The Marriage of Mom & Dad: An exploration in crossing boundaries of form to stage the ineffable
McLaughlin, Mary Poindexter
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As poet Robert Creeley once wrote, "Form is never more than an extension of content." Creeley's seemingly simple pronouncement explains the changes in artistic form that often occur after significant events, such as the rise of German expressionism after World War I and body-focused environmental theatre in reaction to 1950s conformity. When content defies comprehension - even on the scale of personal experience - aesthetic forms evolve to express the previously inexpressible. The Marriage of Mom & Dad is an original artistic project that engages time-based arts such as dance, movement, poetry, and theatre to portray elusive experiences, specifically, the past, memory, and absence. The term "artistic project" is deliberately open, reflecting the fluidity of this project. At this stage in development, any of the media could supersede the others. In many ways, this project is an exploration of formal expression across media within a process in which formal expressions are responsive to the subject matter as it develops. These specific media - poetry, drama, and movement - can stretch, and in some cases, move beyond the limitations of language. As such, they are uniquely suitable to explore and articulate the emotional landscape of a 39-year marriage and its dissolution by death. The Marriage of Mom & Dad draws from the work of artists who have struggled to unearth untapped modes of telling, working between disciplines. Of particular relevance is the poetic drama of William Carlos Williams, a poet who tackled the monumental questions of life and death through engagement with the familiar and quotidian, and the plays of Suzan-Lori Parks and Paula Vogel, modern poetic dramatists who have experimented with structural and linguistic form. Specifically, Parks's use of repetition and revision to create a play's "architecture," and Vogel's innovative uses of voice transference and shifting perspective to blur temporal lines will inform the piece. Finally, the piece looks toward the works of Pina Bausch, who said, "When I first began choreographing, I never thought of it as choreography but as expressing feelings. Though every piece is different, they are all trying to get at certain things that are difficult to put into words." The final outcome included a staged reading of a first draft on December 1, 2014 at the University at Buffalo (UB) in front of an invited audience, engaging collaborators from the Buffalo theatre community in consultation with the UB dance faculty. It was also accompanied by a critical reflection that evaluates my efforts through the lens of my research, early thinking, and original goals. By creating a new work that crosses boundaries of form, and then reflecting on that process, I hope to articulate the experience of shaping loss and remembrance for the benefit of others who also seek to stage the ineffable.