Near the end of Friday’s final I’ve Never Been So Happy workshop day before the work-in-progress showing Saturday, we ran the Scene 1 vocals with the musicians. Those of us not in the trio of Western woman sat on the stage floor near where we’d be manipulating puppets to mark where we’d come in with background vocals. Since Erin was not at today’s workshop, we opted not to run the projectors. For the first time since we’ve had the musicians, I got to sit back and watch. And it was mesmerizing. Even without the crazy shadow puppets and accidental choreography of the puppeteers. When the song ended, there was a brief moment of silence that was strange to hear in a space usually so filled with voices and music. “That. Was. Amazing,” said Lana. “I’m ready to listen to ya’ll do it over and over again.” And that was the moment that I realized, work in progress or no, we’ve got something. Something that entertains even in a completely stripped down version and even after we’ve lived inside it for two weeks.
Anyone watching today’s live feed would have seen an excellent example of the balance we’ve searched for over the past ten days between a showing meant to inform future work on the project and a product we’re proud to show the family, friends, and funders that will be here tomorrow. We spent most of the day refining moments in all three scenes—marking entrances, sharpening choreography, practicing our developing puppetry skills, syncing ourselves with Peter and the musicians, and, just before we finished the day, figuring out the mechanics of the transitions. We began the day, however, with an experimental overhaul of Scene 1, projecting the rope images onto the trio’s long white skirts rather then the enormous cyc. No ladders, no physical coil of rope, no projected sunset image. Most importantly, no anxiety about having to completely re-stage the scene hours before our invited audience show up. The new configuration may wind up in the final showing, and it may not. For now, it’s enough to know that it’s an option.
Rather than waiting until I got home to post this last workshop day blog, I’m sitting alone in our work/performance space as I write. Ostensibly, this is so that this last installment before the showing can be posted by the morning and also ready to be printed as part of the display I’m setting up for the pre-show reception tomorrow. Somehow, though, it feels right to be doing this in the space that is still littered with our lengths of rope, extension cords, projector carts, baskets of puppets, music stands, stray rolls of gaff tape, stack of production posters and plastic toy horse that has become the tech/writers’ table mascot. The whole point of these two weeks has been finding a way, as my high school math teacher used to insist upon, to show our work. There will be no effort tomorrow to hide the bodies of the puppeteers, just as those of us who continually find ourselves completely incapable of recovering from the fall to the ground during the rope dance won’t try to pretty up our attempts to stand just because there’s an audience in the room. The pre-show reception will allow audience members to try out the cool looks we discovered with the projectors, and maybe even make some of their own. Thomas and Lana will fill the transitions between scenes with discussions of the process and explanations of some of the effects. The post show discussion will (hopefully!) include questions from live feed viewers typed into a chat box and read aloud. (Which means you can participate too! Go here to watch and chat at 4 p.m. central). In a work like this, the audience serves as the final collaborative layer, and, after today’s work, we’re ready to show them the ridiculous, beautiful, crazy, low-tech and highly amusing things we’ve found.