Photo by Bosco Shots on Unsplash


synthesize our experience of the world

draw together elements of life as we have experienced

live dead



Explorations in the physical

when incorporating an awareness of experience

allows us to MOVE beyond demonstration

actions, ideas, motifs

to go beyond

less mimesis


reflected in our application of form


action imbued with meaning

directly related to the social environment

words imbued with actions

with shapes

physical shapes

possible design elements that give rise to a wider world

beyond the linear

And beyond the reductionist view

Something of value

to exploit the physical

shaped experience of the real world

Now a new experience

from the base level of a physical mode

exploration of ideas

Beyond abstract

We are taking things beyond mimesis

We are moving into an imagination

travelling through forms of the physical

that contain elements of the apathetic particular

though not the end point

Something that we can aim for

only very rarely achieve

an existential moment

derived from this welding or this linking

a symbiotic relationship of experience and experiencing through the physical

Finding the Existential

The existential

a whole new area

Making decisions and choices in an existential mode

suggests that there is confidence in the form

confidence in the physicality of understanding

actuality of experience within the form

to come up with solutions that

extend the boundaries of the form

an extension that takes on a whole reality of its own

a significant breakthrough

the Eureka moment

like in mathematics you discover a new formula

a breakthrough in the science of enough

through experimentation through going through constant work

it is often the accidental discovery

the thing that wasn't planned

but happened virtually by accident

by some freakish event

something is discovered through the use of the form

an existential moment

true to that particular welding of physical experience

exploration beyond even the control of the person

this existential moment of being

this recognition of something new

a significant accidental of achievement

that rare moment where we actually discovered something that goes beyond ...

So back to linear

Three simple words: Physical, Experiential, Existential ... and the meanings are at once precise while leaking their understanding into relational gravities that challenge the necessity of all precision!

When starting with the Physical, one is constantly seeking signs of potential experience and the possibility of existential moments that might or might not arise. But there is a process that is sequential. The existential phase is never artificially constructed; it emerges from some intuitive, even accidental, realization and discovery emerging from the welding of the physical and the experiential in us.


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Updated: Jan 15

BE - Image by John Hain

We say things without really comprehending any meaning.

Wishing people "Happy New Year" has a positive ring. Yet with all the sound and fury that overtakes the cluttered world in which we inhabit, I wonder if "happy" is the right term; the right endearing outcome for a new year.

My good friend Foley suggested to me some years ago that being "grateful" was perhaps the most powerful existential form of being. We "be" most when grateful for things that become us; even in the most trying of times.

GRATITUDE - Image by John Hain

Foley's words have come to ring truer as time flies by. As vanity and ego are set aside, one can realize the power of surrender to some larger power that dwarf's all we might pretend to be.

The current fad of extolling the power of "goals" in our life masks the reality of the ride that takes us in multiple directions at once. The goals assume we are only an avatar of our own making; someone being controlled by the superiority of our minds and mastery. The "presentation of self in everyday life" is a product of this avatar that conceals and fools us into imagining an importance that really doesn't exist. Or so it seems! Much of the sociological thinking from a postmodern perspective advocates this dramaturgy.

Milan Kundera coined the phrase "the incredible lightness of being" to title his novel set in 1968. Perhaps the phrase itself is more significant than the sum of the writing in the book. The suggestion in the title is most inspiring. The idea of lightness as opposed to being weighed down is advocated by a simple focus on "BEING".

I work with a colleague who has this incredible lightness that she shares where-ever she roams and inhabits. It is a lightness of being that is felt by colleagues and students alike. Her humility is something that exudes a power to embrace and enable growth. It isn't tied to goal setting or techniques for instilling some set of supposed essential knowledge. The smile isn't that of an avatar; but an expression of genuine Being!

I have known others who exhibited this lightness even though they rarely smiled and were cautious in complementing. I refer primarily to the late Ralph Wilson, after whom The Ralph Wilson Theatre at Gorman House is named; Ralph had such a strong presence of Being that infected the spaces and people around him. He inspired people to trust their own potential. If we look at the above image of "Gratitude" by John Hain, we sum up Ralph Wilson's Being as encountered by me those decades ago.

So I suggest that a powerful and engaging Being has nothing to do with simply presenting a positive, smiling, goal setting and happy exterior. It is about a depth of engagement. It isn't about chasing happiness or satisfactions of any kind. I suggest it is more about being grateful for whatever it is that might be us/me!

Only in such a discovery can a truly powerful being emerge. And so to Shakespeare's most famous speech. I doubt there is any better description of the choice and dilemmas of finding one's very being ...

To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of?

BE - Image 2 by John Hain from Pixabay



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David Branson's legacy of passion, love and art has torched the towers of complacency and smugness. His death prompts much reflection and analysis of what it is to be an artist.

He rose like the ancient god: BAAL.

Before rehearsing Brecht's BAAL in 1998, I conducted a number of workshops with David Branson to prepare for the later rehearsals of the production. At the time, I was concerned that David focus all his energy on to the one role and not be distracted by the multiplicity of activities that drove him and compelled him forward. The result was one of the most amazing and powerful distillations of life and art I have ever witnessed.

His body and voice merged with the particular content of Brecht's play to create moments of intense power and disturbance. Audiences would later glimpse something of this. Although it must be said that only two or three of the scheduled performances revealed anything like the power evoked during those workshops in December 1997. For here was David Branson in full flight without self-consciousness and without the need to perform. He was the creator. He descended into the psychic pit where creative demons evoked their subversive energies that gave rise to BAAL. Here was David flowing and driving with a tide of energetic inspiration that merged spirit with flesh. And it was caught on video. Here were moments that can be witnessed: scenes that illustrated the processes of life and art being sculptured by the will of a creator. Here was David Branson submerged within some greater power tapped for his own use in giving form to invisible urges and energies that frighten the social orders of our rationally constructed and constricted lives. I believe BAAL was a revelation to David on a personal level just as his work on DEMONS was a social cultural revelation of forces and energies captured and shaped by Dostoyevsky. I don't know when David first expressed a wish to play BAAL, but it would be hard to imagine a role that allowed him to pitch himself so fully. BAAL was closer to the surrealists in style and inspiration than any of Brecht's later works. It presented a wild absurd universe where man either conformed to the petty rules of social order or raged as a brutal god: a law unto himself to end in inevitable self destruction. This was certainly at odds with the later more orthodox socialist Brecht. The contradictory nature of BAAL was more problematic than any of his later characters: The moral of the tale more concealed beneath the poetry of the telling. But the element of free spirits outside the social constraints of stifling orders and authority rang bells for David Branson. David's sympathies were always with the anarchists and those who defied orthodoxy of any kind. He shunned the easier roads that might have absorbed his talent and energy. He understood the risks of contributing to the dominant culture and allowing it to sap his will and limited hours. For David's limited hours were spent in constant acts of giving to those he considered travelling on the same waves of creative energy. Anything that hindered the creative spirit was the enemy and had to be opposed. The result was that David was constantly causing ripples where ever he found complacency and stagnation. David gave new meaning to chaos theory. He achieved works of art through constant breaking of form and unity. In doing this, he paradoxically liberated others to achieve the finality which he shunned. In DEMONS, he insisted on the inclusion of Camus (who's adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel provided inspiration for our work) as a character in the production. More significantly, he insisted on having the car crash which killed Camus in real life. The violent nature of this incident broke through much of the reality being established through Wayne Macauley's well crafted deconstructed text. However, David was insistent against the opinion of virtually everyone connected with the project. Still, he argued his point clearly and consistently. We could have over-ruled him. But somehow, he challenged all of us to try something outside of the obvious: to allow the chaos to pattern itself and find it's own reality. He was determined that the work express the concerns of S11 and the anti-globalization movement. To do this required that art and life merge and the lines be left less rigid. Camus' position as the outsider in European politics fifty years ago was thus relevant. The artist as both outsider and participant in real life historical events provided contradictory psychological and political tensions within the production. And, with David's death in a car accident while on his way to the theatre some weeks later, one can't help but acknowledge the art and life pattern created from the seeming chaos of his methodology and the focused order of his intentions. For David Branson never seemed to waver from a very personal and ordered intention to galvanize individuals and community into artistic expression. David never ceased to create a performance out of his own life; a performance that ensured a little chaos and unpredictability was injected into all social situations ... and often challenging the accepted social order while drawing people's attention to the fact of their existence in a specific moment. Not just in a general sense; but in a very specific and obvious way. This isn't an exaggeration. The power of David's focusing a moment will be a lasting legacy. His performance was so strong as to go beyond performance and into a hyper-reality. In David's presence, everyone woke up. While all around us, the dominant forces of culture and society are drugging us into an abstracted state where existence is becoming increasingly abstracted into generalized images of being: The image of being distracting and distorting our experience of being. And so as I am left to watch the video of David energizing a space while working at merging his physicality and psyche with Brecht's character, I struggle to take some of his incredibly chaotic energy and merge it with the equally incredible focus of his intent. In real meetings with David Branson, one became infected with this duel experience. In memory, one is left to be a witness to it and then to be a carrier; a bearer of that same purpose. On the video, I see him rising like the ancient god, BAAL just before he begins repeating the phrase: "I'm so close to you." SHADOW HOUSE PITS reaffirms its commitment to art and theatre that ignites perception of both the light and the dark of our existence in the wake of all that is deadening our sense of our potential as human beings. Sometimes individuals emerge who can assist us in our own clarification of what we must do and what we are. We thank David Branson for his gift to us.

Joe Woodward (10th. Jan. 2002)

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