September 27th, 2011 § § permalink
Empty theatres are never truly empty. Past and future performances lie waiting in the wings, behind this curtain. In every theatre there is always the ‘ghost light’, a bare bulb on a stand left perpetually alight during the non-working hours, through midnights and morning hours, so that one will not trip over the blackness of that vast unoccupied chamber. Across the world, thousands of dim beacons in theatre houses, together form a hidden constellation of dormant worlds past and signal to worlds to come. Before and after, the ghost light looks on, a truly unblinking eye on the spectacle of the stage. Against this, there is the curtain: if the theatre house personifies the seer, and finds its pupil in the ghost light, then the curtain functions as the lid to this all-seeing eye. It is the actor that performs perhaps the most theatrical of roles: the art of revelation and appearance, making the future known.
–from my director’s note to The Waste Land: Or, Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain (with production photograph)
He has returned to this figure many times over. A fitting obsession for an insomniac, it remains on in the off-hours, light the days when the house is normally “dark” as they say with a theatre’s closure. The ghost light, the remains of all the performances that have died in this theatre, all stripped of their particularity, their texture and coloring. He likes its bare bulb, not even white, but unaffiliated and unfiltered in its raw excavation of the empty stage. He likes how it shows the empty stage without its makeup to be a well-worn visage, no abstract space. There are scuffs and cracks in paint, taped up fixtures and the old folding chair where the fly guy sits in the wings while the scenes play on. He likes how it shows the dark where the stage does not reach; for, sitting still off-center on the forestage, its nimbus always ghosts some outer edge or limit upon which it cannot cast its gaze. And, finally, always, how it shows his shadow circling the walls and floors in elongated steps, how it makes of him, too, a ghost.
September 20th, 2011 § § permalink
a series of imagined theatres. notes for future performances. impossible performances.
unattributed illustration of focusing hook and cloth.
In half-light, the stage is set with great care by a trio of stage hands: a meticulously realized nineteenth century living room. Lights down as they leave. In the darkness, whispers and then the churning sound of some machine, the shuffling of feet, panting. The sounds cut out suddenly and we are back to half-light, the stage hands return to reset the stage once more, slight adjustments of the furniture, a few new portraits on the walls, replacing the old, perhaps a half-finished meal carefully laid out. Darkness again, this time the sound of lighthearted conversation at several removes, behind another wall or closed door. Again the lights return. Again, the stage hands enter. They clear the table and carry on a large photographic camera complete with black focusing cloth that they place center stage. It faces the audience. They leave. The lights remain on.
September 20th, 2011 § § permalink
photograph of “Phlebas’ Dance” from the Waste Land: Or, Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain
directed by Daniel Sack (2009)
A map for the placement of actions and objects in the dark. The stage is not a single consistently empty plane, a starless sky, but is lined and limited where sets should be placed, where they will be placed and where future actions will take place. “Spike marks” we call them, as if the free-floating forms were pinned to the ground. The dim glow of these dashes and crosses illuminate the black as constellations recalling and foretelling future navigations, the outlines of mythic bodies and fixtures: this, here, the shoulder of Orion and, that, the outer edge of the couch on which they will soon recline. The point where the spotlight will find you. If only our own futures were marked in such laconic punctuation. If only we could see the expanse of this day in terms of spikes where something presently unknown would soon take place.
For they are also marks of warning. The darkened stage and its unknowable depths are surrounded with possible threats, figures and rooms, forms that may lurch into us. One time, I saw one of my fellow actors collide into the low-hanging corner of a catwalk, painted black and unseen, before the hands had thought to line it with tape. When the lights were brought up in panic, her baseball cap was thick with heavy black blood, and there she was nearly passing out. The unmarked terrain still threatens to gouge us out, as we hurry our preparations for the approaching scene.