Friday, June 24, 2011

WonderSlow Reflections 1

We recently completed our first cycle of the WonderSlow project: 15 hours of continuous performance by Dandelion and friends dedicated to explorations of slowness. There was so much learning for me in this grand experiment in regards to:
  • slowing down
  • immersive performance
  • inclusive community
  • safety and risk
  • letting go of control
  • moving through and past distraction, boredom, resistance
  • levels of trance-states
  • meditation
  • pushing past beliefs about limits of energy and abilities
  • setting up conditions for magical things to happen and then letting them arise in their own time and manner
  • and so much more
I'll be processing this for a long while, and plan to write about it more down the road.

For now, here's a video tour of the event:

(link to video if needed: )

And what I wrote as an introduction to the event:

The Origins of WonderSlow
by Instigator and Co-Director Eric Kupers

WonderSlow began with a big green sign. The sign has the word “Wonder” on it, and originally referred to a town in Oregon by that name. But through the years, the sign came to mean so much more to my family, and eventually sparked this community performance.

My account of the story of the “Wonder Sign” has no doubt been shaped by my many tellings and retellings, as well as my own biases and desires. I offer this to you as one possible way to enter into the WonderSlow performance today.

In the 1960’s my parents were passionately involved in the American counterculture. They were particularly active in left-wing, progressive, political movements—and I think they believed that some kind of revolution was coming soon to this country, to change it for the better. Their passion led them to many demonstrations, organizations, meetings and artistic beacons of hope. They loved the poem “I am Waiting” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and particularly the lines speaking of Ferlinghetti waiting for “a rebirth of wonder.”

One wintery night they were driving back to Los Angeles after picking up my uncle at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Out of the snowy darkness, in the middle of nowhere there suddenly emerged a big green sign that said simply “Wonder.” I can only guess at what a potent moment that was. This must have seemed like a sign from the universe, a confirmation of faith, a symbol of deep connection and meaning, a revolutionary battle cry. My dad and uncle jumped out of the car and my mom was the “getaway driver.” They unscrewed and took down the signs that it turned out were on both sides of the road, jumped back in the car and drove home.

After that fateful night, my uncle took one of the signs and my parents kept the other. My mom says that they would use it as a kind of barometer for guests in their house. They hung the sign as “found art” in the living room, and based on people’s reaction to the sign when they entered the house, my parents would know whether or not they were of like minds.

Eventually my parents’ Wonder sign was passed on to me, and I hung it in my bedrooms in high school and college—the sign remaining a testament to creatively embracing the unknown. And then at some point the sign was put into storage.

A few years ago I discovered it again. It now sits in our backyard, just outside of the Dandelion rehearsal studio. I love the sign. It’s heavy and awkward and very simple. And it gets right to the point, “Wonder.” That’s it. No population numbers for the town of Wonder, Oregon - no instructions about how to practice the techniques of wondering - no indication that anything else matters outside of this basic commandment.

The aesthetic of the sign as it decayed seemed to call out for a performance piece to arise from this artifact of a fertile, forgotten time. It took a few years for dreams of the work’s shape and structure to percolate. And now it has turned into something that reaches far beyond this one story, this one poem, this one sign.

The spirit of my parents’ hopes and dreams, and the instruction to “wonder” has encouraged me to experiment with large-scale community performance in a way I never have before. It has pushed me to question my notions of time on the stage. It has evoked a curiosity for me in what possibilities lie in long periods of waiting.

I’m very interested through WonderSlow to investigate further how performance can be a ritual of healing, grounding, connection, new ways of seeing, waking-up and spiritual practice. I am inspired in the creation and implementation of WonderSlow by my parents, Buddhist meditation practice, the work of Anna Halprin, Contraband, Andy Goldsworthy, John Cage, Merce Cunningham and the courageously creative group of collaborators participating today.

WonderSlow was created with support from the City of Oakland Cultural Arts and Marketing Program, the Clorox Foundation, the CSU East Bay Department of Theatre and Dance and a Theatre Bay Area CA$H Grant. Special thanks to all the performers and volunteers, Jim Macilvaine, Luiza Silva, the Oakland Acupuncture Project, Essential Balance Bodywork, Theatre of Yugen, Navarrete x Kajiyama Dance Theater, A.V.I.D. and all of you joining us today.

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