In June, Sally Burtenshaw, the amazing director that helped me find Jason, was directing a Fringe Show. I auditioned and was hopeful because it was a musical and I really liked the music, was familiar with the writer, and excited for an opportunity to work with Sally again. Well...as it's happened SO many times before- it was down to 2 of us and I didn't win. While I was in callbacks for the Fringe show, David had contacted me. If I had been cast I would not have had the time and opportunity to become a part of HANS. TEACHING MOMENT....seriously- when one door closes the freaking roof opens up and you realize you have wings busting out the back of your tube top and that sky is so pretty it could just kill you. So...I started going to this lab/workshop twice a week....The Hans Project.
I came a few weeks late to the party. I walked into a hot cathedral on a Monday night and met the ensemble of HANS- a group of 16 women, a man playing Freud, and a bevy of musicians congregated in a church space that comprises The West End Theatre in all its high dome pewed seating and built in sweat. I jumped right in to some of the improvisations and was so struck by the graciousness and abandon the ensemble offered up and included me into. As the lab continued, faces changed, life calibrated the collective and every single night we spent together I left feeling high and free and excited to explore the world of HANS with David and the ensemble. Somehow, along the way, David and I had not discussed my union affiliation. I learned I would not be able to perform in the run of the show because this was NOT going to be an Equity production. David asked if I would continue on as his Assistant Director. At first I was disappointed because I knew I'd be giving up that feeling of freedom I had as a performer in the group, but I was also excited to explore the show and bring my instincts as a director. I said yes, and on the party raged. Then, David got Austin Pendleton & Andre De Sheilds to be the voice of Freud and it would be an equity showcase, and could I perform? OF COURSE!
I have really enjoyed exploring the role of The Assistant. I play an arsenal of characters that interact with little Hans. I am a boy cousin, a little girl, a stork, a horse, a photographer, a plumber... many of which are images and hallucinations that this traumatized child fabricates and has phobias, dreams, and realizations about. This process has been chock full of my own psycho exploration. This show is about a child who witnesses abuse, is traumatized and confused and alone in a family, but ultimately is saved by music and does become successful. How? Little Hans goes on to become a successful opera producer, but his sister Hana commits suicide...exploring how Hans transcends his circumstances leads me to explore my own journey.
As a child I experienced terrible night terrors all the way up into my teens. I was afraid to go to sleep for most of my childhood. As an infant I had seizures, but as a child they developed into hallucinations and totally paralyzing fearscapes. I would see monsters bubbling out of the walls, or people dressed in old clothes waltzing around my bed. These visions were always accompanied by spontaneous fever which led my mom to believe it was my brain doing this to me. The only thing that would bring me out of it was my mom drawing me a tepid bath. I remember so vividly coming out of those states with my tired mommy there stroking my hair and feeling so bad, "Oh no- it happened again...I am so sorry." My mom had me go to sleep studies, all different kinds of neurologists and brain people to find out "what was wrong with me"...out of concern of course- I don't blame my mom- she was doing EVERYTHING she though she could to help me through those traumatizing episodes. Looking back, I understand now that I was reacting to the climate of my parents marriage, the environment I came into, and frankly, the psychological residue of my parents and family life. Children are spongy and amorphous- my sensitivity sucked it all up. I was a happy wistful child in the daytime- I grew up on a farm where I was naked all the time and had horses and rivers and land to tread. But at night I truly felt haunted and always a step away from the demons that knew right where to find me. Theatre and acting and music saved me. I feel akin to little Hans, and feel a great responsibility to be a reflection of the demons he knew well, but somehow befriended or flew away from.
We are now a cast of 6 women, 3 musicians, and 4 voices of Frued. We open in 10 days, and I am very excited. I have never worked in a lab situation like this- I'm used to being result and performance oriented as a professional actress. Letting go of the need for a result has been hard, but has stimulated much growth and freedom. I am continually inspired by the women in the ensemble. Even when there has been conflict it has been on the road to understanding and love. The resources and research that has been at our disposal is so amazing. This has truly been a collaborative process in its finest sense. Music, art, movement, psycho exploration, imagery, sex, all of it- its been one big exquisite dream...
Hans: A Case Study
Written and Directed by David Pilot
September 17 - 25, 2011: 8:00pm
West End Theatre in the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew
263 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024
NEW YORK, New York, September 6, 2011 - West End Theatre - David Pilot and Hans Project are proud to present, "Hans: A Case Study” based on Sigmund Freud’s 1909 landmark case study Little Hans, Analysis of Phobia in a Five Year-Old Boy. Hans is a hero’s tale of a young boy’s escape from the imposition of neurosis into revelation of self.
Hans’ parents agreed to observe and report on the psychological and emotional development of their first child as encouraged by Freud. This seminal case history served to introduce Freud’s developmental theories, including the Oedipal Complex, Castration Complex, Penis Envy and the notion of the sexual fantasy life. Suppressed evidence of trauma, abuse and boundary violation has recently surfaced, inspiring a more thorough re-examination of history’s first child psychoanalysis.
Featured in the role of Sigmund Freud are Austin Pendleton* (Sept 17, 18, 23), Dr. John Munder Ross, Ph.D. (Sept. 19 and 20), Valery Oisteanu (Sept. 21 and 22) and André De Shields* (Sept 24, 25). Starring the all female ensemble of Elsa Carette as Hans, Jenna Bourgeois as Mummy, Louisa Ward as Daddy, Raquel Dutra as Grete, Amanda Ladd* as The Assistant and Dana Marcolina as Hanna, with live music by the Complex Electra Orchestra featuring composer/piano David Cieri, percussion Brian Ravitsky and Jay Frederick, contrabass Mike Brown, and theremin Julie Dicterow. Live-action illustration performed by artist Maximilian Bode.
Panels with leading psychoanalysts and academics on Freud and Little Hans, follow each performance. Dr. Robert Landy, Ph.D. (Director - NYU Drama Therapy Program), Dr. John Munder Ross, Ph.D. (Clinical Professor - Columbia and Weill Cornell Medical Centers), Dr. Jennifer Stuart, Ph.D. (Faculty: NYU Psychoanalytic Institute), and Dr. Harold Blum, Ph.D. (Executive Director of the Freud Archives at the U.S. Library of Congress) lead the discussions.
Suggested donation, $18 – Advanced reservations required.
*Actors appearing courtesy Actors Equity Association