1) I play the composer, I play Erling, Erling Wold, and also, they are all sort of aspects of the same
character but Erling Wold, Jesus Man, the prophet on the street, sort of the street version of God, kind of
God's twin brother, lower twin brother, and Erling, and there used to be a couple of other characters but
it's pretty much morphing back-and-forth between that and one of the prophets in God's prophets, the
mourning poses and a lot of movement. It's really Blakean to me, seems like William Blake stuff.
2) Yeah. And the Jesus Man, the Jesus man. But then again we're all sort of aspects of her vision, of LaShaun's vision, raising some of the questions that intellectually we might call theological questions to her was just like do I have to follow what God says in terms of hearing voices, and it's really a profoundly tragic story, one about the narrow line between what is hearing God and how do you judge that, or do you judge that, and I think that is one of the things that is raised, you certainly don't affirm it, but can you understand.
3) Yeah I do repertory stuff but one of the things I pride myself on is a range but this is really more in my pocket. I do a lot of first time out developmental pieces and developmental works and a lot of things that are musically involved, where I'm involved in that capacity directly or indirectly that kind of timing stuff. But I've also worked at ACT and Berkeley Rep and stuff, but Berkeley Rep is more first time pieces like the Jim Jones project Tectonic and there was William [actually Steve] Tesich did another play there that I did there. A lot of those are even kind of, well they may have been first time out somewhere else they're new works. Speed of Darkness was the Tesich play.
4) Well basically in order to do it and to do it the way I think it's really a unique piece I get the fortune most of my life I've been involved I could say that with lots of works but but also really it's like going to church it really is I really believe in the coming from the Jerzy Grotowski tradition Towards a Poor Theatre I really believe in a sacred, in the theater of the sacred or kind of a secular sacredness and I think this is like going to church and ironically in a secular way, not in a theologically predetermined narrow way but in terms of the questions that it asks. I was also born and raised fundamentalist Lutheran, more fundamentalist than Erling, but Erling's father was a Lutheran preacher and says his brother and his brothers wife I believe were both Lutheran ministers, so we have, there's a common theological understanding there, but this raises, goes beyond the bounds of theology, really asks big questions, but I think it is like going to church, it's a ritual I think, it is a ritual and one would hope in the cosmos that maybe somewhere it helps LaShaun, wherever she is, doing whatever it is she's doing, I mean the understanding is that she's never snapped into a reality in which she realizes what she's done, and in a way you would wish that she would, you would hope that she never would, in the sense of compassion, but we have to be careful about what we choose to be called for sure. I also think that it's a morality tale. I have that one line which says that you know where we live in a world where there is much focus on the terrible actions caused by religious certitude, and the attempts to confine me to a very fundamentalist approach. As a child, one of the very first things I became aware of was the hypocrisy amongst adults, where you talk the talk but you don't walk the walk, and so that put a lot of cracks in what people, what my elders, my parents wanted me to be. I tried to follow the form, but that way's too narrow. It says in the Old Testament narrow is the way, yeah well, that's just too narrow.
5) Oh yeah, theology. Yeah and continue to be I think a lot in the cast, and it's a great crew, everybody really gets along but everybody's committed to it, everybody's got big skills and I think everybody feels the special, sacred – I don't have any problem with the word – but I think everyone feels the show is a kind of ritual. I've worked with Jim Cave a long time, he's the only guy that's ever directed my solo works I think, and how he put it together is really terrific, and Kerry and Erling's composition, and everybody's work you know, it's been a combination of collaboration but under his guidance and choice and choosing of stuff.
6) Oh yeah, I mean just just because of the pace of life and because of the shortness of the rehearsal process and because the way things are these days, no funding for art, no money really, what Erling and Jim were great about, everyone had jobs, we all had things we had to do that helped us survive, and they accommodated and did a complicated schedule, we did a lot of work in a short amount of time and one of the other things that was the nature of the language, the language was unique, it's kind of baroque and gothic and fitting it to the context of this kind of music, I do deal with music, but this is not R&B. There are micromoments where you might classify it as R&B, but that's just fitting it to that time.
7) Oh gosh there's all sorts of moments between the characters, between things actually. Erling's, in Erling's, when I come back as Erling and say that I feared passing into a chemical psychosis from which I could never return and then Jo pops us as God and sings that thing full blast into my face it's just Blakean and
8) Oh gosh, it's just marvelous. And here's Jo now. This is the real God, this is the real God, I have to go
back to the dressing room and OK, but just one more, I have to take off my microphone, lead the idiot
out of the room.
1) I'm the composer, I'm the producer and the chief bottle washer as they say. I tend to do a little bit of
everything. Primarily the words and the music. I'm the one who came up with the idea for this. It's a
semi-autobiographical piece so I'm very personally involved with the piece.
2) You know, I used to be very goal oriented, when I was younger, a younger composer. I would work nervously on the whole thing and wouldn't really enjoy the final result, but I've realized it's the artistic process that is the great joy of these things, these projects. Working with the set of people that are on this project, they are all great, it's just wonderful. I love the social aspect of doing this artwork together. I get wrapped up, caught up in my part of it, the words and the music, they are done more privately, and I do enjoy that too. I actually enjoy writing music. Some people talk about it being a painful experience, but I don't have that experience, for me that is a very fun – oh what's the word I'm looking for – it's a moment when I separate myself from the rest of the world and get lost in the music. I definitely am
when I'm writing. I'm sometimes imagining the audience, you know, listening to it, things like that, but most of it is just very internal, personal.
3) It is a very autobiographical piece, I mean, I may not have even realized that when I started writing it. The first section I wrote is the section where she killed her children, but then I realized it was you know I don't know what really know what is going on in her head, or what was going on in her head when she did that, or – I don't know if anyone can really know – so I realized that, from the beginning, it was my take on that, my thoughts about it, and it really expanded from there. I mix in some of the words she spoke, but really almost all of it, is really just out of my own head, and a lot of it does talk about my religious upbringing. It was my reaction to this tragedy that was the thing that I found interesting myself and I have discovered – I mean there's something kind of strange about putting yourself on display – what is it that's so interesting about oneself that makes it so interesting to other people but in reality people love autobiographies because you often find so many points of connection between you and the person writing the autobiography. We all live such similar lives in many ways, you know we all have hopes and fears and worry about death and all of the big questions, so I found that to be true – of all the pieces I've done, this seems to be the one that is most provoking of conversation. Everyone wants to have theological conversations and talk to me about their upbringings. It struck a chord in myself and I guess that hits the same chord in other people.
4) It's funny how many rehearsals ended up being half rehearsal and half discussion and I just allowed those discussions, I guess Jim Cave and I, the director, both just allowed it to happen. It added a lot. The process I followed with this piece was a little different from some of my others. I didn't just write the words and the music and come up with a score and drop it in front of people and say ok, just go do it. I thought of this in the past, when you write music, when you set words to music, they are very set in time, and even in their dramatic structure, you give a lot of the drama with the undercurrent of sound and music, and actors normally are very free with the timing of their words, usually that's something they bring in the moment, when they react to the other actors, when they react to the staging in that moment, and I thought it would be interesting to work with the performers at an early stage, so I wrote the words first and we read it like a play, and we did it a number of times just as a play, and working on it as a theatrical piece before I really wrote the music. I can't remember now the point I was getting to – the question you asked – but it definitely was different, but to talk about the way that people interacted with it, the performers themselves, when they had these discussions about it, I loved that, it definitely affected the way I presented it, or the way I thought about it myself, the way I thought about the words, sometimes they would shade the words in ways I hadn't thought of, and when I wrote the music it was in my mind, and also, I had those same kinds of discussions with audience members, quite a few.
5) No, well, it depends on where you talk about it in the rehearsal process. You may not have been involved
in it from the very beginning, but in the early days we just had the words, and I started writing some of
the music halfway through that process, so we had bits and pieces of it, so that kind of workshop
rehearsal process started long before the music.
6) It happened in a number of ways, which is typical for me. I don't know how other composers work. I actually – even though I said we only had the words to begin with – that's not 100% true – I started writing some musical sketches even before I had the whole text done, just because things would come to my mind, and they weren't necessarily tied to any particular words, they just were maybe textures or emotional things that struck me in a certain way, that I thought connected to the story just in general. I ended up using a lot of that music. Some of it I didn't and some of it was just written from the words directly, which I think is more typical, given that it seems like most people work with the librettist, that's not themselves, I think it's typical to have the words and just set them, but with me it's often a much more mixed-up process, sometimes the music is first and the words are fit to it, sometimes the other way around, sometimes they kind of collide and change each other in different ways.
This is a repeating chord progression – ah – it's a little cycle of four, a pattern of four chords, very simple. It actually forms one of the kernels when she is killing her children, and that was a thing I had written long before it was all put together, it actually is in an orchestral piece of mine I also wrote around the same time. I'm really a bad pianist. There are some very sweet moments like that which also gather more dissonance as the piece gets more intense, more kind of clashing. Some parts are very big to begin with. One reason I used two pianos is I really wanted this kind of thundering sound I wanted that big thunder sound and when you have both pianos it gets pretty loud and that's very nice. I've noticed that they've, the more performances we've done, the more they've kind of come into that. They've realized the moments when they can just ring out and they definitely do it, and I'm sitting right next to them for most of the show and I definitely feel it in my bones.
8) Right, it's one of the advantages of using opera singers is that they can be very loud. They have a certain style that puts people off sometimes, although I think these people I work with can really fall into various, they can sing in different styles, and they kind of cross those boundaries, but I do like that ability to project a great deal of power sometimes, when it's necessary.
Oh, absolutely. And Talya has a beautiful voice. I was really impressed. That was not what we expected, she was going to be an actress, actor, but it turned out we heard her sing at the very beginning and I said OK we'll use that. If I had known she was such a good singer I would have done more of kind of a duet nature, but sometimes she sings moments, she sings some parts herself and sometimes with Laura, which is a really pretty combination.
9) Yes, and Jo kind of took on a mentor role too, which is very nice. Talya is young, she is just starting, I think she has very good stage presence, and, no, she's drawn really close, especially to Laura, who in a way is her alter ego in this piece. They both are, if anyone is LaShaun, as you know, you've seen the piece, the words are kind of laid on different people, all the characters kind of shift from person to person, but if anyone is LaShaun, it's the two of them.
10) Oh, right. You know, I think I may have said this to you before, but this one was very stressful, you know, in a lot of ways, and it's almost all logistical stuff. Being the producer as well, it's crazy. Having a job, and a life, and writing the music and then being the producer as well, and then Jim Cave decided I should be in the piece, which was an additional source of, I had to actually learn some lines, and I'll tell you, I mean, I should know all the words, I know all the words, I sit there and mouth every single word that everybody says, but of course when I go up to say the line I am supposed to say, like it's just a completely different thing, the tendency is to draw a complete blank, you know, where am I, what am I doing. So, we had a number of logistical issues, there's all the usual production stuff, you have to organize it all, raise the money, put it all together, you worry about it being a disaster, that's a stress, because realistically I vacillate between it's the most brilliant thing ever and I'm a worthless piece of crap, I was going to use a different word but the camera inhibited me. But then, yes, the theater's brand new so it's had some growing pains. It's been great, it's a beautiful space and I like the people here a lot but this is the first rain that they had had and yes, the water started coming through the roof, the elevator broke luckily just after we had moved the pianos. Luckily the group of people have been great and they are all people I can rely on to handle whatever it is they need to handle. I've been in productions before where you know you have to not only have to deal with all the stuff you have to deal with but all the stuff that the other people are generating, the love triangles and all the other problems that can happen.
11) Audience members came up with questions that were different than what anyone else had asked me
about. One person asked if there was any light or any illumination that comes from this piece, cause they
thought it was exceedingly dark. I didn't come up with a good answer for that, it could be that it's just
exceedingly dark, I don't know.
12) Well, I mean I think there's something about just facing one's issues that is illuminating in some way, or helpful in some way, even if you can't come to an answer, the piece definitely doesn't give an answer. My nephew last night seemed very upset with me that I didn't have the answers. He kept asking me, as if I know, because I'd put this stuff together. He said it's irresponsible of you to put these questions out there without having these answers, well, yeah, I don't have the answers, you know, to the meaning of everything and whether life has value and faith, yes.
13) Jim Cave is a genius and a beautiful person. Hey there's Jim Cave right now.
1) [My nephew] was upset with me last night that I didn't have the answers, but I think there's something to be said – why should there be an answer – because that's what folks want – well, they can figure it out on their own – just sitting focussing on it for an hour is an interesting thing in and of itself - I think so too – and difficult to open a space up where they are willing to before the night's over – but theater's about asking questions, it's not about creating answers for anything – but he just wanted the answers – well, then he needs to do some work himself finding his own personal answer – well, I see it a different way – give me his email address and I will get in touch with him – I told him that I would write out the answers if he really wanted me to – well, I told him that I would actually write out the answers if he wanted me to – what are the answers – well, that's the thing, the point is that that is actually ridiculous – that's his way of telling you he is in the question, he wants the answers, but that just means he is in the question, he doesn't necessarily know that that is the best place to be, but the fact that you opened up his mind to step into the question is the bonus – sure – how old is he? - oh, he's in his twenties – oh shoot, he can have plenty of time to figure out answers – but answers are not interesting, as interesting as the questions, or the road to discovery of that stuff – there not – one could say that there are no answers - would you like to say that? - there are no answers – you just did a show called Certitude and Joy - I know – it implies – it never implies an answers, it implies certitude – what do you think an answer is, I'm now certain – I'm not so sure of that – go on – I'm just not so sure of that. Certitude can be that you are certain in the question – ugh – the beginning of the problem with religious certitude is that they think they have the answers, especially in the fundamentalist way, but even that, not even fundamentalist, people that think they know are really not interesting, to me - I think that's one of the difficult things about doing this piece, is that you have to put in the question, you have to say well maybe there aren't certitudes you can rely on, especially in the framework of religion, but in doing that, you already establish and define a different path – I think you can also be in certitude, I mean i've known people that are absolutely certain of the power and presence of Jesus, absolutely certain of that, and their certitude is childlike, I don't mean that in a pejorative way, there's an innocence there, but they don't then try to – what's the word, impose, a missionary, not a propagator
, not convert...
1) I'm the director of Certitude and Joy and this has been a particularly collaborative process so I think
more than anything as a director I kind of hold everything together and let people do what they do well
and not get in their way, and it's been an interesting process because it's been the first one of Erling's
shows that was not fully written when we started. The libretto was written, but it was only written in two
voices, the voice of God and the voice of LaShaun, so we had a series of very informal workshops to just
kind of explore the material a little bit, first to just read it and we had the cast early on, and reading it we
– the idea was all of these voices in the text were in LaShaun's head, that was the original idea, and then
I took it and kind of divvied it up amongst people and we played with it, we listened to it. I think what
Erling got out of it, he didn't want it to be all sung, he wanted there to be some spoken language in their
too, not just the introduction, the Proem, but interspersed throughout the entire show, so I kind of took
that on, to divide that amongst the cast, and it wasn't – I think when we first got the libretto, what I heard
in the language was LaShaun's voice was multilayered, it was the voice of a young girl at some times,
and then it was this poetic voice, and then a voice that was Erling's voice, so I kind of separated those
voices out to a certain extent and divvied them up amongst the performers and we went back and forth, it
took a while for us to land on it, and it wasn't straightforward too, there are some times when Jo, the
character that plays God and the court psychiatrist also takes on some of LaShaun's lines, so it gave kind
of a multilayered voicing of the whole thing, and that the idea of character is flexible and permeable. We
do kind of focus on Talya as LaShaun, as one aspect of LaShaun, and Laura as another aspect of
LaShaun, but even Jo has LaShaun lines, Bob has some, so it's – my role, yes – holding it all together I
think more than anything else.
2) Well, there is, but holding it together is a big deal. You have to keep the process moving, and
The biggest challenges were dealing with – well, the first biggest challenge was dealing with this space, because we had kind of conceptualized it as OK, we'll have audience on either side and we'll have this kind of ramp in the middle, but when we actually got in the space, I realized oh, the performers have to keep moving so that the audience can be – on either side – can be included, and that was really challenging. It was challenging for them to ultimately get that and I think that when we finally got an audience here they realized oh yes well I have to share this to everyone who is in the space. So, I'm really happy with how that worked out. Everybody's doing that really beautifully, including the audience in, so it's not this hermetically sealed little thing that's happening, but it's a shared event, and because the audience is on either side, the audiences are kind of witness to this ritual that's being enacted, but at the same time members of the congregation as well as people who've paid for tickets to come and see the show. The role of the audience is multilayered also, and that happened – you know – it's not like oh yes, this is what we'll do, that is what it evolved.
- 3) It always takes me a while to get into the material, even though I may have had it months in advance. It takes me a while listening to the performers, watching the performers to kind of really sync into the material itself. One of the really special things for me was to get Talya into the show. She's been a student of mine in Stagecraft, which I teach at Laney, and has been in the theater department there and I'd seen her performance and I thought well, you know, I wonder if Talya would do this or if she could do it. So she was up for the challenge and jumped right in and right away was real present with everything, and early on in the rehearsals I was all over her, you know, I was on her back the entire time and then, at a certain point I just let go and let her figure it out for herself, and that was a really beautiful thing. The other thing that was really great for me was that Erling had always seen Travis and Kerry in the show – he saw Kerry as God and Travis as the kids originally – and it was really wonderful to work with them. I had worked with Kerry once before a long time ago and to have them in the show was – to have so much movement in it – and Kerry and Travis both did a great job with that and encouraging everybody else to move. Bob's already a mover. Talya was hesitant at first, but now she has kind of totally jumped into it, although today on the way over she was complaining that her legs hurt, but whatever.
So, one of the other things that's special for me is that it's a total piece,
in that there's movement and dance and acting and language and spoken language, singing, music, but they're not separated out, it's not like OK here's the dance number or here's the acting, here's the scene, or we're going to have the pianos play the thing, it's a total thing and I really like that.
5) I didn't have to do that. They did that for themselves, and at some point everything kind of clicked and I
think that – cause we didn't have everybody early on in all the rehearsals so that was kind of a struggle –
what can we focus on in rehearsal, so we had a number of rehearsals with a few people and we were able
to do a little bit here and there, but once we got into the space and people's schedules kind of opened up
a little bit more we were able to sketch the whole piece out eventually, and the first run through we had
was really terrifying. It was kind of like – nobody could – it wasn't that it was a total mess because we
actually got through it, but it takes everybody, and not just these guys, but any performer a while to get
the piece in their bodies, and so that when we had our first run, it was not in everybody's body yet, but
now it's totally in their bodies. It's a felt piece all the way through. There's a lot of tactileness about it, a
lot of touching, a lot of detail that – and people are still discovering moments, and those moments kind
of shift and change from night to night also, or those discoveries change from night to night.
6) And it was also, it was the closest – the first thing I worked on with Erling was A Little Girl Dreams of
Taking the Veil, and at that point I'd never done opera, I mean I don't know music, I can't read music, he
had never produced anything and somebody, a guy named Miguel Frasconi got the two of us together
and we talked about it and looked at the material for about a year and got some collaborators together,
but at that point I had no idea how to work with singers, not that I know how to work with singers now,
although I have a little more experience with it, but I made sure that I had two actors in the show that I
knew could – whose work I knew and I knew that they were movement oriented and I knew that they
could anchor the piece for me if I couldn't figure out what to do with the singers, but it turned out that
everybody was totally open to moving and that piece was similar to this, it was a very small space, a
multilayered set in that, a multileveled set, the orchestra was inside the performance and the areas of
performance were very small, somewhat similar to this and the entire performance was almost on top of
the audience, so – and that was just a wonderful experience for me, it kind of – kind of moved through
that one, and this one is equally as a surprise and equally as engaging for the audience and equally in the
audience's face, but the thing that blows me away, and I just wait for it every night, is the final blackout,
because its – people don't applaud, and all they hear in the black is Talya breathing and it takes a while
for them to come out of a moment of being stunned, and that's really amazing. It doesn't happen every
night, but most nights it does.
7) Well, they were the two actors this time, and Kerry and Travis were the two dancers, and Laura and Jo
were the two singers, but they all come together. Everyone has their own expertise but it's a total thing,
right Kerry? - yes – it's a total thing, I mean everybody is everybody, you know, in the show, I mean,
everybody is engaged in this event, in this thing, and it's – every night is special, every has its own
strengths and challenges and mistakes and discoveries.
Right, right, and I think he whipped off the libretto pretty quickly and when he first gave it to me, didn't have theProem, the introduction, and kind of a month or two into the process, he said, oh, Paul Dresher asked him to write something about what inspired the piece, so he wrote this thing that was for a grant and I said this is great, let's put it in the opera, so we put that in as an introduction. In a lot of the stuff that I've worked on with him there's been a narrator and there's been kind of an introduction to the material, so wasn't kind of unknown to us, but it really sets - I think the original libretto was more focussed on God and LaShaun, and having the introduction there brings Erling more into the piece, and then at a rehearsals, I think over at 210 we just kind of – we didn't have everybody there and I just pushed Erling into the show and he stayed in the show.
9) So, I think that was challenging but it was also I think really good for the piece because it's so personal,
and to actually see the composer there as part of it, kind of being challenged by the action which he's set
up is – I think is good theater, although some people it wasn't but, I did, I thought it was good theater. I
continue to think that.
- 10) These guys are just stunning. I mean it, it just is really – I – opening night I took one note, and that was to the lighting designer Clyde, that the opening cue just needs to go slower, and after that I was totally engaged in what was going on, and I did not want to put a critical hat on, although I realized afterwards that there were a number of notes that were in my head that I did give people, but it's so wonderful to experience the piece every night. I just go to the dressing room, have a glass of wine, you know, hobnob with the people and then come out and get into this, you know it's a privilege to get to see what these guys do every night, it's stunning, and it's not me, it's not about me, it's about how these guys work, how they've embraced the work, how they've embraced the piece, how they've embraced the music, and discovered what they discover, and it's a privilege to be part of that, and I like that. I like that, I like that role.
- 11) Never again, fuck it with opera, no more fucking operas. No, I'll probably work with Erling again.
- 12) A lot of it was at the beginning was really hard to get started because the material was challenging, the language was challenging, the subject matter was challenging, and a little intimidating, and there was a point in the process where I kept saying – kind of skirting the killing scene and then finally said we've gotta – It's a big piece, it's like 12 or 13 minutes along – I think we'd better address it and I had no clue how to go about it, and Kerry said – we listened to it – Kerry said I have some visual ideas and then she laid the whole thing out and it was – you know it's only changed in a minor way since then. It's been tightened and shaped and focussed more, but you know that's all Kerry, as well a lot of stuff is all – you know – Kerry kind of taking the lead with a visual idea and then everybody then jumping
13) Yeah, Jo, I had worked with Jo before in the first opera The Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil and in
that piece too he was just totally, just jumped right in and there was no attitude about anything. He was
singing, but he was as much an actor as he was a singer, and a mover, really delightful to work with, as
was Laura, so – they were wonderful. I have no complaints. Yeah, and no weird tension between people
either, none of that is happening, which is really a relief, and I guess in most of Erling's things, I haven't
really kind of come across a lot of tension between people, everyone seems to be very engaged in the
material, and musically its challenging, so they have to really stay focussed, so – and I think that in this
piece the degree of focus is wonderful, phenomenal, so it's great to see that, and then no private
moments, everybody's just hanging out there the whole time.
14) No, not really, no. I didn't visualize it, I didn't pay attention to it. The pianos are here, oh well, that's a
new thing, the pianos – oh the stage is here, well that's new, well I guess we have to start working with
that now. It didn't throw my off at all. I at first was a little concerned that the pianos could be very
strong, but these guys are very sensitive to kind of modulating to the needs of the performers here and of
the space, so you know everybody adapted. It's just a real, it's an organism, it's a thing, it's an entity.
15) I was doing a show over at the Intersection which is over at the Chronicle building and the tech guy over
there, Alejandro, had mentioned to me that this space had been renovated, and so I thought that –
because we were looking for a space – and the space is really important, because its an essential part of
what the experience is going to be, and so we got over here and it turned out that Tony Kelly, who I had
worked with or worked in his space before at the Thick House, was programming half of the year here
and we talked to Tony and he was totally up for it and liked Erling's work and my work and so coming
here was really interesting, and not only the space itself, which I like and which I think works really well
for this, but the neighborhood, and I thought the neighborhood was going to be really dicey, you know
6th street has always been one of the worst streets in San Francisco, and I feel so comfortable on this
street, although the other day I was in the alley and you know there was a fight happening right in front
of me, but I just skirted around it, but I feel like this piece and the neighborhood, there's some kind of
thing, it kind of vibrates between the two of them that's really interesting, that's special, so let's say this
piece were to move to Artaud or move to the Magic or move to one of those more traditional spaces, for
me it would lose the character of the neighborhood which kind of – it's full of people like LaShaun, you
know, maybe not as extreme as her situation, but people who are down and out, schizophrenics, people
out on the streets with all different kinds of illnesses and that don't have a buck in their pocket, so I think
it would be curious to talk to some of the audience members how coming through into this neighborhood
and then seeing this piece has impacted their experience of this piece. Sometimes things just kind of
come together in this perfect storm and it think it worked well for this piece, even the drips and the
- 16) We got it at a really good price and we didn't use all of that time, but it was nice to know that it was here and we didn't have to set up the stage every time and break it down, so it was nice to kind of own it for a while. I think that really helps a piece. You done with me?
1) Well, sorta. The bug got – I got bit in D.C. I was singing but I didn't know how to sing. Well, I got lucky,
I got a teacher, I came across a teacher who was amazing. Well, it depends on what you mean by study.
Where did I have my most effective studies? It was a private teacher named Salvatore DAura. Yeah, I
went to the conservatory and I went to Catholic university.
2) The story is about this girl and she supposedly has voices in her that told her to put her sons into the Bay,
and in this show there are many voices, one of which is God, who she said told her to do this, and God
has many voices, God is in her head, God is in Erling's head, God speaks to our religious place and we
can't test who or what that is, and I'm trying to put together some semblance of a God that has no
3) Yeah, no. God normally is a bass, I'm a baritone, with good low notes, but God is never the tenor, let's be
clear about this, God never is and never will be a tenor. The devil sometimes is a tenor, but I'm the
instigator. We don't know if LaShaun actually spoke to God, we don't know if she was crazy, because we
really don't know does God really exist, and I guess that's what I wanted to illustrate, that we don't know.
God could exist, she may be crazy, and in the end I want to give folks a little bit - maybe he's there,
maybe he's not, maybe he's a figment, maybe he's real, let the folks at the end decide.
4) I tell you, it's difficult to know what the show is from a perspective, from the audience out, because our
relationships have been so intimate during the process of creating this thing. All we can do is search a
truth, and embody that truth in our relationships onstage, and I love playing with truth, I love playing
with, like I was telling you about how my mom was neither – she told me she was neither Republican
nor Democrat. She's a radical, because she really wanted to get to the root of things, the truth of things,
and this has sort of molded who I am, and every night we're finding new truths, and it changes from
night to night, and it changes from night to night, you won't find the same show from night to night
because the relationship morphs, it breathes, and we find different things, and that's what I really love,
continually discovery going throughout the show.
5) Well there are vocal things. In a traditional opera, they generally ask you to sing full resonance, full
voice throughout to between 500 and 3000 people. This is an intimate setting, that's not necessary, but
with that you have a wider range of available sounds that you can pick and choose from, and you have to
find a way to do those well, to do those effectively from the very gentle soft passages to the very large
magnanimous gestures that come upon and flow into the ether, and so I had to make those decisions, I
had to make those choices, just how to sound, what kind of sound to use and the you know very small
things that happen within the framework of what we're doing, but they're little teeny tiny choices that
add up to what kind of character has been created, and it's in a different world than a general opera, and
trying to make those decisions is – and then there's Erling. Erling has a tape that shows us the notes and
see he's sings himself and he's singing boopeeboopeeboopee all the time and you think that's how he
wants it, and then you learn it that way and he says no, that's just the way that I sing it,
, so yeah, figuring out.
- 6) You know, we had a really special, special ensemble. You know I asked Jim how did he find us, how did he find each, you know because it's not just what we do, it's these people that are doing it, and we started out as a workshop but during that workshop it was all about sort of creating trust and creating relationships between us so that ultimately we could be with each other intimately on stage, and I think that was critical, and you have to get the right folks to be able to do that, and these are such – you know they wear their hearts up their sleeves, they're so dedicated, you know Talya's backstage beforehand and her focus is – it's Zen-like, it can't be – I don't speak to her five minutes before the show because she is so locked in, and when we get on stage all of that blossoms out. You know we have little mini communications between the two of us that I have no idea if anybody sees, and that's not really significant except for the fact that it helps us find a truth for that moment, and that's a rare thing. It's you know – somebody came backstage and pointed that out and noted how that's a difficult thing, well it's very easy if you've got the right folks in the right set of circumstances, but creating all of that to come to a head is rare, and I'm very privileged to just sort of live in all of that. Good folks, we got good folks. That counts for a lot.
- 7) We did A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, an equally bizarre piece of music – Erling! - where does
he come up with this. You're a sick man, you know this, don't you? A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the
Veil, how do you even think in a direction that would say I'm going to do a story about a little girl trying
to become a nun based on a book going on a hundred years old? What's the matter with you? And then
the next thing you write about that I know about is another little girl. Another little girl, by the way, I'm
not gonna say nuttin', but another little girl. Killing her kids. You could of done a story about Britney
Spears, there's plenty of material there, but no – you're a sick man – I love it. I love it. Cause you
embrace all of your – I say that everybody has a cross to bear and you just embrace all of your crosses.
Most people run away from them.
It's just bringing the internal to the external Most folks don't want to do that. Most people do think it's kind of sick – what's the word you used – to think about things that everybody thinks about I don't know that they think about it, I know that it lives for them, it's present for them, but this is the kind of stuff we don't want to think about. I mean when you hear a story throws three kids into the Bay, what's your initial response – fucking people are crazy, and then you move on, you define, classify to make it easy for you, and you move away from it as fast as possible. Which is so easy to do, to write them off I think it is bad to dismiss it...
1) [I was like] Genghis Khan or something, I don't know. How would they know if he had that? ... Maybe
I'll save it for later. ... During the sex scene I'll get it on my butt, that'll be nice. ... You're recording, so
no more funny faces. ...
2) No, my mom always said that my face would totally freeze that way if I kept on doing it. She's kind of
right. ... Knock on wood. ... OK ...
3) Travis, what are my responsibilities? Well, I'm a performer and choreographer. ... Why did you ask? ...
Do you know anything that I don't know? What are my responsibilities? ... Yeah, it's been a great great
group, love working with Erling and Jim and yeah. I have no complaints, except for it's ending tonight.
I'm very sad about it. It's going to be hard to leave this process. In a process such as this, everyone gets
so close that in the end for me it really is like a divorce, or your parents being split. I get that postpartum
depression sort of thing for a while. You know, a lot of performers get that, but I think especially in a
project such as this where we really do get to a point where we have to trust each other so – I don't know
4) Yeah, I mean it's been a very open giving group, and it's just a – everyone is so professional. It's been a
very rich experience, and the fact that from the very first day everyone really did – we could tell it was
going to be a good group, we were going to trust each other immediately, we were going to love each
other immediately, from the first exercises that we did with each other. It's a special group.
- 5) A lot of challenges, I mean it was very hard subject matter that I did not want to take on. When Erling and Jim contacted me and Travis about two years ago I think it was, Erling was writing this opera and he told us what it was going to be about and my heart just sunk cause I don't want to take this one on, I just really didn't. I remember hearing about it, I remember being really really upset by it. I teach preschoolers, I have to pass that pier weekly to go teach my preschoolers, and it's – even when it just happened, having to pass that pier was a difficult thing for me, and just trying to understand why – how something like this could happen. I still don't have any answers. How could I have any answers for her, but I have compassion. I think we all – you know – learned a bit of compassion for her situation and situations such as this. I think we have had a lot of respect for people involved – that I really appreciated from all the performers, that everyone had an amount of reverence and respect for this. That helped it, helped it to be a little bit easier for me. I guess that was a huge challenge and I'm glad I didn't run away from it, but every time Jim said tomorrow we're going to work on the killing scene, and I'd think no no no no no not yet I'm not ready not yet, and I'd get to rehearsal and be so nervous and then it wouldn't happen and it was like – it started becoming torturous, it's like I'd get myself into this state of now we're going to do the killing scene and then it would happen and then maybe tomorrow, so yeah I did not want to deal with the killing scene.
6) Yeah, maybe he kept on pushing it off. ... It was one of those things that kind of happened somewhat
organically, I mean it was really good to get together with Jim and Erling and talk about different scenes
and ideas for different scenes, but that was one that we kind of kept on pushing off, but when the ideas
came it seemed so natural, I almost felt like why was I having such a problem with this, but I think there
were particular scenes that because of their - because of what they were they were difficult and it took us
working on something else that would inform the next thing to come. In a lot of ways I think that there
was you know we had created information that made what that was to be so apparent, whereas even the
day before I was like gaaaah I have no ideas here, but I was very glad when they came. And it worked.
7) Ah. ... Yeah I'm always happy when I get my Travis. We've had a couple of – quite a few years together
actually. We met in 2005 and he was my hydraulic system, my forklift. The first day he lifted me I
thought aaaaah I've died and gone to heaven. This man is so strong, and knows me so well already. I
love working with him. I'm starting to tear up.
8) No, this was my first opera. I've worked on a couple of dance theater sort of theatrical pieces where they
wanted more dance involved – music theater, things like that, but never an opera, so this was an exciting
experience, and it was kind of nice, when I tell friends they're like we didn't know you sang and I'm like
I don't, and it was kind of nice to say yes, I'm in an opera. And I love Erling's work. I love his mind. He
comes up with his – so very Erling. No one like him. It's been wonderful working with his words and his
9) Yeah, we all have come from different religious upbringings and it was very interesting to talk about the
differences and some similarities and how that kind of connected what we did. Maybe that's not the right
word. This is where you are going to have to a long cut, splice, the word I'm looking for is.
Yeah, sorry. Ah see, I told you there were questions you should not ask me, and that's one of them, and you just asked it anyway, didn't ya? You're pretty proud of yourself, aren't ya? I came from a Mormon background so – little different. We still think we're Christians too. A lot of people don't know that about us. See, I don't even know anything about that man , all I think is oh please, do not let him be president. This shouldn't be in there either. Was he swearing? Well, some of the people that I love the most are Mormons.
10) But, yeah, it was very interesting talking about our different religious backgrounds and how it affected
what we were doing and gave us information – it gave me a lot of information for a lot of the movement
– having to dance in front of my mother's relief society group of women came back, those liturgical sort
of dance things.
Where I grew up? I grew up mostly in Utah where a lot of – yeah. Did know him, sorry.
11) Well, um, he basically had most of it by the time we were coming in for rehearsal. Before I even listened
to the music I went through the script and just read it and wrote down ideas and then I'd go through the
script while listening to the music, and most of those got thrown right out the window – some of it stuck,
but it gave me information to play with, but a lot of it actually did come from seeing what was
happening with the group, where we were going. Without that information I'm not really one that can
really just choreograph some stuff and say here, do this: 5 6 7 8. A lot of it was very organic, how it was
coming about. Yes, I had some ideas, or some visual pictures – I often see visual pictures and try to
create that, but from the information I had gained from the script, the feeling of the music and the people
– all of us working together kind of – that's the thing that made things happen I guess.
12) The people that are in the work. Really, just – I feel a special connection with them all. Like I say I'm
going to go through a postpartum depression – sorry I just patted that – but it's going to be hard to let
these people go and I hope to work with them all again in some way, shape or form, I really do, because
they're all so incredibly giving, talented, amazing people.
1) I'm playing the voice – well, it's more than the voice – I'm playing an aspect of LaShaun Harris – which
is up for interpretation really. My interpretation is that in one way I'm a physical amalgam of Erling and
LaShaun, also physically because she's a woman and he's white, and his language that I sing is a lot
more heightened, also sort of operatic, and also the singing itself is so stylized, it's not really the sort of
pedestrian speech that Talya uses, so I'm in part of her essence and the way I see it is I'm the part that's
one with the divine. I hear the voice of God – I'm the part that hears the voice of God and that has those
sort of ecstatic union moments which ultimately plays out in that long scene of dropping the babies into
the bay, which is played really with a lot of serenity and like – I play it extremely so because to me she is
in a trance state in that moment, and she's just completely following this strong tie to the divine, so I'm
sort of the madness in its lucidity, and I go through phases in it where I'm the madness in it, the
filthiness, and I think that she has to – in my own interpretation – she resolves – she cleanses herself of
that filthiness by acting out what God tells her to do. That make sense?
2) The process was extremely difficult for me because I don't take it lightly to play a real person who is still
alive – and this happened really recently. It's not a mythical character, it's not the story of a character, it's
not somebody who died 50 or 100 years ago even, somebody whose alive, so I had a lot of questions of
like why are we actually doing this, and not wanting to play at madness, but really to explore it, became
sort of destructive in a way and then I found my own boundary for it, so I think that was a really
powerful part of this process was going within myself through movement and through the text and
through my imagination into for instance that state of feeling like bugs are crawling on you and you're
filthy and your crazy out of control and then finding – like feeling it all the way so far that I actually got
sick, got a cold I think because I let myself open up, and I'm very open, and then I got overtired, but that
was really you know just part of this process, you know, and then I found I can't go that far every time,
but you go that far and then you find what it is and then you find how to animate it physically and
vocally and then there's the way to bring it to life without endangering your own mental health. So that
was a good challenge for me in this process, and I think because it's a real live person I treated this
sickness as honestly as I could, however I also feel that my role in the act of doing the show is very
different from Talya because as a singer I have to always have a level of distance from the emotion
because you have to be able to – it's like being a puppeteer – you have to be able to operate the
instrument and to get those sends that are so full of emotion I have to step back to be able to operate my
voice, so it's really a great experience to play something that's so charged with emotion and find the line
of it where I could let the emotion fill the singing, like fill it, make even more color and more emotion
come through the singing rather than emotion overwhelming my instrument so I would choke up or get
runny nose or not be able to breathe fully, and that's the art of singing opera. That make sense? Yeah.
3) Good ... thank you ... thank you ... < long question > Well, I have a lot of dance movement
background, so I wanted to move more than I ended up moving, but I think it all – we all did our
strengths, we all had our moments for our strengths, our real strengths, and then we had our moments for
the bridging between the genres, so that was good, and it was really great to feel Talya drop into it and
be comfortable with the singing, and to sing with her was like really – she's such an honest performer
and an honest singer – it's like a different kind of singing, you know it's just sort of – and also the
singing we did was very childlike, so that was really – it was great to mix those kinds of singing.
4) Just once – yeah – but we're actually really close friends. We just worked that one on Sub Pontio Pilato – actually my first professional opera – in 2003 – and it was a great experience and then he and I became
like really close friends so he's come to visit me in Rome and Amsterdam and New York and Seattle so it
was really great to get to make something with him again, something also so powerful, you know, what a
special thing that my good friend is a composer who writes – and then we rewrote that whole long
killing scene to my liking. because he had written it really on one pitch and it was – would have just
strangled any singer, so we wrote the line so they had more modulation and more depth and more height,
so much melodic and I think satisfying piece, so that's the best thing about working with living
composers, is that you can rewrite things to suit you. ... Yeah.
5) I could but there's another way I can answer the most important thing, but just like I think I can also say
an extension of the challenge, not just the madness, for me this piece was in a step in my own personal
evolution of being a channel for whatever, for the music, and for the story. Cause I think that's what I do,
that's what I want to do, so – especially having this space and the spaciousness of that huge scene, and
the buildup before it of course, so that the audience knew where we were and I could take them on a
journey, and I can just step out of the way and let the music speak through me. That was a great part of
this, you know, getting out of the way and letting the sound come through, and I think that because of
the sacredness of the whole thing, the audience was really rapt, and the space is so small, there's this
intimate feeling and I was able to experience that sense of being one with everyone in the room, which is
rare, which is especially rare in a big theater where you just see bright lights.
6) Yeah. ... Yeah ... way. Because I had way more say. I staged that whole piece myself, and yeah, I just
like having more of a creative input than what usual standard opera would allow. ... It was extremely
7) sssss – my next performance is in Berlin. I'm going to perform this – the Baroque opera L'incoronazione
di Poppea by Monteverdi in collaboration with a breakdancing company called Ish so the piece is called
Monteverdish, and we already toured it last Fall but we're going to perform it in Berlin in April, so I'm
going to fly out there for that and do some auditioning, and then come back here to stage another one-
woman opera about – called Not Medea based on Medea, another woman who kills her children. I can't
do it. I need a break. Now I'm going to go play a bloodthirsty ruthless emperor Nero – that's much more
easy – not a baby-killing mother. I don't think I could do this after I have children. ... Hamlet the opera
by a woman.
8) It's extremely long and there's not a lot of action so they way we did it is way better, because there's a lot
of action, and I dance, I really dance. I just always trained in dance. ... Erling Wold, my dear friend. You
did great tonight.
Um yeah You really did, you really did. It was interesting being in the middle of it all. You sexy beast. I know, look at her. Erling's angels. So shall we go party? I want to. Are you coming?
1) I played a 23 year old woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and she had a mental illness, and I
was like the main actor. ... It was, I remember when Jim first – he showed me the script and he wanted
me to work on this project, and I'm like, you believe in me that much to take on this role, with only
seeing me in a few shows, you know, I was kind of happy then again I was kind of afraid of taking it on
because I never did a part that was so challenging, and still being a fresh artist, I thought that was an
honor for him to do that.
2) I guess so. With the help of my cast – I love these people so much they just don't know. I think with
them by my side and helping me along the way it gave me a boost, and for them to believe in my and to
have faith, and a 22 year old who likes to party and do all these things – I'm very grateful and thankful
for them(?) you bet(?)
3) Yeah, I do a little bit of singing, yeah I mean I sometimes say I'm not a singer but you know people
would be like you crazy girl you are a singer, but I say I act like I'm singing since I – which is kind of
weird, but I do sing a little bit.
4) Yes, she was like a big sister in this whole process along with Kerry, you know they just support me
whatever I choose to do, whatever I'm being angry about not trying to do – I don't know if that makes
sense – I just got a lot of support. If I needed help with a note, Laura was there. If I needed help with
movement, Kerry was there. I just felt love all the way around.
5) I felt when I first met everybody, I felt kind of intimidated by everybody because you know they have
their degrees and you know they've been around, they're older than me and I'm like – OK, so why am I
here, you know? But it's the process and I think that I've grown from it and I'm very grateful.
- 6) My biggest challenge was becoming LaShaun in my own – you know, in my – being my own individual as well, but I got help because you know one of my family members – he is actually a schizophrenic and it's kind of sad to see people who've been diagnosed with this mental illness that is – it's very like – it hurts my heart, and I love my uncle so much, and every time I see him I just stare at him because it's just so hard to look at him and see him talk to himself or say – or him talking to me about things that seem kind of off sometimes or – and then him just wanting to be his own individual cause I see him fighting for his real self, who he used to be, and not who he is now and it's very scary, it's very – I don't know what to say – I mean – but I think that this whole show just gave me a new perspective on how to look at this, and how things are, and...
8) Yeah, um, I was taking his stagecraft class and we met through there, and he was just always the coolest
person that you could mess around with and joke around with and I started calling him grandpa and then from there we just started a relationship, and he's just – he's very down to earth, very intelligent, smart man to talk to, to be around, and I just love his company.
9) Yeah I'm surprised. I'm really like – I don't know – I'm – sometimes I have a hard time like giving my all
to something and what I mean by that is like sometimes I don't believe in myself and I think a lot of
people don't know that about me. I don't believe in myself at all sometimes and I think it hurts me a lot
with things I want to do, or with things I'm trying to do, and just to see an individual is saying she has
potential, she looks good, I think she could do this part, she can do this, she can do that, I think that was
very inspiring, and he just makes me want to do more and more and more.
1) I'm one of the performers, predominantly in dance, and I get to sing a smidge, and say some spoken
word a smidge, but mainly dance.
2) I'm one of the performers. I'm a dancer-performer in this piece, a little bit of spoken word, a little bit of
singing, but a lot of hurling around, rolling around, dripping off of things, lifting things up, hurling
people through the air, and all sorts of other fun antics that help support the piece. It's fun for me to do –
I realize the subject matter is pretty serious.
3) Yeah, I feel like I'm an extension of God and God's will acting upon LaShaun and what he's asking her
commit, but I also become one of her children who is being acted up, at times I feel like I weave in and
out of those different roles.
4) Yeah, we have some really rock star folks who can either sing things or say things and I think I was a
little more outmerited there, and I think if it's not broke, don't fix it. ... I try ... Yes, very used to working
with Kerry. ... We have. We have fun on stage. Yes, we've had full on wrestling matches on stage with
spoken word ourself, so this is familiar territory for both she and I.