Rehearsing for the Majlis
Last night was the first of two rehearsals for this Friday's Figure of Speech event. This whole concept of Tricia Postle's seemed sorta abstract to me until we got to the space on Walnut Street. The dancer — Norma Araiza — and I had met in person once and had a telephone meeting as well, where we hashed out the kinds of things we wanted to do, and what kinds of texts might work best. I spent much of yesterday creating one new poem and expanding two existing poems for a suite of list poems that will provide the basis for most of the first set.
It was great to meet Jeff Burke, the bassoon player, and Andrew Frost, the guitarist, and to see percussionist Steve Lederman again. Jeff and Andrew had worked together before, but it was the first time they'd met Steve. I always feel very intimidated in the presence of musicians, so it took a while before I could step in and join their improvisation and Norma's compelling and often comical dance (Tricia did say she was part clown, part dancer). We spent a couple of hours trying out different things, and I was amazed at how quickly the musicians were able to read each other's minds. It also became apparent that, even without rehearsals, we likely would have been able to take the stage and do interesting things for our 90 minutes.
Tricia has based this event on the "Majlis," an Arabic word that means a "sitting." It can refer to sitting rooms, a parliament (the Iranian parliament is called the Majlis), and parties. And then this form of entertainment, in which a variety of different artists perform for an audience, solo and in collaboration; it's a bit like a workshop at a folk festival.
After we'd rehearsed, we sat down and ironed out the "structure" for the evening. There's going to be a lot of improvisation; and in my case, although some of the pieces I read are planned, I'll be choosing others on the spot, riffing off of what's happening with the improvised music and dance.
The Walnut Street space is pretty wild, and there's a lot of work to be done on it before Friday. The stage is indoors, in front of a set of full-wall windows that open out onto a courtyard, where the audience will be sitting under a canopy (in case it rains).
We were all pretty enthusiastic about it after our rehearsal, and Steve is already plotting our world tour.
Over and out.