I make theatre because it forges community. I believe community can be formed when a group of people share live art with each other in the same space at the same time. And within community, we can examine our shared assumptions and find meaning in our lives. This means a lot in a culture where people feel isolated or disconnected, where they skim over content, and where so many interactions are online. I seek to create immediate, substantive work that engages the complexity and intensity of today’s streaming culture. I work in a collaborative, process-driven way to fuse different disciplines into a cohesive whole. I believe this resonates more deeply than work created with a more limited set of tools. I use media in live performance as a way to seduce media-saturated audiences back to live art.
In my earliest work as a director in the 80’s, I incorporated dance and theatre with live music. In the early 90’s, I felt the need to deepen the way I was approaching physicality in my work and to develop an intensely physical performance style. The idea for creating a “gestural vocabulary,” in which gestures could be used both as emotional signifiers and as choreographic elements, was inspired in by two sources: the work of French theatre theorist Francois Del Sarte (whose stylized approach was the basis for the development of melodrama as an acting style) and Eastern performance traditions like katakali and kabuki (which communicate complex ideas through culturally-specific body language). The gestural vocabulary, though specific to each project, is in a state of constant development with an ever-growing set of permanent gestures being added to the repertoire. The bulk of the vocabulary is generated by the ensemble of performers working on each project in response to key emotions that I select. No casual gestures are used by the ensemble-only gestures from the vocabulary-and this creates a heightened emotional landscape that is instinctually understood by the audience.
I love leading a process of exploration among a group of talented and open-minded collaborators. I almost always bring designers into each project very early on so that their ideas and notes significantly shape the new work. In recent years, as I began incorporating other media into my work, this has become even more essential. I worked on several projects where the designers have been co-conceivers of the project and contributed to every aspect of the collaboration. My participation in the community of resident artists at HERE has also sharpened my desire for collaboration and my recognition of the role it plays towards the creation of deep, engaging work.
Over the last five years, the material I have been attracted to led me to focus on integrating other elements – primarily media and puppetry – into my work. When I see media used in live art, I often feel it is cold or simply functioning as backdrop-scenery. This does not interest me. So I have been working rigorously on warming up, humanizing and dramaturgically integrating media. I quickly recognized the necessity of a long-term development process in which media is incorporated throughout. This approach means a choice doesn’t have to succeed on the first try and allows a range of options to be explored in order to find the most emotionally effective solutions. It takes both rigor and improvisation to uncover what works to trigger the right emotional impact.
At the core of my work is risk-taking, both in form and content. My work is constantly evolving as I use what I have discovered on past projects to help me tackle the challenges in new ones. Each phase acts as a steppingstone to the next. And I am always eager to take that next leap.