Koans and Performance Project
The Koans and Performance project will bring eleven actors, musicians, and designers, from Poland, Denmark, and the East Coast of the United States to Northern California for two months to develop a multi-disciplinary performance based on working with Zen Koans.
We will explore Zen Koan work as a method of performer training and work with Koans as the basis for creating performance material. As far as we know, this sort of exploration of Koan work has never been done before.
The artists involved have worked with people like Krystian Lupa, Teatr ZAR, Pig Iron Theater Company, and Meredith Monk, and will bring their significant artistic expertise to the project. John Tarrant Roshi, director of the Pacific Zen Institute, will offer the group guidance in koan work.
The performance we create will be premiered in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego in June and July 2013, and we intend to bring the work to Europe in 2014.
What are we asking for?
We need your help to pay our amazing performers during our two month reheasal period. We have raised half the money – $9000 – that we need to do that. We are asking you, our audience and community, for a matching grant.
What is a Koan?
A Koan is a paradoxical, often humorous snippet of poetry or dialog that Zen students spend time with to subvert the rational mind and transform seemingly impossible situations. An example might be, “What is your original face before your parents were born?”
What are we doing with Koans?
In the Koans and Performance project, we won’t be using Koans as a tool for spiritual development. Instead, Koan texts will provide a container for practical artistic work in a group. We will respond to Koans not as Zen students, but as actors, designers, and musicians, democratically, side by side.
We want to find how Koans are alive inside our lives as they are, in the contemporary world, so we will respond to Koans in a contemporary aesthetic – ten episodes of newly composed music for two percussionists (including percussion instruments being custom built specifically for the project) and singers, acting (stories, monologues, poems, etc.), and design – contemporary art meets a two thousand year old meditation tradition.
We hope that the unpredictable and transformational quality of Koans will leak into our work, resulting in a performance that is accessible, humorous, and moves our audience.
Where does this project come from?
As far as we know, this sort of exploration of Koans has never been done before, but it has roots in European experimental theaters like the ones that Lukasz and Nini come from, as well as in various intersections between Koan work and poetry, painting, and dance that have been going on for over a thousand years.
When I moved back to the US from my Fulbright year in Poland in late 2011 (where I worked with Nini, and Qba, in mainstream theater and opera and in small group theater), I knew that I wanted to work on Koans with a group of performing artists, and that I wanted to discover things about Koans that I knew nothing about. I realized that in order to do that, I would have to put together a group of strong individuals, people who knew more about their crafts than I did, people with extensive experience in a variety of fields, from experimental theater to contemporary music and mainstream theater.
This group is the backbone of this project – the way a young Polish director, or a singer from Denmark, or a New Yorker with a background in contemporary music, approaches Koans as a performer and creator will be quite different, and I believe will help us move past certain clichés to reach a musical-theatrical language that is new and alive. Each of these artists will bring a unique background and set of skills to our work.
– Asa Horvitz
Nini Julia Bang – singer/composer/actress, Denmark, member of Poland’s Teatr ZAR.
Qba Janicki – percussionist, composer, Poland, co-curator of MOZG venue in Bydgoszcz.
Trevor Wilson – composer/singer/performer, based in NYC, assistant to Meredith Monk.
Amelia Meath – composer/singer/performer, Raleigh-Durham, NC, member of the bands Mountain Man, Feist.
Kyle Farrell – percussionist, composer, based in NYC, member of Point Reyes and formerly of Giants of Gender.
Gedney Barclay – actor/director, co-artistic director of No Face Performance, Philadelphia, has worked with Pig Iron Theater Company.
Robert Hope – actor and writer, Chicago Shakespeare, trained in classical theater as well as in clown and Lecoque, works in Chicago and beyond.
Asa Horvitz – musician and director, project leader.
Jes Sledge – visual artist/filmmaker/designer, recent UCSD MFA grad, based San Diego.
Rebecca Martin – company manager and logistics genius, Marin County, CA.
Where does your money go?
We’ve been working very hard for over a year to gather support for this project, and we have been fortunate so far – in April we received an initial $20,000 grant, an additional $5,000 grant in August, a small travel grant from inside Poland, and more recently official promotion from the Polish Consulate in Los Angeles. As you can imagine, a project like this is very expensive – there is transportation, visas, production expenses, and most importantly, food, cost of accommodation and rehearsal space: the expense of time to work together.
One of the principal reasons that European theater has such a rich legacy of innovation is that European theater artists have time to work. To fully engage with Koans, to discover something that is alive, and to craft it into a performance, will take more than just your average 3 week play rehearsal stretch – we absolutely need two months, full time, to go deep.
At the moment, we have enough money to cover our production expenses, pay for travel and visas for the artists, and for two months’ accommodation and rehearsal space for a group of eleven people.
In order to do our exploration of Koans justice by bringing in some of the most interesting young performing artists that we know, we have to pay them. We have to pay enough to give them what they need to leave their current work behind for two months and commit themselves fully to our work together.
Right now, we have raised half the money – $9000 – that we need to do that. So we are asking you, our audience, for a matching grant. It’s not much money distributed between 9 people, so even with this amount we are still asking our performers to make a sacrifice.
We have big plans for the future – this isn't just a one-off project – in 2014 we plan to continue to work, to bring our work to Europe, and also to collaborate with master Singaporean actress Ang Gey Pin.
To complete this first step of our work together, we really do need your help, so that we can make a powerful performance that will be seen by the right people, and apply for grants to support our work in the future.
If we don’t raise this money, we won’t be able to do this project. If we raise more than $9,000, we’ll be able to put it towards production expenses, like lighting, set, and materials for instrument building – so please consider that when making a donation.
We’ll admit it, we never planned to use crowdfunding to raise money for this project, because – its true – no one likes asking for money. But in truth, it’s exciting, because crowdfunding allows for such a rich interaction between the artist and the audience – as you can see we have a ton of wonderful rewards – whether you can give $1 or $1000 – that will allow you to stay abreast of and be involved in our work during the next months.
What are we offering?
If you're local to the Bay Area, you can go on a night-time musical/theatrical adventure in Point Reyes National Seashore led and featuring peformances by members of the group, you can come to an open rehearsal, or book a private workshop or concert for you and your friends. If you're from elsewhere, you can get your name on our program as an executive producer, pick up a vinyl record featuring members of the group, or commission a custom song made for you by members of the group. Finally, and most of all, we are offering to make a powerful and interesting performance that you can say that you helped to create.
I can't contribute financially, but I want to help. What can I do?
If you want to help, but you can’t contribute financially, there are a few things you can do:
- Share hare this link via email, facebook, twitter – however you can. Use Indiegogo's sharing features, which are awesome!!
- We are looking for people to host wonderful performers in their homes in the Bay Area between May and June.
- We are looking for people to loan us cars – any cars in any shape – during the rehearsal period. If you or anyone you know would be interested in doing this, please get in touch.
Remember – it's completely and entirely tax deductible.
All of your donations – due to our partnership with the Pacific Zen Institute – are completely and entirely tax deductible. In the words of Groucho Marx, better us than the Government.
Finally, thank you!!
Thank you so much for visiting this page and for any contribution that you can make. We are grateful.
Team on This Campaign: