After our scrimmage game on Wednesday with Pole Espoir and a quick shower at the ‘stadium,’ I hopped in my Fiat and headed north for Brussels, Belgium. My good friend Kaneza had arrived a few days earlier with the Worcester Group. Kaneza is the Company Manager for the Wooster Group, a contemporary theater company based out of Soho, New York; they are touring Europe over the next month or so with two productions, one being an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the other an interpretation of ‘La Didone’, an Italian opera translation of the story of Dido and Aneas. The piece is a sort of fifties Sci-Fi film fused with the Italian Opera La Didone.
I was supposed to meet Kaneza at her apartment but I was not sure exactly where her apartment was. My Global Positioning System did not recognize her address. So instead I headed straight to the Kaaitheater where the Wooster Group was rehearsing.
It was around 11 pm and I was not sure if anyone would still be at the theater. I parked, and looked around for someone who might know who could help me.
A side note: officially, Brussels is a bilingual
city. French and Flemish. But in fact, it is part-French and part-Flemish, and the two groups of folks are fairly divided along cultural and lingual lines. For example, there are some bars where most people are Flemish and bars where most are French. There are those who grew up speaking Flemish and there are those who grew up speaking French.
I tried speaking French with the first person I met and soon realized that he was not very comfortable/willing to speak in French with me. We immediately switched to English. I asked him where I could find Kaneza Schaal and the Worcester Group. He thought for a moment, then told me to follow him. He took me in through the side door of the theater, up a hallway, and through a set of double-doors. There in front of us was Elizabeth LeCompte and Kate Valk, the director and one of the main actors of the Worcester Group. I asked them where I could find Kaneza, and they seemed surprised. ‘Oh, she already left. Does she know you are coming?’ yes, I said. She then got on her cellphone and called Kaneza, who was indeed waiting at the apartment.
I gave Kate and Liz a ride back to the apartments where the company members were staying.
What is funny about the situation is that Liz and Kate are sort of like the Tom Hanks and Steven Speilberg of the Experimental/Contemporary Theater Scene in NYC (this analogy is not exactly correct, but I think you get what I am saying). And it was funny that I met them in such a bizarre way, gave them a ride in my Pink Fiat at 11pm in Brussels, Belgium……Liz is a huge baseball fan and the moment I said I was a baseball player she began grilling me about who is my favorite team, what position I play, do I throw a curveball, what is baseball like in France……the following day I sat in on a rehearsal of La Didone, and there was one moment when one of the actors mentioned to Liz that the Rangers were playing the Yankees that night. Immediately she went from being totally focused on the rehearsal to wanting to know everything about the game, who was pitching, where it was being played, who won the previous games between the two teams. She is a Yankees fan,
It was interesting to get to sit in on a Wooster Group rehearsal and see their process, see their work. The piece was in their ‘style’ of theater, where there are screens/monitors all over the stage, some to give visual images/cues to the audience and others positioned facing the actors. Throughout the performance the Sci-Fi movie from the Fifties is playing on the monitors, and this serves as a sort of visual/physical/verbal text, a set of vocabulary for the performers to follow. Everything that they do on stage comes directly from the images they see/experience on the video. Their goal is to recreate, give new life to the movements in this live, physical space. Superimposed on this physical score coming straight from the film is the Italian Opera. So in the piece you see the contrast of Star Trek-like movements and Baroque Opera choreography. dated and dry text from the film, and Italian text/ songs from the Opera. It is hard to picture, I imagine, just from hearing the description, but it certainly was unique, a piece of art that I am sure will keep the audience awake and alert and always looking for new things.
I spent the day roaming the city in my usual fashion, with nothing but a map and no real idea of what I was looking for/ looking at/ where I was going. I like experiencing a city for the first time in that way.
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