Having a creative outlet is great, and making and sharing art can be therapeutic, but the stage isn’t an appropriate place to work out issues. And although I write about difficult subjects, by the time that work is shared with an audience I’ve packaged it as neatly as I can, and distanced myself from the feelings that inspired it in the first place. That’s why at the start of ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ I say to the audience ‘Lean back, relax, these brain dogs always find their way home.’
I shared the first fifteen minutes of ‘Testy Manifesto’ with a friend over zoom recently, and she said she felt reassured when I say near the start ‘I promise you, I’ll be ok.’ All of the feelings expressed are real and messy, but something very useful I learned in my training at LISPA is that we should never fear for the actor. The character or stage persona is one or more steps removed from the vulnerable human underneath - we invest our discomfort in the character; the actor is ALWAYS safe. When I performed burlesque, other women would ask me if I ever felt uncomfortable taking my clothes off onstage. The answer was no, and not because I’m an exhibitionist, but because by the time I’ve got to the nudity part, its been so packaged up in music, character and costume that it’s irrelevant. Taking ones clothes off onstage is worlds apart from getting naked in front of someone you are about to have sex with for the first time, but annoyingly our culture seems to conflate the two.
I’ve reached the end of my poetry filming experiment, where I made a video for all eleven of the poems from ‘Testy Manifesto’, and shared them on my facebook page and instagram. I felt resistance to sharing some of them, I got irritated sometimes when I forgot my words and had to keep re-starting, but overall it was a fun project. And though I lamented not having the joy privilege of a live audience, I was able to try out some ideas that wouldn’t have been possible in a live performance situation. I climbed a hill while reciting the final poem, the same hill that I wrote the poem about when I climbed it on New Years Day this year, when I was in a terrible state, and couldn’t see a way out of my misery. Bringing the two elements together that day allowed me to look back and see how far I’d come, and it was TRIUMPHANT!
Just before Lockdown 2.0 happened I got to share the first fifteen minutes of ‘Testy Manifesto’ to an ACTUAL LIVE AUDIENCE at Poetry Platform at the The Railway. It was going to be a quiet night, so the host asked all the poets to prepare a longer than usual set. I had to learn a new piece of dialogue for the performance, and I hadn’t shared the work since February of this year, but it was lovely, and I remembered nearly all of my words. My sister was in the audience, and this meant a great deal to me...
Currently I’m working on staging the middle section of TM, which seems to be where all the satirical material is sitting, and I’m not sure how all those pieces intersect just yet. I’m meant to be sharing this in another zoom rehearsal next week, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to have it all figured out, just memorised is enough, anything else is a bonus.
What I have decided to do, is go through ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ and cut out the parts with audience interaction to make it covid-secure and suitable for a digital platform. It seems an awful shame, but I really can’t be crawling on audience members smearing lipstick on their faces in these times, and I’ve had some overseas interest in the show; I was gobsmacked to discover that some poets in Nashville and San Francisco had heard of a ‘burlesque poet’ called me, and they want a Lobotomy. Cool.
No new poems to share this time, so I’m writing a list of what needs to be adjusted in ‘Frontal Lobotomy’ for my own process, it won’t mean much to anyone but me....I do love a list.
Lots of love,
- Mirror at the start might be weird without an audience, I won’t be able to look directly at anyone.
- Instrumental Montage - Do something different with the thumb lights for middle section of the music.
- Walter Freeman 1 - Hold the brain myself and demonstrate the Lobotomy without the use of an audience member.
- Cut Brain Haiku part with audience interaction, or recite several myself. Keep the ad hoc.
- Other Side - Smear lipstick on own face, and find something else to do rather than put it on someone else for the middle part of the music.
- Lip-synch part - Change script here: “We can’t even see who is watching”
- Rainbirds - The ‘apology’ doesn’t make sense now, find something else to do for that part of the music.
There’s a lot of ‘finding something else to do’ here!