Proposal for Epiphanies: A Polyphonic Performance

Epiphanies is a large number of single-sentence "lines" that are available for theatrical performance. Since these are meant to be the encompassing climactic moments--Epiphanies, in the Joycean sense--of longer, otherwise nonexistent narratives, my principal request of the director and performers is that they do their best to read each sentence in a way that evocatively communicates a sense of what the remaining, implicit story might be. Any number of performers may sit or stand as they wish, in a proscenium or an open space, in neutral dress; and there is no need to costume or mime any activities, since it is assumed that most, if not all, of the action is in the lines and how they are spoken. The performers are functioning more like an ensemble of musicians who play their solos on cue. For the premiere performance, directed by Suzanne Bennett at the University of North Dakota, the lines were read one at a time, with great pauses between, by four informally dressed, standing performers distributed around the circumference of a circle made by the audience seated in the middle (in an inversion of the traditional "theater-in-the-round"). From the manuscript, the director chose those Epiphanies she preferred, had them copied onto individual 3" by 5" cards, and then distributed these cards over large tables, inviting the four performers to choose those cards each felt he or she could articulate best. The director then assigned some of the remaining Epiphanies to those performers she thought could render them best. (No director is obliged to use all the lines; none of them is necessarily more essential to the whole than any of the others.) Appropriate direction should emphasize the individuality of each story and thus avoid, in assigning the stories, giving recurring personas to one or another reader and likewise avoid, in the ordering of elements, suggesting any relation between the story at hand and any other near it. Though the original production had stories emerging in succession from various points around a circle, other directors might want to have them spoken, if not dramatized, in other ways; other kinds of theatrical spaces are also feasible. A subsequent production took place within an art exhibition gallery at Vassar College, with spectators scattered about; and since this director, E. St. John Villard, instructed her dozen performers to speak often in canon or unison, she used approximately three times as many stories within a production that took just as long as the initial one--forty-five minutes. Moreover, as the order of the lines need not be fixed, I could envision the director changing the sequence from performance to performance in an extended run, or the performers exchanging Epiphanies with one another, in part to keep their renditions continually fresh. There is no doubt in my mind that different groups will (and should) perform Epiphanies in totally different ways, much as Gertrude Stein's similarly open texts are susceptible to radically different theatrical interpretations; and the length of a performance could vary from a few minutes to several hours. Despite possible variations in interpretation, the text has its own intelligence; it will always be about one theme that is unique to it: the exhaustive experience of the experience of story.

So to answer the conventional production questions: Epiphanies is a text for any number of performers of any sex, size and shape, for performance at any length, with no scenery, in any sort of performance space. At issue, to be frank, is a desire to realize the unusual concept.