David Gaines

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Man of the Month Before – David Gaines

Monday, August 1st, 2011

August’s Man of the Month is:

David Gaines

Here’s a little bit about him:
David Gaines is a performer and director who has focused his work almost exclusively on telling stories in movement, mask, improvisation, commedia, and clown. He studied for two years at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France, after which he was a founding member of The Moving Picture Mime Show – a movement theatre company based in London that toured Europe and the world for 10 years. He then returned to the Ecole Lecoq as a professor of mask and movement.

He has been a faculty member at the graduate school of the University of Missouri (Kansas City), and is now teaching at George Mason University in the Washington DC area.

As a clown, he is a member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit in Washington and Baltimore. As a writer and director, he has developed and directed shows for companies in England, Paris, and Salzburg.

His two most recent solo performance pieces are: “A Little Business At the Big Top”, performed at the New York Clown Festival, and “7 ( x 1) Samurai”, which has won numerous awards and sold out at Theatre Festivals all across the country and the continent.

And here’s how he answered my 6 questions about creativity:

What does it mean to you to be creative?
To apply imagination to what you do, whatever the field.

What triggers your creativity?
Of course the shortest and most correct answer is: “A check and a deadline”.
Butto was more pompously artistic about it:
“Other people’s provocations and suggestions – obliquely. Allowing my mind to turn an idea or a problem over in a daydreaming sort of way; thinking about it while sitting in the bath, for example. When something that I hear or think of makes me think “that would be cool to do”, then I feel the impulse to pursue it. Then, for physical work, the opportunity/obligation to actually try to make the dreams real with actors in space, and all the new problems that turn up. Then it’s work and daydreaming in alternation until the soufflé is done or falls flat.”

Rally to Restore Sanity - David and Susan

What hinders your creativity?
My slothful body and my inner critic.

What’s the wildest journey your venturesome spirit has taken you on?
I am cautious and conservative by nature, but in my youth I once went to Basle, Switzerland for Carnival (or Fassnacht), during which, for two nights and the day between them people would rove the streets in small gangs of masked and costumed fife and drum corps. Everyone in town, it seemed, played in a fife and/or drum group, and practiced regularly (like Samba teams in Brazil, I guess) for this occasion. It was wind-whipping-ly cold at night, but an incredible glimpse – for a kid who thought theatre and life lived separately – of a place where the two worlds collide. People who are at once perfectly ‘quotidian’ and highly theatrical. I have enjoyed that zone ever since – a theatre that is obviously real while at the same time compellingly theatrical.

What does being bold and provocative mean to you?
Two different things. Being bold means having the courage to throw yourself into choices for which prudence, wisdom, or your inner critic might come up with good reasons why they are stupid, or won’t work. And it is devoutly to be valued in the creative process. Even though it is often misguided, it is a myth to think there can be creativity (or indeed, anything in life) without mistakes and waste.

Being provocative means simply stimulating a response. I think this is overrated as a value in works of art, since provocation of shock, nausea, and revulsion alone do not in my mind qualify as worthwhile (nor are they very hard to achieve). When a work is provocative of something of value (laughter, beauty, empathy, understanding, inspiration, etc.), then it is legitimately valuable.

What’s next for you?
Death, I expect. But before that, fun, play, silliness, delight in the bittersweet regard that age can have of the consuming passions and desperate struggles of our younger selves. Also, of course, flogging this successful show as long as my body (and, let us not leave out the most important part – my delight in performing it) will permit. There is the possibility of a short film in the works, and I often imagine a two person clown piece, Beckett-like, about life. I’d also like to create a version of Vonnegut’s “Sirens of Titan” (with a company), and a commedia piece that is a mash-up of Zorro, the Three Musketeers, and a pirate story (also with a company). But I am certainly old enough now to know that looking forward to doing something is often even more delightful than the work of actually doing it, so for now, I’m happy dreaming of things, touring, teaching young actors, and enjoying the now of life – cooking and eating a nice dinner with my wife, planting a garden, designing home improvement projects that are beyond capacity to execute.

And here’s a few things that inspires David’s creativity:

Movies: “Love Actually”; “In the Bedroom”; “Big Fish”

Books: “The Life of Pi”

Songs: too many to mention. The smooth and sensitive solace of James Taylor. The cleverness and rhythmic tunefulness of Paul Simon. The depth and resonance of Mary Chapin Carpenter. The bold accomplishment of Lauryn Hill…

Theatre: A local (but world class) movement theatre company called Synetic Theatre. Also, sometimes school plays at high schools. And certainly many of the great performers I have seen/met on the Fringe Festival circuit.

But web-postable stuff? I don’t spend enough time surfing the web to have seen something really inspiring yet. Certainly all the “inspirational” power-point things one sees don’t last more than the time it takes to view them.

Actually, though, I would recommend the “TED” lecture series. Though I think little can really inspire you if you are not inspired by life itself, I do find them impressive presentations by smart people who have some mighty original and unusually imaginative thoughts.

And for high-concept, minimalist movement theatre that succeeds at its intention, it’s hard to beat this youtube video!

Check out David website www.davidgainesperformance.com!

Thank you David for always dreaming up stuff!

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