Last weekend we had the good fortune of getting to work with Ralph Lemon during our rehearsal process for Line Between. Shinichi has been one of three mentees working with Ralph episodically since July through Margaret Jenkins’ CHIME Across Borders project. The final week-long CHIME session happened November 14-19, and Ralph agreed to come out from New York a few days early to “intervene” upon our creation process. The concept of intervention is one that Ralph introduced to participants during the last CHIME session that took place in August. (His response and borrowing from Susan Rethorst’s more elaborate “Wrecking” process.) Though the term implies a kind of intrusion or perhaps violation, as we experienced it during CHIME, it’s actually a very productive and additive process, wherein an outside director comes in and messes with another director’s piece in any way he or she desires. It could mean editing, re-arranging, or developing sections of the work. Theoretically, I suppose the intervention could mean totally changing the direction a work is headed, though in our experience it’s been more about crystalizing and illuminating the intent of the piece.
Ralph watched a run through of Line Between on Friday night, took lots of notes, and slept on it. On Saturday, he began by sharing his notes with all of us. The notes were a blend of over-arching strengths and weaknesses of the piece and specific moments or choices that worked or didn’t work for him. Hearing his impressions came at a perfect moment for me. I have been saturated enough now in the world that we’re making that I’ve lost perspective. Though there are sections of Line Between that had been leaving me feeling unsatisfied or confused, I had gotten to a place of not being able to understand why I wasn’t satisfied. Ralph’s audience presence helped immeasurably to re-set my own perception of the piece.
After his notes, Ralph’s suggestion was to run the piece again, without any major structural changes, in order to allow his comments to percolate while watching the material. He claimed that his many of his notes were bringing to light what the dancing bodies already wanted to do, that he was commenting upon what he saw wanted to happen, and that I would recognize the moments that were almost something and wanting to become more. Watching this second run through and keeping our feelers out for these pregnant moments was hugely productive for us, and I hope will ultimately help to create a rhythm within the work that is essential for the audience to follow us into the strange world we are giving to them.
After the second run, Ralph made some specific proposals for a few sections that weren’t working so well. In one case he basically “mashed up” two distinct scenes that had been feeling very awkward into one collage and the result is very weird, in just the right way.
The premiere of Line Between is two weeks away, which feels to me like nothing. But Ralph assured us that we have plenty of time to play and continue to try new things. He urged us not to worry too much about perfecting and fixing things, but rather to keep the creative process alive until we absolutely run out of time.
I have only just recently met Ralph, seen his work, and been given the great opportunity of getting to work with him. Each time I come into contact with either him or the material he makes, I come away opened, reminded of the infinite possibility contained within a life of creative pursuit, and emboldened to dive deeper in.
It’s the best kind of intervention ever.