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  • Writer's pictureZachary Desmond

#7 of 18: FLIGHT AND FEATHER

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

// IMAGINARY ATLAS //

June 23, 2023

Vol 1, Issue 7


Comrades!

In lieu of continuity, here are excerpts from last month's adventures. It's been decadent, the inner and outer selves starting to integrate in ways that are... disquieting! As always, I love to hear your thoughts should you feel the desire to share them. If you didn't read last month's issue, it's here and it's one of my favorites.


Travels and Journeys


Outside of Hannasried, Bavaria, a village of maybe 150 people where Mona spent a large chunk of her childhood, there is a short forested trail to a chapel built by a man who saw an apparition.

The apparition said, “Build a chapel here. I was supposed to do it in my lifetime but I didn’t manage it, will you do it for me?”

“Yes, of course,” said the man.

The apparition then told him that when he was finished, he would die and his wife would go mad. The man stayed true to his word, finished the chapel as dutifully as he intended, and shortly thereafter, died, and his wife went mad.

It’s a perfect story. Promises little, delivers everything.


---


Rockclimbing above Henningsvaer, I tell Garrett and Vincent that I have made peace with my maker and am ready to face whatever the climb has in store. But on the rock itself, hanging 40 meters above the stony slough from a rope secured by a stranger to unseen clifftop boulders, I am shaking. Find your feet first, says Vincent, and then you can focus on your hands. But my legs are shaking and my hands are sweating. You will not fall, I tell myself, just remember that, there is a harness, there are ropes. And just to make sure, I push through my toes, lean my hips out away from the cliff, and let go.


---


I sprint from the Arctic waves bubbling behind me on Kvalvika beach but this time I’m not cold. I crouch onto all fours. The whole way here, I hunted for magic mushrooms in the grasses below the saddle and without actually finding any, I am super high. I stay low to the ground, the simple song of a mountain prowler, leaping from rock to rock in bare feet. I climb as high as I can go, other animals in tow. We wait there, in silence, on the high hill, listening for whispers, assured that the rose-gold cliffs have something to tell us. I don’t know what they said but it was clear to all three of us when the telling was done. We retreat back to the fire where our human comrades have built a barbecue of birch wood and granite, haloumi, chicken, and onion chunks on long kebabs.


---


I leave a bouquet for Annabel on her pillow and take the train to Cham. We eat burgers and walk the forest loop, finding nettles and mint, elderberry and rosehips. The spot where the old barn burned down. The house where the little girl died suddenly, where no one has stayed long since. When Mona starts the prayer the day after her birthday, the first full day of her 37th year, even in German I know the words for North, South, East and West. Jakob begins to drum and I am back in New Mexico, under my favorite rock in the world. The flowers greet me from their crack in the sandstone. Two ravens swirl ever upward in a helix just north and east. These are familiar friends and protectors. I slip underground into a geometric cube, a tomb under the pyramids. There, almost immediately, I meet a bird, a great black and grey Eagle, fierce, a warrior with pearly black feathers and piercing eyes. Its wings are spread, talons tucked in flight as it welcomes me with a nod of its noble head. This is my spirit animal.

Are you my spirit animal?

Yes.

And you will be my guide?

Yes.

You don’t need me to guide you?

No.

What is your name?

ICHTHAYA, written on the cave wall behind him.

Where shall we go?


I grabbed hold of his tail. And we went.

Award Season


I am honored to officially announce that I am the 2023-2025 Artistic Fellow with Playhouse Creatures Theater Company. It’ll be my privilege and pleasure to make work for the next two years knowing I have institutional support to really stretch myself as a theater maker and build up some continuity over TWO YEARS of creative experimentation. Ideas for the Fellowship Years:


  1. Gibberish plays

    1. I just spent ten days in Germany watching theater and dance in you guessed it German.

    2. The experience of watching theater in a truly (to me) unknown language was challenging, thrilling and freeing.

    3. Sometimes the shows had supertitles in English and sometimes they didn’t; both experiences were fascinating.

    4. In this experiment, actors improvise their way to scenes/relationships we want to investigate further; the actors find their way through the scene again but without the use of shared language; we rehearse the scene in gibberish until it’s consistent; then we add supertitles in English, text related to the original scene or not.

  2. Walking Solo / Floating Solo

    1. I stumbled upon a one-person play wherein the audience followed a mic’d actor around central Munich, catching up to him in spots where he would perform, very quietly, a monologue wired into the headphones of the 20 or so spectators, usually about birds, I think? I don’t know German.

    2. In this experiment, we follow a man crossing midtown Manhattan from Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station to Grand Central, stuck in the city, trying to find his way off the street between these two ports of entry.

    3. There was another play on a gondola on the River Spree, a meditative one-act performed by an actor/boat pilot for an audience of two or three, a story about the river as we rowed gently across it.

    4. In this experiment, we put 3 or 4 actors on different rowboats in Central Park’s lagoon, telling stories across the bow of each other’s boats as they row the audience members around the lake.

  3. Litter Pickers

    1. In Norway, it is someone’s full time, year-round job to drive around the country and pick up litter.

    2. In this experiment, the stage is absolutely covered in trash. I don’t know what happens in the play, but it is over when the two actors are done picking up every piece of trash.

  4. Building See Invisible

    1. A series of verbatim monologues excerpted from interviews with people living in or adjacent to NYC’s homelessness social service network.

  5. Finishing Silas the Great

    1. A play about a woman living in small town Alaska whose husband is diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer on the night of their wedding. The community rallies around him as his health declines, but abandons her as she faces the grief and fury of losing her best friend well before he’s gone.

  6. Finishing the two other plays in the Troglobites Triptych

    1. The action of that play is an encounter with death for eight Americans entombed in a limestone cavern for 22 days. One of the eight characters intentionally implodes the entrance to this cave in protest against unmitigated privatization of public spaces and national parks. While none of them survive, the events of the play coincide with a paradigm-breaking hemispheric event that profoundly affects the three adult children of Hank Order (Henry Order, Jr. is heir apparent to the mining company purchasing the cave in Troglobites). Each play in the triptych shares a common alternate history of North America and features one of the Order children on the eve of their death. All three plays are populated by characters who believe they are personally responsible for either stopping an impending ecological apocalypse, or for inciting it.

    2. TROGLOBITES

Seven Americans are stuck in a cave a mile beneath New Mexico and just above the Underworld when they realize Time is running out, someone else is in the cave, and no one is coming to save them. The play coincides with a paradigm-breaking hemispheric event that profoundly affects three siblings (The Order children) in three different co-occurring plays, of which Troglobites is first.

  1. RIPARIA A brother and sister lead a dwindling fertility cult responsible for guarding a portal to the afterlife in a coastal Northwest rainforest. Two detectives (one of whom is Helen Order) receive a human trafficking tip that leads them to their palatial greenhouse on the edge of the rainforest on the same day that someone finally visits from the other side. Contrary to prophecy, he is not a goddess. He is human and here for water. All of it.

  2. CHIXCULUB

A Jesuit priest in Mexico falls in love with a trans woman (Hayden Order) who is conducting Theater of the Oppressed workshops at the heart of their favela on the Yucatan Peninsula. When the priest is coerced by his superior to stop the workshops and encourage habitants of the favela to relocate themselves, he begins to be visited by the spirits of dinosaurs killed millions of years ago by the Chixculub asteroid, soon-to-be exhumed by a multinational natural gas company.


Just some ideas for dishes! Lotta plates, whole lotta plates.

Mercury Store Spring Season, Some Reflections


Nine associative word salads for the latest three months at Mercury Store (Spring Season, February to May):


Hamlet with Will Frears and Emma Went

  • T-Shirt Dramaturgy!

  • Hamlet Hamlet Hamlet Hamlet Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich

  • What a piece of work is man: building a fort out of beach chairs and body pillows.

The Firebugs with Peter Cook

  • Paper puppets in fifteen minutes or less!

  • Set them on fire!

  • Film the fruit!

  • All puppets are innocent (like animals, children) so what do we do when some of these puppets have nefarious intents?!

Devising with Carrie Heitman and Hook and Eye

  • An academic research paper about secondary loss

  • The imminent extinction of the small town American Hardware store

  • Also, baroque femme espionage and a post office from the 1700s

Failed clown project

  • Late ancient Greek comedy, what do democracies find funny when they’re about to fall apart?

  • Misogyny! Hard to make it funny, especially if you don’t know it’s misogyny!

  • Grateful for the often terrible and diversionary but ultimately fortifying work of EDIB at school.

Madea with Dominique Ryder

  • Five translations and it’s not about divorce Ben Foster!

  • Loving table work and analysis about a classic play I’d never seen or read

  • In awe of the collective intelligence of a room of artists

Bloodtide with Eli Nixon

  • A new holiday, a transformation!

  • A fabric meditation on the creatures of the ocean, our own oceanness

  • Time gets busted, the ego fractures, there is a drag show and I am loving my anemone body.

Sound of Music with Zhailon Levingston

  • The historical Maria Von Trapp reunites with her children in the final days of her life in the nursing home down the road from the Von Trapp Lodge in rural Vermont

  • We cry every day, a gentle, productive, rigorous creative team

  • The investment in ensemble is paying dividends

The Henrik Ibsen Mash-up with Sibyl Kempson

  • The warp and the weft Henrik! Looming looms!

  • A gunsucking bananafucking Hedda

  • Sometimes you get to play Nora for a few days and it feels so right

Spunk by Zora Neale Hurston with Tamilla Woodard

  • Zora Neale Hurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, which was my favorite book in high school.

  • I reeeeeally wanted to be in this room and this play fucking rocked

  • Music in every scene, a new body in every song

Monsters with Nico Noreña and One Million Underscores

  • Potato head! Really! A potato for a head!

  • Film the fruit!

  • Architecture as scene partner

  • I know you can’t see it, but you gotta trust it’s really good.

Also in the mix: A reading of a new two-hander by Gracie Gardner in early June

A reading of Degenerates by Else Went at Ars Nova in April

A reading of Troglobites by Zachary Desmond at Alchemical Studios in April

A reading of Heartbeat by Alex Riad at the New Play Festival in Durango, Colorado at the end of June

A rehearsal process for the Lulu Plays directed by Tea Aligić in July



Thank you again for reading and coming along with me on this multi-month, many-pronged adventure. As always, just email me STOP if you'd rather not receive these, no questions asked, and you can find the other issues below.


With wonder,


Zack




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