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Nearly 10 percent of Americans practice yoga. (And a staggering 44% more say they should.)
Exactly what are they doing?
Pinning their hopes for physical transformation on an ancient spiritual practice?
Doing their part in the Western plunder of India?
Falling in line with the machinations of a $10 billion a year industry?
In this first-ever play in which virtuosic yoga actually drives the plot, that’s what Meera Manoj, a sharp, if naive, Indian-American junior executive, is about to find out when she travels to Bangalore, India in 2002 to strike an outsourcing deal for clothing manufacturer Athleisure, Inc. Her match at Pooja Textiles is Vijay Subramanyam, a shrewd manager her own age with a strong social conscience and a Western education.
Back in the U.S., Josh Wager—a saxophone-playing, bartending New Orleans yogi—has dreamt up Microcosm Yoga, a virtuosic yoga method that heals joints, looks amazing, and, by the way, has a spiritual dimension aligned with social justice. Josh’s brandable idea hits the ground just in time for the yoga boom in America in the early 2000s. Josh attracts scores of American yoga students to train with him. Among them are two real stars, Meera, who has both design and managerial gifts, and Lucia Seymour, one of the most remarkable physical practitioners anyone has ever laid eyes on. One of Josh’s rapt followers is an enterprising Indian yoga teacher in Bangalore.
The guru scandal to come in 2012 would be like many others were it not for the power of the Internet and the novel phenomenon of the globetrotting rock star yoga teacher. When an anonymous website goes public, demonstrating in graphic images Josh’s questionable sexual and business practices, the worldwide M.Y. community is catapulted into rage and panic: Within minutes, yoga studios around the U.S. face catastrophic student cancellations and possible financial ruin as the buzz surrounding Josh’s behavior instantaneously devalues the M.Y. brand. Worldwide, wired yoga students demand immediate answers: Did their local teachers know about and collude in M.Y.’s hypocrisy? Was M.Y. a sham from the get-go? What about the physical benefits they know they’ve experienced?
At the top of the second act, corporate vultures swoop in to profit from the carnage. Dirk Abernathy, Athleisure’s eccentric, body-conscious Conjurer of New Products, proposes that Josh become the head of a scandal-driven flash campaign for its new “Monobutt” yoga pants — a product designed to bank on a fashion trend that Microcosm Yoga’s physical technique actually spawned. Pooja Textiles’ Vijay invites Josh to India to lease himself out, while he’s still hot, as a corporate apologist to Indian corporations riven by scandal. Josh also has ideas about how to use his fall to his own advantage. The timely arrival of the earnest yoga teacher from Bangalore allows Josh to solidify a multilevel marketing plan to spread and profit from his yoga in India.
Left to their own devices, Meera and Lucia must figure out how to save the Microcosm Yoga brand, the community they value, and their own careers. With a cast of 8 principals (5 male, 3 female principals) and an ensemble of at least 10 playing both Indian and American characters, American Yogi offers scope for a yoga choreographer to further the story through virtuosic group movement.
American Yogi © Sara K. Schneider 2014
Performed New York City, 1992, with the kind corporate sponsorship of Pantone, Inc.
An experimental movement-theatre work inspired by an awestriking (though relatively unknown) practice called “color forecasting,” in which the colors that will be generally designed with and marketed in fashion, industrial design, and visual merchandising and packaging are determined (hence, forecast) two years in advance by a panel of highly intuitive industry experts sitting around a Parsons table. A forecast – a swatch palette of approximately 30-50 shades – is made available to forecasters’ member designers and manufacturers far in advance of their production dates.
Color Story is based heavily on movement scenes inspired by the themes and implications of color forecasting. These are punctuated by very short text scenes or comic patter. The text scenes function very much the way comic monologues do in popular music concerts – giving context, underscoring, bridging off into alternate meanings. The show’s designers perform “themselves” in the work. The art-about-art epithet takes a new turn with this work, which deals with the aesthetic realities that not just artists themselves face, but rather all urban dwellers, as the visible worlds in which they dress, commute, grocery shop, and conduct business are constructed for them. Color Story is intended not as a political diatribe, but rather as an exploration of our desire for a visibly unified environment—and our hunger for regular change.
(The Designer and the Mute Mother exit; enter the Gender Anomaly and the Kid, who take seats and speak straight out, with phrasing as if they were reading poetry, savoring and tasting each word.)
The Gender Anomaly: Good evening.
The Gender Anomaly: The story we’re delighted to unveil tonight for ’93-’94 is …
The Gender Anomaly: We are willing to break the taboos that have previously prevented people from openly discussing their relationships with objects.
The Kid: It’s 1992: We are ready to discuss:
The Gender Anomaly: If you will indulge me in a little personal history, I promise it will pay off. Since probably — late childhood — I have noticed that the way people handle objects of particular colors and materials when they are in virtual-survival situations reveals a lot about their needs and identities. Personally, I know that when I’m handling virtually anything out of —
The Kid: Twenty-pound vinyl?
The Gender Anomaly: —As long as it’s in an intense Crayola tone — I feel much more in touch with the world around me, as well as a greater part of my own civic community. Do you remember when those matte blacks came out in the mid- ’80s? That was a very rich time for me, personally. Of course, that was before the Kid’s time, here, but I was able to save up enough of the materials in stereo equipment and automobile interiors to give him a feel when he started his apprenticeship with me a year ago.
The Kid: During the past year, the Gender Anomaly and I have been visiting airports, watching how people handle objects when they are in the airport waiting room — that precious situation of being at the same time completely alone and completely in public with one’s most essential and meaningful possessions on one’s back. We saw people taking intense comfort and pleasure in smoothing down the angles of their leatherbound personal organizers and inserting them in an upright carry-on bag, or in deftly unwrapping and then re-folding the plastic shower cap that goes into its own, perfectly designed, waterproofed compartment in a rectangular prism cosmetic case.
The Gender Anomaly: Yesss!
The Kid: These objects — through their particular combination of color, shape, and materials — made these people feel efficient …
The Gender Anomaly: Safe …
The Kid: Attractive, even …
The Gender Anomaly: What we are presenting is a story of objects that will appeal to the contemporary traveler.
The Kid: Or to the conceptual traveler
The Gender Anomaly: Of all ages. An attaché case …
The Kid: Perfectly packed with a travel toothbrush …
The Gender Anomaly: Easily folded into its own plastic container. Slip into any pocket: breast pocket back pocket, close to the body.
The Kid: A chamois shoe-shining cloth in a color and design that feels as good in your hand as it does on your shoe.
The Gender Anomaly: A cast-ironlike razor: streamlined in design, liquid metallic in color, and designed to be pleasurable for precisely the length of time it takes to shave.
The Kid: A portable iron in this—
The Gender Anomaly: Oooogh, this poochy—
The Kid: Peachy—
The Gender Anomaly: It’s poochy — well, we don’t know the technical term, but it doesn’t matter —
The Kid: It’s perfect! You wouldn’t even know you were ironing!
The Gender Anomaly: The design element that’s interesting here is the combination of color and touchability.
The Kid: It’s also about survival.
The Gender Anomaly: Even if you can’t afford to travel, take your attaché case to the airport.
The Kid: And take your time. It’s time for …
Anna E. Borg as The Warmonger
Harold E. Gross as The Designer
Gemma Julià as The Kid
Kathleen McGovern as The Census Taker
Anke Menzel as The Interlocutor
Dallas Munroe as The Alien Misconstruer
Janett Pabon as The Chameleon Model
Elena Lopez Sans
Adrienne Wilde as the Gender Anomaly.
Color Story © Sara K. Schneider 1992
In Peerage Out
Performed Berea College, Kentucky, 1995.
In Peerage Out interweaves four period plays of Edwardian mood, two of British origin, two Irish: Yeats’sThe Land of Heart’s Desire, Synge’s The Well of the Saints, Pinero’s The Enchanted Cottage, and Kremborg’s Haunted Water.
All the plays date from 1894 to 1939, and most center on young women trying to balance their longing for earthly love and happiness with the call of outer- or other-worldly spirits and temptations. As a totality, In Peerage Out boasts an array of winning characters—two of them blind, two pregnant, two supernatural, one painfully plain, and four with seriously bad attitudes.
Actors play roles in each of the four plays, changing character, accent, and setting on the stage during choreographed movement “turns” that point up connections across the plays. The turns also allow characters from different source plays to engage with each other, punching up the themes of spiritual longing, limitation and freedom, seeing and knowing, and women’s social roles as, in rapid succession, the production switches focus from the humble hearth of one source play to the sublime beachfront of another.
For the Kentucky production, Randy Crafton, a New York-based world music artist, composed an original score that evoked the turn of the century British Isles flavor of the overall work.
Edith E. Herbert
In Peerage Out © Sara K. Schneider 1995
or, Poetry/(Because Names Die)
Performed New York City, 1989
A collaged movement-theatre work treating the multitude of meanings of the theme of separation — not merely the sailor-and-his-girl variety, but also nostalgia, homesickness, and the adoption of new social and spiritual roles. In essence, the work is — by way of juxtaposed texts on kissing, lunacy, funeral shopping, men in frogs’ bodies, and venomous dueling—an exploration of the many ways of saying goodbye. The work assembles the writings and speakings of over 130 authors. In this work, none of the textual materials had been originally intended for dramatic use.