Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Statewide Dance Flash Mobs - Instructions for CSU East Bay Participants

Hello Bay Area Community,

Please join the Statewide Dance Flash Mobs to Save Public Education.
Wednesday October 31st, 12:00 - 12:20pm
@ CSUEB in front of the RAW Center
and also taking place simultaneously at CSU campuses across the state.

Come learn the choreography at one of these training sessions:
  • Tuesday, October 23rd, 7:00 - 7:30pm     @ the Queer/Straight Alliance Meeting, New Student Union (Concord Room)
  • Thursday, October 25th,  12:15 - 12:45pm    Room PE 140  (Dance Studio)
  • Wednesday, October 31st,   11:00 - 11:30am   Room THEA 182 (Studio Theatre)
If you can't make it to any of these, and don't have any time to learn the choreography online, come anyway at noon on Halloween and follow along!

For more information, see the post below that gives full instructions for campuses across the state.


If you're not able to attend a training session, you can learn the choreography online at 

And see how it fits into the whole Dance Flash Mob at

And if you don't have a chance to watch the videos, here's the choreography in narrative form:

1)   Percussion and other music can start as people are getting into place—to draw a crowd (the percussion can include as many musical instruments as you can gather, but at a minimum should have one person dedicated to keeping clapping going.)
2)   Ideally set up in a formation of  either a rectangular or semi-circle grouping of performers(more confident participants in front and others spreading behind as far as needed.)
3)   Performers enter the performance space clapping.
4)   Chorus w/chants:
5)   Call and Response Chant (done 2 times)
Leader: “Proposition 30?”   
Group: “Yes! Yes!”    (raising an arm with each “Yes!” into a big Y shape)
Leader: “Prop. 32?”
Group: “No! No!”   (wagging finger)
·      Leader calls (5! 6! 7!  8!)
·      Both arms reach up along sides (4 counts)
·      Both arms return by your side (4 counts)
·      Reach right (2 counts)
·      reach left (2 counts)
·      Reach/Go up towards sky (2 counts)
·      reach/go down towards ground (2 counts)
·      Turn around to the left (8 counts)
·      Hitting and holding shapes (8 counts—counts 1, 3, 5, 7 are for everyone to hit and hold any shapes that you want for 2 counts, then on the “1” everyone goes down as low as possible to hold a shape with attention focused on center of space)
6)    “Education is…” Dance/Theater piece accompanied by quieter percussion in featured performance space (64 counts)
7)   Chants & Chorus
8)   “Education is…”
9)   Chants & Chorus
10)         “Education is…”
11)         repeat as many times as you have “Education is”  pieces prepared to fill the slots
12)          After last “Education is…” piece do Chorus 2 times and then…
13)          Repeat Chanting (4x)
14)         Exit clapping.

Eric Kupers will lead the actual flash mob and call out sections as they come up, so you don't have to remember all this.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Simultaneous Statewide Dance Flash Mobs to Support Public Education

We are working on organizing simultaneous dance flash mobs across the state of California on  October 31st, 2012 at noon, to support public education in the approaching election. Below is the message We've been sending to Dance, Theater, Kinesiology and Creative Arts Professors throughout the state. It includes instructions for setting up a dance flash mob at your campus or community site. Please join us and let the power of the people be felt across the state!


I’m writing to invite you to participate in a major statewide action in support of public education this fall—being organized in conjunction with the California Faculty Association’s fall action plans.

 My name is Eric Kupers and I’m an Associate Professor in the CSU East Bay Theatre and Dance Department. With a number of collaborating colleagues, I am organizing simultaneous dance flash mobs at each of the 23 CSU campuses to raise awareness about the November election and the importance of voting yes on Proposition 30 and no on Proposition 32.

I’m looking for at least one person from each CSU campus to act as a point-person in organizing your local flash mob performance. This person will attempt to enlist at least 7 other people to participate and will be a contact person for any communication that needs to happen between participants at all the sites.

On Oct. 31st (Halloween) at 12 noon, people throughout the state will perform a simple, accessible dance and theatre piece in public spaces (based on a set of instructions I am sending out.) We will do so at the same moment to demonstrate our shared investment in public education, the strength of our solidarity and our ability to organize creatively. This will happen the week before the election and will serve as a platform through which to educate our communities about the importance of voting to support education and other public services on Nov. 6th.  For campuses and communities that cannot participate on Oct. 31st, please feel free to organize a dance flash mob at a time that works better for you. And of course feel free to do both the 31st and other times! The more the merrier!

Would you be willing to be one of the participants and/or the point-person for your campus’ dance flash mob event? If not, can you recommend others for us to contact at your university that you think would like to participate?

I will be sending out a detailed set of instructions for organizing the event at your campus. You do not need to have any previous dance, theatre or flash mob experiences in order to participate in and/or organize this. All you need is a desire to support public education in California and a willingness to put in a few hours this fall to get the event off the ground.

Below this message I am listing links to instructional video, flash mob choreography instructions and other information for each flash mob to draw from. My hope is that each campus will infuse the event with your own campus spirit and personality. Then I will ask all participating groups to video their event and send the footage to me. Either I or a colleague will create a montage of dance flash mobs from the 23 CSU campuses and our allies at other schools, arts organizations and unions. This video will be uploaded to the internet and used as a tool of empowerment and further education.

Please let me know if you have any questions and/or ideas. We believe this event can make our voices heard and our presence felt powerfully across the state!

Thank you,
Eric Kupers
CSU East Bay

Here is a series of instructional videos for organizing the dance flash mob at your site:



ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF A FLASH MOB (from the Fall 2012 CFA Assembly)

CSU 2011 STRIKE FLASH MOB (based on Occupy Oakland’s Dance Flash Mob)

Below is all of the information we can think of to send for now, balancing giving a thorough explanation of our plans with not wanting to overwhelm potential participants. There are holes in these plans—some that can be filled in by you at your individual campuses, and some that we will address in future communications.


·      Dance Flash Mobs will happen on a day yet to be confirmed at the end of October, at 12 noon  (simultaneously at all 23 CSU campuses and additional sites)
·      Participants enter the public performance area  clapping
·      Chants & Basic Dance Chorus alternates with “Education is…” dance/theater/music brief performances
·      All to a drumbeat of some kind (even just steady clapping).
·      Entire event is videotaped
·      Accompanying all this can be info about “Yes on 30 / No on 32”, CFA info, etc.

For more information on propositions in the coming election and what you can do to get involved, go to: www.calfac.org

For assistance in organizing a flash mob on your campus or other public site, contact Eric Kupers at eric.kupers@csueastbay.edu

The basic structure of the dance flash mobs will be everyone doing the choreographed dance chorus in unison (see #4 below) & chants a number of times, interspersed with “Education is…” pieces—which will be like the verses of a song, in between each chorus.

Each “verse” can either be choreographed beforehand or improvised. Each can include any combination you’d like of dance, theatre, music, poetry, speeches, or other performance forms.
The requirements for each “Education is…” verse are that:
·      it start with the words “Education is…,”
·      it lasts for exactly 64 counts,
·      it comes directly after and directly before repetitions of the dance chorus and chants,
·      it is watched and supported by the rest of the flash mob participants.

It is up to the point-person and any collaborators to decide who will perform the “Education is…” verses, what order they will go in, and therefore how many repetitions of the dance chorus will happen. You should know the order of performers beforehand, and if possible  should practice the whole structure prior to the public performance.

The “Education is…” verses can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. They are intended as an opportunity for participants to express personal, campus, community, state and global concerns in whatever way feels best. 

1)   Percussion and other music can start as people are getting into place—to draw a crowd (the percussion can include as many musical instruments as you can gather, but at a minimum should have one person dedicated to keeping clapping or stomping going.)
2)   Ideally set up in a formation of  either a rectangular or semi-circle grouping of performers (more confident participants in front and others spreading behind as far as needed.)
3)   Performers enter the performance space clapping.
4)   Chorus w/chants:
5)   Call and Response Chant (done 2 times)
Leader: “Proposition 30?”   
Group: “Yes! Yes!”    (raising an arm with each “Yes!” into a big Y shape)
Leader: “Prop. 32?”
Group: “No! No!”   (wagging finger)
·      Leader calls "5! 6! 7!  8!"
·      Both arms reach up along sides (4 counts)
·      Both arms return by your side (4 counts)
·      Reach right (2 counts)
·      reach left (2 counts)
·      Reach/Go up towards sky (2 counts)
·      reach/go down towards ground (2 counts)
·      Turn around to the left (8 counts)
·      Hitting and holding shapes (8 counts—counts 1, 3, 5, 7 are for everyone to hit and hold any shapes that you want for 2 counts, then on the “1” everyone goes down as low as possible to hold a shape with attention focused on center of space)
6)    “Education is…” Dance/Theater piece accompanied by quieter percussion/music in featured performance space (64 counts)
7)   Chants & Chorus
8)   “Education is…”
9)   Chants & Chorus
10)         “Education is…”
11)         repeat as many times as you have “Education is”  pieces prepared to fill the slots
12)          After last “Education is…” piece do Chorus 2 times and then…
13)          Repeat Chanting (4x)
14)         Exit clapping.

While it is ideal to have as many people participating as you can gather, this dance flash mob can be performed by a minimum of 8 folks – and if less if needed. No previous performance or activist experience is required.

·      Leader: At least one person calling out instructions and doing percussion* (could be divided into two separate roles if you have enough people)
·      Dancers: At least 5 people dancing
·      Videographer: At least one person shooting video
·      Stage Manager: At least one person to handle crowd management and any logistical issues that come up before and during the performance. It’s important to have someone who doesn’t have to focus on performing and can instead pay attention to any potential hazards and obstacles that will affect the event and participants.

I am particularly inspired by live music and percussion for events such as these. However, each flash mob can have it’s own approach to musical accompaniment. We ask that you keep the tempo of the music you use consistent, for greater ease in editing together footage from different sites.  Please use a tempo that is as close as possible to 100 beats per minute.

Here is one approach to counting a song’s beats per minute:

If you don’t want to use live percussion, or want to augment it with recorded percussion, try using music with a clear pulse (beat) and/or a metronome or drum machine of some kind. I have a recording available of  a simple drum track and me playing bass over it and leading the chants. Contact me and I can send it to you.

I have also found the iphone app “Funk Box” particularly useful for this sort of thing.

The point is to have a steady pulse that holds the flash mob together, but to balance that with being able to clearly hear any text that performers are speaking. If available, I recommend using a microphone or megaphone for speakers that don’t already have a very loud voice. Either way, plan to lower the volume of the percussion/sound during “Education is…” pieces, and raise it again for the choruses.

I recommend setting up two or three sessions (at different times) wherein faculty, staff, students and community members can show up to learn the choreography and structure for the event.  Here’s suggestions on how to organize these sessions. If you can't set up sessions before the day, then you might 
1.     Have everyone sign a sign-in sheet with phone and email contact information;
2.     Introduce yourself and have everyone learn each other’s names;
3.     Give a brief introduction on the way the flash mob will work and the statewide context for it;
4.     Teach the dance chorus and practice it a few times to clapping or musical accompaniment;
5.     Give an explanation of the “Education is…” pieces/verses, and give participants a few minutes to work together and/or think about something they could try through improvising on the spot.
6.     Teach and practice the beginning and ending chants.
7.     Go over (and perhaps write on a chalkboard) the order for the flash mob dance.
8.     Practice it as many times as possible.
9.     Ask for volunteers to commit to doing the “Education is…” verses on the day of the flash mob event and remind everyone of the logistics for the event on your campus.

Each site should come up with its own plan for costumes for the flash mobs. You can wear Halloween costumes, “Take Class Action” T-shirts, your school colors, and/or anything that will raise the energy of the event.

We recommend confirming participation with everyone who has stated that they will be part of the event through email or phone. And I can almost guarantee that everything will not go exactly as planned. (This is a large part of the power of live performance—we’re always making the best of whatever arises on the spot.)

I like to encourage my students and performers in works that I direct to “fake it ‘til you make it,” both in learning the choreography and doing the actual dance flash mob. Keep going, even if you feel lost. The great thing about contemporary dance choreography is that anything goes, so often so-called mistakes end up being the most exciting moments.

We recommend finding a location for the flash mob that is both high profile on your campus and safe. Some possible locations include:
·      in front of the student union
·      in any central plaza
·      in front of an administration building
·      an area that is not on a street, but that can be seen by passing cars and pedestrians
·      anywhere that gets a lot of people passing by on a weekday around noon
Each campus and group should decide how much advance notice you would like to give to others about the event. We encourage you to publicize the flash mob widely to ensure lots of participants showing up and to open the possibility for getting press coverage.

Please send video footage in as high quality as you can manage and as quick as possible to:
Eric Kupers
(Ideally you can post footage online at vimeo.com or share it with us through Dropbox or something similar. I’m trying to get something edited and up on YouTube by Nov. 3rd. You can also send footage by mail to:
Eric Kupers
c/o CSUEB Department of Theatre and Dance
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.
Hayward, CA 94542

The point-person will be in charge of the following:

·       Primary contact with the central organizing committee for the statewide event
·       Leading the organizing of the flash mob at her/his campus.
·        Making sure there is someone shooting video of the dance flash mob and that the footage is sent to Eric Kupers as soon as possible after the event.

Each point person can approach this role in whatever way seems appropriate, given the campus culture and the needs and resources of dance flash mob participants. 

Some point-people might delegate most of the tasks that need to be completed and some might want to be centrally involved in getting most of them done.

At the most basic level, the point-person will make sure that the event happens.

Additional tasks that the point-person should do and/or oversee:
1.     picking a public space for the dance flash mob to happen in.
2.     organizing preparation sessions before the day of the event to teach participants the flash mob choreography.
3.     reaching out to faculty, staff, students and community members to invite them to participate.
4.     making sure there are at least eight people participating. (See full instructions for a break down of essential personnel for the flash mob.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Underland Background

As we finish up our first premiere weekend of Arthur in Underland, and move towards our last, (performances run through March 18th) here's some background on the piece, from the Director's Note I wrote for the program:
Arthur in Underland is one of the most personally vulnerable pieces I’ve ever made. It is based on a year in my life that turned everything I believed and wanted upside down. When I was 15 I left my native Los Angeles to spend a year at Berkeley High School.
My inner world no longer matched my outer and I was longing for new models, new experiences and some way to feel less fragmented. I plunged myself into a rush of boundary-pushing, rule-breaking and passionate seeking. With the help of psychedelic drugs, spiritual teachings from many different directions, a group of friends all stepping beyond the familiar, and soul-stirring music--I fell in love and fell apart.

My whole life was refocused around a spiritual path at my feet that I could barely see through the haze of confusion and desire. Central to this spiritual awakening was the blossoming of my love and desire for men. I caught glimpses of same-sex love in some very dark corners. I knew I wanted this and that it was somehow central to my inner truth, but I approached this love in some clumsy, dangerous and highly destructive ways. I came face to face with parts of myself emanating a transcendent beauty and also parts decaying in shadows. I was overwhelmed by questions and desires too wildly powerful for my teenage psyche to integrate. I tumbled into a state of anxiety, obsession and depression that took me many years to climb out of.

I’ve been slowly processing these experiences over the past 25 years and cycling through them in different forms over and over. When I made Friend with the Dandelion ensemble in 2011, about the loss of my closest friend from my teenage years, a host of memories and encounters resurfaced, demanding to be explored. I had attempted to capture my 15th year in a performance work for decades without success, but now it seemed I might be finally ready. I relayed all the stories I could remember to ensemble member Mantra Plonsey, and asked her to write a script that captured the energies of what I experienced through a completely fictional story. What she wrote blew me away. In the world she brought forth I’ve been able to re-enter and embody the violent conflicts of my desire, fear, confusion and longing to belong.

If we had tried to tell my stories in factual detail, I don’t believe we would have been able to go half as deep as we’ve gone. Arthur in Underland keeps teaching me new things about myself and has pushed me to reclaim a vision for my life that is bold, immediate and exhilarating. I am eternally grateful to Mantra and all of the performer/collaborators for so tenderly accompanying me on this journey and bringing forth such powerful transformation.

I’d like to dedicate this piece to Barbara Davidson, who was a “safe adult” for me thoughout my growing up and who very directly helped me to integrate and celebrate my gayness and spiritual searching. Barbara passed away as we made this work and I was reminded of what a large part she played in my emergence from the world of shadows. May all young seekers be fortunate enough to have a friend like Barbara along the path--and may all beings be supported to live in direct contact with and expression of their inner truths.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Interview with "Arthur in Underland" Writer/Co-Director/Performer Mantra Plonsey

Emmaly Wiederholt interviewed "Arthur in Underland's" Co-Director, Writer and Performer Mantra Plonsey about the creation of Dandelion's new work:

EMMALY WIEDERHOLT: What was the process of drawing from Eric's personal history to write Arthur in Underland? Conversely, what is it like to perform in?

MANTRA PLONSEY: Eric had recently completed the process of creating and producing AND performing in our past winter season's piece FRIEND, which dealt with a dear companion's death from a brain tumor, with whom he had gallivanted around during their middle teens in Berkeley. The material in that project brought up deeper memories from that period in the 80's, when he was a perilously impressionable 15-year-old, separated from his Los Angeles family home of origin, and out of his depth as he navigated through the counterculture, including  neo-primitive, urban tribal music and ritual experimentation.

One of the defining features of that time was Eric's deep attraction to a young male contemporary, prior to his coming out, combined with his distant encounters with a older, sexually predatory man who was both frightening and intriguing. This series of encounters with this man and his entourage in a rock band sent Eric into a descent into severe anxiety ("I went to pieces," he says) for a time, and his work with a therapist "saved his life", as he told me. He began to feel he was ready to address the earlier times that had in part included his friend who recently passed away, and look back to face that part of his past, and share those memories through art.

Perhaps because of my acute travels through severe childhood neglect-- (I was abandoned in a locked apartment with my baby brother when I was 4, and later spent two years of my teens in psychiatric institutional life--) Eric felt he could trust me with what he felt required a dark re-telling of his story. My five years of working with Eric as a performer and collaborator convinced me that he could indeed face a story rich with risk, requiring strong confrontations with his own fear and dread. This direction builds upon themes of other works I have seen him initiate in the past, which, as I see it, have often referred more to the higher, more positive aspects of spirituality; I wanted very much to illustrate his and my congruent points of view, that one doesn't achieve enlightenment by embracing only the light.
I asked Eric several times before we began if he truly felt safe with the prospect of confronting the character of Sarastro, the intensely violent and transgressive antagonist I was developing for my role as Eric's opposite:  my own representation of an murderous, manipulative villain, a pedophile, an archetypal "Dark Man". (I continue to ask Eric to check in with me regularly, in fact, and I need the same from him. His emotional safety, and my own, and that of the entire ensemble is a radical imperative for the two of us.) 


In the early stages, I immediately became engaged with a notion I had of the therapist as Sibyl, as a guide through the dream world, and as a foreteller. We share dreams with the people who help us integrate our personalities when in acute episodes of threatened personality and identity, and in recovery from trauma. These thoughts quickly became expressed mythically, as I wasn't wanting to make a piece about two people in upholstered furniture in an office with a clock and a box of tissues -- at least in the current creative cycle. Who knows.

I am fascinated with villains. You can't have a hero without at least one player in a black hat, and as Eric said just yesterday, the enemy in a fable like this one is (at any rate, in a truthful telling) making a sacrifice, which, I'd say, can be of his or her self, body, life, or essence. I see this as a nearly erotic submission, a consenting to being overthrown, and this is an indispensable element in the play. There are, as well, the equivalent and/or opposing sexual tides and rhythms influencing Arthur, Eric's character.

For me to perform in this piece is exhilarating, and I'm having the time of my life. This euphoria is tempered with bouts of doubt. (Rhymes with trout.) And guilt, even. The metaphorical and actual extremes I'm inflicting on my actor comrades in this play are often harrowing to deliver-- often not in the moment, but later when I'm second-guessing myself. Was it too much? What are they thinking? Should I go comfort them or are they OK? I find myself feeling remorseful and pitying my performer friends for what I'm doing to them, but the ones most disturbed seem to be the ones having to watch the violence, not the ones being knocked around. The other side of the doubloon is that I'm getting a colossal charge out of acting out the sadism. I've been on the receiving end on stage several times, but very seldom have been the one taking charge.

The balance of energy in a group when this kind of business is written into the script can have chaotic consequences, bordering on disaster and havoc, with people crying and withdrawing, or becoming so psychically  merged with the power dynamic that their identities become lost. For stable, self-aware people, of course, it can have the best possible outcome. I hadn't thought much about the possible effects of being on the dominant side of the exchange, or that I would find myself inhabiting the energy so completely, but I should have known better!


One can express an elemental animal force in stage violence. You can give it or take it. There is genuine freedom in allowing yourself to feel the emotional, if not the physical impact of taking a slap in the face, or getting knifed, or just yelled at, to release your inherent masochism, or beat the hell out of someone who does or doesn't like it... all of human variation is there.

EMMALY WIEDERHOLT: There are so many allusions in the text... Shakespeare, King Arthur, Lewis Carroll, The Rite of Spring, Tarot cards... why did you draw on so many different references, and what do you hope to illustrate through the use of so many references? Was there a particular theme you looked for when choosing references to allude to in the text?

MANTRA PLONSEY: The story of the transit through an "underworld", in many traditions, begins with the Epic of Gilgamesh, travels through Greek theatre, European and Asian myth, appears in every recorded history in every culture and continues to present day (and will, I predict, for as long as we tell stories). Its themes have been unceasingly with us in ancient and contemporary works-- see Wagner's Ring Cycle, The Matrix films, Harry Potter-- and in these, the residents of the Underworld must always meet the hero with ordeals and tests before he or she may ascend to the sunlit lands, and this occurs always with the hero receiving precious new knowledge, gifts and secrets.

I chose to draw from several "Underworld" traditions for the questions Arthur must answer before he may reach each level -- Tarot for the occult, Shakespeare for tragedy and to express a use of  literary  scholarship as an arcane challenge, Alice in her rather disturbing transit through distorted reality-- I believe it was David Ryther who contributed the idea of using Le Sacre du Printemps, which happens to dovetail with the trope of the virgin sacrifice-- King Arthur appears as the champion of Right vs. Might, whose visionary idea of chivalry is broken and destroyed at the end of Malory's medieval work, Le Morte D'Arthur. All of these sources have a sort of shadow to them, and I love each of these elements for the sense I have of their origins in a sort of eternal, infinite past, which we imagined as the setting for the band's lair.

The name 'Arthur' for our hero was my spontaneous impulse, which led startlingly to countless parallels for the story. Eric was born in England, which I had forgotten. King Arthur's inclusion led, predictably, to irresistible appearances from several other members of the Round Table. Eric suggested we name a central character, played by Keith Penney, "Lance", perhaps half-jokingly, but the resonance really grew and continued to evolve. I couldn't help it. The references shouldered their way in, and, for instance, one young knight in particular became utterly crucial to the plot in ways we hadn't anticipated. That's the sort of thing that happens all the time in Dandelion-- happy accidents of lighting, location, properties, circumstance, people showing sides of themselves that were dormant or not fully expressed blossoming-- myself included.

EMMALY WIEDERHOLT: How has your understanding of the text changed from when you wrote it to now when you perform it?

MANTRA PLONSEY: One way to look at is that to perform this part myself means that it can be played the way I see it. Besides this convenience, the relationships between each of the characters and mine (onstage and in real life) have deepened. I was becoming intensely identified with the role as I was writing it, and because of this, the villain's effect upon my comrades is possibly more profound than it would have been if I didn't play the part. I feel that  my understanding of the text itself hasn't wavered. The individual words, dance, music, blocking, lights, effects, etc., do indeed keep metamorphosing, as they always do in Dandelion, which is a big reason why I love the company.

The Therapist as Sibyl idea quickly disappeared almost entirely, becoming subsumed into the character of the sinister bandleader Sarastro. Indeed, I personally had never meant to play anything more than a disembodied voice, nearly obscured in the darkened loft with my back to the audience, and wearing a blindfold, leaving me free to help direct. Of course, sometimes it seems that, due to our  dedication to create a collectively functioning ensemble,  nobody in the troupe ever really gives up one responsibility for another, except in the degree of involvement per piece. Mostly we add more on! We thought of casting every other member of the company as Sarastro, until Eric had the brainstorm to try cross-gendered portrayal, with me playing the male character as male in costume and makeup, yet ambiguously so, with the spoken and singing voices ranging between male and female tonalities. Sarastro himself went from being a purely evil, singly dimensional archetype to becoming a more conflicted, fully developed personality while still retaining a supernatural glamour; he assumed the classic position of the disguised, apparently hostile guide who initiates the novice into the mystery.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Entering Underland

I’m thrilled to be back at CounterPULSE, about a year after our first ARC residency. The piece we created through the residency, FRIEND came out of the recent loss of one of my closest friends to a brain tumor at the beginning of our time at CounterPULSE. In working on that piece and unearthing stories about the beginning of our friendship in 11th grade I was flooded by other stories. I had met Sharon during my one year of attending Berkeley High School and we were part of a group of friends that came together quickly, briefly and intensively–united around shared desires for consciousness expanding, artistic exploration and boundary pushing of many kinds. Sharon had been the one friend I had kept in touch with after high school, through college and into our adult lives. As she died, many of the friends from that wild year reunited at her bedside.

It was wonderful to reconnect, and it also stirred up a potent mixture of memories and unresolved feelings. During that year in the late 1980′s we opened many doors that flooded us with more insights, questions, darkness and light than our young psyches were prepared for. Some of us were able to recover gracefully, and some (like myself) were cracked open and tossed around by the winds of confusion for many years.

I am exploring once again all that was unleashed for me through that rush of spiritual seeking, psychedelic drug-tripping, sexual exploration, rebellion and power play with the help of the Dandelion Dancetheater ensemble.

I relayed my stories in as much detail as I could remember to Mantra Plonsey, who then wrote a script that became the seed and structure of our new work, ARTHUR IN UNDERLAND. The piece is taking me back into a frightening and wonderful land wherein I seemed to have left important pieces of myself–a sense of wonder and delight, a longing for discovery and a trust in the mysterious synchronicity of the path that is always at my feet.

The story of ARTHUR IN UNDERLAND  is fictional, and yet it feels painfully true to me, more so than if we had tried to retell the literal story of that time. I am powerfully reminded once again of my love of performance as a vehicle for healing and transformation. I find myself deeply nourished every time we enter this dream-world in rehearsal. It’s uncomfortable, electrifying, provocative, overwhelming, joyful and very mysterious. I feel honored to be working alongside such courageous and generous artists, and to do so in a venue that creates such a safe space for risky exploration.
Here’s a 3 minute preview of Arthur’s journeys: