I can’t believe that I have a mini-play in the Spark Festival this week at The Belfry Theatre! It’s called “His Kiss” and uses images in a home movie style, underscored with an audio mash up and my own voice live.
I had this idea several months back and pitched it to the lovely Artistic Associate, Erin Macklem, who said yes. For me, having ideas is the easy part. I have a lot of ideas. Choosing which ones I want to bring to fruition has been the exciting and challenging part. It’s a total leap of faith that I can bring this idea into the world.
When I pitched this idea, I had a basic theme in mind to explore. I was inspired by the images of George Clooney’s wedding. It occurred to me that many women would be so sad that this eligible bachelor was no longer available. That caused me to reflect on the many crushes I’ve had in my life, on movie stars and rock stars, and even the boys that took me to the prom in high school. I felt that my experience wasn’t mine alone. Rather, I felt this was a shared sisterhood that all women knew. How we, as women, learn about love. We begin in the idealized world of the distant and unattainable male figure into the reality of dating, engagement parties and eventually, our own weddings.
I knew from the start that I wanted to bring live and recorded sound together with video. The live sound was to be my operatically trained voice, in an enclosed space. I wanted the audience close enough to feel the sound waves I created. I’m curious about how the sound I make penetrates people, and how the pure visceral experience of music emotionally moves them. I knew I would use the Schubert lied ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ as the musical core. It’s musical peak is the line “Sein kuss!” His kiss. But what contemporary music would I mash into it? Didn’t know. But I knew I wanted that. What images? Not entirely sure. Could I use iMovie in a ‘Ken Burns’ inspired style, to reflect a woman in love over a life time? I could use, as he does, photos. My idea was to use many pop culture references up against stock personal shots and then have my singing be a sort of sound track. Would this work? I hoped so.
How long would it take to make? How many new skills would I need to master? Where in the Belfry would this be best? All the mini plays are site specific and stashed around the Belfry in closets and stairwells and courtyards. Armed with all these questions, I leapt into the world of creating my own mini play.
It was much more involved as a project than I ever thought. It took countless hours of editing sound and images. I guess, in the end, I created a sort of music video.I ended up deciding to use personal images from my family over the last 60 years to reflect the real world of dating and marriage. That required a trip to Mom’s house on Gabriola Island and combing through family albums for a weekend, which she loved doing. I grabbed 8×10 glossies off the internet of leading men like Cary Grant and Tony Curtis and those crazy shots of women losing their minds over the Beatles and Justin Bieber. Then played with my audio track to line up text with just the right photo. The sound mash up was crazy fun to make. I used an online program that I also use to make my CBC documentaries for radio-called Audacity. I sampled Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones and even Beyonce. Their voices join Schubert in my story. My story of women lost in the idea of love.
Two weeks ago I dressed the show for a private event at the Belfry and it was thrilling. I have this amazing space I chose under the lobby, which is creepy and weird. The show occurs as seen through a doorway. People peek through it to watch the movie. Perfect for my idea. I want the audience to feel like they are gazing into a woman’s mind. That they’re seeing an intimate and private moment of reflection. They are voyeurs. They watch this movie and hear me sing-never seeing my face. They can only see the back of the chair that I am in. This photo to the left was taken during set up. It reveals one of my victories as a set designer-the $2.00 shower curtain creates my ‘movie screen’.
My daughter Clara is my usherette, bringing the audience down into this underbelly theatre. She’s dressed in my mothers actual wedding dress, which makes an appearance in the movie.
You can see both my mother and my daughter in this dress. My parents wedding photo is from 1960.
The Point of it All
After a life time of singing someone else’s music, in someone else’s staging and costumes and set, it is thrilling to leap into the unknown and create my own theatre.
In terms of my journey as a performer, I noticed with some interest that I didn’t want to be seen in this show. After so many years as the centre of attention as an opera singer, I am loving letting the piece I created speak through me, but not be about me. I still don’t know that I will come out and bow. I like the idea that this is every woman’s story and remaining faceless seems important.
Are you in Victoria?
Come and see it! Wednesday March 18 to Saturday March 21st. It’s free! There are other great mini plays to see as well. I’m on between 7 and 8 pm. The show is less than 10 minutes. If you are in town, come see it and drop me a note to let me know your thoughts.