From the Archives: A Manifesto and a Poem
The transition from 2010 to 2011 was a very memorable and transformational time in my life. Through researching important avant-garde theatre makers, collaborating in my own performance experiments, dancing, meditating, and writing poetry, I began my journey of integrating body-mind-spirit. I offer immense gratitude to the teachers I had at the time, especially Dr. Gary Grant, who quoted Jerzy Grotowski as he implored us to "be our own gurus." I have often thought about that period of time with a sense of nostalgia: I want to feel and re-feel that exhilaration of self-discovery, self-liberation, and also self-obliteration. And then I remind myself that there is no need to re-create a set of external circumstances in order to journey within and experience an infinite source of bliss, a vastness like the sky or the ocean. That being said, for this first blog entry, I am posting a few things I wrote in 2011--partly because they still seem important to who I am now, and partly because I am amazed at how much I have grown since then!
First: excerpts from a Manifesto I wrote about my perspective on a type of theatre I termed "Respirational Theatre." This was written shortly after creating an interactive performance in a corn field in Lewisburg, PA, in which we explored our deep longing to overcome the atomic condition of never-quite-touching (Particle Theory tells us that particles never have zero distance between them).
THEATRE AND BREATH: A MANIFESTO
In our current age of technology, which could also be called the age of objectification and efficiency, many of us have become spectators to the world, spectators who recognize all objects as a means to an immediately-revealed end—we see and take rather than inhere in the world. We deny that we are pre-reflectively made of the same stuff as the earth—instead we position ourselves as figurative goldminers of the earth. Unfortunately, sometimes theatre can support this model of the world in which we separate ourselves from the performers on stage and perpetuate rigid expectations about the function of theatre.
What theatre SHOULD do is awaken us once again to ourselves and others. The theatre should aim to disintegrate rigidity and adapt to the nebulousness of lived life. Theatre must be allowed to breathe! Respirational theatre operates in a constant in-out, give-take motion. It is exactly what it sounds like. Respirational theatre takes the act of respiration, breath, inhalation and exhalation, as its guide, which embodies the simultaneity of motion and stasis. The idea of respiration should affect every aspect of the theatre:
1. The thing itself, the theatrical thing that is given birth to, should be respirational with respect to the participants (not spectators!). This means that the creation must not be rigid, that it gives to the participant, and that it receives something from the participant, which allows both of them to grow and experience moment-to-moment. The theatrical thing is undefined and always in flux and recognizes the flexibility of the participant, as well. It is rather interactive in this sense—a two-way relationship.
2. Those who are creating the theatrical thing should respirate with one another. There is incessant motion in giving and receiving between all members of the team. If there is a director she may give ideas to the rest of the team but receives openly their ideas as well. It is a constant motion and constant evolution in this type of sharing.
3. The creators respirate with the theatrical thing. They give to it, yet receive something from it that changes them while thrusting them into the moment. The theatrical thing itself is then a miracle that breathes moment-to-moment, and in doing so can be experienced as one cohesive macrocosmic moment. The simultaneity of cohesion and nebulousness must be allowed to thrive in theatre if we are to recognize such a pattern in our lived lives, to recognize the possibility of non-differentiation between theatre and life.
4. The creators of the theatrical thing respirate with all potential participants. This would imply that the creators must foster a constant and earnest attention to the people around them at all times in order to give and receive meaningfully. The creators should give a theatrical thing that is directly responsive to the participants—the creators must listen with open minds and hearts in order to observe the natural instinct as to what ought to be given in response. The creators must be attuned to social dynamics, and it would be beneficial to make efforts to be politically sensitive.
Theatre can “be” anything and occur anywhere as long as it is respirational. If it is truly respirational, the form is limitless. There are no rules about content or form. Most importantly, this theatre ought to occur out of some type of need, just as our survival is based upon breath. Respirational theatre has a miraculous restorative quality by allowing everyone who comes in contact with it to experience freedom from culturally-imposed boundaries. It may even be the impetus needed to guide our society away from obsessive objectification into a feeling of inherence in the world and into a state of joy in the unknowable yet perceivable moment-to-moment experience.
My ideas about respirational theatre relate to me as a director, performer, “audience member,” and human being.
-As a director, respirational theatre requires that I neither become the ultimate controller nor allow myself to disappear from the process. I give and take as much as any of the “performers."
-As a performer, respirational theatre demands that I do not feel superior to any other performer, but that we allow our bodies, minds, and hearts to interweave with one another; it also demands that I have a responsive relationship to the material, that I do not superimpose my ego on living, breathing, shared ideas.
-As an audience member, respirational theatre engages me in a two-way dialogue—I am not allowed to objectify the work, to “sit back and enjoy the show,” but I must find a way to constantly interact with it. The interaction is what gives true joy: I sit forward and talk to the work, rather than sit back and merely see the work.
-Finally, as a human creature, my day-to-day life is just as respirational as the theatre I uphold. I am in constant relationship to the world—I breathe in infinite wonder, and I breathe out everything I have to offer.
Respiration is relation, and it is what sustains our lives.
Looking back on this manifesto, I find it rather vague and somewhat obvious...like, "duh, these things have always been true of theatre and art-making, and adding the word "respirational" doesn't create a new genre." However, I can admire the sincerity with which I wrote it, and I still believe in using the breath as an ultimate guiding principle for any kind of endeavor. I now question sentiments such as, "Theatre can be anything and occur anywhere as long as it is respirational." What are the requirements of dubbing something as "theatre" or performance? Is naming it theatre enough to make it so? For example, today in Butoh class about 15 of us went into the subways and practiced balancing, meditating, and allowing our bodies to react to the changing ground beneath us. I didn't know how to negotiate the onlooking passengers. Was I in a performance? Wasn't I just training and meditating? Certainly the passengers must have felt they were watching a performance, even if that wasn't our intention. Is that theatre? Anyway, I digress.