Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Equus Projects: Real Time

Thursday, November 4, 2010

As fellow ERPA recipients, Connie Hall, Artistic Director of Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant and I chose to collaborate to create a visceral, hands-on experience that would convey the core values that lie at the foundation of the work that we make and how we make it. This task proved to be an enlightening challenge.

Last week Connie posted a blog that tracked the similarities between our work and how we folded that into our presentation plan. This blog offers a meta-view of our creative process in making that plan. In retrospect I realized that our planning followed a trajectory that exactly mirrors my choreographic process.

Start with a large idea. Make the First Draft Plan. Revise. Look deeper. Revise. Edit. Revise. End up with a small story.

To give a context for all of this, I quote Connie’s terrific synopsis of our respective companies: My company, The Equus Projects, makes site specific performance works for dancers and horses. Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant, makes five course meals for our audiences. We both engage with a specific community that has a secondary interest other than theater or dance (food and horses). In comparing our work and our creative process Connie and I realized that we both need a certain level of participation or “buy in” from the audience or community in order for the performance to exist. (I use local horses in each venue so I need equestrians to lend me their horses. Connie needs her audience to eat her food).

In our first meeting Connie and I scanned the full range of our ideas and efficiently drafted a plan for our presentation.

Revisiting that plan weeks later we realized that we were biting off far to large a chunk of information, that we were casting ourselves as talking heads, that the experiential part of our presentation had become framed as information and actually we were missing the essence of what we do.

The next phase of our process felt lots messier. We shredded the original presentation and asked ourselves hard questions: What motivates the desire to feed an audience food, or spend intense time with peoples’ horses. This was the Are-We-Ever-Going-To-Have-An Actual Finished Piece-Phase of the creative process. We realized we both loved taking our work OUT of a conventional theatre setting. We spent time talking about our creative process and what impact we wanted the performance to have on our audiences. We realized that we wanted the audience to linger with us inside the process.

Eventually we distilled our core objective down to bringing an audience a real time experience. With horses there is always the element of unpredictability. Equus Projects dancers must be able to perform in real time as opposed to memory time. I want the audience to witnesses the dancers inside this process of in-the-moment decision-making. Connie feeds her audience a full meal that is in itself a completely visceral experience. Along with the food she serves, Connie crafts a theatrical experience that is suspenseful. She leads her audiences to feel that anything can happen.

Once the messy, “Ask yourself all the nitty-gritty questions phase” of the process was done, the extra, unnecessary events we in the original plan fell away. We were left with the most essential elements. The remaining task was to create transitions that took the audience on a cohesive journey.

Looking back, I clearly recognize how similar this experience was to creating a new work. Tell the small story. Keep it really visceral. Take the audience on a journey.

Connie, thanks for the creative brainstorming and for writing such a great Blog!


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