Dexter Bullard's FAQs for Dialogues Series Performers | Bleader

Dexter Bullard's FAQs for Dialogues Series Performers


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As the Reader's Lauri Apple reports, Chicago-based director Dexter Bullard is curating the Dialogues Series, an experiment in which two well-known performers sit onstage at Links Hall, separated from each other by a divider, and carry on a phone conversation for approximately an hour while the audience listens in. The names of the artists participating in the nine-installment series is being kept a secret—though I'm told one is an Academy Award nominee and another a Pulitizer winner (Michael Shannon and Tracy Letts, both longtime associates of Bullard, fit those profiles)—but we've obtained Bullard's instructions to the participants. Here they are, only slightly abridged:

Dear Dialogues Performer,

Very exciting. The Dialogues kicks off on Monday, Sept 13th at 7:30pm with our first two performers!

Thank you all so much for being part of this. . . .


Why don't I know who I'm performing with?

It's part of the experiment - you won't know until the conversation's over. When you arrive at the theater (CALLTIME 6:45pm) - you will be kept apart from your partner (like dogs before mating, I guess.) In the blackout, you will take places across a divider down the center of the space. You will hear each other on the phone, but not see each other. The audience can both see and hear you

How does it work?

There are two phones, connected on either side of the divider, live to the audience on headphones. Performers can hear as clearly as a normal landline phone conversation. The audience hears it as if listening in - like a wiretap or on an extension. The audience is also getting an underscored mix of the music generated by the live composer working with you each night (Eric Leonardson, Sam Wagster or Lou Mallozi - depending on the night.) Performers will hear the same music/sound over the Links Hall speakers - just like listening to music in a room while talking on the phone... The musicians are hearing the conversation in real-time and underscoring with its energy...

Do I get to try out the phone before we go?

YES. You will get chance to talk on the phone and listen to the mix before the audience arrives. ONE NOTE: The mic on the phone is all the audience is using to listen, so UNLIKE theater, where you project your voice into the space, you can and should SPEAK relatively SOFTLY into the phone. Picture yourself in a cubicle at work on a personal call - keeping it quiet enough to be heard over the line, but not into the space.

How does it start?

Lights will go down. The sound of a phone ringing will cover the blackout. Audience will put on headphones. Your lights will fade up and after the fourth ring - just pick up the phone and enjoy.

How long, or when do we know we're done?

I predict 50 to 65 minutes will be the best length. The music/sound won't begin for the first 10 minutes. The music/sound may come and go. There is a clock on the wall at Links, or one performer can check a timer. Then, when the conversation seems to have reached it's length, you work on saying goodbye and hanging up.

What's in the space?

Each side of the room will have a comfy chair, a small table, a rug, and a lamp. The phone has a 12' handset cord, so you can stroll a bit. This room should feel like yours - you can stand, lie, sit anywhere in your area...

What do I wear? Do I need to bring anything?

Wear whatever is comfortable for you. Since you will be talking on the phone, you can bring a newspaper, sandwich, cuppa tea, Big Gulp, notepad, snuggie, your iPhone, a change of clothes, modeling clay, small quiet guinea pig, whatever you want to feel at home. But by no means be busy about it. The point is listening and responding to the conversation but you are visible in space.

What DO WE f*cking TALK ABOUT?

Anything that streams from the honest, shared, present dialogue.

Here are the things you don't want to do:
- create givens or conflict as in traditional improv - "hi grandma!" "you owe me the rent" "i'm jesus"
- call out the conceit "well, dexter set up this thing so we better start talking" or "why don't you just hang up and walk around that wall and talk to me" or "bet i can guess who this is..."
- monopolize the conversation.

Here's what you should do:
- plan somethings/stories to talk about that you may abandon when the riffing starts
- start in the middle of the conversation: the first line isn't "who is this?" or "hello there." Assume you've been talking.
- let each other have a long story from time-to-time, just trade evenly, give and take...
- ask each other good questions that mine more detail and interest. interview, probe...
- leave plenty of silence when it's there...
- let it be poetic if it wants to...
- let it be intimate if it wants to...
- look for emotional transformation - a passion, a discovery, a contention, a release, a sadness. . . .

1000 thanks for doing this. . .



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