House of X: Words Made Flesh


This is late, but better late than never.

I'm the lucky recipient of a very generous three-year SSHRC grant--Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council--to explore using poetry as the point of departure for the creation of physical theatre--primarily the poetry of Lorna Crozier. This work is being done in collaboration with oboist and English horn player--and head of woodwinds at U Vic's School of Music--Sandra Dawkins. This work is to culminate in a piece set to brand-new texts by Lorna, as well as existing work. The following is an account of the first venture into this activity, using selected poems from a collection of Lorna's called Apocrypha of Light, a feminist re-telling of the Christian creation myths, and stories from the Old Testament.

Thursday, April 12, 2012: The actors and I meet with Lorna to discuss the project and its objectives, the problems associated with creating work of this kind, the choice of Apocrypha of Light as a template text, the work of the poet, the nature of interdisciplinarity, and many other related topics. She is really interested in collaborating on this project, and on making her work available to us as a plastic object, to be manipulated as the work seems to suggest. She seems really excited about and interested in being a collaborator, and in working in particular on theatrical embodiment of her texts.

The actors then read the introductory prose poem, The Origin of Pen’s Black Arts, and Lorna read the first eponymous poem. Then we put the chairs away and stood up, and began to take further and further steps away from the poem as textual artifact, and closer and closer to embodiment. Lorna stayed to observe and assist with staging the intro, which proved to be very easy to do, and produced a comedic and—we felt—elegant piece of movement theatre.

In the afternoon we were on our own, and spent three hours struggling with the poem Apocrypha of Light. This summed up all the anticipated problems with trying to force poetic text to serve as the basis of physical theatre, something it was not intended to do! The movement seems extraneous; it overwhelms the text; the text is best simply recited, face front. This is going to be arduous!

Friday, April 13: I do a movement sequence about God creating Eve from Adam’s rib and the snake wriggling on to toss her the apple. I want the movement passages to stand on their own feet, as it were, and not to be always entwined with text; dependent upon it, the way that dance is typically dependent on music. Also, I want to leave room for the music to participate with movement, and not simply underscoring text. (But the music will always be an adjunct to the main content of the work.)

I manage to crack the nut on two poems about the Snake, The Start of the Blues, and What the Snake Brings to the World, both as accompaniment to movement design. For the latter, Carol and Kale, with—I imagine—martini glasses in hand, flirt with each other as a composite snake-like thing goes by, like the Chinese dragon dance; this will have to be much more fully developed.

Also, I manage to stage God’s Yes and No as speech-with-movement, and also to set Who Is Like Thee, Doing Wonders, which proved to be a male actor—Graham Miles—reciting the poem on his knees, while the three women, like ghosts of banished goddesses, creep up on him from behind. It occurs to me that they ought to dress him as a woman and put lipstick on him.

Past Production Posters

This Is A Dance