In what ways does the concept of convergence play a role in your writing life &/or writing process?
To write or create work for live performance is to engineer convergence. The theater is a series of turnings toward together. Director, actors, designers and crew turn toward the script or primary text together. The audience turns toward the performance together. My writing process necessarily mirrors these turnings and almost always begins when two disparate ideas turn toward each other in my mind or life, illuminating each other in new ways, catching previously unseen corners, casting unfamiliar shadows.
My writing life is informed by my larger creative life, which includes entering this series of turnings toward at various stages: as an actor turning toward a page written by someone else, a director turning toward a team of creators, an audience member turning toward a stage. In addition to diverging as a writer away from public life and into my room of my own converging ideas, I also create “devised” theatrical performances, that is, pieces that begin with a team of collaborators and some source material but no single, primary text that dictates the words spoken and actions performed. Recent examples include a piece in which the correspondence between Victorian psychoanalysts Freud and Jung converged with 1990s feminist expressions or a piece in which depictions of witches in popular culture converged in a cabaret format with the history of the devaluation of female labor. Both of these pieces started from a creative convergence of minds between my collaborator, Mireya Lucio and myself. In this way, devised performance evades singular authorship; it takes the convergence of artists as its starting point.
When I write alone, I seek to recreate this process in my own mind. Listen to the different voices in your head, I often tell my students. I can’t even think without the voices of others, much less write, says Elena Ferrante. My favorite way to write is to listen to the convergence—make space for the turnings toward together and simply record what unfolds from there.
SALLIE MERKEL is a Los Angeles-based actor, writer and director. She holds an MFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Her original web series, “Dandy Nails with Sandy”—an existential sci-fi mystery that takes the form of a series of lo-fi nail art tutorials—is available for viewing on YouTube and at salliemerkel.com. Her theatrical work has been presented in Los Angeles at venues such as RedCat, Machine Project, the Live Arts Exchange (LAX) festival and internationally at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She founded and runs THE GARDEN PARTY—a site for consciousness-raising, desire-based dreaming, calls to action and invitations for collaboration amongst feminist culture makers. She also performs and teaches with her improv group, GiRL CRUSH.