Lush Valley March Workshop: Saturday 3/19 by kristinmarting
March 28, 2011, 3:09 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Events, Research

We started off the day watching the cafe scene from Casablanca (when the Marseilles and the Germans sing against each other) to gather inspiration to sing our own Lush Valley anthem. We handed out lyrics to “Magic Penny” and “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?”, split the officers into two groups (each assigned a different song) and tried our own Lush Valley sing off. We then looked at Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds”, starting as a group and later breaking it into smaller sections.

We integrated this into a fantasy scene for one of the officers— finding a natural way to go from working within the office to singing Elvis’s song as commentary on the day-to-day stresses of working in the Lush Valley Department of Immigration.

We’re hoping to make this exercise available as an audience participation moment, having everyone in the room sing along with us, as well as finding other moments inside the piece where the audience is privy to conversations they shouldn’t be hearing. We’re trying to discover the logic for the participation device.

Going along with this, we’re trying to unlock the characters’ impulses in order to find places we can reveal secrets, private moments, or fantasies about the characters. Each performer was asked to write what their characters’ idea of the American Dream is and what the cost of that dream might be.

After some discussion, we broke into groups of three, one supervisor, one entry-level officer to conduct an interview, and one higher-level officer to act as the interviewee. It was helpful to see the supervisors working in the moment, giving quick tips to entry-level officers on how to conduct their interviews.

Next, we did an exercise to find what the first moment of the morning was for each officer, and then exploring their first moment after arriving at the office. After creating a few of these moments, we put everyone in the same room at a welcome party for newbie officer Georgie Rutherford.

These improvisational exercises were an excellent ending to the workshop.  We found several ways to resolve office conflicts, as well as positive moments of working together within the group. We discovered a lot of character behavior, inter-personal dynamics in the office and ways in which the audience can connect with our Lush Valley officers.



Think Tank #8: Group Discussion Notes by kristinmarting
March 25, 2011, 3:14 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Community, Events, Research


-“this generation” is much more available to info and experience.

–            losing the signals within inflection in emails, facebook, etc.

–             diminishing of what it is to be human than enlarging

  • Still define what we mean by “generation”

o   Baby boomers, etc

  • Future shock

o   In 5 yrs we’ll experience what most people experience in a lifetime.

o   The generation gaps are shortening.

  • Hot spot vs paying rent

o   Technology affects community? Telephone came in to play and there’s a huge element that affects community.

  • How education is taking over our community

o   Social interaction vs taking classes online

  • Community is space – a place where we can meet each other and a commonality can be discovered
  • When you’re alone and suddenly there’s community

o   Rugged individualism

  • Spantaneous moment of community (a la subway)
  • Self indentify

o   Disturbing to be connected via physicality, gender, race, etc

  • Private parks – having to have a key to get in
  • Trying hard to isolate yourself from everyone else

o   Rules and bi-laws for suburban communities

  • RAT community – theatres from across the counry and internationally, formed by whomever came by, came by as they are, who they are. Came about as the advent of internet – email, website. To always meet once a year.

o   A lot of collaborations came about from that comminuty

o   Being inclusive as opposed to exclusive

  • Community can identify itself by who it excludes

o   Gated community as a mechanism of control

§  If you’re not this, than you’re not allowed

§  Does your community have a boundary

o   Isolate yourself from a community that you think you should be a part of, because you don’t think you belong


o   Going in, knowing you’re going to die

o   They’re going to get exposed, yet they HAVE to do something

o   Same batteries in Japan to save what’s going on are 1/3 the strength of what they have. So if we have the same activity, we’re already fucked.

o   No control

o   How do we define bravery for ourselves and for our community

§  In the face of pure danger, how am I going to save them

§  What can we do?

o   Forward thinking, dangers of nuclear power plants.

o   In the face of danger we have to be super-conscious

o   Relinquishing ourselves to a helplessness about Japan

o   Michigan and Ohio

  • Rebuild the American Dream

o   Support for the unions

o   Earning a living wage

  • Even then we don’t have to go very far, happening in NY.

Lush Valley March Workshop: Thursday 3/17 by kristinmarting
March 23, 2011, 5:08 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Events, Research

Today, we began with an exercise in which the officers all took the RHETI Enneagram Test, which divides personality into 9 types: Reformer, Helper, Achiever, Individualist, Investigator, Loyalist, Enthusiast, Challenger, and Peacemaker.  They then had to guess which type each officer scored on their test, and then discuss the results amongst themselves.  It was a really fun and interesting way to look at the dynamics of the officers’ relationships.

The next exercise involved the comic book series “The 99”, which features 99 superheroes based on different aspects of Islamic culture and religion.  Each actor chose a superhero that they could most closely identify their officer with, and then split into two groups to create physical scenes that employed: the revelation of physical space, an obstacle that must be overcome, a sense of urgency, a moment of panic, a moment of celebration, and cooperation among the superheroes.  The exercise was a great way for the actors to explore iconic representations of their officers’ personalities.

Following that, we worked on creating a fantasy situation for each officer that was sparked by something in the office.  We work shopped a few of these scenes, in which the officers would break from reality and move into a heightened fantasy, such as an Elvis karaoke jam or a spy thriller, in order for them to explore a subconscious issue that they might not be comfortable discussing in the office.

The last exercise that we did today used a website called Project Implicit, created by Harvard to test social cognition and racial bias.  A few of the officers took the test, which was projected on stage for their fellow officers to see.  After the test, the officers discussed the results and how that officer’s bias might affect his or her ability as an immigration official.  We aren’t sure if we will end up using this in the ultimate performance, but it did open a very honest conversation between the officers about racial and religious bias.

Think Tank #8: Topic Notes: Community as a Minority, Deviant Group or Political Body by kristinmarting
March 22, 2011, 2:17 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Community, Events, Research


Community as a Minority
Deviation and Deviants
Community as a Political Body


Definition of terms:

People on the fringe
Genet – part of a community, but all about making the ugly be seen as beautiful.
America founded on principle of acceptance of all, regardless of creed, race, etc.; yet we still divide ourselves into further communities (racial, interests, etc.) – anyone defined as “other” can find a group they can fit into
Is there then a community of deviants?
Minorities form communities, deviants don’t – deviance becomes accepted and then becomes a fringe group/community
Means people who are purposefully excluded (i.e. pedophiles) – people with characteristics thought of as a perversion
Changing standards make these groups shift
But people who feel excluded reject community and form their own

People connected by some commonality
Not necessarily living in the same place/together
What constitutes community as a minority? Ex. Small persecuted ethnic group displaced; finding group of people in a strange environment.
Neighborhoods – shifting around, enclaves, cultural specificity (street signs in other languages, non-English communication as the norm)
Like a suffix thrown on a group of people (i.e. “African American community” “Homosexual community”)
Log Cabin – LGBT/supporter Republicans – trying to keep subset in line with the subset they’re already part of.
Commonality: people needing support for something: language, point of view, culture. Family comes in there – like-minded people.

What if you don’t even know the people in your community? Like the community of VW Bugs, honk and wave as though you know people, shared characteristic even if it is superficial

Community and the American Dream
People came here for opportunity for freedom
Also largely for economic freedom
People thought they had something to gain by coming to America
Freedom of choice.
Who do you choose to join with?
Peculiarly American – ability to reinvent yourself.
Same reason people move to large cities – ability to reinvent, change identity, be known as something different.
Fits in with deviance – not fitting in, option to leave and create/find different community – rather than be minority, become majority elsewhere?
Even living by yourself, there’s still a community you are part of…or perceived to be a part of?

What are you sacrificing to be come part of any given community?
How does this fit with the part of the American dream that idealizes rugged individualism (a la cowboys)

To be an effective political body, you are necessarily sacrificing self-interest for the sake of the group/political entity.

Is community about agreed upon conventions/codes/rules? Parameters to individualism…are our communities groups of people who agree on what is ok to do?
That’s maybe how it begins, it’s how people get along and agree on what they’re doing, then it expands, and transforms. And as it expands, it’s sacrificing itself (or what the original of itself was) to accommodate more people and their individualism.

Beginning with mutual need rather than altruism? Survival as the impetus?
Humans are animals who survive by socializing – so part of that is making up rules.
Complex social norms to establish structure, defense mechanism, way to understand each other quickly
Defining rules is the basis of culture wars
Interdependence, survival instincts (i.e. band together to weather the cold)

Is prosperity a detriment to community?
Takes away need/immediacy which was its original genesis
More people feel rootless in this generation, and feel rootless. Is it because we travel more, and are more likely to end up somewhere other than where we grew up?
How does our “global community” affect this – so many places we are able to go.

Benjamin Barber – Jihad vs. McWorld
How do you become inclusive and accepting without losing the tribal at the root of our traditions.
The interdependence movement – started right after 2001
Philosopher and social economist.
America exports the worst of itself, and no one gets to know the best parts
Yet why do people keep buying the worst of us? It becomes a luxury item elsewhere.

Catastrophe affecting communities
Both draws together and muddles – what do we do? How do we respond?
New York City
Provincial? People know the people in their neighborhoods.
Sense of small communities that doesn’t exist in other cities
Even deviants add local color and are part of the landscape integral to the community – outsider specific to a particular community (“that’s our homeless guy”)
People think it’s dangerous and faceless, and you don’t know anyone…misunderstood.
Difficult in suburban areas, cookie-cutter houses, places you drive – encourage isolation. In NYC we’re physically forced together, rub together, on sidewalks and subways etc.
Creativity sparked through unexpected interactions. Higher occurrences of creativity places where people have to improvise their physical walking paths.
Suburbia – centered around shopping and/or church – nothing to cling to culturally; arid; antiseptic

Community as a political body
To be lumped into a group that doesn’t necessarily match up with outside perception – frustrating, identity confusion; of that but not
Is culture community?
Being on the fringe
You can band together, rally, form mythologies and stories.
You want to define your own community, not have definition imposed from the outside.
“What do you identify as” vs. “What are you?” – allows self-definition and self-determination.
What if we want to be part of community but not necessarily let it dictate what we think? Demands that we toe the line in uncomfortable ways – do we change our beliefs to feel at home in our community, or do we separate from our community to stick to our beliefs (and in so doing, lose our political power)?
The way to fight patriarchy is not to form matriarchy – community-forming as fencing in? Threatens our individuality?
Automatic skepticism toward groupthink.
Changing the culture of a community by joining it.
“I am part of this but not of this” – and then can alter what they’re in. Those people are the leaders – not being totally immersed allows change and insight.
Authentic connection.

Art making as creation of community
Religion creates connection in a similar way
Yoga. Content not as important as collective energy.

At its most basic level, is community just a place to show up?
And how about accidental or organic communities, that form themselves rather than are sought out.
Kids, disasters, sickness – create connections

RAT – theaters from around the country talking about work, how to make it, how it can exist in each others’ communities
Political act; networking act;
Lack of cohesion?
Agreed-upon tenets as a basis: whoever comes is who is supposed to be here; create theater with no money
Banding together to resist outside pressure?
Pulling itself apart because with enough people involved, too many ideas of what it should be…

2am theater – blog
Huge conversation about how to make work and what it’s about

Ongoing conversations in different parts of the world – projects come out of online conversation. About how to create meaningful dialogue, based on how the dialogue is begun.
Local and global simultaneously

Constant mutating and changing = constantly running after groups that dissolve or change; or find group but can’t find a way in.
Timing as an important factor.
“Fringe” as more populous than those considered “successful” (innovative vs commercial theater)

The mainstream change starts in theater – get it on stage and people start to notice? Ways to tell stories about people like us.
An attraction of theater – a chance to put all that in front of others (what is our mythology – who are our heroes, villains, gods?)
I do this to show how we’re all the same
If we can get to know each other, all our differences become commonalities, and that’s how communities start – demystifying the “other”
Creating safe spaces is creating communities.

Lush Valley March Workshop: Wednesday 3/16 by kristinmarting
March 21, 2011, 2:12 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Events, Research

Today we began by finishing up the officers “TED talks” from Tuesday.  There were some very funny and inspiring, speeches that gave us all a lot of insight into the inner lives of the characters.   Some examples of the officers proposals: a website for the bartering of volunteer services, improving the world by simple tinkering, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and a 1,001 night festival of art and culture led by Iranian women as a way to honor the complex identity of the modern Muslim woman.

After three days of investigating the first three phases of Jim Cullen’s The American Dream, we decided to shift from dream research to character research.  We found that the Cullen research and exercises were engaging and rich, and yet not generating the scenes that we want to add to the show.  So, for the next three days, we are focusing on building scenes that involve the officers but also bring out the phases of the American Dream outlined in Cullen’s book. For example, a water cooler conversation between Jason and Kim could easily and actively bring up religious freedom, allowing the audience to engage in an important tenet of Lush Valley while also learning more about the characters and their relationships.

We are very excited to discover this form, to build on the original structure with a more modern and personal approach to imparting valuable information about the world of Lush Valley to the audience.  We believe that by keeping our audiences engaged in the world of the Lush Valley officers, we will be able to introduce them to Lush Valley in a much more organic way.

We worked on several character-based exercises today that brought out some key issues of our Jim Cullen research. The first exercise paired two Lush Valley officers together in an awkward lunchroom situation in which they discussed a contentious topic that their characters might not agree on.  The second exercise involved “water cooler talk” in which characters exited and entered while officer Georgie Rutherford tried to get them to sponsor her in an AIDS dance-a-thon.   The last exercise that we explored was an office meeting in which officer Angela Cohen proposed an office book club; each officer had to propose and vote for the list of books that they would read.  It brought up some very interesting moments in which characters had to confront topics that they might not fully agree on.

Think Tank #8: Topic Notes: Challenge of Community in an Urban Setting by kristinmarting
March 19, 2011, 2:21 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Community, Events, Research


The challenge of community in a large urban setting like NYC
How do you create & sustain community?
Who are the poeople in your neighborhood?
Do you have a community?


-Meeting so many people in NY, not being able to remember them
-Most of the people you meet you have short experiences and then you have to be on your way
-Being in theater we have a lot of intense connection, but then they’re gone.
-An ethereal nature to NY, especially within the theater community
– More doesn’t necessarily mean deeper
-Just because we meet more people in a day, doesn’t mean we’d like to know all of them forever
-The different communities one has and what it’s like if they interact
-Family vs friends
-High school vs college
-Where do you seek community?
– You find it within your own personality. Cut your own path.
– Individual creates the community
-The architecture of keeping a community together

  • Church, sharing once a week
  • Art NY Christmas party
  • Creating that structure of seeing each other and maintaining that
  • Even facebook provides one, even if a superficial one

– Not realizing the community is there until one reaches out to it.
– Feeling safe, community as a place where you feel safe.

  • Geography
  • Heightened level of need
  • Maybe more apparent in an urban setting such as NY

– Do we connect more to strangers bc there is so many differences amongst us.
– Community as an idea, not necessarily about people
– Sometimes you forget about it, sometimes you don’t want it, sometimes needing it – it
feels good to know it’s there.
– No one can really define what commnunity is.
– There are times when I feel connected and times when, even I choose, to be alienated.
– NY is a community of black sheep
– Being welcomed by a group of people that understand what it is you yourself understand
– Community is a place where you don’t have to start at zero
– What we experience in the theatrical world (saying we’ll have lunch soon and it never happens) is seen as hypocritical.
– Shortcut to communication
– 100% commitment within a community is a cult

Lush Valley March Workshop: Tuesday 3/15 by kristinmarting
March 18, 2011, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Ambition, American Dream, Events, Research

Today we started by finishing the second phase of the workshop, which focused on the Declaration of Independence and the tenet of FREEDOM. The Lush Valley immigration  officers discussed different possibilities for a potential creative protest, involving everything from shoes to flowers. They talked about the frustrations that today’s generation faces with the concept of protest, in an age when the idea of creating any real social change in America feels extremely challenging. They also discussed the cyclical nature of the American Dream—that when a generation creates a certain amount of social change, their children don’t have that experience of being able to fight for social justice.

After wrapping up that exercise, we moved on to the third phase of Cullen’s American Dream and dove into the concept of upward mobility (economic and/or social advancement). The tenet for this section of the work is AMBITION. We researched 2-3 person scenes from various plays and novels, and brought them to the table to explore the different relationships involved in the competitive workplace. Next, we did some team building exercises for the Lush Valley officers. In the first exercise, each officer wrote three self-descriptive adjectives, and then their fellow officers matched those adjectives with each officer’s name. Following this, each officer came up with a fourth adjective for every officer. In the second exercise, each officer simply answered questions that revealed something about their character, such as “If you could ask one question to determine whether someone should be leader of Lush Valley, what would it be?”

We ended the day with an exercise that involved each actor researching videos from TED conferences that promote a certain idea or philosophy, and then creating a “TED speech” from their characters point of view that advocates for the success of an important idea or philosophy.