Part 1, An Excerpt:
watch the other excerpts here.
ROCKABY BEAUTY is a day in the life of an ageing, almost demented, beauty pageant contestant racing against time, as she is forever caught in the cycle of desiring to be perfect and beautiful. She has never won a single beauty title in her life. Hence, everyday, she listens to her recorded voice reminding her of the things she should be doing in pursuit of Beauty. She goes about her motions, mechanically, as she constantly seeks and desires to see an Other, the Ideal woman, in the mirror. Yet in the end, she only finds her imperfect self staring back at her as darkness sets in.
Performance date and venue:
November 6, 2006/ Performing Beckett Festival
Hotel Guillermo, Pagadian City (sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and organized by the Kumbingan Ensemble’s Artistic Director Felimon Blanco)
A short discussion of the creative process:
When my good friend Performance Artist/ Theater Artist/ Director, Mr. Felimon Blanco gave me the difficult task of doing a deconstructionist adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s one-act play “Rockaby,” I did two things. First, I panicked because apparently “Rockaby” is a very difficult piece to even stage and act much less adapt or deconstruct. Precisely because the play is difficult, I felt challenged so I then plunged into the dizzying world of conceptualizing a performance piece. At the time, what interested me about Beckett’s “Rockaby” was that it could be perceived through different angles on a universal yet grounded culturally specific existential level.
After several days of conceptualizing, I was able to come up with my own idea of a performance art piece that utilized New Media technology. The piece entitled “Rockaby Beauty” is a result of what some artists would call a “free-flowing,” ever-evolving creative process.
Because I am a writer, it was inevitable for me to start with an idea, a result of free writing. Moreover, it was easy for me though to look at the piece from a feminist perspective, which explains why it later metamorphosed into what I may call an intertextual feminist reading of Beckett’s “Rockaby.” As I wrote in my journal, which I emailed to Felimon in our yahoogroups on October 2006:
the tentative title is rockdance but i’m not really sure of this. it’s a movement piece that uses a feminist approach to exploring beckett’s rockaby. the piece uses the metaphor of the dance of the female body writing itself as it is often imposed to follow just two polar opposites/ or binaries: madonna and whore.
the piece will explore the many roles a woman has to take in her own various realities and localities where women are stereotypically placed.it will further portray the many layers of negotiations, crossing borders and boundaries of identities and so on.
the character is a hybrid of the different women i met in my life, young and old. and the narrative will start where most women are confronted with the image of themselves and their bodies:the room. here, the window in beckett’s rockaby will become a mirror. i thought of this when i read rockaby because when there was a part in the voiceover when the women sees an image who is herself but she’s not sure if it is as she looks out the window. this part resonates clearly. it reminded me so much of sylvia plath’s mirror. the old woman in beckett’s rockaby no longer recognizes herself because she has been sitting there for so long rocking endlessly.
in beckett’s rockaby i see rocking as like the path that a woman is “destined” to take. it is the role that she is expected to do, rock. but in the end, there is a part of her who wants to stop rocking or rock off, as in, fall from the chair and take another role,another path.
this is where i surmised that i have to view rocking as endless negotiation. but i also want to explore the possibility of a woman’s choice too. that in the end, she has the power to choose to stop rocking.
i dont know if it’s okay. but i was thinking that there will be no rocking chair in my adaptation. the movement of the character will be based on rocking movements. the voiceover which is the monologue of the character speaking to herself in her mind, would be a recording of different voices of women speaking the lines. i was thinking of retaining the lines in the original and just adding a few modifications.
i’m very excited in doing this piece because it speaks to me clearly as a woman in this country. but i was thinking of not locating the female character in a particular place because i feel that there are universal issues that women face. but i don’t know. except that the character will no longer be an old woman just like beckett’s.
so murag ang recording will sound as like a chant.
After discussing with Felimon and my artist-friends, I then wrote the script of “Rockaby Beauty.” To my surprise, the product did not exactly follow everything that I initially planned. With theater-space considerations and other limitations the festival imposed in mind, the script turned into a more intertextual reading of Beckett’s “Rockaby.” (To ask for a copy of the script, e-mail me at email@example.com) Or click here.
The next step was to create the soundscape of the piece. I sought the help of my co-teacher Sheila Grace Bulaong who readily lent her voice for recording, which I later on edited using the free audio editing software Audacity. The process of editing the voice-over was another journey that yielded different results. While Sheila in recording the monologue followed the text (script) strictly, I on the other hand, found a wider space for experimenting with the text, in fact sometimes deviating from it, while editing the recorded files. The result created a different effect, and I would like to say, also added to a more atmospheric tone to the soundscape of my performance art piece. Later, I uploaded the files in my first ever podcast blog (which I no longer maintain now as I have discovered other podcasting services that offer more interesting features.) To listen to the audio files, click here. (Rockaby Beauty track 1, Rockaby Beauty Track 2, Rockaby Beauty Track 3)
The last part of the creative process was to create the choreography and stage direction of my piece. I first did the choreography by really sketching the visuals of the various movements, at least how I envision them to look on stage. My choreography was based on Orissi, Bharatanatyam and other gestural Physical Theater-inspired movement phrases. This was understandable because at the time, I had just attended workshops in Orissi and Bhraratanatyam and Contemporary Dance. In retrospect, I suppose couldn’t help integrate these influences in my piece.
What I found equally interesting about this last stage of the process is really creating choreography with the soundscape—how I could connect to it in terms of movement, while always having the script in mind. Playing with concepts of physical space and time yielded interesting results in terms of emotional connection. When finally, I performed the piece in Pagadian, I also received mixed reactions from different audiences. Young kids from high school during the matinee show told me that my character looked eerie and scary. Some spectators in the gala show said my piece was boring and excruciating to watch. While some commented, the piece was eerie and funny at the same time. Most of the audiences though mentioned that the soundscape really helped contribute to the feel of the piece as the sound (more like chanting) really engulfed the whole ballroom of the hotel.
If they say the process ends when the performance ends, I guess I should end my discussion here. But then again, after two years of not touching this piece, I realized that it could be transformed into another artwork. Here, I can attest that the artistic process never fails to amaze any one of us, precisely because I believe it never stops. After all, it is recursive in itself.