03 May 2007

Serving One's Country

Worry not. I am not about to chime in on the political a la Friend Nat (although if naughty words were permissible there, Nat would already be employed by The Nation). Rather I write to update the confused and huddled masses (Readership of Odin's Aviary now in the double digits! What what!) on the status of that collaborative project celebrating its second birthday some time soon. That one that I occasionally travel to Vermont/New Hampshire for, and what deals in large part with the war/conflict/mess-o'-potamia in Iraq. That Project, if you get my meaning, mentored by Moises Kaufman and occasionally exhibited in workshops around the Isle of Manhattan.

Why am I being so coy about the name? Because, dear friends, we have a new working title. Yay! I am so pleased. Telling people about The Torture Project had gotten old long ago. It reminded me of the conversations I have with strangers when I'm wearing my stilts. "How's the weather up there?" "You really drank your milk, didn't you?" Except it was usually something like "And is the project torture?" (Answer: No. Except when I have to hold the Shabaq position for five minutes.) Plus, the name just wasn't appropriate after about the first year of development. We got stuck on the word as a guide instead of a label. So the TP's new moniker...?

As Far As We Know

I like it. It sums up a lot about the show as far as we've developed it, and is less obscure than a previous consideration for a title: DUSTWUN - Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown. But that's not all, folks! To add to the total anonymity of the project, the producing company has also changed its name. Joint Stock Theatre Alliance is dead; long live--

UnCommon Cause

I also like this name, but I'm uncertain as to why they changed this aspect. It may have been because the project itself is taking a dramatic new turn. It may also be that there is, in fact, already a Joint Stock theatre company out there. The only thing I miss from the old name is the word "alliance." Good word. UnCommon word, if you will, and it pretty accurately describes what the producing directors aspire to in their working style.

So what, besides nomenclature, has changed? Well, it remains to be seen. What has definitively happened is that our directors have received an almost unheard-of amount of input from the real hometown of Keith "Matt" Maupin. Last Saturday we met for about four hours, just to cover a fraction of the photographs and interviews they returned with. It was exciting and humbling, and made me wish I could have been along for the ride. There's promises that the entire company will make a trip out there soon, but that seems a pretty grand undertaking to me, and may take time. In the meantime, the next step is a series of biweekly (Wait...wait.... That means twice a week, not every two weeks, right? I'm almost positive...) rehearsals through June to explore new avenues in the--frankly--new show. Our first assignment being to take the transcriptions of interviews with assigned people from the community and present a short piece illustrating that person (or those people).

And I've been chosen to do two of Matt's commanding officers. This was the assignment I hoped for, though I have no idea what I will do with it creatively yet. I've spent so much time trying to imagine a military head-space that I'm eager to have actual examples. Also, these guys know Mat. They just do. It's insane to imagine. One anecdote sticks out from the Saturday session. They said Matt would carry around a rubber ball (I wasn't clear if it was like a bouncy-ball, or racket ball, or what) to play with to combat the urge to smoke. I don't know if I'll ultimately be playing the soldier character in our story--there's some concern that I look too old--but I carry a liberty dollar coin with me to combat smoking/nail biting, and it meant something to me that there's at least one, small commonality between I and my character's real-life counterpart.

There's something else, too. Patriotism. I fret sometimes over the distinction between patriotism and nationalism, but there's no use denying that I feel like a patriot--at least in the sense that I believe in my country in ways it doesn't always live up to. Now, if someone had asked me at age nineteen to serve my country by going to war, I probably would have turned them down. I fear bodily harm when it comes to flying metal, and would have felt ill-equipped for the challenges. Nevertheless, I believe hard in this idea called America. I grew up in the Boy Scouts, for f%$k's sakes. This is something I'm eager to explore in my work on As Far As We Know. What is it that takes people a step farther into patriotism, to the extent that they feel justified in killing and dying for it?

Of course, fanaticism and fear are powerful imitators of just about any conviction, and that can lead to really irrational decisions. (For example: Break me a freaking give.) People need belief as much as they need food and water. I just hope, personally, that belief is something that saves lives without taking them.


Patrick said...

I was thinking I should write you a supportive, encouraging note in light of recent events, but these last several entries have reminded me that, as is your habit, you're doing the smartest thing you can when dealing with self-doubt; you just keep working. I'd say you got back on the horse, except it doesn't really seem like you fell off the horse at any point anyway. So, good on ya, mate.

Jeff said...

Aye, Patrick, I never yet have fully fallen off. I just sort of fall out of the saddle and get dragged by one foot for a few miles over rocky terrain. So the encouragement is ALWAYS appreciated.