Friday, January 7, 2011

TOM WAITS, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR REVISITED




Was clearing away some dead plant body parts from my garden last Monday. Enjoyable, but robotic sort of task, which afforded me to indulge in accompanying 'What Do I Want To Do With This New Year .... New Start' thoughts. For some unknown reason, a stretch of road, about four miles long, that I travel along most days came to mind. It keeps company with a stream, that winds through fields, meadows, wavers towards a railway track , irrigates a Christmas tree plantation, and offers a natural landscaping addition to cottage gardens. I had wanted to follow it on foot for at least 30 years. This was the day to do it .... to start the trek. Afternoon and knew I wasn't going to do the whole four miles, but hey .... I had to start somewhere.    





Why certain ideas just drop into an unsuspecting head is a strange one. Grabbing my wellies, I emptied my scarf collection into a basket to bring them along for the ride. The plan (I think) was to plant  them here and there as I walked; taking pics, something like, 'I wish you were here!' postcards I guess. Why scarves? Their colour? Was it the fact that each scarf had a tale to tell: an event; a happening; a conversation, that I wanted to revisit perhaps? On the drive over, I put Tom Waits into the CD player, and re-visited one of my all-time favourite songs, Martha. A beautiful melodic song, performed by one of the rustiest, rasping voices in showbusiness. What a combination. Rough with the smooth!




When I found a suitable starting place, I quickly realized that negotiating gates, thorny ditches and swampy ground, carrying a large basket of scarves and a camera in fast fading light was practically a non-starter. I needed to be up at the crack of dawn, if I was going to crack this one and wearing my sensible hat, I would have to be more choosy about my scarf selection.




Some time later into the 'trek' my mobile rang. Shit, I had forgotten my friend and her husband were calling to the house. I was on a field trip I explained and that I wouldn't be that long. Put on the kettle etc.etc. (Getting darker anyway) Besides they were driving from Marlfield, Clonmel, which is at least 30 mins drive away. 




Another 30 mins to 'play', because that's what I was doing in real terms. Playing isn't just for children, I kept repeating to myself;  the adult me trying to justify the trudging across muddy fields, following a stream, with a basket of scarves!




As I placed brightly coloured scarves into an almost colourless landscape, my mind began to multi-task again. This time towards Andrew Lloyd Weber's rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar!




I am directing Jesus Christ Superstar, with St Mary's Choral Society, Clonmel in April and rehearsals start next week. I directed and produced this show with Tipperary Musical Society back in 1996. It was my first big production, and it  practically took over my life for about six months. I lost a stone in weight, had difficulty sleeping, and, more often than not, when I did eventually fall into a  restless sleep, an idea would shake me to wake, get up, consider and write it down lest I should forget!




Fifteen years on, I am much better at switching off, thank God! That said, JC Superstar is still a tricky show to produce! The story, which everyone knows, is told through song and musical intervals only. All technical effects, such as lighting, sound, sound effect, and scene change cues, rest upon perhaps one note or one chord of music.




Since my first production of JC back in 1996, my ideas about theatre-making have changed quite considerably. I hadn't realized until I went to UCC, that the mind I possessed, was not as open as I thought, and was in fact, entrenched in a realist tradition. The most exciting part of the journey to obtaining my degree, was the discovery, that there are no limits or boundaries to learning, imagination or creativity. To grasp the knowledge, that there are no specific starting gates; finishing lines, or that creativity is a product of spontaneity,  is extremely exciting and liberating. It gives a permission for experimentation and an acceptance that even in apparent failure, there is a learning! 




Child psychologists, psychaitrists, therapists report that children learn so much more about their environment, and how to behave and respond to same, through PLAY, which by its very nature is a spontaneous act.  




As I walked, thoughts concerning Judas's death and the crucifixion surfaced. I have seen many productions over the years, some employing all kinds of hydraulic and pyrotechnic wizardry to enable a cross to appear magically from nowhere or the floor of the stage. Even with a more open mind, I still prefer to see the cross erected in full view of the audience. I think it maintains a rawness and a truth. The staging of these two particular scenes in a convincing manner is seriously testing, and can be further complicated by a sense within the community, that a greater sensitivity is required around Judas' suicide than the murder of Jesus by nailing him to a cross! Perhaps something to return to in another blog.



Ideas and images of costumes, set design, stage direction etc. began to form;  floating alongside me; perhaps offered up to me by Lethe, goddess of the River Styx of the Underworld. (What a hopeless romantic!) 



As an aside, the swans above had been gliding downstream. They stopped with me for at least 15 mins. A friendly exchange of quietly intimate inquisitiveness between both parties!




My field thoughts proceeded to bend  towards holiday and travel plans for the coming year. I had thought that this might be the year that I would finally get to see India: its' colours and its contrasts. Most people hit by recession are finding it necessary to rethink their plans and stay at home. There are still so many places in Ireland, that I haven't seen, side roads that I haven't had the time to cycle along, places that I want to re-visit and view in a different light, with a different mindset.



We travel to far away places in search of the exotic, the other; a different culture, history, architecture, climate and cuisine; to taste, for ourselves, the places that we have read about in our story books. As previously blogged, I am fortunate to live quite closely to the Galtee Mountains and the Glen of Aherlow. I never cease to be amazed by the amount of Tipperary townsfolk who have never travelled a couple of miles outside the town to the Hail Christ Statue, that commands more than an absolutely stunning 180% view of the Glen of Aherlow; taken a stroll in the Galtees or trekked up to Lake Muskery.




It had grown dark, and a padlocked gate was re-visited and had to be re-negotiated. Scarves and me into the car once more. A cake or two for tea from the garage and home. My friends smiled at the thought of my toting a basket of scarves across fields, following a stream. Was I not concerned what people thought. Quite honestly ... it never entered my head!

So my decision to take off for the evening on a trek that I knew I couldn't possibly finish; re-visiting 'scarf' moments; the child in me 'playing';  rescued my imagination and creative thought process from the excesses of the Christmas holiday period.



Love to share this. The wonderful Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar.





Thank God for ideas, like visitors that pop in unannounced! More spontaneous and much more fun!




Ciao for now!

2 comments:

Phoenix C. said...

What a creative walk! The scarves must have had real significance for you. It's interesting how this sort of thing releases the subconscious to come up with ideas. Reminds me of 'Shedding the Unwild Skin' which is in a great book by Laurel King.

Maureen Walsh said...

Thank you for that. Will definitely check out that book. Some people found the pics a little disturbing! As in, 'last time this person was seen, they were wearing such and such a scarf!' Interesting!