This proposal is the first writing I did about Delinquent in 2007, before it had a title. This was sent to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts who instigated the project by offering me a commission for the tri-annual Bay Area Now show. Much of this proposal did not happen, but it did kick the project towards manifestation. As my imagination now had some key components to work with: a deadline, a space, some copy for grant writing, some ideas to start talking. Most of my work is talked into existence.
My initial inspiration was to work with a group of youth, particularly ex-inmates or arrestees of juvenile jails and courts, to create a deconstructed version or perhaps a response to Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade. Then, I got more images that I wanted to work with when I saw a 2007 restaging of The Living Theatre’s The Brig, which is a pretty brilliant minimalist theater piece from 1962 about a US military prison in Korea, with a brutally repetitious physical score. That same summer, SF instituted gang injunctions, restricting identified gang youth from being in huge swaths of their own neighborhoods, and I was finally pushed (internally by these external situations) to commit to making a piece with youth addressing the juvenile justice (sic) system.
Some of the loftier aspects of this proposal, including the summer training program for 25 young adults, did not happen because I couldn’t raise the money. I also did not do half of the outreach that I initially imagined. The proposal included introductory information about Marat/Sade and The Brig, but I didn’t include it here. At some point I realized that I was much more interested in starting from scratch with the cast than in imposing some dated scripts from historical avant-garde theater. I have an ambivalent and latent desire to tackle some canonized text.
- Keith Hennessy, summer 2007
A NEW PROJECT
by Keith Hennessy, Zero Performance
in collaboration with several Bay Area arts and social service organizations.
Centered at YBCA the project will also engage MoAD, building bloc and (tentatively) The Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Arriba Juntos, Critical Resistance, Youth Speaks and Galeria de la Raza’s Art in the Schools program.
The project has two primary elements: a summer 2008 performance training for 20-25 young adults and a company-devised performance featuring a cast drawn from the training to be performed at YBCA in fall 2008. Both the training and the performance will be directed by Keith Hennessy and assisted by a team of 4-6 Bay Area performance professionals.
A summer performance intensive of 3-4 weeks for up to 2 (actors, dancers, word-ists, musician/dj’s)
intense physical training – for an articulate body, discipline and confidence, group bond, inspiration
mentoring in improvisation, composition, choreography, writing, performing performance and art
art appreciation (theories, histories) including guided tour and more at MOAD where the education director is excited about the project, and is interested in having the group interact with the permanent collection which is rich in socially-engaged art. The group would of course see as much as possible at YBCA during that time, with discussions and some creative responses.
political consciousness raising, especially on the histories and critiques of prison, police, gangs, schools. Imagine a month-long teach-in directed simultaneously by the participants and the project director... some reading, some film, some discussion. We will work with Marco and Alli from Building Bloc and other prison activists still to be determined (from Critical Resistance and/or prison activist resource center).
A cast of approx. 10 will be selected (will also self-select, i.e., who is truly interested and available?). Rehearsals would be 3 times weekly for 6-10 weeks depending on the performance dates.
I will do outreach with a few organizations to find participants. The only person I’ve talked to so far is Luis Velazquez who used to work with Arriba Juntos (also with Loco Bloco and other youth-based social projects in the mission). He, like everyone to whom I’ve mentioned this project, thinks it’s great and wants to support it.
There is a new community initiative grant with SFAC – deadline in September – that looks perfect for this project.
Professionals on the project, besides myself, will include Emily Leap (trapeze artist/dancer from Circo Zero) who is a dynamite physical trainer/dance&circus coach
I expect to bring in a specialist in teaching writing for performance (we will use the structure and inspiration of Marat/Sade but not much of the text). I’m hoping that this person will also be interested in playing dramaturg/text consultant for the project.
This will not be a Hip Hop production but it will recognize and encourage the hip hop talents and interests of the cast. I intend to create a hybrid event that includes word, choreography, physical and textual theatre, music, some kind of visuals. Depending on the cast there might be more or less circus.
The goal would be to instigate fresh perspective and critical thinking about the criminal justice system, especially for youth in California and the Bay Area. The process of mentoring the cast to develop both personal and collective voice/body would serve an expanding metaphor of the social body - inspiring a larger public to develop a voice/body that can engage with this issue, witness, speak, discuss, collaborate and take action.
The pedagogical aspects of the project speak directly to the shortcomings of public education – despite the wisdom and good intentions of thousands of public school teachers, staff and some administrators – the lack of art, dance, theatre, music as well as severe shortcomings in teaching critical thinking, the history of movements for social change, and relevant social theories to address violence, war, religion, race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etcetera ad infinitum.
Brook’s film of Marat/Sade will serve as a primary source for research in structure, process, text, performance styles, and more. Our project will incorporate songs/texts by the cast as a further layer of deconstruction, reappropriation, and historical revision.
The goal is to engage political and cultural history to respond to present concerns and issues, specifically those issues of concern to young adults (partly) shaped by the criminal justice system, and more generally to issues of social change and transformation, the role of live performance, and the voice of youth in relation to tradition/history.
My success with grant writing is unpredictable. I’ve had moderate success and I’ve had some dry spells. Sometimes I am too frustrated, busy or defeated to apply. I complain that I haven’t broken the barrier to bigger grants but mostly I don’t apply to them very often because they require so much work and the odds are so low. Also I have never been comfortable inventing a project on paper, before I know the cast or have had time to scheme with others, but that’s how my (and most) grants get written.
I’m including the bulk of the copy for a grant proposal to the Zellerbach Family Foundation. This is a rewrite of a proposal that they rejected because the first version seemed like an educational project for youth and this foundation expressly does not fund education projects or youth projects. I was pretty pissed off and asked, “If there’s a young person in a play by ACT does that immediately become a youth project?” Also I tried to defend my proposal by saying that every piece I make has a pedagogical aspect to it. That’s one of the reasons I do it: to research and learn and teach each other. No go, so I rewrote the proposal. We requested $7500 which is the maximum but it’s rare that anyone receives this much. We received $3500. Two other small grants were received, from the CA$H Fund and a new grant for lighting designers working in dance.
Several aspects of this proposal did not manifest. We didn’t end up working with MoAD, the Museum of African Descent. Rebecca Anders did not follow through as the set designer so she was replaced by Ryon Gesnick. Aerial coaching on the project was minimal and done by myself and the aerialist in the cast, Jeremie.
The income for the project was $42,900 from the following sources:
YBCA Commission Fee, 10,000
YBCA Performance Fee, 10,000
YBCA Production Fee, 12,000 (money I never ‘touched’)
Zellerbach Family Foundation, 3,500
CA$H Grant, 5,000
Lighting Artists in Dance Award, 2,400
ZELLERBACH FAMILY FOUNDATION REQUEST (May 2008)
CIRCO ZERO requests $7,500 from the Zellerbach Family Foundation to support the performance of Delinquent, an experimental performance featuring a diverse cast of Bay artists. The collaborative work, instigated and directed by Keith Hennessy, will be presented by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Nov 13-15, 2008, as part of the biennial Bay Area Now. Zellerbach funds will support artist fees and space rental for the crucial periods of research and rehearsal beginning in August 2008 and continuing until early November.
THE PROJECT: DELINQUENT
Considering how I might instigate a collaborative portrait of the Bay Area right Now I decided to work with younger artists who might, on their own, not be recognized in this forum. Delinquent is a collaborative work of interdisciplinary performance, showcasing the visions and talents of seven Bay Area young adults chosen from diverse social contexts and performance genres (word, dance, circus, music). Working in collaboration with choreographer/director Keith Hennessy and other collaborating artists the performers will create a series of performance events, scenes, dances, texts, interventions, spectacles.
The port of entry – thematically – will be the effect of the juvenile justice system on the body - personal body, social body, community body - and how these effects differ from body to body, community to community. Cast members may have currently, or have had in their past, a direct link to this system – as an ex-inmate, arrestee, best friend or family member thereof. I will seek at least one cast member whose body/experience is marked by the recent laws in SF that criminalize specific gangs and members of gangs, creating new border zones of illegality in the Mission and Fillmore.
Our primary research will be an investigation of how bodily experiences influence the development of personal and collective voice. How does the content and form of our speaking (performing) extend from the ways that Life (class, ethnicity, family, friends, society, health, diet, training, touch...) marks our body? I will attempt to stage the struggle to speak; to frame the delicate emergence of voice, identity and community.
Delinquent means to fall short of one’s obligation. Clearly when the mirror is held up to the adults, our delinquency with regards to urban crime, affordable housing, educational equity, accessible healthcare, and support for our troops both at home and abroad cannot be denied. The creation and performance of Delinquent engages this two-sided mirror of power and perception, allowing the artists to talk (back) through languages of their own invention, sourced in their direct experience.
The goal is to instigate fresh perspective and critical thinking about the criminal justice system, especially as it affects young people in California and the Bay Area. I will collaborate with the cast to develop both a personal and collective performance language. The performance will serve an expanding metaphor of the social body - inspiring a larger public to develop their own voice/body that can engage with this issue; that can witness, speak, discuss, collaborate and take action.
Early in the process the cast and other key artists will be guests at MoAD, the Museum of the African Diaspora. The cast and primary collaborators will participate in private, guided tours of the museum’s permanent collection with an emphasis on the relationship between art and social justice movements. Understanding Civil Rights through art is intended to directly inspire the making of Delinquent.
Delinquent is guided by humanist and democratic principles that recognize the positive worth of every being. Rehearsals will include elements of collective process, conflict resolution, self--esteem enhancement, critical awareness of self and society, personal artistic practice and discipline. The process and the performance are intended as ritualized encounters between unique yet interdependent individuals. Avoiding a polyanna image of perfect unity I intend to foster a collaborative encounter of complex and dynamic diversity.
The primary set elements for Delinquent will be two large-scale aerial sculptures designed and created by Rebecca Anders of The Flaming Lotus Girls, a collective of (mostly) women metal artists and welders. A twenty-foot vertical grid will reference a wall and a ladder, something to divide and something to climb. The sculpture will be able to support several performers at once in various states of risk and expertise. A second sculpture will be a seven-foot diameter sphere, or suggestion of a sphere; another aerial environment for creative play, image, and experience.
THE PROCESS - SCHEDULE
Scheming and planning for Delinquent began in Fall 2007. Currently we are working on outreach and casting, assembling an eclectic team of super talents working in different communities and genres. I am in contact with people at several arts and social justice organizations in the Bay Area including the hip hop teatro headRUSH, The Beat Within, Destiny Arts, Dance Mission’s Grrrl Brigade, Youth Speaks, Loco Bloco and others.
Studio research and rehearsal begins in mid-May 2008 with a three-week laboratory. Oakland’s CUE Space will be our home base for rehearsals. Early process will include peer-led training sessions for voice and body. Cast members will lead trainings and research labs in their areas of specialization. All texts will be grounded in the body, in sensation and action, in memory and desire. Also during May, Rebecca Anders will start designing and building the aerial rigs.
The team will not meet during the summer months (June - August) but every member will be encouraged to keep the project alive through personal research and creation. Each person in the team will be responsible to make something (an image, a dance, a text, an event) to share at the first rehearsal in early September. Texts and experiments will be shared through a project blog that may also include Youtube videos created by members of the team.
In September and October 2008 the team will reconvene in ongoing rehearsals. Creative work on the aerial sculptures will also begin. Moving the experiments towards refinement and clarity will be the primary work in October. My intention as choreo-director is not to build a cohesive theatrical performance but to frame the performance as a kind of happening. Audience engagement is under consideration. Performances are scheduled for Nov 13-15, 2008.
As always the toughest experience for every choreographer and director is securing enough funds for rehearsal. In my projects, rehearsal is also creative research, physical training, team building, political and artistic education, and collaboration collaboration collaboration. Zellerbach Family Foundation’s Community Arts Program would support rehearsal space rental and artist fees for the cast. Yerba Buena contributions will cover all tech personnel, production expenses including set construction, and collaborating artist fees. A complete budget is attached.
Thank you for considering our request, sincerely,
Director, Circo Zero Performance