|Some memories of the genesis of "George's House" 1975:
Somewhere in 1975 at WGBH-TV Boston, Massachusetts Fred Barzyk and Nancy Mason approached me with the idea of collaborating on a program with a choreographer who was from West Virginia and who was looking to do a video piece tied to his childhood roots. I was a producer/director associated with the WGBH Dance Workshop, The WGBH New Television Workshop, and their progeny.
I said OK and took it on.
For a location Dan suggested a house that his friend owned in New Hampshire. So Dan, and Nancy , myself and my 3 year old son Jake drove up to check out the place. I had no preconceptions at all. This wasn't a done deal, we were all trying it on as a possible venue. I took a B&W Sony "Porta Pack" camera/recorder and recorded all the possible locations in and around the house. Despite the problem of no electricity plus tough access, we decided it was a go.
After that Dan and I spent time together listening to music, often at my house in Harvard. MA. He wanted to hear the music I liked and I played it; on record, on tape. I was amazed a choreographer would even listen to "my" music; Bluegrass, mountain, folk, gospel. But he did and made lots of notes.
From the start I saw my role as an expeditor, a "realiazature" someone to make it real on video tape. He knew what he wanted it to look like, he choreographed. He picked the locations. I just made it possible, work out a schedule, figured out where to put the camera, figured out the production details. If I could give him what he wanted, that was my desire. Dan was never anything but the soul of inspiration. He didn't get mad or upset, he talked with me about the pieces, at least what I had to know for recording. He never reviewed what I gave him, he took it as done. He must have looked at a monitor sometimes, somewhere, but I don't remember it. (Remember everything was on batteries which in those days was a very big deal. I don't remember having a generator but we must have had one.
I worked out a schedule of how to get all of what he wanted on tape. I don't remember if we even discussed it at all. he made sure that dancers were ready for the dance. I made sure the camera was ready. We met at that point and recorded the piece.
After a couple days, even with stifling heat, it became apparent that George's House was a very special indeed. Lovingly restored to what we could imagine it's time of first inhabitance, with no running water and no electricity, even the most creature comfort addicted of us gave in and enjoyed the time. Sally baked fresh bread every morning in the wood stove and set it out to rise. To look at that picture today it looks like it was staged, yet it was not, That was the real thing and she did it every day we were there. We ate lunches there probably prepared by George. We sat on the grass and talked. I don't remember where we found the time as the schedule I wrote and managed was brutal. Each location required a full set up of camera (Phillips PCP-90) and recorder (Ampex VR-3000) which in those day was not an easy thing. Every time the camera was turned 90 degrees it needed 30 minutes of "line up" time.
To me Dan was the very soul of professional, politeness. I felt I had his respect from the start, I didn't have to earn it at all. He had enormous strength, of body ("dance on the bench" with Sally Hess), strength of character. He never fussed, fumed, or took an artistic mental that I can remember. He wasn't fazed by almost anything. Together we found a way to make each situation work. He would show me the dance. I would record it onto tape. There were not a lot of edits planned or made. He left that totally up to me. The "Dance in the Room" was recorded without any music at all. He asked me to find something appropriate to put in later. The music, "Amazing Grace" was recorded at WGBH by a student fiddler from Cambridge, Mass. in one take.
© David Atwood, 2001