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.