08 Fringe: “And I Am Not Making This Up”

Nell Weatherwax of “And I Am Not Making This Up” - photo by Chris Eller

On the first Sunday afternoon of the 2008 Indianapolis Fringe Festival I had to miss a few of the time slots because of a previous commitment, but I was back downtown on Mass. Ave. by 6:00 in time to see one of my most-anticipated shows, “And I Am Not Making This Up,” by Bloomington (Indiana) resident Nell Weatherwax.

I wrote about this show last year when I was a member of the IndianaAuditions.com review team.  Last year, the show was in the very intimate Stage Two of the Theatre on the Square (TOTS).  This year, the show is on TOTS’ larger Main Stage.  Not every show transfers well between the two spaces, but this one does.  Weatherwax uses the larger space fully and effectively. 

The only set pieces are three black boxes that are large and strong enough for her to stack, and/or sit or stand on. 

Every one of Weatherwax’s shows is different because she “listens” to her body in order to know which story to tell next, and how to tell it.   She moves fearlessly, deliberately, and creatively, like a dancer or a mime, but also she talks and sometimes sings the story as it makes itself known to her. 

(I don’t remember any singing or vocalizing last year, only spoken words.  The musical amplification must be new, another element in Weatherwax’s artistic journey.  I like it!)

She also draws on the energy of her audience.  Even if her audience consisted of the exact same group of people who had attended her show the previous day, the energy would be different because all of the people are one day older and, probably, in different emotional states than before.

In Sunday’s show, Weatherwax welcomed us by saying, “I hope you are not here for some kiddie show.”  It’s true: if a curse word or an adult theme appears, Weatherwax goes with it.

She also said that she inhabits the stories that bubble up from within her as best she can.  “We go on the journey together.”

She sang a little impromptu song then:  “You’ve got to dare to suck of you wanna have fun.”

She first shared a story that appeared to her as she moved her body on her own.  She ended by holding her arm up.  Chris, the lighting and sound technician up in the booth, knew to take the lights to black-out as her arm came down.

When the lights came back up, Weatherwax asked for a volunteer from the audience to put her body into a position.  She would work from that position to bring up the next story.  A woman went down to the stage, stacked the boxes, and helped Weatherwax to a crouched position on top of them.  She moved Weatherwax’s hands then: one behind her neck, the other over her mouth.

From this position, Weatherwax unravelled another story that took us underwater and explored the importance of Voice.

When the story felt complete to her, she signalled to Chris and the lights went to black-out again.

When they came up, Weatherwax was backstage.  We heard some bell-like, or chime-like, notes.  Then Weatherwax came back out, sort of crawling.

But pretty quickly she stood up, saying, “Well, I’m already bored with that.  Who else wants to put me in position?”

This time another performance artist, Amy Fortoul, went down to the stage.  She moved Weatherwax into a reclining position on the floor of the stage, and then straddled her hips and crawled into her arms, like a lover.  Or a toddler.

After Fortul had extracted herself, laughing, Weatherwax rocked her way more deeply into the position and took us into a story about resisting, and yearning for, motherhood. 

She ended by saying, “There really is no script.  I don’t know if I’ll ever have the handbook for Mommying.” 

And then my breath caught.  For me, her story was about giving birth to art as well as to babies.  I left feeling re-inspired to create.

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

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