Working from the Moment: John Muir Wolf

Gabe Juul, Noah Yaconelli, and Delaney Hanon

Gabe Juul, Noah Yaconelli, and Delaney Hanon in rehearsal for John Muir Wolf.

Technology changes the way that audiences experience theatre and the way that practitioners create it. The introduction of the incandescent light bulb in the late 19th Century gave theaters greater freedom to illuminate their productions. Advanced blogging technology illustrates a similar, modern-day example of how technology changes the way theatres can communicate with audiences. (Okay, maybe not quite as revolutionary as the light bulb.)

I think the greatest way that the blog has changed the audience experience is that it gives its readers a much-expanded view of the production process. The extent of the creative process could never be portrayed in the performance programs quite as fully as it is in the blog. As such, the blog gives readers a closer glimpse into the tremendous growth that happens within HJT on a weekly basis.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be focusing on HJT’s next production, John Muir Wolf. I hope you’ll join me and pay special attention to how the production develops over time.

Haley Forrester and Reid Watson Richtone(HDR)

Haley Forrester and Reid Watson on the set of John Muir Wolf.

John Muir Wolf is unique in that its script remained unwritten until after the cast was formed. In order to develop the play before memorization and study of the script could take place, writer and director Jimmy Maize led his actors in a method called “Moment Work” for reasons quite unknown to me. I therefore sought out John Muir Wolf actor Matthew Fisher to tell me a little more about how this technique influenced the process of producing the original piece.

Fisher tells me Moment Work is essentially a method to make work. He says that it, “tries to bring a lot of power to the actor by drawing from different sources… in order to create ‘Moments’ that are richer through that experience.” It helped him and his fellow actors to develop a common vocabulary, greatly contributing to their comfort with one another. This was huge for them because of how much of an ensemble-based play it is. In addition, the method “makes the play so much more ours,” he says. “We created these moments ourselves. We can better understand the feeling and atmosphere of the play because we had already put in the work.”

Jimmy Cast Lanterns 2

Dance will accompany live folk music in John Muir Wolf.

When visiting one of the group’s rehearsals this past week, Maize turns to me to let me know that I shouldn’t judge too harshly as they are running through Act II for one of the first times. However, it was clear from how comfortable the actors were around one another that the Moment Work had had its impact regardless of the fact that the actors still have plenty of work to do memorizing lines. What they had shared with me felt genuine and true. It was theirs. There’s something very special about that sense of ownership.

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Find out more about Moment Work at the Tectonic Theater Project’s website.

One thought on “Working from the Moment: John Muir Wolf

  1. Can’t wait to see John Muir Wolf! Love the concept of “Moment Work.” Also, look forward to the next blogs giving us a sneak peak into the production process.
    Thanks.

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