Today’s work was about bodies. Well, bodies and rope, actually. After learning part of “Electric Signals,” Jeremy’s song from Scene Three, as a group and spending some time with Erin working through a more realized version of the visual score of scene 1, we hunkered down with giant coils of rope and, well, danced. Or something like it. The goal? To come up with what Kirk’s stage directions call Jeremy’s “ballet with a mountain lion.”
We started knowing only that we eventually wanted to capture the moment in which the knot that ties Jeremy to his lion breaks. To get there, we tied ourselves to each other, pulled each other across the floor in various poses and at various tempos, jumped rope, played an epic game of tug-of-war, painted a desert landscape with the rope’s coils and folds, and watched as two people created the biggest and slowest tumbleweed ever, made completely of rope and UT students. We crawled on the ground, rapelled off the Payne’s back wall, attempted to pick each other up using only strands of rope and accidentally created what we called a “person-powered slack hammock.” Patent pending soon, I’m sure. For now, I’ll leave it to your imaginations.
The projections created by Erin Meyer & Noel Gaulin will tell the majority of the I’ve Never Been So Happy story, freeing the dance work from having to carry or convey narrative. Structurally, the rope sequence is an extended riff on a single moment, immediately following the rapid-fire series of images and plot points of the first scene. We get to set story aside for a moment and explore the world we’ve created for ourselves, figuring out what weird combinations of bodies and rope are interesting to look at, and, of course, which are fun to make. The magic of this process is that when we were done, we realized we had a sequence that makes perfect sense as an expansion of a single moment and as a thread of our overall visual and aesthetic story. How? Well, maybe it had something to do with working collectively and on our feet. The rope work brought most of the company—including the singers that have been spending most of the workshop time learning what Lana has called “the hardest song in the history of songs”— together into a single room, working to illustrate a single moment, but, as with the projection work, from multiple perspectives. There was a noticeably high kinetic and creative energy in the room. Our ideas built off of each other, twining around themselves and knotting into something that resulted from bodies working and exploring together. Sure, what we created needs tweaking, but that just means more discovery. And possibly more swinging from the fly system. Always a good time.
This workshop picks one thread of the I’ve Never Been So Happy story. The Rude Mechs’ December workshop followed another. Eventually, they will be woven together into a single piece. Our rope work is yet another strand. We’re creating a visual and narrative playground for the audience, but realizing, as Erin noted about this kind of work, that “none of it is any good unless people care about what they’re building.” Judging from the gleeful comparison of rope burns and filthy rehearsal clothing that resulted from rolling around on the theatre floor after Wednesday’s work, I’d say we’re nailing it.