Posted July 22, 2011I’ve been working nonstop on the script for the last couple of months—writing, getting feedback, revising—and have moved into pre-production!
Recently, I gathered (most of) the Gloria’s Cause cast for our first read-through. Peggy, Dave and I have done numerous readings, tripling and quadrupling on parts, but this was different. So much became apparent: where the writing drags, where it’s funny, where rhythmic changes are needed to propel the story. It was a wild and entertaining experience, and I take that as a good sign!
The revisions since that read-through have been the deepest—and yet I know once we start rehearsing the scenes the writing itself could change substantially. The day of Peter Falk’s passing, Dave and I watched A Woman Under The Influence. I thought about how much Cassavetes’ work has influenced me; I’ve always admired the creative atmosphere he created, in which his actors (usually his friends) experienced the freedom to go to some risky places in order to seek the truth of the story. Really, my hope in creating a watertight script is that it serves as a stable structure for improvisation and exploration by the brilliant and lovely group of people who are working with me.
I’ll save most of the location scouting highlights for another update, but because of its bearing on the script itself I’m excited to share news about one of our principal locations. I’ve been seeking the right rehearsal studio location to show the semi-fictional creation process of Gloria’s Cause: not too pretty, not too tawdry…an urban place with history and texture. When I toured Inscape (formerly Seattle’s Immigration and Naturalization Services Building), I knew I’d found the place. Working with production designer Tania Kupcak, I hope the dormitory we’re renting, where hopeful immigrants waited for U.S. citizenship, will shade our own American tale by giving up some of its own dark and hopeful stories.
Posted April 29, 2011Update 2: Ben Kasulke, Improvement Club DP
In the midst of scriptwriting, I noticed Seattle’s cherry blossoms were in their full glory. Cherries are a motif in Gloria’s Cause, so I asked my friend Ben Kasulke whether, between trips to Los Angeles and Krakow, he could fit in a quick shoot. He had 90 minutes; we went for it.
What I had in mind was composer/performer Maggie Brown making her way through an excess of cherry blossoms en route to Gloria’s Cause rehearsal. Pretty straightforward: a transition I knew I wanted, though I’m still writing the script. Shooting a solitary figure on a sidewalk reminded both Ben and me of Entry, a short 16mm dance film he shot for 33 Fainting Spells nearly a decade ago. We then shot Maggie from several angles, sitting in the bed of Dave’s truck as he drove slowly down the residential street. It was a simple transition but the footage is pure poetic understatement. As Ben’s work so often is.
Ben and I met during post-production on my first dance film, Measure. We were instant friends. We’ve shared hard work and good times in here in Seattle; on the Key Peninsula of Puget Sound; Portland, Oregon; a stretch of Highway 101 in Northern California; Los Angeles; and Austin, Texas. At this point he’s on the road more than here and we stay in touch by trading YouTube animal videos (my favorite: “Sleepy Bear Can't Stay Awake” [http://youtu.be/A5c0X4MW_zE]).
I’m extremely fortunate to have him on board as director of photography of Improvement Club. Because he’s a prodigiously talented cinematographer, he’s damned busy. At the moment he’s got five features playing the festival circuit: The Off Hours (d. Megan Griffiths), The Catechism Cataclysm (d. Todd Rohal), Treatment (d. Steven Schardt and Sean Nelson), The Lie (d. Joshua Leonard) and The Ballad Of Genesis And Lady Jaye (d. Marie Losier).
Features Ben shot recently for Guy Maddin and Lynn Shelton are in the can; next month he heads to Sundance to shoot for the Director’s Labs. A live action series for Adult Swim by the art collective PFFR (creators of Wonder Showzen and Zavier: Renegade Angel) follows. Then, during the last two weeks of August, comes Improvement Club.
Ben’s busy schedule pushes our shooting back a couple of months: August is later than I’d planned for principal photography. But as we recently nailed down our dates, I felt waves of relief and gratitude about the additional pre-production and rehearsal time we’ll have. And if you know Seattle you know the odds of sunshine during last two weeks of August are slightly better than any other two weeks of the year.
Ben told me recently, "Improvement Club is a very overdue and very welcome opportunity to revisit one of my oldest artistic collaborations.” The feeling’s mutual.
Posted April 18, 2011Update 1: Life Drawing
I remember Dave falling to the ground after a mind-blowing, two-hour conversation with an American history scholar during our research trip to Chapel Hill, N.C. Peggy remembers wishing we could hire that scholar to be in the show. Maggie remembers wearing a stolen American flag around her shoulders on the bus to rehearsal. Pol remembers when we tried to include a story about the beating of a slave woman that was too hugely significant to simply be shuffled in. Paul remembers thinking that I didn’t have a “full-on game plan” and took to lacing his rehearsal lattes with whiskey. Jessie remembers when rehearsals reached a point of such extreme democracy that all nine performers wanted to be heard at once. Jim remembers thinking, “I could be at the beach right now.” Wade remembers quitting the project. Three or four times.
We’ve inventoried our memories. A few secrets have been revealed. We have a stockpile of rich scene material and it makes us all laugh. But the group’s catalogue of high points, low points and favorite moments won’t make much of a movie in itself. Now the experience of creating Gloria’s Cause, the content of the show itself and the character of those who made and performed it are undergoing rigorous fictionalization in order to generate the three-act script of Improvement Club. It’s so much fun!
Even now the experience of Gloria’s Cause continues—and will continue to work its way into the film. I’ve been acting as tour coordinator for Gloria’s Cause—a role I won’t reprise any time soon—seeking opportunities to perform the piece beyond the Pacific Northwest. I’ve experienced the humiliation of the effort; I’ve tried to see it with the detachment of a writer rather than be swallowed in the subjective experience. I even wrote a column for the April issue of City Arts (http://www.cityartsonline.com/issues/seattle/2011/04/soapbox-frontierland) about my struggle to book national touring from the frontier outpost that Seattle often feels like.
While it’s tricky to objectify the present—or near past—for creative purposes, this effort too will be absorbed into the film, as it has stirred up questions that are emerging as central as Dave, Peggy and I sketch out this script: Who do we make art for? Does audience matter to a performing artist? What’s at stake for artists in America?
Watch for Update #2, two weeks from today. In the meantime, the step outline for Improvement Club (two-thirds complete!) is calling my name …
Posted February 10, 2011DOWN TO THE WIRE!
Collaborating performer Jessie Smith interviewed audience member Flick Harrison after our performance of Gloria's Cause at the PuSh Festival in Vancouver, B.C. last month.
This snippet from their conversation reveals the kind of perspective I was hoping we might gather from our experience performing a very American work for our Canadian neighbors. And this is exactly the kind of conversation that will help shape my thinking about Improvement Club!
Script development starts soon—but this campaign ends sooner! I so appreciate the support of this community as I prepare for phase one of this project. Thank you!
And please, spread the word—we're getting down to the wire!!!
PS Flick is also an astute blogger—what he wrote about Gloria's Cause can be found in Plank Magazine (http://www.plankmagazine.com/review/gloria%E2%80%99s-cause-if-frank-zappa-dosed-tea-party-mushrooms)
Posted February 04, 2011Thank you and Please!
Happy Friday from snowy Austin (yes, snowy), where I’m setting choreography on the Rude Mechanicals dance team for their new musical, I’ve Never Been So Happy.
This time last week, my group was loading out of Performance Works on Granville Island in Vancouver, B.C. after a wonderful run at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. My son Linus took the bus up to join us (after convincing the border agent he was not running away from his mother but coming to see her perform!) and took the photos you see here.
This time next week, I will be scheduling script development rehearsals for Improvement Club. And I will be just a few days away from the end of this fundraising campaign! Dollar-for-dollar matching funds have kicked in and I know I can reach my goal!
But not without you.
Has someone come to mind—a friend, colleague, relative—who might be interested in supporting Improvement Club? Now is the time to spread the word: click the “share this page” button you see just above the sidebar to send the link to one person. Tell them you’ve made a contribution to this project and that theirs will make a difference too! Especially with Artists2Artists matching funds!
I so appreciate the generosity of you thirty thoughtful, wonderful people. You’ve put this campaign in a great place. I’m confident that you can help me exceed the goal I’ve set for the first phase of Improvement Club. If that happens, surplus funds will go straight to pre-production costs, which will help me stay on schedule with the project.
Spread the word today! Please! And thank you.
Posted January 31, 2011First, a big thanks for all the wonderful support in the last week or so! Due to a recent surge in contributions, matching funds have now kicked in, bringing my fundraising goal of $4,500 for script development on Improvement Club much closer!
I can't wait to report in detail (on video) on our fantastic trip to Vancouver, B.C.'s PuSh Festival last week. If you're in the Northwest, the super-dynamic PuSh Festival is worth the trip and continues through Feb. 6. As a teaser, I'll just say that Jessie Smith and others in the company went on a tear with the camera, interviewing audience members after our first show. We gathered some great perspectives, a couple of which are very eloquently expressed here, by Peter Dickinson and Flick Harrison, respectively:
Performance, Place, and Politics: http://performanceplacepolitics.blogspot.com/2011/01/push-review-6-glorias-cause-at-club.html
Zero for Conduct: http://blog.flickharrison.com/2011/01/glorias-cause-knocks-me-out-at-the-push-festival/
In the meantime I would like to share an interview with me that Amy Mikel just posted on Seattlest! I had a great time talking with Amy and I think she really captured the excitement of the moment! Here is the link: http://seattlest.com/2011/01/25/dayna_hanson.php.
Posted January 24, 2011Taking Gloria’s Cause to Canada
As my group and I take Gloria's Cause to Vancouver, B.C.'s PuSh Festival this week, I find myself eager to hear Canadian perspectives on this very American performance piece.
What a privilege to take the piece to Canada! When I reached out to presenters a little over a year ago, PuSh's Executive Director, Norman Armour, didn’t seem interested. His response was understandable to me: Presenters don’t often take a chance on an artist whose work they don't know. An American artist making a piece about the American Revolution? I got it. But when, on Mark Russell's invitation, I pitched Gloria's Cause at the Under the Radar Festival in NYC last January, Norman was there, and we had a great conversation about my hopes for the project—a conversation that led to our PuSh gig this week.
Gloria's Cause asks what it is to be American today. Rather than being inspired by an obsession with the past, glorious or inglorious, the work sprang from frustration at today's sorry social state. To understand our current reality more fully, my collaborators and I made a work whose creation required us to better understand our past.
The motivation behind the show is ambitious, the show itself open-ended. As a feature film, Improvement Club will pick up our inquiry where Gloria's Cause leaves off, going behind the scenes of the performance, its creation and the lives of the artists who made it. Key moments in the creative process will be recreated for the camera. Other moments will be fictionalized—all in order to revise our own sense of national identity.
Performing in Canada is a great opportunity to prepare for the script development phase of Improvement Club. I’m excited to bring a camera to Vancouver: I’ll pass it around amongst my wonderful, smart and engaged performers and collaborators and, as an eclectic group of modern American artists, we’ll gather impressions, insights and images for the film from our experience of sharing Gloria’s Cause with our Canadian neighbors.