Monday, December 31, 2012

Tooting My Own Horn on NYE

As we close out 2012 in a few hours, I just spent an hour or so putting together a CV of my writing and performing from the past year. I often feel lazy and unproductive so doing something like this is a good exercise to remind myself that I did do something this year. (Add to it the fact that all this was accomplished around a full time day job and I feel a little better about myself.)

The biggest thing for this year was that I started talking about Breath & Bone/Orts Performance as an actual, forming (and re-forming) entity. Hopefully, next year if I do this, there will be more than just two entries that note BB/OP as the company behind an event.

This list also highlights my array of obsessions. Dance, comics, religion . . . yep, it's pretty much all there, often with an LGBT flavor (thanks to OutSmart Magazine). Where I could, I included web addresses. (I'm copying and pasting this from a word processor, so I didn't do the hot link thingie this time. Hope it all still works.)

Needless to say, posting this is also to let whoever might see this know what I do, my interests, and that I'm always looking to do more . . .

Without further ado, my 2012 CV:


PUBLISHED (COMPETITION WON) "Always June," DiverseWorks Slinging Ink fall 2011 competition.


DIRECTED Staged Reading of When the Stars and Moon Collide, a one act play by John Cash Carpenter for Unhinged Productions' DramaRamaThon, February 2, 11

PERFORMED is/not a performance loop for The Art of Sacrifice, a lenten art show at St Stephen's Episcopal Havens Center, February 24-26.


PUBLISHED "The Little Dog Laughs" (profile of Brazos Bookstore) in Arts + Culture Houston


PUBLISHED "Shepherd to Homeless Sheep" (interview with the Rev. Megan Rohrer) in OutSmart Magazine

PERFORMED: "All the Ways" (original song/chant) at the Houston Fieldwork Showcase, April 15.


PUBLISHED Review for CORE's In the Mood 2 . . . Dance! on Dance Source Houston

PUBLISHED "Kevin Keller Conquers Comics" (interview with Dan Parent) in OutSmart Magazine

PUBLISHED "Hologramps to the Next Generation" (part one of an interview with George Takei–-web exclusive posted May 15) for OutSmart Magazine


PUBLISHED "Internment Camps and Other Musical Ideas" (part two of an interview with George Takei) in OutSmart Magazine

PUBLISHED "Called to Break Rules" (interview with the Rev Amy DeLong) in OutSmart Magazine

PUBLISHED "The Three Beginnings of a Texas Poet Laureate" (profile of David M. Parsons) web exclusive on Arts + Culture Houston


PERFORMED in reading of Wolf Cry Wolf by Kevin Kautzman (Production Assistant; read stage directions and provided sound effects) New American Voices Play Reading Series, Landing Theatre Company


PUBLISHED "The Adults Around" in Letters to My Bully, edited by Ifalde Ta'Shia Asanti and Azaan Kamau


PUBLISHED Review of NobleMotion Dance and David J. Deveau's Spitting Ether on Dance Source Houston


PUBLISHED "Transposing to the Key of Queer" (interview with Dylan Edwards) in OutSmart Magazine

PUBLISHED "A Blessing Ceremony for Same-Gender Relationships" (interview with the Rev. Lisa Hunt) in OutSmart Magazine

PERFORMED in Wanderland a dance for film by Ashley Horn, opened October 12, 14 Pews

PERFORMED in Richmond Hall a site specific performance by Deborah Hay, Richmond Hall, The Menil Collection, October 13

PUBLISHED Review of Vault's Thread in Dance Source Houston 


PUBLISHED "A Texan, A Japanese, and a Missippian Walk into a Dance Studio" (profile of Jesus Acosta, Shohei Iwahama, and Nick Nesmith) in OutSmart Magazine

DIRECTED/PERFORMED in Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis as part of Questions and Declarations (performance ending a HopeWerks Residency at Hope Stone Studios) November 16, 17, 18 (Breath & Bone/Orts Performance)

PUBLISHED "Five Degrees of Separation Diverging from One Commonality" in Blue Rock Review (reading presented at Blue Rock Studio, November 24)


PRESENTED Long Night, Joyous Light: A Winter Solstice Happening, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and surrounding neighborhood, December 21 (Breath & Bone/Orts Performance)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Long Night, Joyous Light: A Winter Solstice Happening

This began as a desire to do something performancey without a lot of planning, that would be fun for participants and be easy for non-performer participation. I thought, "aha! A Happening!"

So here's the deal. On Friday, December 21st, we're going to gather at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Houston's Montrose neighborhood (corner of Alabama and Woodhead) at 7:00pm. Everyone will bring flashlights and glow sticks and other light-making thingies (although no open-flame thingies---safety first!). By 7:15, we'll head out into the night, en masse, and take our light out into the surrounding neighborhood. We're not caroling or anything like that, just taking an evening stroll with our lights shining on the longest night of the year. People can visit as they walk, or dance about making swirly light trails with their flashlights---well, it's just best not to plan too much. Part of the fun of a Happening is that you don't plan it, you let it happen.

Well, except that I will have a route planned out, to try to avoid the common dangers of Houston's sidewalks. We'll keep within the perimeters of Shepherd, Richmond, and Alabama, so we don't cross any major traffic (safety first!). I want families to feel safe bringing children along---it's a family-friendly sort of Happening!

(If "Happening" is a new term for you, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on them. As you'll learn, we're going to be one of the tamer Happenings in Happening history, but that's okay. It's going to be fun anyway.)

I'll make up some small flyers for a few of us to carry so that if we get asked what we're doing, we can hand out a brief explanation---and invite them to join us!

After we walk for 45 minutes to an hour, we'll be back at St. Stephen's for cookies and wassail or something like that. Hopefully, we'll have people from various circles and we can visit and get to know one another, expand our community connections a bit.

So, in brief:

Bring light making objects and, if you can, some cookies or other snacks to share.

Arrive at 7:00pm.

Locatoin: St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 1805 W. Alabama, 77098.

Be ready to have fun. It's just that simple.

Additional information: Filmmaker Ashley Horn has asked to film this event with the intention of turning it into a short film. So, you get to be a movie star as well as bringing light to one neighborhood. And if you're camera shy, we'll work out something so that maybe there's a section of the group that sticks together and Ashley won't point her camera in that direction.

Also, for those of you who are the praying type and want a religious dimension to the evening, St. Stephen's will be having an Evening Prayer or Vespers service at 6:00pm. It's a brief, ancient service that acknowledges the setting sun and might be an added dimension to the evening. But no pressure---if you'd rather not, just show up at 7:00 for the stroll!

If you can, please let me know you're coming, either in the comments below, on the Facebook event page, or by emailing me at neilellisorts (at) yahoo (dot) com. If it gets to a certain size, we may split up into two groups that head off into separate directions.

Also feel free to ask questions via any of those means.

We're not cursing the darkness! We're getting our glow on!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Not Exactly Out of Nothing But . . .

The age-old question for artists of all kinds has been, "where do your ideas come from?"

And then there's the follow-up: "how did you make that?"

Frankly, I'm more interested in the follow-up. I'm a process person and I love seeing/hearing how artists go about fulfilling their vision(s).

So you'd think I'd have some sort of understanding of my own process, would have paid more attention to how I go about things. But when I'm in the actual act of making something, I'm sort of in the act of making something and not paying attention to process.

As I made the recent performance out of eight poems by Jill Alexander Essbaum, this is highlighted for me by two events.

One was early in the rehearsal process. I worked a lone for a few weeks, moving about an empty space (either at Hope Stone Studios, where I had my HopeWerks Residency, or at at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, where I was graced with additional rehearsal space) and deciding how I wanted a particular poem to move, what shape or floor plan I wanted it to take. This was primarily an intuitive process, I think. Even 25 years ago, when I was directing my first plays, I made decisions about blocking fairly quickly and while I might veer off from the initial plan when I see something isn't working in rehearsal (or an actor is bringing something to the performance that requires a different pattern or I see a better picture to make with the actual bodies in space), once I set blocking, it's fairly well set. For better or worse.

When I set the last piece on my performers (of which I was one, which skews the process some, since I can't actually see the pictures I'm making), I found myself pondering my own process. On my bus ride home, I remember thinking, "How did I do that? There once was nothing, now there's this floor pattern and other movement that these performers didn't do. Did I make that? How? When?" I had a moment of wonder about that. I think I could reconstruct the steps and choices, but only with difficulty. My own process was obscure to me.

The second event was really a couple of events but the same one repeated. One was when Donna Meadows and I appeared on the local radio program, The Front Row. The interviewer, Catherine Lu, asked me how does one go about adapting poetry to the stage. It was a question that caught me off guard. I sort of stammered, "I don't know." That question was asked again at the after-show talk-backs. I was no more prepared to answer it. I think behind that question is some kind of surprise that one would attempt this, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the first to do it.

Again, I think I can reconstruct some of the steps in choices, some of which go back to when I first read these poems and saw images on a stage. Those images have been there a while and mostly, I just had to adjust them for the type of performance space we had. And I blocked out a floor pattern/path, and I figured out what pictures I wanted to make, and suddenly we had this thing that we just ran and refined until opening night.

I thought more about process this past weekend, at the Blue Rock Review release party. I'd had a short piece (people assure me it's a poem, so okay, a poem) accepted for publication in the journal and as I looked at it, expertly laid out, I remembered how hard I worked on it, how all the early drafts were a prose essay. I could never get happy with it and the Monday before the deadline, I set the essay aside and made a list (and, allegedly, a poem). I looked at it, decided that maybe this was the piece, emailed it off and they accepted it.

But I never set out to write a list/poem. Suddenly one exists, not only in my notebook, but in a journal that's being distributed hither and yon.

Do other artists find this somewhat mysterious. And exciting? But mostly mysterious?

I don't mean to be disingenuous with this pondering. I know there were hours put into both projects. I also don't want to imply that this mysterious process made something wonderful, because I always feel like things fall short of the idea in my head and need more hours, maybe even need more setting aside and starting over.

I'm coming to no conclusion tonight. Maybe I never will. I'm sure this won't be the last time I type aimlessly about process and the mystery therein.

There's something to unravel here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Necropolis Company Member: Cassandra Shaffer-Permenter

Neil Ellis Orts, Cassandra Shaffer-Permenter, and Donna Meadows
 A few days ago, I posted some words from Donna Meadows about her experience working on Necropolis for our HopeWerks Resicency performance, Questions and Declarations.

Today, let me introduce you to the other cast member of Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis, Cassandra Shaffer-Permenter. Here's what she's had to say about working on this project:

* * * * *

Neil first described 'Necropolis' to me as a "funny, sad, creepy, Jesusy sort of performance work." Since, funny, sad, Jesusy things are right up my alley, I was of course intrigued. 

I've really enjoyed exploring Jill Alexander Essbaum's work, which is new to me (I hadn't heard of her prior to this experience). Her poems are dark but deeply honest, and almost conversational in some places. I like her use of wordplay and sly double entrendres, as well.

As the title implies, death is a major theme throughout these poems. One of the "play dates" we had early in the process was in the aftermath of Jeremy Choate's tragic passing. I remember that particular read-though was particularly cathartic (for me, at least).

I've really loved being a part of this process and seeing these great poems come to life. As a performer, it's been a fun challenge for me-- most of my background is in dance, and it's been years since I've done any spoken word/acting. Neil and Donna are both great people to work with, and I'm really glad to have been a part of this process with them. I hope you'll come out this weekend and see out efforts!

* * * * *

As Cassandra says, come see the result of our efforts. Dates and times again:

Friday, November 16, 2012 7:30pm
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 7:30pm
Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 6:00pm.

Hope Stone Studio
1210 W. Clay St. 26 (Entrance on Van Buren, at the end of the building!)
Houston, TX

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Doorways to Compassion

Neil Ellis Orts, Cassandra Shaffer-Permenter, and Donna Meadows in rehearsal for Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis, part of the HopeWerks Residency showing, Questions and Declarations.

We're less than a week away from showing the work I've been making with my half of a HopeWerks Residency (which I'm sharing with Donna Meadows). In an earlier post, I spoke about what was behind my choosing to adapt some poetry from Jill Alexander Essbaum, that I wanted to show something about death and grief, to ask an audience to look at something we, as a culture, tend to look away from---and do so with an eye towards entertaining moments that take the edge off, but nonetheless  keeps our gaze on the this thing we don't like to look at.

This week, I was thinking about what participation in the arts is about (spinning out of a Facebook post, which isn't pertinent here). I boiled it down to a single phrase that I posted to the Breath & Bone Facebook wall: "participation in the arts is a doorway to compassion."

Being who I am, I immediately started arguing with my own proposition. Even as I was typing it, I edited it. I don't recall what I typed first, but I edited it to "is a doorway," recognizing that participation in the arts is far from the only means to compassion. 

And also recognizing that participation in the arts might have doorways that do not lead to compassion. 

I think these doorways, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder---whether the beholder realizes it or not. 

Because we cannot ignore the horrors of Nazism, which had a clear idea of what the arts were and how participation in them could reinforce a national identity, which is to say, nationalism. Collection paintings, seeing operas and ballets, listening to the great symphonies didn't lead to compassion but instead led to a deadly, delusional pride. 

There is danger in art-making, I think. Interpretation is something very much out of the hands of the artist. The intention of the artist only gets you so far. Some people do not look at art with the hope of learning about other people, their lives, their loves, struggles, and triumphs. Some people look at art for reinforcement of their own prejudices. 

What a work of art does depends so very much upon what the viewer is looking for. 

But here I'll say some more about what I hope to show with this work I've been making and will present next weekend. 

I want to show you something about death and grief, yes, but also something about it's healing. The photo above comes from a section of the performance that actually has no words from Jill, but is silently performed as a transition into hope. 

I want to show that the anger and despair of grief is natural and I hope the audience---of whatever religious persuasion or of no persuasion---that questioning God, however defined, is not as dangerous as we're sometimes led to believe, that's it's okay to ask, "Exactly how has your will been done?" and not be satisfied with the silence that meets us. 

I want to show that compassion is a part of the healing, and that we---all of us, for an artist who doesn't speak to him/herself is leaving out a very important piece of the audience---can decide to practice compassion that will lead us to some kind of peace, however tentative. 

That's what's on my mind---how I hope to be a servant to the showing---this week. 

I really hope you'll join us. Next weekend at Hope Stone Studio, November 16-18, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 6:00pm. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

HopeWerks Collaborator, Donna Meadows

Neil Ellis Orts and Donna Meadows
photo by Simon Gentry
 It's all Donna's fault. Months ago, she came to me and asked if I was interested in sharing a HopeWerks Residency with her. I may have thought about it 3-5 seconds.

When we started talking about what we were wanting to do with our portion of the residency, she said she wanted to participate in my work as well as making her own work. Okay, sure!

Sometime, maybe I'll talk about the "audition" (I put it in quotes, because they weren't really auditions in the usual sense) process, but I ended up with Donna and Cassandra Shaffer-Permenter as my cast. We had a couple of play dates in September and have been working on Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis (my half of Questions and Declarations, the HopeWerks showing next week) since early October.

I asked these two ladies if they had anything to say about the experience. Donna sent me the following:

* * * * * * * * * *

I am so enjoying working on this project with Neil and Cassandra.  Any time spent in rehearsal is absolutely serious fun.  The most intriguing thing for me is having the poems reveal themselves aurally rather than just reading printed words on paper alone. And as I delve further into the poems through speaking or hearing them I am drawn to return to their natural home on the page.  While I am most familiar with the ones we are performing I’m finding that experience eases my way as I read other poems in the collection.  Neil’s staging has enabled me to explore them with multiple viewpoints.

As we continue to work through the staging and lines of this poetry I find myself becoming more focused yet more at ease.  For me, I feel we’re at a point where we’re starting to flow.  I’ve always enjoyed the exchange and co-mingling of energy with fellow performers, separate entities creating and sharing a singular experience.  This project has been no different.  Cassandra and Neil have been great and Jill Alexander Essbaum’s poetry has been wonderful to explore with them.  I’ll miss our time together in the Hope Stone studio (my dance home) when our HopeWerks is finished.

* * * * * * * * * *

Won't you come see what we've been up to? I feel really good about it. If you're on Facebook, let us know we're coming by visiting the event page and while you're there, I invite you to "Like" the Breath & Bone/Orts Performance page.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Presence, Stage and Otherwise

I think we've all experienced a performer who walks onto the stage (or whatever performance space) and fills the room with her/his presence, yes? We tend to call it "stage presence."

What is that?

Their finite, physical person does not expand, and yet their presence is "felt" some distance away. Some people come to it naturally---it's been a constant in my life that people tell me I have it---but I wonder what it is. If I have it, are there things that I have done to cultivate it?

Up until now, I can't say it's been any kind of conscious cultivation, but in retrospect, I think there have been practices that may have contributed to my stage presence.

So part of our practice of making Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis into a stage presentation has been something I call "practicing resurrection." It's a movement meditation, bits of which I've stolen from here and there and woven into my own experience and theology/understanding of resurrection.

Because surely stage presence has to do with the spiritual nature of our being---that we're not only matter/stuff, but also spiritual. And if stage presence is a spiritual expression of our beings, would a spiritual practice of some sort help build stage presence in someone who does not have it?

I'm working with experienced performers who already have certain amount of stage presence. Still, I ask them to "practice resurrection" before each rehearsal. I want them to be fully alive, fully present to the task at hand. I want them to fill the room with their presence.

And this is the sort of thing I'm hoping to explore intentionally as I develop the company. I want to develop a practice for performers. I want to explore theological concepts in the context of art making. I'm a process person and a theologically trained process person. To some extent, I can't help it. I've done it for some time.

This is the first time I've asked people to come along . . .

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Countdown to Questions and Declarations

I had small hopes of chronicling the rehearsal process (because I am, at heart, a process person) of working on Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis for my HopeWerks Residency showing, Questions and Declarations.  Those small hopes included typing something every couple of weeks.

So of course, it's been a couple of months since last I typed into this particular blog spot.

What can I say? It's been a busy month, not only with work on Necropolis but also with other performance events, clearing off my freelance writing slate, writing a grant and sometimes I eat, sleep, and go to my day job.

So, how's it going, you ask?

Well. It's going well. I'm really excited to show what Cassandra Shaffer-Permenter, Donna Meadows, and I have been working on. Cassandra and Donna have been great to work with, willing to try most anything I asked (within reason---and it's true, not everything I've asked is reasonable) and for some performance about death and grieving, I think we've created something with no little beauty.

I've been asked what we're doing is dance or theater or what. I think it's mostly or what. Cassandra and Donna are both dancers and I've taken dance, so there's definitely a movement style---what I tend to refer to as expressive bodies. There are elements of theater---we're speaking text for an audience and if it's a dance studio rather than a stage, it is definitely akin to being in a black box theater. And perhaps that's the closest "thing" we can claim. Theater. But I tend to just call it "performance." That covers it, despite confounding some people. Add to the fact that it's not exactly in the bounds of what is known as "performance art," the confounding in compounded.

(That just happened, unplanned. I'm going to have to use that somewhere else . . . )

This is what happens when a farm boy from Paige goes off to Chicago to get an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts. Definitions get muddy.

But, I begin to ramble, so I'll just leave with this:

Questions and Declarations
new performance work by Donna Meadows and Neil Ellis Orts
Friday, November 16, 2012 7:30pm
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 7:30pm
Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 6:00pm. 

Hope Stone Studio
1210 West Clay, Suite 26
(entrance faces Van Buren) 
 $5 admission at the door. 

We don't have reservations, but space is limited and if you're on Facebook, you can let us know you're coming via the event page

While I'm at it, I should also add this little bit of information about HopeWerks:
HopeWerks is a space grant offered to emerging choreographers and performance artists to assist them in the early stages of their artistic journey. Artists are given three months of unlimited rehearsal time at Hope Stone Studio to create their work. At the end of the three months, the artists present a "work-in-progress" showing to the public at the Studio.

And  I might also add thanks to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church for the use of additional rehearsal space.

Yeah, this didn't all just happen by itself. There's been a lot of help. I must remember to be grateful for all this help . . .

Monday, September 3, 2012

An Envy Confessed

This is a theme I'm likely to return to again and again, that theme being ugliness and beauty and what those things mean for a theologically trained artist. I think an awful lot of emphasis is placed on "beauty" without giving "ugliness" its due.

But I want to start first with a note I found in my back pocket notebook. As I move toward making performances that are not necessarily for a theater setting, that is, what is generally referred to broadly as performance art or live art, I am aware that my themes and aesthetics are rather different from what you might see at some performance art festivals. I won't cover all of this one post, but I want to start with this bit I wrote at some point (I don't recall when) in my back pocket notebook:

It occurs to me that what I admire---or envy or am just fascinated by---in the extreme performance artists is their sense of "nothing to lose." They get naked, pull things out of usually unseen orifices, they are obscene and vulgar---shouting in a Flannery O'Connor way---because they don't have anyone they care about offending. No day job to question their public nudity, no family to embarrass. They may have those things, but they count them as nothing to lose. Or so it seems to me. And so . . . I envy that. I always feel like I have something to lose 

To comment on that notebook scribble, I would go one step further. I think I lack the anger that seems to propel a lot of this "Flannery O'Connor shouting." I say that and then I remember that I do have moments of anger, frequently even. But then I'm reminded, in this past Sunday's lectionary, in fact, that "your anger does not produce God’s righteousness." [James 1:20.] Then again, I'm reminded that the history of live art includes a lot of anger about women artists being under-represented in major galleries. Did that anger bring about any kind of righteousness or (to use a closely related, sometimes interchangeable word) justice? Did the Gorilla Girls do anything more than draw attention to the problem or did they actually bring about more positive change for women artists?

Questions. My main point tonight is that I have ideas for performance installations that owe some debt to the the feminist impulse that popularized live art, but the pieces that I'm planning for next year are so different in intention. Is anger an actual component of performance art, without which, performance art becomes something else?

Okay, I don't believe that. Performance/live art is broadly defined a bit on purpose, and that broad definition will include these things I intend to accomplish in the next year. But as I explore my own impulse toward this expression, I look to other practitioners and see so much of what they do is ugly in a surface appearance sort of way. As I've been thinking about that history (and current practice) in much performance art, I've also been wondering about my own attraction to it. Because it does "sound" like shouting to me, shouting from people who are not being heard, who feel they are dealing with people who are metaphorically hard of hearing.

So as I move into this territory, I'm pondering my own anger, my own sense of being unheard (and I do have that feeling often enough---I think many LGBT folk of religious conviction do!) and my own relation to beauty and ugliness. Beauty has often been related to "good," as in moral good. I begin to wonder if I the ugliness of art (not just performance art) of the last half century or more doesn't have something to do with justice or the lack thereof. In which case, is this the art of the prophetic?

Perhaps most importantly, I begin to wonder what I have to lose.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Showing Necropolis

So I'm starting this performance company (well, I could haggle about when it started, but I'm only now using a name for it) with a staging of some poems from Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis. It's a dark, heavy book, full of death and grief, although I also find humor and hope in it. I turned to this book when I was handed an opportunity (more on that later) to produce some work because I'd pictured some of it staged from the moment I read it.

In the subheading of this blog, you'll see the phrase, "servants to the showing." I came to this phrase via Kate Warren (an Austin, TX, based dancer and choreographer, friend, and founder of Circuitous Dance/Kate Warren) who quoted to me a phrase from Merce Cunningham: " . . . not to show off, but to show." I felt as if that was an important distinction. I began thinking about my work in terms of the question, "what do I want to show?" I felt part of this vocation of being an artist is to be a servant to the showing.

But the question haunted me: What did I want to show with Jill's poems? I wanted to show her artistry with language, yes, but what else? What was I getting at? I felt I might be more concerned with "showing off" (Jill's poetic genius and my cleverness with staging non-traditional material)  than with showing.

Then I began rereading Walter Brueggemann's Prophetic Imagination. Let me quote a bit from page 43:

Bruce Loftin has studied attitudes concerning death in our culture beginning with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and response to those events. Beyond these he has considered the more general response to living in a world where death is so visible, so daily, so pervasive, and so massive, and yet so unnoticed. Lifton has concluded that we have no adequate way to relate to death reality and potential, so we deny it with numbness. 

Moreover, says Loftin, behind that frightened practice is a symbol gap in which we  do not have symbols that are deep or strong enough to match the terror of the reality. What takes place when symbols are inadequate and things may not be brought to public expression is that the experience will not be experienced. 

It's nothing to new to say we, as a culture, do not know how to enter into the grief of endings, whether death or other endings. We are a culture that avoids grief with platitudes or else numb it with food or shopping---anything to fill the hole of loss without addressing the hole.

I don't know if I can show an audience everything about grief and grieving, but if there's one thing about Jill's book, it does not avoid it.

So, I go forward with this project, I'm reflecting upon what symbols I can bring to public expression. How can I help people experience the experience of loss---and the new beginning that follows?

This may require some negotiation with Jill's words---I'm not sure we share the same agenda in presenting these words. Perhaps we'll have to talk about it.

For now, this where I am in the process. I know the material I'm working with. I know that I want to show the audience something---something more than entertainment, although I believe there will be entertaining moments. I'm finding my sources to inform and shape this intent. .

To quote the first poem in Necropolis:

And that's as good a place as any to begin.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

With Fear and Trembling and Some Amont of Excitement

That whole "feel the fear and do it anyway" thing? I'm good at the first part.

But I seem to be doing something that I've avoided for . . . well, how old am I? That long. I think it was inevitable that it would come to this, but it always looked too much like Nineveh and who wants to go there?

But here I am, covered in big fish vomit, going forward. And, knowing me, there will be grumbling under some sort of vine or bush before it's all over.

My name is Jonah. Ishmael stars in another sea tale.

What am I talking about? Breath & Bone/Orts Performance is what I'm talking about. I seem to be forming a performance company. Not because the world needs another one, but because I can't seem to avoid it.

Because I keep having these ideas that I can't fit into other existing entities. That's the main thing. I have these theological thoughts about most everything, but since I'm a writer and performer, I think especially about the theology of art-making.

Or, to put it another way, I find art-making to be a fertile site for doing theology.

So, Breath & Bone/Orts Performance (which I realized just this evening that the initials are BBOP, which absolutely has to be pronounced "bebop") will be about the task of making interdisciplinary performances. I will also openly discuss relationships between theological concepts or biblical stories and performance theory and practice.

I'm also about as excited as I've ever been.

Last night, I had auditions for this fall project---not to worry, plenty of time to be blogging about that endlessly---and I pretty well threw out to the auditioners all my esoteric weirdness. Lo and behold, everyone left saying they had a good time. Luckily, I did, too.

Much much more to be said, but I'll stop here tonight. I'm on my way to Nineveh, that awful place I've always avoided. I think it's going to be okay.

Or it will be okay after I go shower off this big fish vomit . . .