Thursday, September 30, 2010

More on Cross/Walking

I'm still working on the best way to share video documentation of my recent performance, Cross/Walking.  But until then, here are a few stills from the recent production. I begin the performance with a brief introduction of themes about place and space and the practice of place-making while "rappelling" along the stage edge.  This piece is titled "Enter/Cross/Exit," and ends with me off stage and a vibrating rope stretched across the liminal space between audience and stage -- "a trace of a crossing from entrance to exit."

The logic of the show as titled suggested taking on Christian faith and what it might say about environmental advocacy.  I walk a fine line in honoring Christian faith without proselytizing.  My point is that the cross, as symbol, is something we all share -- believers and non-believers alike.  The idea of carrying it, literally or symbolically, as a pilgrimage of sorts resonates as a way of, well, "walking one's talk."  I use this particular meditation to explore ideas often expressed as "Creation Care," a deliberate attempt to challenge belief among some evangelicals that to be Christian is to be anti-environmentalist or that environmentalists are only pagan, nature-worshipers.  As I've posted elsewhere on this blog, my own faith skews more toward agnostic or interfaith than Christian (I was raised Unitarian).  So my goal in this section of the performance is to try to speak to Christians within a discourse they value about the lessons in their faith tradition to be good stewards of the earth.

That said, I am also aware that a lot of bad things have been done in Christ's name, and that the symbol of the cross has too often been used as a weapon more than a symbol of love.  I don't shy away from that fact in this monologue.  How could I?  But since the show is about process-oriented rather than object/product-oriented thnking, I am more interested in what people do with their faith and symbols.  This leads me to do some things with the symbol that create some, well, challenging images.  But lest we think this is only a provocative image, my partner informed me about a practice by a military contractor to inscribe the cross in gun sights, including codes referencing Biblical verses. 

Following this section of the performance, I transform the cross into an easel and do a section titled "Trip/Tychs."  There is an embedded pun on "trip" in this section as I travel between images, telling and sometimes improvising prose-poem stories that connect the images.  I also link to the idea of the triptych as an altar piece.  The power of three images together is their interrelationship.  So, I use the triptych to explore connection, as well as to interact with the audience. 

I follow this piece with a mock lecture by a character named Dr. Nathan Jogary.  He describes an expedition to an "impossible mountain," using and referencing slides that have nothing to do with what he is talking about.  Or, well, in a kind of chance aesthetic, the relationship between what he says and what he shows is abstract enough to allow audiences the productive, imaginative space to make their own connections.  The images in this faux-lecture are digital artworks I have made for abstract comics and asemic writing.

Finally, I end with a meditation with the audience about connection while passing out a rope that slithers through them, hand to hand, like a snake in the grass, like a winding path.  I use the same rope that I used in the opening monologue not only to neatly tie up the performance, but also to untie the performance and rupture the exit.  The last moment of the performance involves me exiting through the theatre entrance, dragging the rope with me, creating a kind of path to the outside world.  The last line (which trails away as I walk away): "It exits and becomes an entrance which becomes an exit which becomes an entrance which becomes an exit which becomes..."

[As I noted before, I designed this show to be portable.  If you are reading this and would like to bring this show or my earlier piece, "Trail Mix," to your community, contact me at jmgray32(at)gmail(dot)com.  I am deeply committed to using performance to spark dialogue about environmental issues.  I can couple this performance with a lecture or series of workshops on performance and environmental advocacy.]

Note: Special thanks to Christi Saindon for the photo-documentation of this performance.

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