Post-show Q & A — What’s on YOUR Mind?

Thanks to all who were able to make it to the show last night at 14 Pews and EZTV. It gratified me to see so many friends and new faces in the audiences. Thanks so much to Michael Masucci and Kate Johnson at EZTV for streaming it live to their Santa Monica location. Thanks to my family members who were able to join the hangout. Thanks to Vanessa Blaylock for showing up in a jacuzzi!!

I definitely welcome your questions, comments, observations about last night’s performance. Please use the comments section to post.

You can also post questions and feedback on Twitter using the hashtag #1850charla. Follow me at @xtaforster and @ysidorapico for updates and information about upcoming performances.

Thanks again!

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “Post-show Q & A — What’s on YOUR Mind?

  1. I’m super intrigued by your personal ancestral stories— and I thirsted for more! I was very drawn into your storytelling and your use of half English/half Spanish characterization. The performance felt like a dreamy story tapestry spanning generations.

  2. Hi Misha! I’m glad you’re intrigued and want more. Already, I’m devising next steps.

    I’m gratified by your description of the performance as a “dreamy story tapestry spanning generations,” because that’s what I was aiming for! Having seen some of YOUR work, I understand how and why you connect to the texture of this piece.

    Here’s a question for you, and anyone else who wants to respond — is there something intrinsically female about the experiential fragmentation and time elision happening in “What’s on [My] Mind?” Is there something in/of female experience that makes this type of textual texture native or biologically driven?

  3. My instinct says, “Yes”: the experimental story fragment/nonlinear-ness multi-texture feels feminine to me. If I ask my body, it feels feminine-pelvic: mysterious, powerful, crucible-like, a forge place, juicy with potentiality. As you know, I really resonate with the dark, powerful, non-verbal murky places that feel to me to be hard to get to with linear work…

    • Yes, Misha. Right! (I love that you asked your body. The body’s way of knowing is intense and immense.)

      Both as a reader and a writer), I’ve noticed that linearity excludes the representation of a large part of our experiential reality. I understand why linearity excites and stimulates our imagination so much: we crave forward motion, especially because so much of life is repetitive.

      @YsidoraPico wrote about this phenomenon over at .re/act

      http://practicebased.re/act/finalmente/#comment-947.

      I’ll repost her musings here in case people have a hard time accessing that post (.re/act may require a user id/password).

      from @YsidoraPico (2/13/2014)

      You know what’s fascinating? The disintegration of the concept that time is a line. It’s wonderful that in 2014, we can speak with our voices from 1550, 1850, 2050.

      The idea of a time line seemed at first to me a lie guarded and promoted by murderers and thieves and power mongers — “don’t look back,” they seemed to say, “because then we will have to grapple with the destruction we’ve left in our wake.”

      I wondered, Why not imagine how to order time more from our observation of nature; for example, why are the models for how we live not like a blossom that loses its petals not one by one, not in a linear fashion, but rather in clusters, dumping out its heart as it reaches for the sunlight, as it draws up earth’s moisture through its roots? Why do we not mark time as the sea does: eternal waves swelling and breaking one after the other, sometimes more, sometimes less? Is it because we don’t know how to depict this motion?

      Is each lifetime a wave in a sea? Is each wave a moment in a life?

      These are the kinds of things I thought about while I was growing toward my 30th year, where I thought I was safe from marriage. Instead, in my 30th year, my cultural life replaced my natural life: I became a mother to three children, Marcos, Chico, and Juanon. My days were in no way linear — they were for a long, long while merely endless repetitions of the same thing over and over — feeding and cleaning, cleaning and feeding. Once the boys could clean themselves, it was feeding and educating, educating and feeding.

      Having children reduced my poetic questions to a reality of drudgery. I realized that the idea of linear time is thrilling: it provides hope that things will change, that one’s conditions can change.

      And, of course, we change and change and change and then we die. What’s thrilling is that I have come back to life! It defies my imagination, but apparently not enough to stop me.

  4. “It defies my imagination, but apparently not enough to stop me.” — ha! I love that! Your last paragraph above reminded of a quote from last night (paraphrased): death as a docile lap dog. Something about that phase really grabbed me. We are here against all odds…

    I’m reading David Abram’s “The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World” and he delves into Merleau-Ponty’s work (which I really groove on)— and explores ideas of language as immersive (like the ocean), nonlinear, and deeply connected to the soundscape of our whole world…and that we’ve lost that connectivity in our demand for concept and linearity…

    • The Internet seems to mirror the recursiveness of nature and dreams more than it reflects the linearity of plot (as dramatized through, e.g., fiction). While there is a lot of linear motion that happens on the Internet (think Stumble Upon, Twitter and Facebook feeds — although their motion, in their most basic sense, seems upward and downward rather than forward, still — linear), a stronger texture, deeper texture of internet experience is circular and fragmentary. While on the Internet, I often find myself waking up out of a fragmentary searching state — what am I doing here? what am I looking for? where am I? why am I here? These same questions are basic questions of identity, ones we ask ourselves at the existential level throughout our lifetime.

      My Internet experience played a large role in the development of this piece — both directly and indirectly. Directly, the title “What’s on [My] Mind?” varies ever-so-slightly (but I hope significantly enough) from that ubiquitous social media prompt — “What’s on your mind?” I wrote about this on Studio West — remember that place?

      “What’s on [My] Mind?” was literally born while I was writing a grant app. I wanted to create a piece about how social media (notably FB) was affecting me unconsciously. The title alludes to that ubiquitous question asked in grayscale in the “Update Status” box.

      Truth is, I’m uncomfortable saying what’s on my mind in this forum; the grayscale question always feels both formidable and breezy to me. Do my “friends” really want to know that apocalypse, racial violence, annexation, identity, climate change are on my mind (often)? Also, when everything that I think is compressed within my “friends’” feeds, my thoughts get flattened between the inane (my dog has fleas) to the insane (my dog speaks Hungarian to me). The fact that these updates are so transitory helps me understand how much ideas are weighing me down, etc. (I’m reminded the modernist conflict reflected in T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock” — “In the room the women come and go / talking of Michaelangelo” and “do I dare…?”)

      Indirectly (or maybe this is still “directly”?) the Internet connected me with artists like Michael Masucci, Vanessa Blaylock, Molly Ross, Rebecca Longworth and you (although I already knew you and enjoy living in Houston with you!) who pushed me to think about alternative ways of performing “live.”

      The David Abrams book sounds great, Misha; I, too, have thrilled to Merleau-Ponty over the years. Thanks for that title.

    • Ah, Molly! the fabled captured streaming….

      In the true tradition of theater, I forgot to restart the screen recording right before the performances, both of them. FTW!

      But! there were a couple videos shot, so those who weren’t able to see the performance live will be able to see an edited version in the not too distant future. I will keep you posted here.

  5. Thanks for your insight on the influence of the internet/FB on your work. I think artists (and thinkers in other fields) are just now beginning to look at the effect the internet is having on our culture (and language). I occasionally (not enough) read (on the internet!) critical inquiry regarding the internet— I think we need to understand this new instrument and how we’re playing it or if (actually, how) it’s playing us. Houston, I believe, statistically, is one of the largest social media cities is the US, and one of the fastest growing cities. Are we a Template of the Future? I’m not sure I like that vision. It’s a weird mirror reflection of a mirror/paradox: in that, now nearly all other forms of mass communication are dead, any critique of the internet and social media must take place on the internet (a misuse of the quote, but still I’m reminded: “You can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools”— A. Lorde).

    And I’m super interested in your FB status update feelings. I am, nearly always, playing a character/embodying an avatar on social media. I don’t think I realized I was doing it until I saw the art in it…. we, do indeed, live in a Brave New World…

  6. repost from email shared with EZTV folks that I watched the webcast from and you.

    Hey Christa,

    Thanks for sharing your show with me. I watched both performances and understood it may be useful to give feedback. Forgive me if I say too much or too little as it is always such a personal thing to speak of another persons creation—especially when we do not know each other. But…I shall make a leap and speak openly.

    Only because you do not know a stitch about me I will share this impolite list of my history. I grew up dancing and acting extensively in all types of theatre internationally. Having grew up in LA I then evolved to add tv and film and then slowly also added choreography, directing and producing. I was exposed to a lot of art and threatre reviewing for flavorpill for many beloved years too. This is not to say I have anything useful to say…but hopefully not annoying or a waste of your time..in either case choose what you find beneficial if anything at all.

    There are many compliments obviously: The story, the music, your singing, the smart writing was all fun and strong.

    I have 3 main suggestions that I think could be fun to explore.

    1) I suggest you consider trying to find a way to bring the audience members into more of the personal journey of why and how you are doing this and the discovery process. You may have a show program that you handed out explaining this all but I think that is a delicious part of your tale worth adding into the show. This Red headed woman explaining she is latina probably has a lot more fun in there to play with. More of the family history of Pico and the street…didn’t quite catch all that and was curious. Especially that it relates later to the fast food place on pico where you saw a drug addict.

    2) Your humor is sharp and if blended a bit more with the tragedy (particularly the 2nd half) may lend some relief without distracting the tone but keeping away from a maudlin thing that can happen with too much tragedy. I remember hearing that: Upset but funny people are lovely…upset-upset people for too long can become one note. I am not saying you did this but it is worth investigating and playing with. It is clear your smart humor comes easily and naturally so a bit more of it would probably be valuable.

    3) The music was strong but the transitions into and out of songs can stop energetically the flow of the tale making it worth playing with. I would tinker with intercutting the songs with the stories and other ways to smash up the music. I actually will listen to the music of my musicals alone and straight thru treating it like a character and make sure its arch is what I want it to be and that they can stand alone. This will often require some retooling but it is another oppurtunity to customize your show and demonstrate your skills. It is a cliché but very effective to do song smash-ups and medleys…(I apologize if that is cheesey seeming).

    Those are my big things…lots of little questions that I am not sure need changes but here are a few:

    -Death Lap dog was tee’d up for a punch and I felt denied you did not humor blast me with that.
    -Loved that Liverpool antics…very sweet and funny
    -“Dreams ruined” you mentioned a lot in this part that I am not sure what happened. Kids, blood, ruined…?
    -Chico shot in eye was fun. was that true? Something of a seque from the heavy brother stuff that was effective.
    -maybe some simple movement…with band or you…just for location shifts…I am not sure but I was intrigued by what simple elegant things you and the band might do.
    -Totem of talk. Your history. Roots. What does this mean to you and to each of us? Universalize the experience…? We should all find our roots…

    Thanks again for sharing your work and allowing me to make suggestions.

    Best of luck! Kenneth Hughes

    • Hi Kenneth! Thank you so much for posting your thoughts, questions, suggestions here. I appreciate the time you took and the thoughtfulness of your feedback.

      I became familiar with you, actually, a few months ago via a post Michael wrote about you on .re/search — your work and your connection with EZTV, a post I really loved. From that post at least, it seems that your work is something I would find deeply resonant, so your feedback is all the more valuable to me.

      Your first comment reminds me of something Misha said — that she was “intrigued by [my] personal ancestral stories— and [she] thirsted for more!” From one point of view, this sounds like a compliment (and I’ll take it!); however, from another point of view, she could be saying something similar to what you’re saying in your first comment, which is that I might work on

      find[ing] a way to bring the audience members into more of the personal journey of why and how you are doing this and the discovery process. You may have a show program that you handed out explaining this all but I think that is a delicious part of your tale worth adding into the show. This Red headed woman explaining she is latina probably has a lot more fun in there to play with. More of the family history of Pico and the street…didn’t quite catch all that and was curious. Especially that it relates later to the fast food place on pico where you saw a drug addict.

      There is so much story in all of our lives, isn’t there? Storytellers are always facing the question how much to leave in/how much to leave out. During revision, I tend to sculpt as close to the bone as I can get it without it (the story) breaking. (I began, in fact, as a poet). One of the things I take away from your comment is that you want more meat on the bones! This desire for more seems implicit in your second comment, as well.

      2) Your humor is sharp

      Thank you!

      and if blended a bit more with the tragedy (particularly the 2nd half) may lend some relief without distracting the tone but keeping away from a maudlin thing that can happen with too much tragedy. I remember hearing that: Upset but funny people are lovely…upset-upset people for too long can become one note. I am not saying you did this but it is worth investigating and playing with. It is clear your smart humor comes easily and naturally so a bit more of it would probably be valuable.

      “Too Much Tragedy,” as the guys would say, “is a great band name.”

      “Too much tragedy” is, in fact, one of the things this piece is about. I’m not sure it started out this way…maybe it did. One of the last lines in the piece, “the flood was a torrent of torments: disembodied legs, arms, hooves pebbled the fields,” reflects this piling up of tragedy. I agree that the 2nd half could use more “room” to breathe, more relief.

      I’ve written before about how this piling up of tragedies was something I was carrying around with me that was weighing me dowwwwwn. I knew that I wanted to make something artistic to address how the demand in social media spheres to reveal “what’s on your mind?” bewilders me, because in that format, saying what is on my mind feels “inappropriate.” Like, do people really care that apocalypse, racial violence, annexation, complicated identity, climate change are on my mind (often)? Probably not. But in carrying my ideas around with me, they were weighing me down.

      I also knew that the only way to talk about these things was through concrete particularities, and my own experience is what I know best, of course.

      I remember hearing that: Upset but funny people are lovely…upset-upset people for too long can become one note. I am not saying you did this but it is worth investigating and playing with. It is clear your smart humor comes easily and naturally so a bit more of it would probably be valuable.

      I hear what you’re saying about blending more humor into it to even out mood of the piece. My challenge that I usually fail at attempting to be funny. It may seem like my smart humor comes naturally (and I appreciate the compliment), but the reality for me is more that this smart humor comes despite myself. When I try to be funny, I’m not, and when I am not trying to be funny (sometimes decidedly not trying), I’m (apparently) hilarious. Maybe I need a room full of writers (NOT a writer’s workshop! Ack! but a Writer’s Room–hehe). My brother Marco was the funniest person I ever met — the quintessential combo of upset and lovely. One of my most maudlin thoughts is that I may never again laugh as hard as he made me laugh.

      I will for sure be reflecting more on your suggestions. Your idea of listening to the music through is a great one, and having captured some good audio of the evening, I will do it!

      Thank you again, Kenneth, for responding so generously. I’ve got to run right now, but I’ll address your short list of questions soon.

  7. A few quick things that pop to mind reading the latest post above. a) Poetics. Yes, more please. Will this make the story (plot?) more nonlinear? Probably. But: b) There’s something about this work that feels like an adaptation, what I mean is that if I (audience) somehow (how?) knew the story beforehand or it was communicated alongside the nonlinear poetic world, then I/we (audience) could just relax into the fragmentary dream world without trying to follow a story line. E.g. (simplistically) like an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland: someone could create a completely surreal interpretation with little to no resemblance to the original story and the whole business would be communicated because we already know the plot.

    Of course, this is only, if, indeed, you are concerned about communicating concrete story details. This may not be your goal. As an audience member, I am totally fine with getting or not getting the details and constructing my own narrative around your performance world. Do you care what we “get”? I think my “thirst for more” was about wanting to know the “concrete” ancestral stories: like when I see a biopic and I run home and Google the deets.

    I also suspect you may be a songwriter. Had to plant that seed.

    • Misha, you make a really interesting point about providing a frame for the audience without necessarily giving the framework within the performance. I think Kenneth suggested that one way this frame could be given is with the program. Another idea, your idea of Alice, is a great one, too. Yes, I know what you mean. I’m drawn to the idea that there would be a “ghost” story (not a scary story, but a story alongside the other story, a shadow story) that would help the audience relax into the non-linearity of the piece.

      Your suspicion about songwriting is right on! I have already been thinking about how I could use songs to add historically/personally significant details to the piece; original songs would also free me from the “rights” problem. For example, one of the reasons I couldn’t broadcast the performance using Google Hangouts ON AIR (as opposed to a private Google Hangout) was because I don’t own rights to the majority of the songs we played. But moving forward, I am considering writing songs specifically for the piece. Now that I have more time….(hahahahah).

      Your question, “Do you care what we ‘get’?” is a good one. Of course, I care that the audience get something, but what they get is not that important to me. Obviously, asking them to “get” a clear story is asking a lot, as I don’t give story to them straight enough (this is pretty typical of my work — this lack of straightness). As I mentioned earlier, I began as a poet, and I like the way poetry works on a level beyond plot; it does work content-wise, but more importantly, it works with rhythms, images, silences, music (verbal music), concrete details that speak more than narrative — that summon all sorts of unconscious resonances from an audience. Offering this type of experience to an audience interests me.

  8. I experienced your work as a rich story-image tapestry, and I think your instinct to delve further into poetry is spot on…”As I mentioned earlier, I began as a poet, and I like the way poetry works on a level beyond plot; it does work content-wise, but more importantly, it works with rhythms, images, silences, music (verbal music), concrete details that speak more than narrative — that summon all sorts of unconscious resonances from an audience. Offering this type of experience to an audience interests me.” Me too, for sure.

    A quote from Abram’s book (I mentioned above) that seems appropriate here, “…a mode of conveying meaning beneath the level of thought, beneath the level of the words themselves … which is contained in the words just insofar as they are patterned sounds, as just the sounds which this particular historical language uniquely uses, and which are much more like a melody—a ‘singing of the world’—than fully translatable, conceptual thought.” Abram articulates, beautifully, where my head is with my work, and this quote also seems to resonate with your direction.

    YAY original songs!

    • What a wonderful quote from Abrams! Thank you for offering it here. My first poetry manuscript is called “Phenomenal Days,” with the allusion to phenomenology front and center. I love the idea that the world is sung into meaning, into being. Song is everywhere. Story is everywhere, too, but song exists in even more places than story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s