December 4, 2007
Retooling. . .

On many levels. Our lives seem so predictable at any given time: up in the morning, work, work some more, have a good dinner, work some more, sleep. And yet somehow, over the broad spectrum, there are vast changes and eternal variety.

The past two months have been a fulcrum of methodical, radical change. We’re retooling for our focus on puppetry and building the Mythic Kitchen ensemble. Thus far it’s gone well. We’re about to have a first showing of The Shadow Queen, a twenty-minute piece involving shadows and our particular style of puppetry, with one hand controlling a large head, the other hand through a sleeve as the puppet’s live hand. A four-person cast juggling six puppets and, oh yes, a talking duck. Though it’s not a “talking duck” kind of play. And we’re reviving another puppet piece, Freeway, about a young couple who take a wrong turn onto a freeway and never, ever get off, And early stages of yet another short piece, Big Mama’s Baby, a ten-minute rise and fall of Western Civilization, full of laughs.

All this, to a degree, is in preparation for our remounting Descent of Inanna in the spring, allowing us a chance to build the ensemble, experiment with casting materials, performance styles, and all the aspects of an incredibly complex art. And then there’s the electronics. A new dimmer system and inventory of lighting instruments to match the scale of the work; very soon a computer upgrade for digital editing and rear projection; and a program that’ll allow us to integrate lighting cues, audio and video projection from one source. It’s costly, it’s time-consuming to research the equipment and then make the damn stuff work, but it’s going to be worth it.

Our fundraising has a long way to go but is well on track. To date, over $2,600 in donations toward Inanna, and fundraising parties upcoming. And our mask-maker friend Lauren Raine is auctioning off her “Masks of the Goddess” collection and donating 30% of the proceeds to our Mythic Kitchen work — a gesture of overwhelming grace. Personally we’re managing to hold the fort financially, if I don’t have too many more teeth crack & require crowns. Yeh, I know it’s boring to hear artists talk about money & teeth, but people do ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” and sometimes the answer is, “On the bus ride down to the cut-rate dental clinic.”

Much else happening. I’m adapting a play — Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird — for spring production by Cinnabar Theater’s Young Rep, which I’ll direct & design. I’m doing long bimonthly phone chats with a L.A. friend via Skype, developing a dream of his into a screenplay. We’re circulating our latest play, Akedah: the Binding, looking for a theatre foolhardy enough to stage a retelling of the Abraham/Isaac myth. We’re pursuing more possibilities for touring Elizabeth’s solo piece Dream House. I’m performing some work-in-progress showings of my 2003 solo show Survival Tips for the Plague Years at The Marsh in San Francisco — I have no idea why. I’m listening to Elizabeth work on a bunch of her songs in the back room. I’m moving forth at a glacial pace doing digital archives of 40 years of photos, videos, and scripts. And once a month, we host in our living room a group called “Science & Spirit,” exploring the interface between science and spirituality. It’s lively, always.

And recently, we’ve been reminded that, after all, we’re probably mortal. An afternoon spent doing housework for a friend with Stage 4 ovarian cancer. A memorial service for our old college prof, dying at 84. And another memorial for a guy who was an administrator with a local theatre we’ve collaborated with, dead at 21. For our friend, in the process of chemotherapy, it was about washing the windows so she could see out clear. For the two dead, despite the vast difference in age, the gatherings were celebrations, the grief truly outweighed by the joy of their living.
— Conrad Bishop