Monday, January 22, 2007

January, 2000.


[Yes, the year is randomly determined.]

Ah, 2000. 1999 - 2000 was one of the great years, and kicked off with one of the last and greatest of the Crawford's New Years Eve parties. At the time I had an immense crush on a girl I still know, and yes I was able to kiss her at midnight. Unfortunately, in the following hour or two, she reconciled with her former boyfriend and that was that. The 1999 side of that vacation was more exciting than the 2000 side, but I still hoped for some change in the winds from the mysterious Girl R, so it was with huge reluctance that I returned to Chicago. For the next week, I spent a lot of the time in the basement of the Reynolds Club, sitting at a computer and writing my Michigan friends. This was the first thing that made January extraordinary.

The problems with such partiality became immediately evident, however. I was directing the UT studio production of Artaud's The Cenci, and not only was it one of the most ambitious projects I'd ever taken on, but I had been given permission to essentially pursue the project however I wanted. I had to get "in the mood," and fast. I still remember the night I broke urban-explored my way into Bond Chapel in the middle of the night and spent around two hours in there trying to figure shit out. I really wish I remember how things had added up, because from that point on distraction was not even an issue and the pieces really flew together. This was the second thing that made January extraordinary.

It was also the beginning of my Andy Kaufman obsession (which would, ironically, impact the production of Cenci, and many other things besides. In December my obsession with R.E.M. had drawn me to the film Man on the Moon, and with a new curiosity about Kaufman, I took the crew of Cenci to downtown Chicago to the Chicago Cultural Center for a lecture given by Andy's friends and families. I began to appreciate his work in a more nuanced way. This was the third thing that made January extraordinary.

At the end of the first full week, studio auditions followed the mainstage. Actors filled out a two page audition form that covered their schedules, their feelings about on-stage nudity, and required drawing a picture. We also offered cookies. I cast Derek as Orsino, Lydia as Bernardo, Ben L as Andea, Phil as Giacomo, Mark as Camillo, and Juliette as Lucretia. Megan "Thrasher" played Beatrice and Sean, who walked into auditions with a smile (dressed all in black) at the very last moment of the very last day, and from the moment he spoke had a lock on title role. He's been a best friend ever since, and this was the fourth thing that made January extraordinary.

The crew consisted of Ben B as Stage Manager, Courtenay as Production Manager, Letizia as Technical Director, Lindsey as Lighting Designer, Travis as Sound Designer, and Amber as costumes and props. Amber also had help from a girl with an inexplicable first name (Jepetta) and an unpronounceable last name (Jlkjfccnaljknerelafjkan). And this was the fifth thing that made January extraordinary.

To get into the politics and developments of the rehearsal process that first month, would take a much longer post. Actually, I ought to write that post because it would be fun to write and interesting to read. In short, however, I'd spent several years developing a kind of "process-oriented" rehearsal system that combined stringent personal responsibility with more democratic production choices and a philosophy of immersion. Of the four productions I directed with this approach The Cenci came the closest to a perfect application, and even won some reluctant support from our often quarrelsome governing student committee. And this was the sixth thing that made January extraordinary.

In classes I was surviving due to my instructors' generosity and patience, with the exception of Number Theory, which I started failing immediately. But in the evenings, between rehearsals, I met with the cast and crew for work and films and plays and trips and lectures and concerts and adventures. On the last weekend, nine show participants took a road trip to Flint to see Flint Central's production of The Tempest, and we stayed at Josh's three room house, with nine doors to the outside, shaped like a 1950s flying saucer, in Burton. On the 30th, we were of a party so crazy, so manic and out of control, that Samuel Hopkins Adams would have blushed.

That was number seven.

Where were you in January, 2000?



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