One armed handstand in the desert

62 Days In The Desert

I have this project idea to go to the desert for two months to create a theater piece of 45 minutes. 

We’d create a documentary of the experience for video projections to set the mood and act as the scenography for this play. 

I’d like to interview people we meet along the way about art.  Not sure if this would be used on stage. 

The Clown would be a part of it – filming during the same two-month period back in Montreal.  In a way, I want his work to be a surprise, to see what it might tell us to see his video in the crazy metropolitan world versus us in the desert.  Again, not sure how it would be used on stage. 

We’d rehearse for a month somewhere.  Ideally in Europe: Cherbourg, France; Amsterdam, Holland; or maybe somewhere in Denmark.   

In this rehearsal period, The Clown would continue to collaborate with us, using our theater piece as a base.  We will collaboratively find the way his character will develop and bring out a new dimension of what we have created. 

A few other artists have expressed interest in working with us. 

Ultimately, I would like to try a small tour, maybe in theaters, of this piece.  This is where the project is least well-defined. 

The theme is also evolving, but it seems to be boiling down to this: 

Imagine we are living in a world of urgency, where everything we express is vitally important.  Imagine, for example, that you only have the right to use one million words in your entire life.  Every word you write, every word you say, takes away one word from this total.  Suddenly, there is an urgency in your communication.  Indescribable things in the world become even more impossible to talk about.  there is a tension… 

Imagine how it might feel to try and economize your words, imagine how much you might yearn to scream and shout and go on and on for hours telling someone how much you love them or how unhappy you are about the death of your best friend or how much you want to have chocolate cake but knowing that you simply can’t waste these precious, precious words.  Imagine how it must feel, then to suddenly let these words run freely.  A sort of expression suicide.  you know that in the long run you will have less words, but for right now, at least, you are saying what you mean. Maybe for the first time in your life, and if it goes on too long, it might be the last time.  Imagine the joy carrying you away, imagine the passion carrying you away with it, knowing that every word might be your last. 

Now get rid of the word metaphor.  Imagine instead of words, it is any form of artistic expression.  It is a closely guarded, valuable, unrenewable resource.  I want to show this same energy on stage, the desire to express yourself, but the restraining forces that keep us from doing so.  the explosions, the running out of words, all of this.  maybe we try to shut each other up, to save each other’s words… 

Artistic expression is our water in this ‘desert’ themed play. 

That sounds terrible, i know, but you have to understand that this will be a play of images and emotions more than text.  We will probably not mention the desert once in the whole show.  We will certainly never talk about only having a million words, nor will we say that art is our water. 

or maybe we will. 

This urgency, this sense of the forbidden, of indulgence, of secret-ness, of limited, all with respect to the art that we have all chosen to make into our lives? 

The show itself is probably a reflection of how frustrated I feel as an American artist…  it is almost like we are losing our voice in the United States because there is no government money to support us and we are losing our audiences to movies and TV more than ever.  I was facing a choice, that I could go to Europe and say “fuck off” to the United States, marry a European and make art in Europe the rest of my life, or, i could try to prove that quality art can come out of the country. 

I want to show that American art can have value around the globe. 

As for the theme, if we can tour in Europe it will show (i hope) that the American people are also starved for high quality art, but that there are no resources available to them as a whole.  So for this, I do believe it will show another side of America than the war-mongering, McDonalds-eating, Brittany-Spears-watching, cowboy hat wearing American.  (though we might wear cowboy hats, you never know.) 

In the desert, the simplest things become vital.  Water, food, and sleep all become more complicated.  The things we normally do for amusement are not available.  We will be living in the most basic way, and creating art in this environment.  We will be living on bottled water and the will to create.  I hope that this will somehow affect the finished product in an intangible way.  At any rate, i want the process to somehow be ever-present in the final product, to make the audience marvel at this desert pearl. 

There are also first-level parallels to the life of an artist, the extreme highs and lows, the struggling for resources, the ever-present danger, the fact that a small problem can derail your efforts in a serious way… 

Also, strictly speaking, there are no deserts in Europe.  The fact that this project is also tied in to a very American phenomenon is interesting to me.

There is also a beauty that there that we never, ever see outside of the desert.  It is not only a beauty that is on the earth, but also in the stars, in the dark blue of the sky, in the small pools of water, in the small animals fighting for their lives in a harsh environment.

I am thinking about interviewing people who live in the desert for many reasons.  they are a small population compared to the United States.  In the entirety of North America, less than 1,000,000 people live in non-cosmopolitan desert environments.  Life in the desert is alien to the average audience member.

Also, in the Southwest, there are many Native American communities that have been boxed in by the United States government long after the bloodiest of Indian-American conflict had been settled.  I am curious to speak to the artists in these communities, to see what themes and inspirations we have in common and those which might be specific to their cultural experience, as well as those that reflect modern culture.

I would really like to do a tour across Europe, but the biggest problem there is money to pay artists the way i want to.  I would definitely like to perform in Holland as well, The Clown and I have contacts there for a couple of theaters.

In North America, I am interested in playing Montreal and Minneapolis.  I think any more than that, and we will be over-extending ourselves, but San Francisco could be another possibility.

If the artists are excited about this show, we could also look at summer festivals throughout Southern and Central Europe, but the income would be limited.

Based on the festival schedule, I am thinking of starting in Spain, sweeping east through Northern Italy, Switzerland, and finishing in Austria.

Again, it depends mostly on how much of a life this project takes on and how excited the artists are about it.

The magic number of on-stage artists would be seven and we could reduce stage costs if we find a way to do our own lights, sound, and video!  Then there are food, housing, and travel costs.

The normal thing to do, of course, is to set up a festival date in Europe to play so that the whole team gets back and forth transportation from the United States, then all we need to do is go to Europe, do a festival with a work-in-progress version of the show, settle in, rehearse with the artists, and unveil the touring version for Holland and Scandinavia, take the return ticket to Minneapolis, and then drive to Montreal after to perform there.

We have a contact in France that might finance the two-months of rehearsals if we are lucky.  They could also pay for food and housing.