Colin Gee has an extensive background in physical theatre, having trained at the Lecoq school in Paris and Dell’ Arte School of Physical Theatre. He is a former principle clown for Cirque du Soleil and co-founder of The Flying Machine, an international theatre collaborative. In his latest work from Dakota, Colin combines experiments in identity with deft physical characterization to recreate the climatic scene of Shane Belles film Dakota as a riveting solo performance. The piece premieres at P.S.122’s downstairs theatre on Wednesday, September 7th at 8:30pm.
HOW DID THIS PROJECT EVOLVE?
The project evolved from a series of portraits built with Shane from 01 03. In courtyards mostly,
characters were developed in response to the tone, use, and stillness of the space. They carved out a state of being, if you will, a question posed and reposed in response to grandeur, age, decadence, intimacy qualities of the space. Like doorkeepers of that potential we all have to assume similar architectural dimension within, exulting internal qualities and open spaces, if we were only able to phrase the question properly, which is difficult. So the character becomes both a threshold guardian, and the riddled traveler. We made short films with other Cirque performers, semi-documentary, where we were staying. The screenplays, of which Dakota is one, emerged to phrase in a scripted narrative a dilemma, lets call it a lock, that rather then opening, is dissolved.
WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE FOR ADAPTING AN EXCERPT FROM FILM TO STAGE?
The excerption was an idea from the beginning. The creation of a cinematic environment, from which a character would be removed, and staged intimately. With a shaping and visceral transformation, as the character, mercurial, unlocks his own fantastic world. As if stepping through the screen of his own skin, or thoughts, or paradigm. Stepping through the definitive authority any paradigm assumes. And letting the shifting, or passage through skins, became visible. The Transparent portrait idea was an early one of Shanes. His work is manufacturing process, he loves how things are made and to make that process clear and repeatable. He applies by extension to the human condition. For me its character work.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE PERFORMING IN CIRQUE DU SOLEIL AND HOW DOES THAT WORK INFORM FROM DAKOTA?
The world a circus provides is dream realized through extraordinary and virtuosic work. The magic exists
because the audiences imagination is put to the test. The ability to work necessarily, under hazardous conditions, to achieve a direct and extraordinary dialogue with things like gravity, balance, ark, trajectory, weight. And the existence of grace under those conditions. The work relies on imagination and one of the questions it poses is, Can you imagine
it? Referring both to the feat, and the work necessary. As a performer, sharing the stage with artists performing under such hazard, it feels necessary to match the risk to the integrity of the show. For a clown that means what, emotional risk? Self generated and sustained ten shows a week? Your attention to subtle differences in the audience, the time of day, the day of the week, the weather outside, the local culture these variables create the feel inside the tent. For the Clowns, it creates the field of play, with necessary hazards, allowing the characters to continue to evolve after hundreds of shows. So the source of risk I found was in the vulnerability to perceive the comedy of the public rather then the known and habitual comedy of our material. The character work with Shane stemmed from this.
HOW DID YOU END UP COLLABORATING WITH ERIN?
I love her music.
DO YOU THINK THE TERM “IDENTITY” IS OVERUSED, MISUSED..ABUSED?
Its as useful as the function it serves. For me it poses rather then answers a question, a verb rather then a noun. I might tire of Running, or Digging, but not overuse or abuse the word Identity is a door to memory and sifting emotion. Held between memory and desire, its a landscape that extends the breadth of our imagination. Locale, community, land, time, these forces that shape choice. If the sharing of common choice is the sharing of Identity, as a verb, then it becomes a shaping force, expansive rather then possessive. The difference between those two paradigms is a central interest of this work. Between Identity as personality, habit, or, a field of experience. Identity is a function not of Personality, but of location in Time, Space, and learning. Shane hammered it out in the beginning. It creates a state of observation.