Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Three Sisters Come and Go

Performance Date: 05.19.10

I am writing this near out of my mind with sleeplessness and jetlag, so I beg your pardon if I am a tad incoherent. I had a really fun and restful time at home in SF for Memorial Day, but our flight was delayed coming back to NYC last night and I’m running on fumes. I used to bounce back easier than this.

I wanted to see Three Sisters Come and Go because the description on TDF sounded very similar to an idea my friends Gwynne, Leslie and I have long considered for a future collaboration; namely, to use Chekhov’s Three Sisters as a point of departure for an original piece for three actresses. In the case of TheaterLab, they also added Samuel Beckett’s Come and Go into the mix.

This in itself makes me think of the notion people sometimes have of, Hey they stole my idea, to which the proper response is usually, Nah, they didn’t. I’m a big believer, effectively if not literally, in the collective unconscious. We all share the same world with the same data in it, so it can’t be much of a stretch for the same idea to arise independently and simultaneously in multiple locations. And in this instance, conceiving an original piece for three women based on Three Sisters isn’t all that unusual an idea to begin with.

Perhaps the idea is not unusual, but that doesn’t make it unworthy. I love reimaginings, reconfigurations, and retellings. And from here my brain splits in three directions:

1)    I love reimaginings, reconfigurations, and retellings. And I especially love when several people reimagine, reconfigure, and retell the same material, much as I love when TV food competitions instruct chefs to cook a meal of their own devising out of the exact same list of ingredients. The fun is in seeing what different individuals will do with the same stuff, and the fascination is in learning who those individuals are, or wish to be, through the choices they make.

[Sound of needle scratching off the record…]

2)    I love reimaginings, reconfigurations, and retellings. And in this day and age, it seems I should add “remixes” and “mash-ups” to that list of words, but for some reason I hesitate to do so. I guess because, to my mind, remixes and mash-ups are less artful forms that rely too heavily on juxtaposition to make their new contributions. (That probably offends some great mash-up artist out there, and I welcome him/her to make a rebuttal.) Juxtaposition – even unconscious or random juxtapositions – can be brilliantly effective, but I feel they work best as a spice not as the main dish.

[Sound of needle scratching off the record…]

3)    I love reimaginings, reconfigurations, and retellings. It is a very human act. We are constantly absorbing narratives from others and emitting them anew as our own. My favorite example of this is when I tell a long, funny story from my life and then close with the sincere realization that it actually happened to my sister. Less trivially, absorbing and emitting narratives is probably how we learn to feel less alone (by connecting ourselves to something larger, or to someone else) as well as more unique (by differentiating ourselves from the existing narrative by adding our own particular spin).

And now, in an effort to find some cohesion for these splintered thoughts and my jet-lagged brain, I’ll return to Three Sisters Come and Go. I enjoyed witnessing what these particular artists contributed to the narratives of Olga, Irina, and Masha, particularly because my own brain has spent so much time considering what I would contribute myself. The juxtapositions of “theirs” and “mine” probably fed the creative process for my future collaboration much more than seeing the Chekhov again would have done. I wonder if, in this way, we are all co-authors of some bigger collaboration, to which Chekhov and TheaterLab and, someday Gwynne, Leslie, and Anna, are all contributing a draft. Perhaps that’s what collective unconscious truly is – the all-encompassing narrative of human existence.  We can all tap into it because we all absorb and emit it on a daily basis. Whoa. That got really deep just there. Brilliance or jet-lag? You decide.

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