When I found out Carla Harryman planned to be in the Bay area the same time as me, she also told me she would be rehearsing a play here, and maybe the only time we could hang out would be at my reading at 21 Grand. Ok, I had to plead a little bit, but indeed Toni and I got to see and hear about 35 or 40 minutes of a rehearsal of "Performing Objects Stationed in the Sub World." Author Carla Harryman created the play in collaboration with director Jim Cave, visual artist Amy Trachtenberg, and composer Erling Wold. Principal actors include Ken Berry, Annie Kunjappy, Walonda J. Lewis, and Roham Shaikhani. Patrick Durgin and Taylor Brady will play the Poet's Chorus. The play will open on Wednesday, September 10th, which will be a Gala Preview and Season Opening Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of The LAB; it will continue on Thursday and Friday, September 12th and 13 Thursdays-Saturdays-September 18th-20th and September 25th-27th, 8pm. Cost: $20 for the Gala Preview, $10-$20 sliding scale admission for subsequent performances. At The LAB, 2948 16th Street@Capp, San Francisco. Info and res: (415) 864-8855 or go to www.thelab.org.
A busy -and lovely- morning up here in the Berkeley hills visiting with a herd of goats caused Toni and I to leave only an hour and half to get across the Bay bridge which was barely enough on a beautiful Saturday in August. We lucked out with an all night parking spot right near where we had to get to the LAB and to later visit our friend the artist Leonie Guyer. We knocked on the door and Carla came to get us. At just the point when Toni and I sat down, Ken Berry broke into song in his gorgeous, strong, resonant tenor voice, in face, a charming thing concerning little objects. I thought to myself: sounds like Carla! Full disclosure: I admit I've long been a partisan of Carla's writing. "Under The Bridge" (1980) was formative for me, an essential moment in my piecing together a structural, linguistic and emotive map of the contours of contemporary prose poetry. She has always been a pioneer in the evolution of transformational combining of formal structures in all genres of writing, yes, but more interesting, the connections and connotations not only seem true but ring true. The play. it seemed clear to me, is out to put us ringside of as many emotive and ontological soundings as are contained in experience, often in their raw form, or nascent form, and keep us there. Yes, things clash, they have to. As we listen, we can understand why, and appreciate that transformations occur constantly, and learn to enjoy that process, not have to back away from it so much or repress it. This play, and so much of Carla's work, is unafraid to reveal how much we take pleasure in the way sides of reality clash against each other, like wave forms, how the storms and resolutions may appear arbitrary, but are yet necessary. Things on a page won't stay put any more than they do in life; categories leap out at each other and dance with each other on their own, they won't passively remain in place they way we expect them to, any more than the erotic aspect of experience will give way to our moral and philosophical demands, custorms and expectations exactly the way we order it to. This play will use the interrelationships between sense experiences, will produce synaesthesias at the very nexus point where sound becomes meaning and meaning returns to its componant sounds. Carla shows us how we never stop reading, just as we can never stop hearing (though we can permit ourselves to stop listening), that reading and writing themselves are a metaphor for the way we make noise and life makes noise, we and life constantly fighting and celebrating each other. If we haven't understood, we will yet understand, the stream of life's repetitive clashings in sound and meaning is constant, and there is reassurance in that, and laughter too! Annie Kunjappy's acting and movement was discussed so interestingly at one point I was tempted to recommend that at least one discussion with the director be worked into the play itself! Jim Cave has such interesting things to say and oh, this is not all typical Mamet- like understatement at all. At one point, Ken picks up a huge barrel of various objects and drops them on the stage. Objects, as in Carla's poetry, are not subordinated to any other category of experience.They are right out in front as characters on the stage just the way they are in life. What is evoked? Berg and Bartok at least, but also Ernst and Duchamp and Beckett and Strindberg combined with Schwitters, Webern, Stein and Sofia Gubaidulina.
"Carla Harryman (writer/co-director)is the author of eleven books of prose, plays and poetry. Recent books include two experimental novels, *Gardener of Stars*(Berkeley, CA, Atelos, 2001) and *The Words:after Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories and Jean-Paul Sartre* (Berkeley, CA, O Bookss, 1999); a book-length play, *Memory Play* (Berkeley, CA, O Books, 1994); and a volume of selected writings *There Never Was A Rose Without A Thorn*(San Francisco, CA, City LIghts,1995). In 1996, she moved from San Francisco to the Detroit area. In the late 1970's she co-founded San Francisco Bay Area Poet's Theater. In May 1994, Harryman and the LAB staged a collaborative production of *Memory Play* with director Phillip Horvitz,and performance and visual artist John Woodall.She was the librettist and dramaturg fortwo San Francisco productions(1995, 2000) of Erling Wuld's *A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil*, a chamber opera based on Max Ernst's collage novel. Harryman is on the faculty of Wayne State University in Detroit where she teaches Literature, Creative Writing and Women's Studies."
visual artist Amy Trachtenberg's work in theater includes costume and set design for new opera, dance and theater productions such as *A Little Girl Dreams of Taking The Veil* by composer Erling Wold, adapted from Max Ernst; *The Breasts of Teresias* by Poulenc and Apollinaire; Bartok's *Bluebeard's Castle*; *The Butterfly* with Darvag Iranian Theater Company; *Goya's L.A.* by Leslie Scalapino; and costumes for ODC Dance Company. Her numerous collaborations with poets appear in over 20 publications, including an image-text collaboration with Norma Cole in ZAZZYVA's 10th Anniversary issue. Trachtenberg's paintings are in public and private collections of embassies, banks and corporations in Houston, Paris, Heidelberg, New York and San Francisco.
"Jim Cave (co-director/lighting designer) has worked in all aspects of theater in the Bay Area for the past twenty-five years. Focusing on the development of new theater, multi-disciplinary, and site-specific performances, JIm Cave has directed and designed plays, dance, opera, new music theater, and even a flea circus (for San Francisco's Exploratorium) and has directed a number of critically acclaimed productions."