Meagan Marshall, a UCSD alumni, professor of creative writing at both San Diego City College and SDSU, shared some titillating insights about her experiences as a collaborator for “Pillow: Case.” She not only wrote the highly funny and tender text for the work, but will also be performing it in Dances of Love, Laughter, & Loss this weekend!
What is your history with Jean and dance?
I studied with Jean during my undergraduate years at UCSD, though I admired her work long before I actually had the chance to study with her. She was and still is a wonderful mentor. Taking her classes and performing in her works are some of the best memories I have from my time at UCSD. Though I did not dance in the version of Atlantic Man she set on UCSD students, I watched each evening from backstage. The piece fostered my love for the writing of Marguerite Duras, and is still one of my favorites from Jean’s repertoire.
How did you get involved with “Pillow: Case”?
Jean and I had been talking about collaborating on something for about a year. I have always been fascinated by the cross-pollination of art forms. Jean’s ability to pair movement and text is inspirational, so I jumped at the chance to work with her. We met and she showed me a stack of old, mismatched pillowcases; then she told me several stories associated with each pillowcase.
Describe the collaborative process with Jean.
It evolved rather organically, beginning with the initial meeting at her house, the pillowcases, and the stories. After taking copious notes, I began crafting my own versions of the original events. Though the stories are mostly autobiographical, Jean didn’t want anyone to be personally ‘indicted’ so I skewed many of the personal details. Because poetry is my forte, I developed each story into a prose poem of sorts. I knew that choreography had to come from the text, so I aimed for heightened musicality and imagery. Jean also mentioned that she wanted “Pillow: Case” to balance the stark tone of “The Atlantic Man,” and so I tried to incorporate comedic, salacious, and light-hearted content. Thus, some of the finished stories turned out to be quite hyperbolic, and the original details from Jean’s life are now just kernels of plot in each.
What has it been like to recreate Jean’s stories?
It’s been an honor to recreate these stories for Jean. It’s a unique experience to have the chance to write for someone you admire. In the same vein, it was a bit harrowing because I was nervous that Jean might not connect with my versions of the stories. I think most writers have this reaction when releasing their work into the hands of others. It’s also been fun to explore my comedic side. I tend to write from a dark place, so this was a new and exhilarating process– having the chance to be bawdy instead of brooding.
What has been your favorite story to write so far?
It’s hard to choose a favorite because I enjoyed writing each one. Even though it isn’t paired with choreography, I think “Inside the Actor’s Studio” might be one of my favorites because I was able to parody James Lipton and personify the pillow case. Jean and I talked about providing an opportunity for the Pillow Case to have a ‘voice’ at some point during the show, so this was my way of bringing that idea to life. I also favor “A Wolf in Silk Bed Sheets” because it was the first story I wrote. It has been through the most revisions, but the original is stranger than anything I could ever invent.
Thanks for sharing Meagan!
Tickets are still available for the show: http://www.sandiegodancetheater.org/LoveLaughterLoss.html