THE DAYS ARE STRANGERS

Oct 16                                                                                                     

Kinderhook Farm, NY.
“Are you here for the tour?” asks a man in overalls. “Yes, is the tour happening?” “It’s happening if you want it to happen,” he says, and walks off.                                                                                                Another woman walks up, and as it happens, she is the shepherdess. For most of the next two hours, there is no one on the tour except for my partner and me. It is blissfully useful. I learn about orphan sheep. She curls her finger into a tongue, to demonstrate the difference between how cows eat grass and how sheep chomp. I ask her bizarre questions and she recommends a movie.

Oct 17

Philadelphia, PA.
10 am – 3pm. Observing the Hothouse. Yury Urnov is leading the room. They are doing relatively straightforward text analysis on a decidedly unstraightforward play about hacktivism. I think: hell yes hacktivism, hell yes, anarchy, hell yes, Wilma. The play, for me, does a brilliant job at highlighting the aggression behind internet humor and memes. It’s a window into disaffected emotional chaos when it is directionless, and how it gathers incredible force when it takes on targets. I think about what it says about me, that I am drawn to that playfully destabilizing energy. Rage is powerful. Collective rage even more so. Collective Rage is also the title of a play by Jen Silverman. In the elevator, people talk about that play.

I also think, f**k… The Internet Is Serious Business and Dionysus Was A Very Nice Man are similarly structured titles.

New York, NY.                                                                                              6:30pm. I am at a fancy party. I found out a couple hours ago that I won an award. Now the award is being announced at the fancy party.

Oct 22

New York, NY.                                                                                              8:30am. Heavy rain. I am getting drenched at this Megabus stop.

Philadelphia, PA.                                                                                               11:30 am – 5:10pm. At an Academic Conference in a UPenn Library.           It is called Timescales: Ecological Temporalities Across Disciplines.            I wish they’d called it something more rocknroll, like                    Collective Academic Rage: Climate Change Is Beyond Real (If You’re Poor) I am there with Pig Iron, as a collaborator on their music-theater project, A Period of Animate Existence.

I find the conference comforting, especially on the heels of the presidential debates. Even though I’m looking at charts of catastrophe, I am relieved just to hear people define their terms and organize their discourse. I make a note to self, to read Dale Jamieson.

We are reminded, in concluding remarks from Paul Saint-Amour, to think of climate change as a condition, rather than a problem. Let’s take our time developing our thoughts, he urges, because this particular condition demands a deeper engagement than panic.

6 pm. Dinner with Walter. Walter has just come from leading a discussion about climate change at The Wilma. Talking with Walter is also comforting.

7:50 pm. Ten-minute nap in my audience seat.

8 pm. When The Rain Stops Falling, at the Wilma. It’s stunning. They’ve carved out a dark dreamspace. I feel the plot working on me, the slow ritual movements working on me.

Oct 23

Philadelphia, PA.
8:50 am. I realize I am collecting a lot of memories at this Megabus stop.

New York, NY.                                                                                                    11:30 am. Wildlife sighting! It’s the elegant crested tinamou. Ok I’m lying, it was an author, I spotted an author: Rebecca Solnit. My primary hobby these days is reading essays by Rebecca Solnit. She ducks into a clothing store. I follow. I observe her over a stack of sweaters. Have I correctly identified her? I’m not sure. “Excuse me, are you Rebecca?” The condition of admiration also demands a deeper engagement than panic. But I stumble over the few words I can muster. How do you casually say to someone:

“Thank you! I know you don’t know who I am, but I think you’re one of the great thinkers of our age. I am blown away by the breadth and depth and style of your work, by your redefinition of non-fiction, by your bravery, by your honesty. You have gifted me a framework for thinking about activism and optimism that keeps me going. Your words have been a significant wedge for me against despair.”

I am overwhelmed. I say something like: “I’m Kate Tarker, I’m a playwright, I love your work, thank you… for your optimism, I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry.”

Total failure of speech. Who wrote me?

I buy two articles of clothing.

Oct 24
New York, NY.
Drinking coffee. Writing.

thedays_kt_blog_img

IN PRAISE OF FEET

June 2, 2016
Pale sun

“Hungarian folkdance is very sexy and dangerous,” says Blanka.

I have been thinking about feet lately.

Now I am observing Csaba Horvath’s feet. He has launched right into the dance steps, without preamble. He calls it “a kind of tap dance.” It goes: One and two and three three three. Tap and tap and foot hits calf.

In short order, the company of Wilma HotHouse actors becomes a footloose Hungarian village, inhabiting the world of Blood Wedding. This is a Monday, and like most Mondays, the HotHouse has gathered to host guest artists and try out new ideas from practitioners who delve into the physical. Csaba will be working with them all week. No one really knew what he was going to do. “ We have no idea what he is going to do,” says Blanka, happily, in her introduction. It is a testament to the courage and trust in this community that everyone jumps right in, regardless.

There is downward and upward force to the movement. Strength is culled from the ground.

Someone told me Csaba Horvath used to terrorize students at A.R.T. so I was expecting a temperamental beast. In actuality, he has jetlag, a quiet sense of humor, and a gentle but focused monk-like demeanor. He is in an all gray outfit, with overly long, loose dance pants that were either mosquito bitten into frayed ends or destroyed by regular devotions of stomping.

It would be such a thrill to put a whole village onstage. To have them dance like that. If I weren’t a playwright I’d want to be a dancer. Or a journalist. Or a painter. Theater is of course, all of those professions. I watch the actors, jot down potential constellations for casting. I think about diversity and pairings. I ponder economics. I wonder if I could sneak some village dance scenes into my play. Could the Wilma afford that? Would the play ever get produced elsewhere? I have no conclusions.

Except for maybe this one: No shoes. No shoes for actors.

You know how we live in a culture where clothing and behavior is gendered, and women have been assigned high heels? I lament this. Choice here is a joke. Yes, standing on tiptoe can be fun – I have enjoyed starry nights in college, wearing heels while riding my trusty bicycle. Hard femme. Stilts are also nice, have you tried stilts? I just ask: what happens when you mistake the costume for your self?

Heels are still an expectation. Women were turned away at Cannes when they didn’t wear heels. At the cinema, a woman in heels tried to outrun a dinosaur.

Being grounded. Having both feet on the ground. If someone wanted to maim female power I can’t think of a better way than by expecting we all stand on tiptoe and balance on a stick. Perhaps we could strap dead fish to our feet. Perhaps that would be worse. But no, dead fish are cool and soft.

I’ve seen several folk dances now that make use of bare, stomping feet as a way of awakening lower body energy and strength. I surmise: Rooted feet -> stronger awareness of one’s own needs -> greater assertiveness -> less self-objectification -> listening to your body -> better female orgasms -> happier village all around.

Pfffffffft.

Stomp stomp stomp.

Cobblers, feel free to come up with new options for fancy female footwear, and I’ll scheme about how to sneak some dancing into my play.

I wish I could come down for HotHouse every week.

HotHouse Blood Wedding workshop, with Csaba Horvath, 2016.
HotHouse Blood Wedding workshop, with Csaba Horvath, 2016.