universities to raise awareness about mental health and dealing with loss. I hope to partner with a mental health institute to being a support package to schools when I visit so they have resources for any type of follow up.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your script? First draft took a year. It is basically a diary of the events that happened to me personally, then redrafted into something a bit more fictionalized as to help make it flow and exclude all the boring-ness of my actual life 😉 I have been working with Bricoteer Experiments Theatre; thank you James and Grey!  They helped me workshop the script through the use of puppetry. Dramaturg and editors, these two brought me out of my comfort zone and into a creative place where I was ready to give my story shape with well thought-out criticism and feedback.

What other plays would you compare this story to within your genre? My two big influences on this piece are Sandra Shamas (her one-woman shows, especially My Boyfriends Back and there’s Going to be Laundry was a huge inspiration/validation for my diary approach – or what I call Confessional Theatre,) and Daniel MacIvor’s solo shows (House, Monster, Here Lies Henry) were a great way to study pace and character work with one person on stage.

Who or what inspired you to write this play? Well, there are those playwrights above that act as inspirations…. But mainly the fact I couldn’t help but write this story. I was selfish and used the pen and page to help me work out what I was going through as I hit bereavement hard. So many people wanted to know what happened to my brother and to my family – to me. And so, this play about my one year of bereavement tells all those things. The horrors of depression, the triumph of finding love, the loss of someone dear to me, twice, three times – I lost count. But the fact that so many people sought me out to hear my story – to hear my brother’s story – I knew I had to write it out. And I knew it had to be theatre and not any other medium as I wanted the storyteller aspect to this. It needed the opportunity to connect with it’s audience in real time, in a real space. Film would create too much distance. A book seemed too close to being an actual diary and no room for the spontaneity I had learned through reading/watching MacIvor’s work with Brooks. No. It had to be theatre.

What else about your play might pique the audience’s interest?  I don’t want to ride anyone’s coat tails, so as much as I love MacIvor and Shamas – I wrote my piece to stand apart. How you might ask? I really am in love with shadows and silhouettes and the effect of them onstage.  I want my one-woman show to be not-so-one-woman with these shadows taking the form of everyone else in the show. She will essentially be alone with a scrim/screen behind her, yet she will find herself in a crowded subway “full of people” who will be nothing more than the shadows of the subway patrons. The saying “ever feel alone in a crowded room” comes to mind when I try to explain this to people. So come and see my experiment! I will be working with Steph Ouaknine who is already working on the projection designs for these shadow players.

I hope you can join me on March 23rd 2013 at Alumnae Theatre for the first ever public staged reading of “Everything But The Cat…”

 

Who tagged me? Well this talented redhead:  Chloë Ariane Whitehorn

https://www.facebook.com/ChloeWhitehorn

Who I tagged:

AJ LaFlamme http://www.artbytheft.com/

 

 

Inspiration recharge

I saw this last night – I needed a creative recharge after my last post/painful cold read experience. So naturally I turned to my two of my living muses: Daniel MacIvor and Sandra Shamas.

I met Sandra just recently, and revelled in her storytelling. Her style is a huge inspiration to me and my writing style. She made me believe that what I have to say, however I need to say it and what ever topic I find interesting – I have the right to say it. Confessional Theatre I call it. When I took my mom to see her at the Winter Garden Theatre here in Toronto, my mom leaned over, tears in her eyes from laughing so much and said,

“Holy crap! She’s just like you! She’s SO funny! I mean, this is horrible but this is funny!”

Sandra was talking about menopause and the pitfalls of such an experience, but I got what my mom was saying. I have this show about suicide and bereavement and I am trying to make it not as dark and heavy a show. Sandra is inspiring me to be heavy and light in my writing. Honest, brutal, but also hilarious – because hey, that’s me.

Daniel MacIvor’s solo shows make me want to be a playwright. I want to help people understand people. As in, I want them to understand the differences in people in a way that celebrates just how unique we are. And at the same time – just how fucked up we all are. And hey, that’s okay. But the gloss and shine job we put on ourselves to “face the world” is just that – a face. A mask.

I saw his “This is what happens next” last night by Necessary Angel and I needed that. I needed to see something I believe in. I believe in his style and writing so very much. Confessional Theatre: where the audience is your best friend and you can tell them ANYTHING. They will be there the whole time, waiting, watching, hopeful, supportive – even if you are being a dick (the character Will for instance in “This is what happens next”) or you know the inevitable (as with The Kid) and you can still be hopeful – you can still be witness to their story. Which is the important part.

In the writer’s note by MacIvor, one part stood out:

Are all stories true? Well what is truth? Is truth “fact”? If so, then no, all the facts are not true. Are the characters real? Well, if “real” means “actual”, then no they aren’t real. But fact and actuality have informed and filtered everything in this show and there is truth. True feelings and fears and joy.

I am now ready to go back and look at my script and make some decisions. Editing is hard. But with these two muses fuelling me I feel energized and ready for the challenge.

Playwright hat on.