About All Good Men

I’ve written a number of posts about creating my new evening lenght show. This post sort of condenses lots of the writing from those earlier posts, and adds a little more context.

From 2002-2004 I had a company  called the Blackbird Dance Ensemble. I made two evening length shows in consecutive summers, and with the support of grants I was able to perform in DC, New York City, Boston, and at the American Dance Festival. People responded positively to the work, but I didnt. I didnt grow up dancing, and I realized that I needed to become a better dancer to become the choreographer I know I can be. You can only focus on so many things at once.

Ive worked very hard on my dancing over the last five years, and it has paid off. Ive had the opportunity to dance for a bunch of local companies (Jane Franklin, Alexandria Ballet, Maida Withers, etc) and even got to perform and teach in Russia – a dancers Mecca. I decided last year it was time to start choreographing again. But I didnt get any of the grants I applied for, and so wasnt able to do a show. I didnt get any grants this year either, but I realized I simply had to get the party started. I know what Ive got, and have no doubt that one makes it easier to be overlooked when youre not out there making things. In December of 2008 I finalized my plan, and began working on the project that will premiere in the Fringe Festival under the title, All Good Men.

My work for the project began with the development of a script to use as the root for the evening. I picked up a Dylan Thomas film-script in a used bookstore in the fall of 2008, and was really grabbed by it. I decided to do a dance / theater adaptation. For little while I tried to rope in a theater director to help with the adaptation, and to co-direct. That being un-successful, I settled down to doing it on my own.

You might know Dylan Thomas as the poet famous for such lines as: “Do not go gentle into that good night”, and “Wow, I finished the bottle of scotch already?!?” (Thomas was a professional writer who died from an alcoholism-related illness at age 39.) His most famous script is the radio play Under Milkwood. Im producing an adaptation of¬† The Doctor and the Devils. After reading everything I could by Dylan (LOC, yeah you know me) I started typing up the script. The task was to take a 150+ scene film-script and translate it into something that could work on a stage, with dance.

The Doctor and the Devils is centrally concerned with the interaction between a medical professor/doctor and a group of people who dug up bodies to sell to the doctor for use in dissection in the academy. All of the characters are very complex, and the language is brilliant. I needed to simplify the plot, cut characters, and cut scene locations to make it viable on a stage. (Its now down to 20 scenes, seven characters.) Part of the process was figuring out where the dances would occur, and why. For me the core of the script is about our interaction on slippery moral slopes; how we all jostle and push each other up and down moral slopes. Dance is a very in-efficient replacement for language, but for handling the ineffable, its far more efficient than words. The dances expand and personalize the issues raised by the text in a way that simple theater couldnt.

Last month we started rehearsing the dances. Im really pleased with how its going. Ive told the cast that I think the fascia that holds the whole piece together is within the dances. While we did a read-through at the first rehearsal, since then weve only been dancing. Ill put up some rehearsal photos and perhaps some video in a future post, and perhaps talk more about what were doing with some of the specific dances, but Ive gone on long enough for now.

Author: Robert Bettmann

Founder of Day Eight, and the DC Arts Writing Fellowship.