Back from Leuven after a week at the STUK kunstencentrum with the full cast of Five Sisters (Violetta Sanchez, Einat Tuchman, Adva Zakai, Veridiana Zurita), director Jane Zingale and director’s assistant Vivian Ziherl.
These days were meant for working with the body and the mind. Jane Zingale, one of the original actresses from de Cointet’s plays, was invited to be the director of Five Sisters, as she has the skills to develop a complex interactivity with the new team. Also, she understood that our project is not about remaking the past but, as she says in her ‘exercises’, it is about “being in the moment”, and about keeping a flow of energy in the movements on stage.
I keep thinking about ‘spiritual exercises’ and the Jesuits. Joyce, Lacan… being raised in that type of school. It is linked to a baroque time, the one of Ignasius of Loyola. I always think about Guy de Cointet as a minimal and baroque figure, or a minimalist perverted by contemporary mannerism, the mannerism of the ‘Theory of the Young Girl’ (Théorie de la jeune fille), an essay written by the collective TIQQUN.
Vivian Ziherl pointed out that there is something about the ‘realness’ that she found in the camp-gay film Paris is Burning. I link it to what Jack Smith is looking for too: the consciousness of the moment. That’s what Jane Zingale calls “deliberation”; being deeply immersed in one unique thing, so that all the body is absorbed. It is what we see in the last film made by Guy de Cointet, in which he recorded the routine of a neighbor on her balcony: there is a deep presence of the self in each gesture. The ‘Old Lady’ we see in this film is Guy de Cointet’s superstar, as Vivian pointed out. And she is beautiful because she is totally there, absorbed in folding-unfolding the newspaper, rolling the wire, hanging her underwear or towels. While she cleans, folds, and classifies things by size and color, it seems that each little thing has its place, belongs somewhere, to a secret order. We can also think about St. Francis’ dialogues with birds, or about Pasolini’s attraction to everyday small details. It is very Joycian; ‘the world in a nutshell’. It is when you look at someone who is deeply absorbed, and believes in what he is doing, that you become a spectator.
What kind of action creates and builds an audience? When does a spectator become a viewer, when does a public become an audience? The audience as a sculpture….
Baroque is also the time when caricature emerges. ‘Caricare’ means wearing a mask on the face, wearing something on your back. The characters exaggerate in Guy de Cointet’s plays, but they always remain elegant and gracious. They are ‘tableaux vivants’, meaning they are posing, like models, but they pose to compose a scene, a still image, for a few seconds, and then they come back to the bustle of daily agitation and movement. Five Sisters is a series of tableaux vivants in a way. This renewing of tableaux vivants is present in the work of many artists today, for instance in the practice of Ulla Von Brandenburg. It is sometimes linked to ‘pre-cinematic’ issues, or to a wish to produce with the most simple, low budget means. Like Jack Smith, Guy de Cointet invented very simple props, that everyone can make, and very often the actresses made them with his instructions. It is a matter of amateurism, taking charge of the tools of production and questioning authorship. All strategies employed against ‘The Industry’, by creating works of art instead of products. That is why Five Sisters cannot be reduced to entertainment, even if it makes use of the means of entertainment.
After viewing the actresses on stage, the role of Veridiana, one of our cast members, as Maria, was self evident. We didn’t have to argue about it at all, in a minute after we had our morning coffee we decided on this obvious choice. It was great to see the actresses becoming their characters, and becoming themselves too.
Einat with her ability to have different faces, behaviors, quick changes, with her hair, eyes, glasses, non glasses, will be a perfect Eileen, or Rachel…?
Adva is just Dolly. Her sculptural body, with her swimmer back and black hair made me think about Egyptian frescoes, or athletic New Objectivity’s photographs.
Violeta, whose wonderful graphic gestures and elegant model manners create gracious shapes in space. She can also be very funny and doesn’t play the diva at all. She was in fact one of Guy de Cointet’s favorite actresses – he had written the character Dr. Abraham especially for her in the play De toutes les couleurs.
Looking at them practicing yoga every morning was like seeing flowers blooming, their t-shirts and their colorful pants, all moving in harmony with their arms and legs. This was pure concentration. It was a great moment to start the day, with thanks to Jane. The exercises about stage presence that Jane introduced were surprising at first, but helped everyone find their place on stage and work together, while having fun and being able to discover new things with their bodies and voice. Connected to the Living Theater and to certain experiences of the 1970s, these exercises also allowed the actresses to let go of their knowledge and their “good ideas”, as Jane put it.
In the afternoons we read the script, looked at films and shared comments about such themes as “what are the soap operas of today?”, “what is the difference between soap operas and series”?, “what is camp today”? “Is Grace Jones camp, and could she have been an icon for Guy?”
Violeta and Jane shared some memories from their experiments with Guy, but without placing too much importance on it, because our idea is to keep thinking what Five Sisters is today.