Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spotlight On...Jeremy Goren

Name: Jeremy Goren

Hometown: La Habana, Cuba, centro del Caribe. (And Washington, D.C.)

Education: Continuing.

Favorite Credits: I can’t really answer this. I’m not trying to be difficult, but I prefer to look forward.

Why the performing arts?: I didn’t have the wherewithal – or the arm – to make a life in baseball.

Tell us about You Will Make A Difference: You Will Make A Difference is very much about the life of the process of creating this work -- and our society more at large. It is not about making a cool show or even a "successful" show but about nothing less ambitious than questioning ourselves and trying to manifest something in our world, to reexamine the way we do things -- the way we're "supposed" to do things. To that end a courageous team has worked with me since May to bring this to life for you. You Will Make A Difference is an “immersive performance”. I call it a watch-and-play. It draws on sources from medieval England, a ’50s play looking back at the Puritan settlers, ’90s television, and the performers themselves. It originally chose the title The Gaggery and Gilt, a phrase that emerged from the introduction to Leaves of Grass (another misunderstood title, I’m told):  “If the greatnesses are in conjunction in a man or woman it is enough … the fact will prevail through the universe … but the gaggery and gilt of a million years will not prevail. Who troubles himself about his ornaments or fluency is lost.” So, You Will Make A Difference, down to its bones and organs, has been buried and resurrected and buried and resurrected. It’s absolutely ironic and completely in earnest. At the least: It’s alive.

What inspired you to create and direct You Will Make A Difference?: The night I turned thirty, I found myself on a train, in the middle of a bone-chilling night, somewhere in the long stretch between Albuquerque and Chicago. I was watching two Amish couples play a dice game I couldn’t understand at the table across the aisle from me in the dark observation car, when the train made a stop. I decided to spend a few minutes standing on the platform while no one mounted the train. It was cold as hell, and I wore only a t-shirt and jeans. I suddenly remembered that when I’d been 15 or 16 I’d made a pact with myself to change the world by the age of 30 and then, if not already gunned down by an oppressive government somewhere or a jealous lover with a pearl-handle pistol or having blasted out my mind on some exotic narcotic that left me twitching on top of my typewriter, kill myself. I imagined throwing myself off of the train before the next stop. No one would notice me in the darkness of the countryside. But, it was clear I wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t want to. Things had changed. I had changed. I thought about who that person was who had made that pact with himself and what had happened to him. I wondered who this person I thought I was was. This continued for months. But, who cares? It was just banal naval gazing. However, when Occupy Wall Street began, in September of that year, I found myself having conversations with a lot of my peers about it – and hearing coming from their months the same questions I’d been asking myself since the frigid January night on the train. I realized: You asshole. You’re not special. You’re part of this society. Get with it. It occurred to me there could be some value in asking these questions together somehow. Only then did the very clear image of the vast, new-construction kitchen, barely lit, in the wee hours of the morning in my high-school friend’s parents’ house in the D.C. suburbs in 1996 start following me around inside and connecting with those questions. I happened, then, to reread The Crucible – which I don’t like and yet find very much compelling in some way I don’t understand – and I suddenly saw it and its true wisdom in a new way. (Forget Communism – what it tells us in our current moment has to do with societies in transition destabilized by their most oppressed members and the trauma of passing into adulthood…) These things grew tendrils connecting them. Then I found, unwittingly, Van Gennep. Then Scott Rodrigue asked me to apply for the A/M/P Residency at AliveWire. Connections fused. I had – and may still have – no interest in directing. But, something was clearly starting to manifest, something greater than I, and I had no choice but to follow.

What kind of art speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: The art that speaks to me is amoral. It grows from and towards the universal and has nothing to do with self-expression. It doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s community service. It eschews convention but grows from tradition. It doesn’t try to tell me a story or teach me a lesson. Instead, it opens up a space and a questioning and accepts its own not-knowing. It touches on the mystery of existence. It inspires me to engage, to have my own experience – and yet doesn’t worry if I ‘get it’ or not. (Why must we get things?) Who or what inspire me? Eons of humanity and mystery. Nature. Shtetl ghosts. Slave singers. Pretty girls. Cowled monks. Most directly and daily, artistic director of Terra Incognita Theater, visionary artist, master acting teacher, my mentor: Polina Klimovitskaya.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Cal Ripken, Jr.

What shows have you recommended to your friends?: The only show I’ve recommended in recent memory – and do so fervently again here – is The Assembly’s Home/Sick, which will reopen in November. Beyond our work at Terra Incognita’s work, I’d also urge people to see work by LEIMAY (Shige Moriya and Ximena Garnica), Maximillian Balduzzi, and Ben Spatz. These are the hardest-working artists I know, and that’s clear in what they do. What else I’d recommend is any appearance by The Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. Even if they’re just standing on the street corner smoking, go to them.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I hope such a thing never exists.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: We shouldn’t feel guilty over our pleasures. I’m working on that.

If you weren’t working in the performing arts, you would be _____?:
Even more lost. Hopefully in the mountains.

What’s up next?: We’ll see how long You Will Make A Difference lives. I hope for some time yet; but, when its end comes, okay. Meanwhile, Terra Incognita has underway several ongoing works, about which I remain excited and daunted. My apprenticeship continues. Hopefully, the sun continues to rise and set. Hopefully, clarity comes. Hopefully, liberation. But, who can say?