Saturday, February 14, 2009

U&E: First Impressions

posted by Marissa Nielsen-Pincus

The following is from notes written prior to our first performances in the Winter Garden, from research done a few months back:I had two thoughts on entering the Winter Garden for the first time on a Wednesday morning a few months ago:
First- Where is the garden?
And then- Wow! It's a shopping mall!!
I must say that at first I was a little disappointed to find that it isn't much of a garden and that it did have a rather sterile and corporate feel (though the palm trees are gorgeous!).
But, as I sat there that first morning for a few hours, things began to appear that I couldn't see at first. They uncovered themselves, one by one, to help me form a very different impression. We had already come up with the name: Undercurrents & Exchange, and that morning was a good lesson that undercurrents don't show themselves with first impressions.

At first, all I saw was the morning coffee rush, making their B-line up and down the marble stairs in their ties and conservative colors, walking fast and a little rigid. Then the nest of nannies caught my eye, swarmed around the foot of a couple palm trees. Their colorful strollers, and just the fact that they wore colors made them feel like a warm rainbow, buzzing away to each other. One-by-one, their babies, toddlers, and kids began to venture away from the palms to crawl, teeter, and conquer the marble staircase as if it were a mountain. As I watched their adventurous moves, I wondered if we could possibly come up with choreography any more exciting than watching a two year old balance on one foot, leaning off the stair case while laughing. The thing that made it all the more amazing was that no one seemed to notice. Only an occasional nanny would come to catch a falling child. For the most part the coffee rushers and everyone else walked on by.
Next, it was the tourists that popped out. They posed in front of not so monumental things and lounged on the benches exhausted as if they'd been walking for days.
I wrote in my note book:3 types of people; business people, nannies/babies, and tourists.
As it began to get closer to lunch time, I started to add to my list of 'people' until it wasn't really a list anymore but two pages of jumbled thoughts.
Around noon, the construction workers started to stream in from Ground Zero. They were dusty, and when you looked at them, they almost seemed a little blurry. I noticed elderly people with their caretakers out for a slow stroll. A fieldtrip of 30 11-year olds flooded in and completely changed something in the whole space, their voices bouncing everywhere. There were static people who meet, discuss, and wait... and moving people who darted through in linear pathways. There were people who ate alone and people who ate with friends or co-workers. And then, there were the random people who I couldn't figure out. I wanted to ask them why they were there. While I was studying one of them, I realized that I was one of those random people who didn't fit into any of my categories, and for a moment I wondered if there were other artists like me there in the winter garden doing research for their next project.
This huge space seems to accept whoever enters, making space for everyone to do their own thing and not be interrupted. By 1pm it was alive and colorful, buzzing with conversation and exchange.
I look forward to discovering how we will fit into this wide spectrum when performing daily and how all these people will respond to us. Getting a sense of who inhabits this space and how they use it gives me many ideas of how we, as artists, can approach it.

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