I designed the set for No Exit which tips with each actors’ step. The inspiration for the set came from Imago’s mentor Jacques Lecoq.
The year is 1977. The place is Portland, Oregon. I’m in enrolled in The Hayes-Marshall School of Theatre Arts, a year-long course based on the teaching of Lecoq. We are studying a Lecoq concept called “Balance of the Stage.” The thirteen students in the class stand around the 30’ perimeter of an imaginary plate. The plate floats on an imaginary vat of oil. The instructor asks one of the students to step on the imaginary plate. The student is asked to imagine the plate sinking slowly with his weight. Now at the right moment (Lecoq work always seeks the right moment, not to soon, not too late) another student is coached to step onto the plate 180 degrees across from the first student. The two students move like gunslingers in a western facing one another to balance and imbalance the plate on the vat of oil. The movement is mesmerizing.
In 1997, I transplanted myself from the conventional theatre department at University of Oregon to The Hayes-Marshall School . At U of O, I was trying to be other people on stage - characters in the playwright’s mind. How to be other people? I didn’t even know how to be myself. I am to be Henry IV? Theatre confused me. I was lost. But now here in a Lecoq class – I’m not asked to be anyone but myself. Just be me standing on a plate on a vat of oil. I can do this. I can see this. This I could visualize. I understand. Yes! I feel the plate sinking. Yes, I sense the balance tipping and the balance restored. In Jacques Lecoq’s world, my world changed. And thus, my life in theatre began.
It’s been over 30 years, and Lecoq’s teaching continue to unfold. The journey hasn’t stopped. In 1998, I was fortunate to take Lecoq’s concept and make a physical realization of his concepts of balance when I was designing No Exit. Mr. Lecoq died in 1999. I wish he could have seen our production of Sartre’s play. I would have been grateful to get his notes on the show (but I would have been very nervous.)
No Exit opens October 16 (Oct 15 is a preview)