A week for pulling back, trying to quiet the administrative buzzing in my head so that I can get into my own work. I have a show at Ottawa's Once Upon a Slam (http://onceuponaslam.com/) tomorrow evening -- perhaps the scariest piece of work I've ever done (the scary part being for me and not, I hope, for my listeners.
Who Wants the Dress? is another interweaving of life and literature -- again with a story from Sara Maitland's Angel Maker (aka A Book of Spells). This one's called Seal Self. It's about a young man setting out alone from a small English village to gain his first experience as a seal hunter. For this, he must put on women's clothes. He is supposed to come back with a seal skin to prove his manhood; he returns naked and empty-handed, not knowing who he is.
It's a tale I care for deeply but the telling is by no means easy. Just for the Seal Self story, I would be nervous but then there's what follows -- the tale that is my own. That comes out of something that happened to me not long ago when I got to hear storyteller Ivan Coyote telling the story of her coming out. I was so struck with how we had lived in different times. When I was young, for instance, gay men were still subject to imprisonment; lesbian women simply didn't exist. That doesn't mean I believe everything is easy-peasy now, but I do know it isn't the same.
Ivan's story came at me in a storm of what ifs? I'm still wrestling with those although luckily the turbulence is abating somewhat. I think I have created a good strong piece but getting up and putting it out there shakes me to the core. I've written about this before -- when the piece was called Meeting the Trickster. I know I've said already how part of telling these stories has to do with a chance to speak to and for my generation and others, within and without the GLBT world. It's all at the top of my mind though. I can't quite think of writing about anything else.
That's how it is for me always with the big pieces that I don't do often. Each time as I start the process of reclamation, I have to immerse myself, to walk the journey and walk the journey alone in my study before I can ever hope to walk it up on the stage there at the performance time.
I have to make space, to shut out other people's endeavours and other projects although sometimes there will be miracles of inspiration that come light-leaping in. Such a thing occurred on Tuesday, when Jennifer and I went to the movie Pina -- about the life of the great dancer, choreographer, Pina Bausch. Go see it if you can.
Here is a woman who changed the world, who risked and dared, extended her artistic reach and vision almost beyond believing; a woman who created wonders -- dances that are rivetting and utterly unforgettable, dances that leave her audiences changed.
She died very suddenly in 2009. When we got home, we checked what others had written about her. We came on a remembrance created by actress and theatre director, Fiona Shaw. Shaw talks about Pina's "wild freedom and imagination, bound by a remarkable discipline;" Shaw speaks of how Pina's dancers "danced from themselves." Shaw says, "When you see the work -- the repetition of human love gestures, aborted wishes, rejection, inadequacy, desolation and absurdity -- you still come out thrilled to be a member of the human race." (http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/jul/06/pina-bausch)
I think what Pina tells us is to go for it. I think we all of us need to be trying to do that.
Pina herself asked, "What do you long for? What is all this yearning?" I think that's a question to stir the soul.