Cycle Plays
Everyone associated with the project was an inspiration, every musician and actor and designer and team member was an accomplished artist, and all were welcoming and open and deeply fun to collaborate with. I felt very secure and valued during the whole experience. Yugen's warmth and willingness to expand the circle made it possible for me to do my best work.  
In the fall of 2006, Allen Whitman and Suki Okane asked me to act as a musician for the Cycle Plays, a project of the Theatre of Yugen. They had seen the Crank Ensemble, and thought that the sound would be good for the play about the Unabomber. I readily agreed, and went with them to the University of Texas in Austin with them for a residency and to learn about the project. There I met and liked the ensemble and made sketches for the sets.
The design incorporated many bent bamboo bows and it was BIG, and we had to build it fast so that there would be time for rehearsals. I wanted to be sure we could pull it off, so we did a test build at Djerassi. Big thanks to the good people there, and also to the volunteer bamboo crew: Kevin Mathieu, Rike Oehlerking, and Vicki Olds. Also Lena Strayhorn worked with Bodil on the curtains and backdrop.
As a musician, I was challenged to merge my hand-cranked instruments with the more conventional guitar and singing, and to make the sound supportive of the actors. I created the "Activity Board" especially for this project, and the course of learning to play it ran contiguously with the course of creating the music for the play. I had much fun cranking hard through the rock and roll finale.
The sets created a welcoming and spiritual spacial frame for the sound and movement of the actors and musicians. The lines of the bamboo acted to reinforce and echo the postures and movements of the actors, the flow of the fabric echoed the flow of the costumes. The bamboo structure created meaningful symbolic shapes: crosses, pentangles, golden section spirals, pyramids, etc., becoming visible as one moved around and through the space. Bodil's backdrop created symbolic shapes in a similar way: a tree, (the world tree) a hand, a serpent, the Ouroboros, the infinity symbol. None of these symbolic associates were blatant, they functioned more on a subconscious level most of the time. I think we struck just the right balance between Noh tradition and our own 21st century San Francisco visual artist's concerns.
Theatre of Yugen does an experimental American version of Noh Theatre. They're based in Nohspace in Project Artaud. The Cycle Plays was to be their biggest project yet; five plays in one day, written and directed by Erik Ehn, performed in Theatre Artaud on 07/07/07.
After seeing the studies for a bamboo Noh stage I made, the group hired me and my wife/colaborator Bodil to do the sets. I made a scale model while watching the rehearsals, while Bodil designed the backdrops in her studio. Traditionally Noh stages have audience on two sides, a bridge leading to the stage, and an image of a pine tree as the backdrop. Our design incorporated all of these features.
CHOICE/CHANCE
I can't begin to explain what a magical experience it was for us.