Every Atom | No. 142

Karin Coonrod

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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“Song of Myself” struck me like a shaft of lightning, urging to be brought to the stage. It’s a lover’s song written to me and ALL the inhabitants of the New World—to each and every one of us—in 1855 and now in this 21st century, with their polarizing political tensions in parallel. Compelled to catch everything possible from the wild cartography of Whitman’s touched-in-the-head poetic self, I wanted to find a theatrical dimension for his galvanizing democracy, to embody his multitudinous “I” with a company of actors/singers/musicians, to engage vital composers to respond to his lover’s rant, to invite the “you” audience into the performance, to commission living poets to “talk back” to Walt in their own words about where we are in the 21st century. All of this erupted into Compagnia de’ Colombari’s music-theater piece More Or Less I Am. What is its theatrical form? It’s like a long wild Shakespeare soliloquy fluidly flowing from “I” to “I” wrestling, teasing, challenging its audience and ending with an open you. With electrifying music by composers Colin Jacobsen, Kyle Sanna, Eric Jacobsen, and Alex Sopp, More Or Less I Am has played all around New York from 2010 to the present. We hope to take it all across the land in a bold Whitmaniac summons for the soul of America. We celebrate the individual and sing the ensemble.  


Amongst the Whitmanic whisperings in our More Or Less I Am performance: 

I celebrate myself…and what I assume you shall assume….you shall possess the origin of all poems….Now I will you to be a bold swimmer….to die is luckier and I know it….This is the city and I am one of the citizens….Where are you off to lady? For I see you….Whitman no sentimentalist….all goes onward and outward….but the printer and the printing office boy?....This hour I tell things in confidence/I may not tell everybody but I will tell you….By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms…each part and tag of me is a miracle….I love him though I do not know him….And such as it is to be of these more or less I am….Vivas to those who have failed….Mad naked summer night….Prodigal! You have given me love!....therefore I to you give love!…Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking….My faith is the greatest of faiths and the least of faiths….My words itch at your ears until you understand them….Immense have been the preparations made for me….Do I contradict myself?….I stop some where waiting for you

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Karin Coonrod is a theater director and writer and Founding Director of Compagnia de’ Colombari. Recent projects: More or Less I Am (New York); Babette’s Feast (US); The Merchant of Venice (Italy, US); texts&beheadings/ElizabethR  (US). She is currently on faculty at Yale School of Drama.


Cover art by Libby Schwers