This edition of Piece/Meal introduced a new set of challenges—how to significantly integrate multi-media into a live production. With Trevor Copp’s The Inconsolable Blueness of Jeans, we tackled questions of structure and narrative as they relate to liveness and technology.
Throughout the play these two elements are continually in dialogue and at no time is one intended to be at the forefront. The live and the virtual are consistently in conversation. Already, Inconsolable Blueness has taken many forms with major structural changes and character shifts since its original conception. The play began as a journey to find the origins of a pair of jeans through the interplay of “real” life and a virtual Second Life. The Piece/Meal workshop allowed Trevor and the actors to experiment with notions of space and time and the constant interplay between a physical realm and an online one.
Through the course of our workshop we identified three primary themes in creating the piece: light and creation, interplay between the live world and the virtual, and interconnectedness through materiality.
The exposition and the journey of the jeans, so prevalent in previous incarnations, became less relevant than discussions of virtual values and experiences of loss. In the workshop the actors were encouraged to experiment with movement through Trevor’s choreography and direction. Although we were not able to utilize all of the technology the play will hopefully integrate in a full production, the question of how technology interacts with the performers on stage was a constant question. With so many innovative aspirations, it was an ambitious and courageous endeavor for all of the actors, the playwright and dramaturges.
Technology is often used as an accessory or an afterthought in live theatre—a design element instead of an integral part of the writing process. During this workshop we discussed why the technology was essential. What is the purpose of using this technology through each moment of the play? What does it offer that live performance cannot? Finally, how can audiences be invited to take part in the performance and be implicated in the action?
For the Piece/Meal reading we were thrilled to have Chef Terry prepare a menu of “molecular gastronomy,” inspired by the play’s focus on deconstructing something as simple as a pair of jeans. Throughout the reading the actors showcased some of their movement sequences, while Trevor provided detailed descriptions of the projections and other technical elements that would be included on stage.
Through the workshop process we discovered that this play does not tell a linear story, but aims to evoke an emotion through both live performance and projections. Ultimately, Trevor followed his intuition and created a piece that does not rely on narrative or story, but provides fragments and pieces and opts for unresolved questions at the end of the play rather than a “happy ending.” The play is still very early in its process and will certainly take on many other incarnations before heading to production. As more technology is experimented with and incorporated into the play, its shape will take new and exciting forms.
Laine Newman, Dramaturgical Associate