Improvising Time: immersion and circumstance

Our previous improvisation period, which took place earlier in the year, ended at a particular moment: with the arrival of Jimmy and Caitlyn at her father Ray’s house in Time, Warren County, Indiana on Tuesday 13th January 1981, where he lives with his other daughter, Robyn (see previous post for plot recap). The purpose of the current period of improvisation is to pick up from that point and then to move onwards; the material being generated out of the consequences of that arrival. You can watch the improvisation footage here.

Day One of our work (or Day 11, as following on from the previous improvisation period) focused on immersing the actors back into their characters, and into the circumstances of the day of Jimmy and Caitlyn’s arrival in Time. I am reminded that the possibility of immersion is almost entirely dependent on the actors’ capacity to imaginatively invest in context and circumstance; and consequently my work is fundamentally ‘about’ articulating place, time and previous circumstances in ways that are useful and coherent. I focus on small practical details of the senses rather than generalizations of circumstance, or suggestions of emotional states. What do you see, smell, hear, feel (sensorally)? What is the specifity of that condition? So I am interested in exactly what it might feel like to fire a gun, what colour the engraving on the barrel might be, how strong the smell of sulphur. It is not therefore a question of the weather being hot, or cold; but rather how hot, how cold; and what would the differentiation actually mean in practical/behavourial reality? Out of the summation of such tiny details, the actors are able to best determine what their accurate behaviour should be in relation to the circumstances in which the characters are embedded. Their behaviours (which includes, of course, what they say) then generate new circumstantial conditions, again constructed in sensoral detail. So, slowly, moment by moment, the narrative moves forward.

A little summary of the narrative over the last three days: Robyn doesn’t want Jimmy and Caityln to be there, but she is under pressure from Raymond to be hospitable. They all eat together, with awkward conversation. Ray gets drunk with Jimmy, and tries to get to know Caitlyn. Caitlyn and Robyn argue in the middle of the night out in the fields, surrounded by snow. Ray’s health is beginning to deteriorate but, so far, only Robyn really knows, and she hasn’t told anyone. Ray takes Caitlyn and Jimmy shooting whilst Robyn is at school. Caitlyn and Jimmy argue in private. When Robyn returns from school she throws all of Caitlyn’s and Jimmy’s clothes out into the snow. Ray asks Jimmy to see if Robyn will talk to him. Robyn asks Jimmy where his and Jimmy’s baby is – Robyn having been told that they would be arriving with a newborn. Jimmy tells Robyn that the baby hadn’t been in God’s plans for them.