Friday, September 16, 2011

Manna-Hata: How It May Begin....

I'm writing the script for our next large-scale promenade performance, Manna-Hata, and it's been very slow-going: 400 years of NYC history in one event that (I hope) will be less than 2 hours long ain't easy. I have lots of material written but nothing that's been jazzing me in terms of how to approach the story.... until now. I think I've got something that may work. There's a dialogue scene that follows this stage direction but I'm still working on that. I'm interested to hear what others think: intriguing, confusing, something else? Let me know....
As the audience enters, THE BAND is playing: perhaps something fast and percussive in a classic NY jazz style. As the music ends, the lights fade slowly out. Silence. 
Lights up suddenly on a street corner in Manhattan. The ensemble are all frozen in place, as though they have been captured mid-stride by a photograph; in the middle of it all stands the SETTLER. At the same time, a musical cue suddenly sets the scene into motion and the ensemble begins to perform the Pedestrian Street Ballet (1): they travel along a grid pattern as though they are navigating sidewalks in an intricate, fast-paced dance. As they do, the SETTLER stands still in the middle of them while the Ballet takes place around her. Occasionally, she will watch an individual or an encounter between people but, for the most part, she is merely looking all around, blissfully trying to absorb the entire scene. 
After the ballet has been going for a while, the NATIVE enters. She expertly navigates the Street Ballet until she reaches the spot where the SETTLER is standing. At this moment, however, the SETTLER decides to leave her spot and interrupts the flow of the Ballet directly in front of the NATIVE. She attempts to sidestep but moves in exactly the same direction as the NATIVE; she tries again and they continue to block each other. After a few back-and-forths, their movement modifies into a partner dance/movement. The SETTLER is awkward with the dance but the NATIVE is patient and guides her through the steps.

During their scene, the Street Ballet continues with various members of the ensemble occasionally tossing interjections into the dialogue.
The Street Ballet is a recurring theme I hope to use in the piece—something that can be modified to indicate time/place, if needed.
(1) "Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations." —Jane Jacobs

1 comment:

Gabriel Shanks said...

The first words I've seen of Manna-Hata! Yay! The ballet, especially in the sense of urban patterns a la Jane Jacobs, is an intriguing visual concept. The SETTLER and NATIVE are a little less focused for me, but that may be that I'm trying to fit them into the idea of "dancing" together, which has a political connotation that will make the actual choreography a very delicate thing. It's a smart idea, but maybe flesh out what you want the dance between them to communicate? Just a thought. So excited for this piece!