A couple weeks ago, I spoke with Zoe and Juniper on the phone about what was published as part of "No Ideas But in Things" in 2013, and what shape the project should evolve in during 2014 as we approach the Seattle and New York premieres.—JMB
Jeremy Barker: So, you’ve had a chance to read the series I published through December about this project during 2013. What is your response?
Juniper Shuey: I thought it was fun to see read about your interaction—the way you talk about being in the cab talking with Zoe. I enjoyed the stories of how we had those conversations. It says a lot about how this work gets made. When you have conversations and how you have them are very different than in the "normal" world, and it's interesting to have that as part of the make-up of the project.
Zoe Scofield: I think it’s a very interesting way to approach doing something that you don't know how to do, because it hasn't happened yet. It definitely makes you, as a person, a part of it.
Jeremy Barker: Yes.
Zoe Scofield: It takes you out of being this dry critic, or writing "about" it from the outside.
Jeremy Barker: One of the things I wound up writing a lot about while doing that was how my own thoughts on the piece kept evolving of the year, including my sense of what it is you were trying to do. I write about how I was wrong, how I was misunderstanding your goals even as we were talking about it. What was your sense of that?
Zoe Scofield: It's interesting to me in that it raised bigger questions about writing about art, and how writing [about it the way you did] makes it clear to the reader that this is not the Alpha and Omega about the work. That they are allowed to have their own response and experience, and that one person’s interpretation doesn't define the work. I was talking with another writer about this the other day, who was interviewing us, and she asked what the piece was “about.” And I said, "I'm not entirely interested in talking about that,” because I'm not interested in creating material for people to consciously or unconsciously judge their own experience against, to see if they can line up what they saw with what I say it's “about.” And so your own story is an example of how it actually sometimes is, where your thinking can change or you can be surprised by what you actually see. I think it's good for audiences to have that sense. That reading about something about a work beforehand, or talking with someone beforehand, can make them expect one thing, and then they can still have a very different experience when they see it.
Jeremy Barker: Actually, that reminds me—I don’t remember if I cut this from what I published or not—but in a draft, at least, I wrote about how I never actually asked you what the piece is about, because it didn’t seem like it was important. It’s not about what you set out to do, it’s about the process of getting there. Which leads me to my next question: Having read my description of your process as artists, do you think it’s accurate? Is there something I’ve missed?
Zoe Scofield: This entire process with this piece is new for us. That was the whole point when we set out last year to make this series of chamber studies [No One to Witness or Adjust...] along the way. The point was to set up a scenario that was different for us, unknown for us, so that we couldn't make things in the same way. So we couldn’t make the “same thing.”
Juniper Shuey: We're trying new ways of creating, so the process feels very unknown, unfamiliar. Particularly when you look at our process over time—this piece in relation to the last one. This piece has gone through very different phases [the chamber studies and On the Board residency], where we try a process material in a certain way. And we sit in it for a while, and may be confused or lost in that process because we're not familiar with it, and then at the same time we have to analyze whether it's working or not, and whether we continue with that process. I think in this piece, there's been quite a few times when it just seemed like the questions we were dealing with were less clear to me, because the process was so different. It was hard to tell analytically whether something was working.
Zoe Scofield: And I think it's also something to do with the rapidness, the rapid succession of making things. That was really new. The scale of production was way different than before. Which was all for the point of having less stress of what we've felt in the past, tied to making these big theatrical productions. So to be able to go in and say we want to try this or that at a different part of the process—we had no idea what that was going to be like. And I don't know if I can say whether it’s been successful or not yet. I think one of the reasons for that was that not everyone involved was entirely able to embrace the "who-the-fuck-knows?" attitude and just keep on trying new ways, new iterations, to see what worked. And from the point of view of the choreography and dancing, I've always worked with my dancers for a really long time in the studio. And now to have this situation where Ariel Freedman and I are not in the studio together until final tech residency, it’s very different for me. I've never done that, and it’s forcing me to think about trust, and how I can streamline and be succinct. And it's also about not being able to rehearse the piece to death. But the jury's still out—we're still making the piece—but it is a radically different process than before.
Jeremy Barker: Going back over the writing from 2013, I wonder what it is that you think I’ve neglected? What’s missing?
Juniper Shuey: I feel there's the idea of seeing the relationship of your creative struggles writing about our process, and how that's similar to our own challenges in our creative process. I think your story of your difficulties navigating this process parallels our own. And I think that's something that’s sort of missing, the account of how that was what the process was for us. How the anecdote of your own experience can cross over to reflect my own experience or Zoe's experience.
Jeremy Barker: That’s very true, and I think that will emerge more as we proceed through 2014. Once the piece comes together for On the Boards, once decisions become finalized, it’ll be a lot easier for me to look back and see how these struggles have led somewhere concrete for you.
Juniper Shuey: I think there's something interesting in a process when it comes to finalization. There's a timeline that says when it has to come to an end. And that's when you start focusing on certain parts of it, certain ideas, instead of saying, Well, here's some ideas, and letting them just be out there. You have to start defining specifically what those choices are. And I think that's an interesting part in any artistic process, when an artist reaches that point where they've played with all these ideas, and now they're confronted with actually implementing them. There are always other ideas that work, but you hit this point when there's a deadline and you have to decide, “This is the direction I'm going in.” And you take a leap of faith and do it.
Jeremy Barker: It's going to be interesting to me seeing the piece that's finally put up for precisely that reason--that's when I'll really be able to look back and see how these ideas have evolved.
Juniper Shuey: Yes. It'll be interesting to get to see what, after the summer residency, what we chose not to take back from it.
Jeremy Barker: Yeah! The summer residency's an interesting thing I really want to revisit when we're closer to the premiere. But now I want to sort of ask about you to offer some thoughts on translating BeginAgain from the version that premieres at On the Boards in March in Seattle, to the piece people will be seeing at 3LD in New York, which is a completely different sort of space and relationship to the audience.
Juniper Shuey: It's an installation version of BeginAgain.
Zoe Scofield: A performance installation.
Juniper Shuey: It's like taking a story and telling it from a different perspective. The story is the same, but what you see is totally different.
Zoe Scofield: It's like saying that reading To Kill a Mockingbird and seeing the movie are the same. They're both great and they’re both interesting, separate pieces in-and-of themselves. But they're different things orbiting the same center.