Thursday, April 3, 2008

365 Days/365Plays by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks: A World Premier

In November of 2002 Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Suzan–Lori Parks began a yearlong odyssey when she decided to create one play for each day of the year. The final result of her magnificent work is “365 Days/ 365 Plays”. Each play is a significant piece and can vary in length from 3 lines to 3 pages. The plays are featured either as plays complete within themselves or in continuity with other plays within the work.

Suzan-Lori Parks holds degrees from Mount Holyoke College and The Yale School of Drama. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants. These include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the 1995 Lila-Wallace Reader’s Digest Award, the 1996 CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts (Drama}, the 2001 MacArthur Foundation“ Genius” Award and the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her play, “Topdog/Unerdog


Beginning on November 13, 2006 and running until November 12, 2007, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles New York, and San Francisco are among the many cities in the United States which have elected to participate in the World Premier of 365 Days /365 Plays, as part of a national festival.

Each participating city has 365 days in which to perform 365 plays. The participants vary from theatrical groups, performing artists, dancers and in the city of Seattle this included the film community. Each participating group is responsible for producing one week in the 365 Days/365Plays cycle. The participants perform their works in theatrical spaces, coffee shops, on the city streets and in movie theaters.

Seattle’s participating groups included The Empty Space Theater, Nu Black Arts West Theatre, Spectrum Dance and The Northwest Film Forum.

The Northwest Film Forum, was responsible for creating productions during week #42. From August 27 to September 2 filmmakers in the Seattle area presented their works at the theater located in The Northwest Film Forum. Some of these works were presented as staged readings while others were completed films.

I participated as a composer for a production team that created a film for the world premier. This was a great opportunity to be part of a significant project by an outstanding playwright.

Our team consisted of director Przemek Pardyak, cinematographer William Brody actors Meredith Binder and Annette Toutonghi
Przemek, William, Meredith and I had all worked together on “The 48 Hour Project"

The plays being performed on week #42 were comprised of: “ More Money Then Gold”( 2 males, 1 female, a slave, “A Play About Suit” (1 male, a slave, a chorus of slaves), ”Live Free or Die” (1 female, a chain of people holding hands), “ Holey Moley” (1 male, 1 female), “ The King and I” ( 2 males), “ A Play For The People” (1 female, her amanuensis, lots of people) and “ Her Amanuensis” (1 female, her amanuensis).

“A Play For The People” was the play our film team produced. Przemek gave me the script and explained the interpretation of the play. This interpretation was a jail within a jail (society, politics, images of others) very abstract, with a surreal set, expressionistic camera work and many open questions. We discussed musical ideas (sparse music and abstract with minimalism in mind), and I was able to start writing music before the filming began. This was important because the production schedule was very condensed. Beginning with rehearsals Thursday August 30, filming and editing Friday August 31st, and presenting the finished film on Saturday evening September 1st.

Our film location was in Magnuson Park at Sandy Point which is a former Naval Air Base. We filmed at the “commissary cement slab” (pictured above). This location was perfect because of it’s starkness and the look of abandonment. The set was very simple with only a metal fence surrounding the slab.

Everything went well for the filming and our screening took place on September 1st, 2007 at The Northwest Film Forum. In the spirit of a theatrical performance, where a play is performed and subsequently ends on stage, The Northwest Film Forum had asked the filmmakers to “ burn, destroy” the film after the public screening. We complied with this and destroyed the film. And, yes, we do have another copy!

On my web site you can listen to music I composed for “ A Play For The People”.

This was a great experience and I am glad to have had a small part in the World Premier of 365 Days/365 Plays.

Nan Avant

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