I am Already Changing My Mind
Colin Campbell/Margaret Dragu by Irene Szylinger

Originally published in: Vanguard, September 1982

I Am Already Changing My Mind, the title of a piece conceived and written by Colin Campbell was performed with the collaboration of Margaret Dragu as part of the Dancemaker series at Harbourfront, Toronto. The performance integrated dialogue (taped and live), film, sound, music and movement.

I Am Already Changing My Mind was divided into two formats – in one Campbell and Dragu held a running monologue representing a single announcer; the other, which punctuated this monologue; contained fragments from a film on water safety projected on a screen. The sparse stage setting made up of a table, two chairs, a red Luxo lamp and a tape deck supplied the perfect visual economy in which the two performers, clad in identical white, acted out their script. Throughout the performance, Campbell and Dragu remained at their respective ends of the table while talking into the microphone in front, sipping wine and smoking cigarettes. The screen that was lowered in front of the performers for the film projection was made alternately opaque and transparent by means of lighting effects. This particular device served to encase the performers as well as to set them apart from the audience.

Campbell and Dragu represented one woman who, while working at Radio Station Sart (as in Sartre) recounted, between musical and film interludes, the most recent experiences of her life. In addition, she provided the weather report, stock exchange fluctuations (the hottest tip being valium), the Toronto pollution count, the time of the weekly anti-nuke demonstration on Queen’s Park and the latest on the last feminist (Judy Chicago) supper in town.

This woman, personified by Campbell and Dragu, had banal preoccupations and strange encounters. These encounters and the running commentary on them flowed as a one-way conversation by the two performers who successfully duplicated the rhythm and tempo of one voice. The public as well as the private information was delivered in this monologue fashion from this seemingly submerged radio station, “00060 on your dial.”

The strong (albeit comically dated) visual representation of water on the film in addition to the information describing the recent death of Natalie Wood by drowning (detailed with the National Enquirer’s “facts”), established the foundation of the strongest theme in the piece, i.e. that of walking into the waters and making the conscious decision to sink or swim. References were made to the tragic deaths of two of Miss Wood’s Hollywood friends. Integrated into the script as a telephone conversation between Wood and her mother, Sal (Mineo) and Jimmy (Dean) would not be coming home. They also would not be growing old.

Macabre as some of the details were, this theme was manipulated so that the sensual as well as the philosophical aspects could be drawn out quite distinctly. The reports and experience recounted were startling in their novelty yet tempered by the casual conversational tone in which they were delivered. One became keenly aware of the intricate style which created a balance between the familiar and the sometimes shocking. An example of this was well illustrated by a pick-up story in which the bizarre and touching details were left uncensored. From the request to have one’s nipples “ripped off,” to the sweaty outline of the lover’s body left behind as a reminder in the surface of the wooden table.

The story of a lost wallet (later returned intact much to the amazement of the woman) was first told by the performers separately. Then a pre-recorded version was played while they repeated it simultaneously. At first the stories overlapped in a cacophony then, growing apart, the phrases fell in contrapuntal synchrony, everyone distinct and clear. The result was a very dynamic meshing between the taped and live monologue. The synchronization was flawless, allowing for an appreciation of form as well as content.

Although the performers were quite distinct in their manner on stage, the integration of their voices was fluent and the transitions between segments were smooth. As the radio commentator’s voice faded, the film was superimposed over the stage veiling the performers without completely obliterating their forms.

The smallest detail was delivered with the greatest precision both in terms of timing and tone. The performers entered into the monologue and trailed out of it with the greatest of ease. Much of the imagery evoked by the narrative which was related to the water-connected events was reinforced by the water images projected on the screen as well as by the sounds accompanying the piece. A certain underwater motion or swaying, somewhat akin to swimming, was suggested in the movements of the performers, in some instances these movements resembled voluntary gestures and in others involuntary, sinking gesture. These fluid motions informed the entire piece with a water-wet quality. This was strengthened by the lack of fluidity in their timing, of urgency in their movements and unnecessary speed in their speech.