Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Hairy Ape and Chaos Theory

Posted by John Byrnes of The Hypocrites

John Byrnes
If you're following The Hypocrites’ blog posts—yes, our rehearsal hall still feels like a remote outpost in Kamachatka. (I think I just like saying Kamachatka.)

If you’re familiar with The Hairy Ape, you know that on a very basic level, it’s about a man named Yank who tries to find his place in society. Early in the script, his entire world is shattered. Yank must then reconstruct a new world view for himself, one into which he fits. Through this journey, he repeatedly identifies what does and what does not “belong.”

Last week, my fellow Critter* Rob McLean blogged about the excitement of the first read-through. Well, first run-throughs are usually a different story. They tend to be rather clumsy and lack the idyllic optimism of new beginnings. It’s the kind of event that can inspire a lot of stress and bouts of insomnia for actors. The whole cast scurries around, frantically grasping for a clue as to what comes next. The creative team respectfully tries not to cringe at the flailing about on stage. We had our first run-through the other day, and while it was not the stunning production you will see in a few weeks, it went pretty well.

If you have ever seen a show helmed by Sean Graney, you know that he pulls production elements from a wide variety of sources. The Hairy Ape is no exception. Without giving too much away, the show sources elements from sea shanties to John Coltrane, Vaudeville to expressionism, King Kong to Saturday Night Fever and more. This is my 11th or 12th production with Sean and I’m always amazed by his facility for blending seemingly unrelated ingredients into a cohesive whole.

Perhaps because our first run-through was not a train wreck (as I must admit, I somewhat expected it to be), I didn’t leave the rehearsal hall in a state of panic. Instead, I wondered about the role chaos plays in the creative process. So, I went home and googled “chaos creative process.” I was surprised by the vast amount of research that has been conducted on this topic. The two quotations below particularly struck me, especially in relation to this rehearsal process:

“The main dynamic growth in the creative process comes about from linking new
ideas with aspects of already accumulated knowledge...This stage of the process
leads to an emergence of inner understanding, reflecting order emerging...into
an infinite world of complex, unfolding change...In viewing the creative process
as a 'chaotic' system it is possible to understand how the process works...It is
a way of envisioning holistically the component parts and their interdynamics
that lead to the creative product.”
—Barbara Regent, Reflective
Qualities of the Artistic Creative Process and Chaos Theory

“I say to you: one must have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a
dancing star.”

So, I guess a personal goal for me is to more whole-heartedly embrace the chaos. It sure makes for exciting theater! As Yank would say, “That belongs.”


* “The Critters” is actually the name of The Hypocrites' softball team. Yes, we have a softball team. And we’re pretty good. Certainly better than the Goodman’s softball team ;)
(I don't think we've ever played the Goodman’s team, but I may have just instigated a new crosstown classic.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi John...Your words are wonderful. You write so intellegently. Hope i get to see you perform one of these days. I always ask about you. Keep up the good work.
    Your Mums very best friend,