Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nature Theatre of Oklahoma: A Conversation with Kristan Seemel

I got the only pink and red Nature Theater of Oklahoma shirt that Pavol made for himself...but he couldn't fit in it because it's a girls medium so he sold it to us. Look at how wonderful!! I loved their concept of using the transcript from a phone conversation as their script. Copying is the best form of flattery so I decided to record my conversation with Kristan Seemel verbatim and post on my blog.
P.S. We are exhausted from seeing so many shows and staying up late and we are drinking.

K: So we are just hitting recored and seeing what happens. Umm

M:We are going to talk about NTO.

K: Ok

M: So, so far it’s kinda been the most inspirational piece. Not the most inspirational because I have to say that the Suicide Kings was pretty emotionally inspirational. But as far as for a theater performer, the work they are doing is fresh and exciting and cool experimental theater

K: I think part of what makes it particularly evocative for us is that it umm he doesn’t, Pavol doesn’t umm think of it as theater. He is a theater artists and he works text based a lot umm but as soon as he works within a ensemble generated, all of his ensemble generated work has been considered dance. I mean he declares it as dance.

M: Right and like the piece we saw last year, um Poetics…

K: Ballet Brute

M: Ballet Brute, umm is was incredibly dance oriented…like it was all a dance. It took it was dance for the non-dancer. It took the average dance move and umm …you can have some of mine if you want…and then but..

K: we’re looking for beer…

M: and umm… (giggle) but what was different about this year is that there is very little dancing. I kept waiting for the dance. I mean yes, they were doing…umm systematized movements ugh when they were talking. Especially the guy in the cowboy hat, what’s his name?

K: (silence)

M: Anyway, umm they were doing those movements like just kinda unrelated umm to what they were saying so it was kinda a dance in a way but like the real break out dancing with music and all that didn’t happen until..

K: the intermission and the end of the show

M: spurts. Well you know and right before the intermission…oh yeah you said

K:yeah right before the intermission. they used it as act closers more than anything else.

M: Yeah

K: UMM. But I think that it was, for ME for what I think of dance. I mean we’ve had this WE have had a little bit of this conversation before specially talking about MAP ME. But umm I think of it very much as dance. Um it actually is so systematized that really the only, there is so much improve in it that a lot of what would be considered a traditional theater directors work becomes choreography. It’s a system it’s a system in which or a modern dance choreographers choreography like he, they were allowed positions that they could take. there is not a specific place that certain people have to be on stage. all of the staging is reduced to a choreographic system. instead of so people are wandering around people like when they want to there’s certain position they are allowed to occupy on stage. And they move to those positions they don’t they don’t have to move to another position they don’t have to be in this place. I mean some of the parts are like very more much more systematized so you will be far away from this person. But theres like three different spots you could pick.

M: right, up at the proscenium. back. middle.

K: (overlapping ) and there were very there were there were probably about twelve positions on stage they were allowed to use and within each of those twelves positions they were three general like orientations towards the audience that they were allowed to use and after that they had a system of choreography within specific positions that they had to that they were allowed to use. In fact they were only allowed to use it in position one when they were facing the audience. Otherwise they didn’t do any choreography while they were facing away in general

M: well…

K: but they could. I mean I don’t I don’t know. I didn’t I didn’t notice that.

M: The one that seemed to be doing the most choreography was…the one with his shirt off that was uh at the at the desk that (sigh) umm kinda cowboy looking guy, what’s his…

K: whenever he was sitting yes

M: yes whenever he was sitting. And kind of facing the audience

K: whenever they were talking about work.


K: And he had a very that was clearly and that’s where like I talk about a choreographic system but theres also like theres dynamics in that systems. So it’s like when you are sitting at talking about work you will do more choreography. And I don’t know what you do with a performer like that . like if you. you can stress it but I don’t know if you stress it and then you let it be. And let the performer sort of gage it cause it’s still heavily improvised. Or do you do you really say when you are at your desk you must work very intensely with our choreography. And I think I suspect that’s what Pavol did. I suspect that's what the choreography of the piece is. That when they are sitting at the desk they do more much more.

M: Or facing the audience

K: or talking about work

M:work yes

K: work was a big keynote specifically because ultimately the system of symbols that they had are physical choreographic...individualize choreographic moves that they were allowed. There's really only about twenty of them at most and not even that many. In fact I could probably recreate many of them that's how frequently they repeated themselves.

M: absolutely. yeah I agree.

K: which is wonderful actually in a lot of ways because it it it had. for me it had an alienating effect. It pushed it it reminded you constantly that there is a dance going on. It was the thing that kinda gave them a little bit more permission. maybe. If I if I were to like hazard a guess of theory wise of how it works. why the piece cause the piece. we can both agree that the piece works.

M: umhm.

K: It works by it is the work. it imitates and borrows everything from the the worst theater worst..

M: Dinner theater.

K: melodramatic dinner theater you have ever seen in your life. And yet. it works.

M: right.

K: and...

M: and that was the inspiration for it.

K: and that's the magic the magic of it the thing that is inspirational. well the thing that's inspirational for us watching it is like its totally works, in spite of it being the worst kind of theater you can imagine. It borrowed so heavily from it that it totally imitated it. It's pretty amazing what is achieved using all the signs and symbols of bad theater intensely and committing to them 100%. And I really wonder as a dramaturg, I'm looking at like three or four different things that help them to do that, but I don't know what the answer is. And it's kinda special when the magic, when all the pieces, when you can't figure out all the ingredients is in this beautiful dish you are eating, that looks like pizza, looks like white trash pizza but like tastes like gourmet brilliant food. like the best like something you've ever tasted before and is amazing to your pallet and you want to eat it forever more. Like you have to try, like the first thing as a dramaturg is oh what are the magic ingredients? and you try to solve it, but I don't have solution. I just guess but it like totally worked. I mean it was like brilliant. I think they are...methodologically intense. Theres, they are very rigorous. I don't know how you can be that rigorous and still be fresh.

This is just 8 mins of an hour can we talk.


Zachary said...

Hey. I'm the cowboy guy. Zachary Oberzan. Thanks for your interest and kind words. You might be interested in my new film. Check it out. They forced me into it. Now I'm bringin' it all back home:

Let's get together and eat some hotdogs or something. So hang in there, and I'll call you...

Megan said...

Thanks for the comment. I checked out your website. Sweet film...keep it up.
See you when you are next in Portland...We have pretty good beer and coffee here if you prefer that to hotdogs.