A relaxing start to Prodigal 2011. Music calls for Peter and Chrissy, and character discussions with both of them. The music and acting are approached kind of oppositely – Matt starts with “these are the notes”, progressing to “this is how you sound good singing them” with interpretation being the final layer. I started with talking about whatever thoughts crossed our paths relating to the character, the show, the world they inhabit – these vague thoughts will move into specific discussions about the character in the scene, then technical discussions of blocking before music and acting meet up, and finally the actors let go of everything and play in the moment.
With Pete we ranged over topics like what fishermen are like in Australia (his experience is of WA fishermen, which is a similar, but wealthier world than Eden), what you choose to do with your life versus what your family expects (he moved from wanting to teach primary school to wanting to act), the role of Harry and Celia within their community, how they would have met and how they relate now and what being different does to you in a small community – being gay, or just having a son that is gay.
With Chrissy, we discussed performance/installation artists – how do they move into that very specific area? Chrissy had researched Marina Abramović, “the grandmother of performance art” – we talked about her famous piece, Rhythm 0 (1974) – where she was immobile for 6 hours, surrounded by 72 objects (feathers, rose thorns, a gun, a bullet) and a sign saying the audience could use them any way they wish. Initially reticent, they became bolder and bolder as the artist didn’t respond, whipping and cutting her, removing her clothes – at one point an audience member held the loaded gun to her head whilst another pulled it away. At 6 hours she stood and walked towards them and they fled.
We then talked specifically about Maddy, we decided she was 23, completely open to the world artistically, provocative in getting a response out of people, but sexually pretty innocent. That her father supports her financially, that she lost connection to her heritage when her mother died (Chrissy is half-Filipino so we decided to use that). When we first wrote Prodigal, mostly in 98/99, we based Maddy on elements of two women – a brilliant and eccentric actress/singer friend of ours and a performance artist that Matt lived with. In the decade that has passed since the type of girl who documents her life in extreme ways and likes challenging how she fits into the world has become much more common, and we’re going to explore that.
I discussed the set that designer Joanna Butler and I have been planning for weeks – the idea of water implicit in the piece (the musical is set in a fishing town and Sydney) becoming specific in the show through a real body of water onstage that allows the performance art/bashing to occur.