A few months ago, littlest Munchkin and I attended some writing workshops that were intended to generate ideas and speeches for a big upcoming community arts project, a dance/theatre/music/animation extravaganza directed by local director and choreographer, Annette Carmichael, and produced, essentially, by the whole town. Meanwhile, my big Munchkin attended animation workshops to create moving images for the show. The theme was the 'creation of now', as if 'now' was some kind of mythical, magical place that we were asked to try and explain and define in any way that seemed right to us. In stories funny and serious, in poetry, in visual ideas, even using plasticine to make little sculptures of whatever popped into our heads. All this material was taken and curated by Annette and writer Linda Bradbury (lovely friend and wonderful cello player!), and woven and twisted and plaited and shaped into a story about an eternal child who must make one more journey, one more quest to find 'what is now?' before he can take his final rest.
A couple of months later, the audition notice went up. It's been very long time since I did any theatre, not since I left uni waaaaaay back in 1998. So I plucked up some courage and went along, looking for a little role that I could do, so I could be involved in some small way. My little Munchkin also auditioned. As it turned out, my 'little role' was a lot bigger than I was originally looking for, a member of the core dance group. Oh My, here I am, most definitely NOT very physically fit, and in my 50th year to boot. I said Yes...I don't know what I was thinking, and if I'd had an inkling of the hard work and the aching muscles involved, I probably would have chickened out! Just as well I didn't realise, because despite the aching muscles, the bruises (lots of 'floor work'!), and the constant worry that I really wasn't up to the job, I doggedly stuck with it, and my oh my I am SO glad.
The show went up on the 6th of November, as part of our annual 'Brave New Works' arts event (a miracle of community arts involvement in itself). What a thing to be involved with, what an amazing experience, what a wonderful chance to be in a show with my daughter, to perform words that I had written, to hear beautiful words my little munchkin had written, to see her dance with her friends, to dance with the beautiful artwork my big munchkin created, to be able to dance (an accomplishment in itself for me) with friends and make new ones, to watch the performance grow and to be able to say that I knew almost everyone involved, everyone a friend or a neighbour, a fellow parent, a familiar face, none of them professional performers, but every one willing to put in long hours of hard work to create something marvellous that we could share as a community.
Brave New Works program 2015. Lots of arts for a small town!
The shows sold out so quickly many people missed out, so we had to open our 2nd dress rehearsal up to audiences as a preview, and that show sold 150 tickets in 3 or 4 hours on the day they went on sale. For the 3 main performances people paid a reduced price to be able to stand at the back. The word had spread! And the word was that the show was awesome, spectacular, moving, delightful, and a gorgeous expression of our town and its people.
This is what I moved here for. To be involved, to be part of a community of people who did things a little differently, who embraced arts as it should be, as just part of the fabric of life, like eating or sleeping, no standing back and letting the 'experts' do it all. A place where life is NOT a spectator sport. In the follow-up 'de-brief' we were asked what benefits we felt we'd gained, personally, and for the community. Over and over it was about being a PART of something, being able to challenge yourself, in a place where you don't have to be a professional actor, or dancer, or musician, or lighting operator or stagehand to be able to express yourself and your passion. Where you don't have to be young and beautiful to be onstage and the centre of attention, a place where the elders are just as involved as youngsters, and together they weave together the ends of the circle that is community. I have been here two years now, and in those two years I have been involved in more art, performance, music and just BEING part of community, than in the 18 years since I left university.
So here is a few snippets, a little look into the marvel that The Creation of Now was. There is a dvd in the works, but it won't be ready for a while yet. I'm very much looking forward to seeing it, it will mean I get to see the show as the audience saw it (almost) and can enjoy all that amazing animation that was projected onto the floor so we could dance through and around it. Bit hard to take notice when you're rolling across it!
Front page of local newspaper.
Littlest Munchkin is in shadow on the far right, top picture above.
Yours truly right up the back...I'm not actually that tall though, I'm standing on my tiptoes!
Below. Lovely photos taken during the first dress rehearsal.
Warm-ups...a more frantic version of the hokey pokey!
Annette with the 'Timekeepers'. Their awesome costumes were made by a neighbour of mine.
Timekeepers in action. They spent an hour and a half walking to a set beat heard only by them through earpieces, removing one egg at a time in a countdown from 360 to 0.
All the music was composed by Jude Iddison and her talented violin students, ages ranging from 11 to 13 (and friends of my munchkins), and also performed by them, perfectly, every night. It had to be perfect, because the entire show was timed so at the end, the Timekeepers had one egg left.
The 'monochromatic frame', or core dance group. I'm very cleverly hiding behind the lady on the far right.
Mono Frame doing our 'cascading' movement. Me at back left in short grey dress. It's so hard to tell what something looks like when you're inside the action, but apparently this looked amazing!
The ancient child, Omo, in the centre of the MF.
The 'clock'. These are the 'seconds'. Littlest Munchkin's school teacher is airborne at the back right!
'Minutes' in the centre with Omo. Biggest Munchkin's Drama teacher is on far left.
Omo lifted skyward. Me at back, doing my best John Travolta impersonation...actually I'm an 'hour'!
The Elders, who set Omo on the quest for Now, with Chronos (centre), arguing about just what 'now' might be.
All those little bits of writing from the workshops, woven together into stories and performed to different sections of the audience. I am a moving body in this one, actions to describe the story being told.
The children, as Destruction and Creation, make their exuberant entrance.
The Destruction kids...guess where littlest munchkin wanted to be?!
Littlest Munchkin right in the centre.
Littlest Munchkin looking out from the centre.
The 'blood' dancers, connected by cords resembling veins and arteries, symbolising the connections between us all. This is where the mother and baby danced together, and the audience all held their breaths in amazement. This is where my littlest munchkin's words brought tears to my eyes every night.
I think this little lad stole the show!
The Edge of Nothing, threatening to swallow everything before Omo can find Now.
Edge of Nothing skaters. That's my neighbour in the middle, looking freaky. He's a lovely chap, really! The whole family was involved. Wife was the administration contact, daughter one of the violinists, and son was on set construction and follow spot. Where else could that happen!?
Phew! The show ended with the entire cast taking the stage for an exuberant 'village' dance. I don't suppose I'll experience something like it again, and I am so glad I had the chance to be a part of it.