A Short History of the Short History of the Charming Elusive.
We began in the summer of 2010. The idea behind the Charming Elusive was to build a writing group, to form a strong community of people that were consistent and serious about developing work. At some point we had a steady flow of returning members who brought in stories, shared, critiqued, gave feedback and comments. It was great and consistent for a number of weeks.
At some point the Border Theatre's first Exhibition's in Disconnection was going on and Charming Elusive was put on the backburner in order to concentrate with the BT project. Ryan and myself were co-directing three plays that were part of the show. Neither Ryan or I had any past experience with theatre, but we dove into it and discovered amazing things. For the next two years we tried to be as consistent as possible in writing and developing new work. We produced several original little works during this time before everything came to a crashing halt. Looking back, I find nothing but deep appreciation for the actors that worked with us. In fact, I sometimes ask myself how they didn't walk out of rehearsals, especially when we made them rehearse to Nine Inch Nails. Our poor actors, we put them through hell. I specifically remember Carlos in the play How One Twin Absorbed the Other, where we accidentally put him in a bathtub full of what he claimed smelled like sour milk. It was unintentional of course, but how is that for actor motivation? We had nothing but a very serious enthusiasm and desire to produce something interesting. Needless to say, they put up with a lot.
After the first Exhibitions, some of the members went quickly to work on the next big idea, titled the Fregoli Project. The project was mostly lead by Ryan Perry. Only a few of the members of BT participated in it. How we got away with some of the things during the Fregoli Project is still a mystery to me, but it seemed we were riding some crazy wave and were absolutely fearless. Ryan would probably be the best person to explain the project, but needless to say it was very involved and there were a lot of logistical issues that in the end made The Fregoli Project be shut down the night before Halloween. Interestingly enough there is no evidence the Fregoli Project every happened and only those who were around, who experienced it, who witnessed the madness, might remember. Click here to read Ryan's take on the project.
For the Barbed Wire, we conceived of three new pieces to be performed that night. One of them was to be a kind of audience tester. The work we did as Charming Elusive were often straight collaborations. Ryan and I sat down and threw around ideas until we found something that seemed to fit. I think at some point I wondered what would happen if somebody went up and read a racist poem in an open mic. So, that's what we did, and Ryan, of course, would be the one to go up and do it. I composed a little poem with clear racist comments and Ryan went up in front of a full audience and read the poem while the very brave Carlos Rubalcalva removed his clothes. The poem, of course, caused some audience reaction which was the intention. The audience was unsure what to make of the whole thing, and just as things got awkward, the plan was, the rest of us would go up and begin to sing and dance to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
The second piece we performed that night was titled Anniversary, a small theatrical piece that traces the life of a relationship, condensing its contradictions, chaos, self destructive tendencies, and good intentions into a couple of minutes.
The third and final piece we performed that night was titled "Snow/Rabbit" and it was a rather elusive and surreal piece that given inadequate preparation, not to mention resources, affected the piece somewhat (at that time the head of the Border Theatre thought BT resources were not to be used on works not develope by the head of the Border Theatre).
All the people involved were down as hell. The piece was somewhat unconventional. Carlos Rubalcalva agreed to memorize what was at least two pages of monologue in only a couple of days. Everyone of those people that worked with us showed incredible trust and patience. This very fun time couldn't have been possible without them. I seem to remember everything happening so fast, so fast, in fact, that we often had little to no time to process what was happening.
Ryan and I were always looking to explore ideas of communication. Snow/Rabbit like many of Charming Elusive works, is about the strange nature of our communication, about its futility, about its necessary and painful aspects.
Charming Elusive continued to work with BT for a few more months, although tensions with certain members were building. Ryan directed a play titled Kitten Kill Lion for the Ugly Apples production. For me, it was at this juncture that I personally became, to use a nice word, disappointed with many aspects of the BT and one of its members in particular. From what I remember this was a very frustrating experience for Ryan as well. Ryan also took part in Roland Esparza's one man show Ned Shapiro. Not long after that, we quit BT and moved on.
We started doing some work for Glasbox. We were assigned to create their website and track members and participants, while documenting their work and progress. There was a deal made and Ryan and I set out to spend considerable amount of time talking with Glasbox members and working on their stories. In the end, of course, all our work on the website was lost. But out of this came a few good things. First, was our interview with the local band The Lusitania. And while it was one of the most awkward moments of my life, for I was inadequately prepared and exhausted (that day I had turned in a few long final papers for school) and was in a mind state that was simply trying to emerge from hours of study and research, it proved to be a rather entertaining interview with the band.
Ryan and I try to catch the Lusitania every chance we get and we always laugh at how ridiculous that interview must have seemed to them. Ryan had a pretty good ability in those days to convince me that certain things were good ideas. In fact, I believe he still possesses that ability. There were a lot of those moments. Among others that we got to interview were the band Sound on Sound, a group of really cool, creative, and talented guys. We also interviewed A.P.T. Movement, and The Sect, all of which, I believe are either broken up or altered.
While our work for the Glasbox site was never compensated, we learned a lot from those experiences and were then given the opportunity to mount our very own large scale project. This was set to happen in September of 2011 and the months preceding the project are somewhat of a blur. Things kept going wrong, people kept dropping out or not coming through. These sorts of things happen and we did the best we could with what he had and what we knew at the time.
Vivisection was by far the largest project Ryan and I ever attempted and we remain quite proud of it. You can see a condensed (and somewhat sloppily edited) version of the entire project in the video to the left. It was comprised of ten original works, some collaborative and some written by either Ryan or myself. The first piece in the program included a piece called Accelerating Returns, about a married robot couple suffering from what might be described as the robot equivalent of old age. Coincidence of Consciousness. This piece was conceived by Ryan and utilized two dancers who were to be blindfolded and expected to dance together with inhibited eyesight. At certain points in the song, during the chorus, they were to be pulled apart to dance alone and then pushed back together during the verse.
Then, there was Lungs. A piece that due to time restrictions and chaos was never developed in the way I would have liked. I suppose this is true of all pieces actually. Lungs was a kind of performance piece, where I was buried for a good three to four minutes under a mount of sand. While under the sand there is a recording of various works of literature being read: a kind of representation of the subconscious, of the inner voices that make up ones creative DNA.
Then, there was WALDO the amazing hypnotist, written by Ryan Perry. Ryan developed this great character, unfortunately there was trouble casting it, although we got lucky in the end with a very well respected performer Chris Adame.
Then there was Inflorescence, a dance piece wherein I found myself in the middle with four dancers tethered to me. The idea was kind of based on some theory of consciousness I had been into at the time and it made for some cool visuals, discounting the fact that I myself was not a dancer and should not have been there.
After the dance piece there was a screening of a film by Seven Second Productions, clips of which I do not have in my possession.
Then, there was Jesse James in Time, a piece inspired by a semester long research project on Jesse James and his portrayal in film over the decades. I fell in love with Jesse James and thought I would add my own depiction of the story in a different way.
Our final piece was one titled Funeral. It was a piece about the internal world of grief. A young man commits suicide and the piece shows his funeral, the quiet and somber outer world and the chaotic and intense internal happenings of those who knew him.