Jump Stitch

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History

Jump Stitch was originated by a Level 6 Class -- Alan Becker, Clint Taylor, Crystal Jackson, Fálki Heiđdóttir, Jonathan Chavez, Kevin McCormick, Matthew Hall, and Steve Circeo -- at Bexar Stage. The original form was created by Steve Circeo, and it was adapted during rehearsals and a run of shows by the entire class, with help from the class's instructors, Tina Jackson and Lex Simpson. Jump Stitch incorporates elements of Action Theater during musical-dance interludes. The idea to start the next scene with the last line of the previous scene was suggested by Kevin McCormick, as that device was part of a form he was constructing.

Jump Stitch was performed by the Level 6 Class, which also called themselves Jump Stitch, four times in October-November 2019.

Structure

Jump Stitch is generally done in a 20-25 minute block and consists of three beats, with a musical-dance interlude between each beat.

The team starts backstage and does not ask the audience for a suggestion. The stage is dark as music starts playing. A slow tango works well, and the original song used by Jump Stitch was "Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre)" by Gotan Project.

While the music plays, the actors enter the stage, as the lights slowly come up. The actors are moving to the music, stopping on the beat. They are moving all around the stage, moving between and through beats, but stopping on the beat, when they stop, so the rhythm of the music is driving the action. After 20-30 seconds, the music stops and the actors freeze.

Two actors, inspired by their position and proximity, start a scene.

The rest of the actors remain frozen in place on the stage. The frozen actors can be used as props by the actors in the scene. The frozen actors can unfreeze to silently support a scene, then return to their previously frozen state once they are no longer needed. The frozen actors can become trees, refrigerators, cabinets, doors, whatever is called for in the scene, but they should always return to their previously frozen position.

Listening is key here, because the next scene will start with an actor scooping (repeating exactly) the last line of the current scene, using it as the first line of the new scene.

Once the actors in the current scene hear the scoop, they stop their scene immediately, and freeze where they are.

Scooping can occur a few times within a beat, with scenes being revisited by restarting where they left off. Sometimes the scoops can happen very rapidly, passing from one scene to the next quickly. Sometimes the scoops happen more slowly.

Any of the actors can edit the beat, ending it by starting or restarting a scene without a scoop. That is, the edit comes when one scene is going on, then one of the actors starts/restarts another scene with a phrase that is not a scoop. At that point, all the scenes on stage restart at once, and there is cacophony until the music starts. When the music starts, the actors go silent and get back into dance mode, moving with the music as they did at the start of the show.

Everything is wiped away during the music. There is no return to previous scenes, although minor callbacks are fun.

The music continues for about 20 seconds. Once it stops, the second beat starts. The second beat is conducted the same way as the first. As is the third beat.

At the cacophony of the third beat, the scene is blacked out, and all the actors go silent as the show ends.

NOTES

1. When two actors simultaneously scoop the same line, each trying to start a new scene, rather than having an awkward pause while the two try to figure it out, and one of them sheepishly backing down, another actor should scoop the same line, and another, and another, passing it around until one of the original two takes the line back and starts their scene.

2. While the body positions and proximity should inform the scene, the focus should be on emotional contact between the characters, rather than explaining or justifying the body positions.

3. If an actor has to freeze in an awkward position that is hard to hold, that actor or one of their teammates should start a scene with them to relieve the actor of the awkward position.

4. It an actor is standing frozen downstage and a scene starts behind them, they should kneel to open up the audience's view of the scene, then return to their original position once the scene is over or has moved.

5. Scenes can be done with more than two actors, but actors should not enter the scene late. That is, if two actors are in a scene, a third actor should not enter four lines into it.

6. It's great to find a theme for each beat, and/or an overarching theme for the show.