Pins and Needles, or the Circumstance of Falling Forever on Ash Wednesday, 1988

by Jeremy Geragotelis

As we all continue to fight to find our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, I have spent many hours thinking about the Canadian-American painter Agnes Martin (1912 – 2004).  Martin’s preoccupation with the compositional element of the grid as subject encouraged me to consider the performative character of mark-making, as each brushstroke of Martin’s paintings announces her presence. But, as the paintings are so thoroughly themselves, seemingly bursting into life as fully formed ideas, the culminating effect is also Martin’s complete disappearance.  And so, I find that in her work she is everywhere and nowhere.  And this becomes what the paintings are: a disappearing trick and a conjuring trick, happening forever, in the same instant.

I wonder – like many people – how we will be changed by this past year.  We continue to creep towards the possibility of being able to gather together.  But will we have the skill to recognize each other and ourselves when we can finally sit in a theater with one another again?  The power in theater as it is now – a fragmented form, mediated through video, through computer and television screens, through masks – is in how it encourages us as theater-makers to take up fragmented subjects: all that cannot be expressed with the clarity and focus that an experience watched by a gathered audience affords us. 

That is where this play meets us.

Its subject is grief, the displaced quality of grief, the everywhere and nowhere of grief.  And – like its subject – it guides us to that grief in the way that it tries desperately to be everything but what it should be.  This play is not a play.  It is a box of papers that you find in the corner of the attic of your Grandmother’s house: this-and-thats that someone, at some point, decided were important enough to save.  And as you pick up this paper and read it and set it down and pick up that paper and read it and set it down next to this paper, a story begins to form.  Who knows if it is the way that these this-and-thats are meant to be understood?  But maybe that doesn’t matter.  Imagine for a moment that that doesn’t matter….

And maybe all that does matter is knowing that the hand that struck that typewriter key, the hand that gripped that pencil and pressed it onto the paper, the hand that guided that crayon, that threaded those pins through – maybe that hand, forever present and forever disappearing, is what matters. 

Thank you for your time.