This past weekend, Daniel Burkholder and I performed four shows as part of the "International Dance Jam," presented by the Theater Alliance at H Street Playhouse. This was our first opportunity to show "unmapped" - a work in progress that attempts to blur the distinction between our roles as musician and dancer.
For this run of shows, we did the piece as a fifteen minute improvisation. We set up the space with a stool downstage right, and a bench upstage left. The guitar is using a wireless transmitter and a delay - so we can move around the stage freely and whatever sounds we generate with the guitar are repeated several times, so we don't have to be "playing" the guitar at all times.
Before each show, we flipped coins to determine if we begin at the stool or at the bench, and to determine the costumes. At this point we have two kinds of shirts, and two pants each to choose from. Chris, our costume designer, built my pants with special pockets to hold my "tools" (dulcimer hammers, pencils, slide, paintbrush, vibrator).
We begin the piece with both of us focused on the guitar and gradually begin moving. We had a few light cues so we knew how much time had elapsed. During the first five minutes, only the area around the stool or bench is lit, then lights come up on the rest of the stage and we expand our movement. At ten minutes, a lighting change signals that we're "allowed" to settle into our traditional roles - I can focus on playing guitar, and Daniel can focus on movement. Another light cue at 14:00 lets us know that it's time to find an ending. Other than that - all content of the piece is made up on the spot.
This was pretty scary. I had to do a good deal of moving / dancing and I've never done that on stage before! Overall, I think the shows went pretty well. Daniel blogged about each performance, if you're interested in more detail click here.
Now we have some hard work ahead: we have to develop the piece from this fifteen minute version up to a forty-five minute structure. The full-blown "unmapped" premieres during Capital Fringe, July 21 and 22 at Warehouse Theater. We're doing it every hour for 24 hours straight. More info on that as it develops.
(photo by Cameron McPhee. Not bad for a camera phone in very low light...)