Last weekend we opened Divergence Vocal Theater’s new performance space to two sold-out, standing-room-only crowds. Kyle Evans and Meredith Harris beautifully played Dominick DiOrio’s haunting score, while Misha (voice), Miranda (acting), and I (dance) visually shaped the soundscape. For this project, we spent several weekends in development, and now that Divergence Vocal Theater has its own space, we’ll be able to spend even more time creating, exploring, and refining new repertory.
So, what exactly are we creating—what is the context for this work? I mentioned a few weeks ago my attempt to describe the non-linear, non-narrative nature of the piece to my cousin, who has not been exposed to much experimental or avant-garde performance. He was dubious and concerned about “getting it.” But after I suggested that he not try to intellectually understand it, but, rather, to just let the images and the music wash over him like a wave, to not try and hold on to what he was experiencing, but to simply watch the images like impressions from a dream, he “got it.”
Many years ago, I performed in the chorus of Now That Communism is Dead, My Life Feels Empty, written and directed by Richard Foreman. In attempting to contextualize the work that DVT is creating, I am reminded of audience’s responses to Foreman’s work. We developed that show over a four-month, full-time rehearsal process and it ran for a four-month period. The actors came for our first rehearsal completely off-book, and the development process consisted of staging and restaging the text, exploring images, tempo-rhythms, and sensory impressions, and then completely discarding them. Around November, we had a show with a brightly colored set and an almost circus-like feel. We opened in January with a black set and more subdued staging, but the shared memory of the many stagings of the show, drafted through our rehearsal process. Even though the audience only saw the final version, many remarked on how they intuited imagery from earlier drafts.
This kind of performance asks for audiences to experience through a mode of reception that is sensory and somatic, rather than rational and intellectual. It also asks the performers to create from a space that is not clearly cast, but is intuited, inspired, trusted. I look forward to continuing this relational collaboration—stay tuned for details about the official party to open the space later in May. I’ll be back in Houston for festivities and for more performances!