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From Emma – Step-Back Perspective

June 30, 2015

Working together as an ensemble and a company, the same people in the same rehearsal room for several years on end, it becomes very easy to forget to appreciate some of the particulars of the artistry and talent in the room. It’s a silly sort of phenomenon, but besides Young Playwrights’ Festival — where we get to step back and observe each other working at a little bit of a distance — we sometimes get so caught up in working together that we don’t really see each other’s work.

Here are some other instances recently where we’ve gotten a chance to do some external-to-each other— and external to Touchstone— artistic creation. It’s nice to take a minute to step back an give them a look.

Chichester Wall 1 Chichester Wall 2


Our wall, our wall, our Chichester wall
The Romans, they built it, but now it is ours,
Our wall, our wall, our Chichester wall
We hold it so tight ‘cause it makes us feel right
– Original lyrics by Jp Jordan

Man, all I seem to be blogging about this year is graduate school… Jp and I recently returned from a whirlwind three weeks in the UK for our university summer intensive, traveling, studying, and creating performances that developed from our research and practices. Here, we see Jp at one of Chichester’s great local icons – its city wall. Jp’s research project includes an exploration of ideas of hometown and local identity (freshly on the mind due to our work on the Dear Tamaqua project, which culminates this August), inclusivity and exclusivity, community building and boundary building. Much of the trip, Jp spent with a guitar strapped to his back; at every stop along the journey, he’d take a few minutes to sit down, plunk out a few notes, and write a song inspired by the place. He has a whole concept album’s worth of material.

As a later part of the project, Jp spent an afternoon out on the wall at Chichester, asking locals about the wall and their knowledge of it, their memories of it, its relevance in modern society— and who it should be keeping out. From their very candid responses, he created a very cheeky, very dark little song, which he performed for us out on the wall. Students and professors who were longtime residents alternated between hearty laughter and uncomfortable cringing, and it was a pretty delightful performance experience all around.

Holy Stuff 1 Holy Stuff 2

Please keep your distance. Distance is necessary for a holy experience.
Please do not have a holy experience
Please do not holy
Please mind the gap between the holy and yourself
Please move to the next station and press the button when ready
– Original text by Emma Chong

Here’s my summer intensive performance project – where Jp took full advantage of one of the sunniest days we saw in England, I brought things back into a mostly darkened theatre, with a little bit of dim lighting and projection. My project revolved around the journey (freshly on the mind due to all our Journey-ing this year), holy pilgrimage, and how we experience holiness in the 21st century – for some it’s church, for others wicca/shamanism/new age stuff… and for others, it’s extreme devotion to a favorite band, or a favorite TV show.

My performance component involved a miniaturized walking audio tour – a self-proclaimed complete and authoritative tour of holy stuff. It felt very different from my usual comfort zone, and I really enjoyed piecing things out. Also, my greatest point of pride for the whole thing was that I sufficiently polished my British accent enough that for my pre-recorded audio text, no one recognized the voice as mine.

Holden 1 Holden 2

Who is this monster flowing in me like fire? Who lit the match? Who cleared the land and gathered the wood? How long can I contain this molten metal running right through me to God knows where? Running after the hero I cannot defeat. Then I will slay him in his sleep, his cape, his saber, his damsel, and his horse shall be buried quietly and deep. And I will be a new man, standing above the hero’s grave. The tree that grows there will be a mighty tree. It covers me with a cool shade and bears a fruit I have yet to name or taste.
– Original text by Anisa George

And most recently, here’s the one and only Bill George, in a new devised piece directed by the one and only Anisa George. It’s called Holden, and Bill plays JD Salinger; we’ve been getting periodic updates from their Philly rehearsal venue over the last few months, as to how things have been shaping up, or what the overall pace or curve of the narrative is looking like, or who has been brilliant to work with, or what new developments have… developed. Yesterday, Bill (by way of Anisa) passed along some photos from this weekend’s run; it looks gorgeous.

I can only vaguely speak to this bit of performance, not being in the room and all, but as a long-distance outside-eye viewer, the devising process alone looks like a delightful, chaotically generative artistic maelstrom. It’s part dark exploration via Catcher in the Rye, part snarky and tragicomic No Exit, and it’s performing at the NYC Ice Factory Festival this August. You can read more on the project at

(And as for Jp and myself, we’ll be cloistered away for most of August – in the wake of summer intensive time, it’s dissertation-writing time! Wish us luck)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Bill George permalink
    July 1, 2015 9:46 am

    Really like this entry, Emma. So varied and rich. And of course, GOOD LUCK in dissertation land.

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