Friday, November 5, 2010

Meet the R&D: Writer Tommy Smith and his project FORTH

FORTH is about artists or philosophers who have taken or been addicted to drugs and wrote about it in a journal never meant to be published. It is supposed to be a documentary on the phenomenon of drug-taking in general -- why human beings do it. It also records the philosophic and imagistic landscape of the different mental terrains fostered by various ingested substances. You hear chronicles of hash eating, heroin injection, opium smoking. The goal I guess is to use the text to induce the audience into a similar trance -- an intoxication of language and stage imagery.

To kick my ass to write this thing I already booked a weekend of shows in Fall 2011 at New York's The Tank. The space downstairs in the Tank is amazing. Ask to poke your head in when you're on 45th and 9th. It's one of these old theaters with a huge cavernous space where the dark gets lost high up.

I bought a bike earlier this year. I've been riding it around New York. It's a good way to catch ideas. On the west side highway the other day I had to stop by the side of the path. I pulled out my notepad and drew a diagram of the stage configuration. I shot a picture of the page with my phone and sent it to myself, something that was impossible when I was a child.

FORTH is in the form of a radio play. The audience will be laying on their backs onstage for the duration of the show, facing upward. (I'm hoping to date someone from Ikea so I can get a cheap deal on 30-40 new foam mattresses.) A horizontal screen will rest seven feet from the ground. The basic effect, then, is that the audience will be watching a screen as if they were sitting up.

As the lights darken, video starts to appear on the screen. Amplified text will accompany the on-screen imagery, which will largely be non-literal. At some point, though, the audience will realize that the screen is actually a scrim, as the performers who have been speaking the text will be slowly revealed behind the screen, essentially hanging in the air above the audience on harnesses. But again, the perspective from the audience's point-of-view will simulate the effect of just seeing performers floating on a screen as if the members were sitting in a chair or a sofa.

Don't hold me to any of this, It might all change but that's what I've got in my head right now. One of the best parts about creating a play is that process allows for a lot of benign destruction.

I realize I talked almost nothing about the actual content of the play, but sometimes you have to work from the outside in. More soon.

Post by Tommy Smith. Click HERE for more!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, Tommy! Looking forward to seeing how it progresses.