Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Notes from fall: Search for the right director

September 4.

If I’m going to be in this play I’m going to have to find a director. It would be too splintering for me to have three different points of view: playwright, actor, and director. . (I’ve already run into arguments between the playwright and actor. The playwright finally had to say in a firm voice, “Trust the words and if after you’ve memorized the section and worked it and it still sounds off to you, get back to me.” So far there has been no discussion :)

So if you know a director who loves poetry, music, and movement/dance, give me a post. I’d love some suggestions.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Notes from summer: playing a part

August 2. I’ve decided that I’m going to play the part of Emily Dickinson at least in the staged readings so I’ve been working on imbuing myself even more with Emily Dickinson’s life. Have recently read “The Passion of Emily Dickinson” by Judith Farr and “The Gardens of Emily Dickinson” by the same author. Also I’m reading all of Dickinson’s poems (almost 2.0000) and picking ones to read out loud. The variety and complexity and subtlety and wisdom and strength of music is so dense and rich it’s like running into a wall.

I’ve read almost 400 poems so far and I’m starting to feel a thread of Emily Dickinson’s inner life. Nothing to be put into words, but to be felt. I need to add that part of the fun is I’m consulting the 1828 Dictionary first put out by Noah Webster which was almost Dickinson’s Bible. She loved this book and read it incessantly. It’s so much fun to have some of the poems get revealed by finding the definition of a word which has a slightly different meaning back in her day. I’ve also read that often she would take one of the more archaic meanings of the word and so I get to be a bit of a word sleuth.

In preparation for the reading and eventually doing a full production of the play I’m beginning to memorize the script and choreograph it. It’s helping me get into the nuances of the piece. In the beginning it was quite daunting, but I’m now reaching the stage of it being an exciting challenge and a joy. I’m sure this will continue to spiral around which is where the juice comes from, right?? There’s a deep familiarity in the rhythms and the sounds.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Notes from summer: a reading

We're catching up on old posts this week...

July, 2007 1. The play has been read off the page with two actors (myself being one) and to our ears it worked. What a joy and a relief. Though I have been excited about this work, to hear it off the page is the first major test. Plays can live well on a page, but just don’t morph well into live action and sound.

And being written in lyric poetry – no surprise to people who know my work - it’s crucial that it have an internal through line and glad to say both actors felt it. I know. I know. I was one of the actors, but often I’m my severest critic.

Now there needs to be more private readings to kick the tires of the words and meanings.


Sunday, November 25, 2007


August 18, 2006

What is the thin stuff of us,
the elemental wisp
breathing us together
making us visible
distinguishable from air-
not merely flesh
encapsulating bone
restraining sinew
tempering the thrash of spirit-
not seam of bone
or bend of joint
not even, even, even beat of heart—

Stamina has a hand
in the mix of motile thrust;
patience lays her comforts down;
vision draws all in
and into the forward glide and lurch,
and beyond the ribonucleic miracle of mind.

what is the driver
the thin stuff of us
most substantial, transubstantial, and
so modest a word
to be so overused
so limitless in power
to be so overused,
permitted a shy corner here
a podium there
a poem, song, or Valentine,
and in our embraces,
the celebration of us all.

Jennifer Weil
Opening Night
Skeleton Woman
A gift to the cast.

© 2006 Jennifer Weil

Skeleton Woman: a note from Ava Roy

July 20, 2006
A report from Ava Roy, the director who first used the prow of the ship: Oh, i'm so glad to hear of the prow's continuing performance journey! The base of the prow was hauled by a team of people from the farthest other end of the bulb and brought to the beach, where our crew installed it and built on it... Thank you for giving the prow another life in performance.

Note from Christina O'Reilly: Ava's theater group is We Players and can be reached through www.weplayers.org They used the prow for their production of The Tempest and had it right out on the beach in Emeryville. I met some of her actors and they were filled with such joy and enthusiasm I wish i could have seen the performance.

Skeleton Woman: midnight writing

July 20, 2006
Bob Engel:/What actors write at midnight when they come from rehearsal and can't sleep:/ I've been trying to understand for myself as an actor what is so moving and compelling about making theater. When it is good, it goes very deep. The heart must be open, but unattached. The mind must be attentive. You do not know, as you create a character and place that character in a scene, you do not know what you will find. You cannot know what you will find. A wondrous tension comes from being open to the creative while minding the details. Your preconceptions, even your intuitions, might prevent the entrance of the surprising gift of a constructed, artificial, and yet fully real reality. The witnessing of the creative moment is itself compelling and even spiritual. Every religion tells a creation story. Actors, like other artists, get to be present at the creation, but we have the special joy of having a creative moment which comes in a form very much like experience: characters and a story.

Skeleton Woman: learning

July 11, 2006
Jennifer Weil: I am woman, hear my restlessness. Haunted on vacation by Skeleton Woman's unshakable presence, realizing she is within me; there is no point in running or trying to shut her out by singing "Found a Peanut" and "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

In sun and in shadow, attempting to learn her, absorb and be absorbed by her while engaging in the rest of my life. She requires too much, she doesn't pack or travel well. She is a high-maintenance gal. More thinking required.

Skeleton Woman: where she lives

July 10, 2006
Christina O'Reilly: Well there we are back again on a beach, my husband and I, looking for “gifts from the sea” for Skeleton Woman’s world. This time a different beach: Salmon Creek out Bodega way. We hit the beach an hour before sunset and with the light fog, pale silvery water, and an ineffable silence I felt we had found a spot where Skeleton Woman lives. We headed north. Me looking at the waves hearing their roar, my husband hot on the search. He found a gnarly water soaked stump tumbled in from the surf.We both thought of another peril that surfers watch for. The stump was magnificent: thick, gleaming. The kind a troll would live in. Walked further and saw three drift-wood huts on the sand. One was complete with a flag of corrugated cardboard and a streamer of seawood. So many gorgeous bone white logs. We found one I won’t tell you about, but after dragging it across the sand, up a steep slope, we reached the bottom of a set of stairs. I couldn’t do it. You guessed it. More strangers pitched in and helped us the rest of the way. Sunset at Bodega Beach is a miracle. Tens of people including us stop to watch the quiet sun drop below the sea. I could feel Skeleton Woman’s breath on the beach in the soft breezes, her feet on the soft sands and and I walked away with the wash of peace inside me.

Skeleton Woman: first post

June 24, 2006
Christina O'Reilly: And there we were on the dog beach in Emeryville looking at a director's lust: part of an old ship washed up on shore. Perfect. I'd known about it, stumbled on it two weeks before. Turned to my daughter with glee and she said, "It was found by a theater company that's putting up 'The Tempest 'on the beach. My face fell, but then she said, "I know the director... " So here my husband and i are on a foggy, windy Sunday. I run over and start to lift it. Did you know that there's often a big gap between the first euphoric moments of discovery and the actual moment of implementation? There was no way he and I could budge this old weathered relic. It had taken us over an hour to get there and even longer to find the time. I looked up and saw an interested man with grey hair and a yellow lab puppy. He sees our plight. I called out to him to see if he could help. Then I see a young couple with 2 more yellow lab dogs...interesting. Soon 5 of us are lifting this boat, carrying it across the sand through the woods, and hoisting it up on top of the portage bars of our truck. The gift and grace of strangers.