24 March 2008

The Courage to Collaborate


Not too long ago (though and hey: where the heck did March go already?) I was writing about my disillusionment with the collaborative work I had been doing of late (see 1/18/08). Now I am suffused anew with the natural light of a hard-won, worthwhile collaborative experience. Am I fooling myself? Does this gratitude spring more from my frustration over the lately lack of long-term work in my life, or is it genuine and in response to reclaiming the better bits of collaboration?

I was gone last week. Did you miss me? (<--rhetorical) I was in Pennsylvania once again, working. Whilst there I taught various workshops, thanks in large part to the efforts of Friend Heather, and worked with The Northeast Theatre and Zuppa del Giorno in initial efforts and training for a new original show. Well, somewhat original, at any rate. You may notice a new link to the left under the "Hugin" heading. Zuppa del Giorno is taking on Romeo & Juliet.

So last June the gang (gang this time: David Zarko, Heather Stuart, Todd d'Amour and yours truly) was sitting around the breakfast table in Italy, pondering a perfect project for collaboration with Italian artists as we sipped our espresso, munched our Nutella(R) plastered bread and peered out at the castle on the opposite peak. Thus encumbered by effort, we managed to mention R&J, and it tickled our fancy. (Fancy tickling being perfectly legal---nay, encouraged--in Europe.) Romeo & Juliet had, in a way, haunted us from our first trip to Italy, when we visited Civita di Bagnoregio by night and discovered that all those seemingly over-wrought R&J set designs, full of giant boulders and myriad irregular balconies, were in fact quite accurate. David said to me, "You're into Shakespeare, right?" I thought, I am? Oh yeah! I am! It had been so long for me, I had literally forgotten how much I loved studying and acting in Shakespeare's plays.

I can't recall who first suggested it be a clown show. (See 3/14/08, paragraph 2.)

Cut to last week, and six Zuppianni, local actor Conor McGuigan, Italian actor Andrea Brugnera, and clown director Mark McKenna, playing at different times in the conveniently inactive space on Spruce Street. It was amazing. Sure, there were times when we couldn't communicate well, both due to linguistic differences and differences of vocabulary within the same language. There were many moments of being on stage and thinking/praying, "Dear God...send me an idea, please." There were even mornings when we arrived at the theatre and the consensus was that it was the last place we wanted to be. But every time we played, if we played long enough, we made beautiful discoveries. Commedia lazzi hundreds of years old surprised us with laughter. Clowns telling us a story we knew by heart, even while inserting punchlines, made us cry. And through all of it was a sense that we were somehow being reunited, even with those people with whom we had never played before.

I have often said that the beginning of a collaboration is my favorite part, the part when all the possibility seems most present. It's when the show still has the luxury of existing in your mind just as you want it to be, before any compromises, before anyone really knows anything, before argument, ego and expectation pressurize the palate. In the past year I've been forced--forced, because it's quite against my will--to accept the possibility that any collaboration may end in tears or, worse, sighs of resignation. But hope springs eternal, I suppose. Especially when one is so surrounded by brilliant friends.

2 comments:

Christina said...

Congratulations on getting back in the collaboration ring! You're a braver man than I. (Um, wait...)

I'm content to be the only butterfly-to-be in the cocoon right now.

Word of advice: have a contract. ; )

Jeff Wills said...

Want to represent me in its negotiation, Christina? ;) Thanks, and look forward to your eventual butterfly.