In the fall of 2002 choreographer/director
Ralph Lemon contacted me about building a walking table for his new work
COME HOME CHARLEY PATTON, Part 3 of the
We had many conversations about
the "horse table" as it came to be known (a horse figures prominently in the texts used in
the work), and went through several design/build/program iterations as we worked to understand
exactly what it would mean for a horse table to walk in the context of CHCP.
Various things happen during the show that are strange, unexplained, and usually not commented
upon by the performers. A chair breaks, a microphone stand glides away from a singer, ladders
descend from a ceiling. The horse table that suddenly walks is meant to be one of those things,
while at the same time functioning as a regular, unexceptional table for most of the show.
In designing the table I purposely made many decisions that made the job of teaching the table how to
walk a little harder than it needed to be. I tried to imagine what would happen if a plain,
homemade table, as opposed to a fancy high-tech robotic table, tried to walk. I didn't give it
complicated legs with multiple articulations (like the ones on most walking things) or precise
control of its limbs or lots of sensors for gathering information about its world. Instead I built
a very simple, direct walking mechanism and then explored the various gaits and walking strategies
that were available with such a simple setup.
It's not easy
being a walking table. But our little table was brave, and with a lot of hard work it learned to
walk, and even to lie down and fold itself up. (Part of Ralph's original idea was that the table
would be transformed into a platform that people could walk on.) It's a chaotic kind of walking,
and it always looks like it's just on the edge of falling over or giving up. But it doesn't give
up -- it walks!
COME HOME CHARLEY PATTON toured the United States in fall 2004 and spring 2005.
A review in the Village Voice: online
The horse table had a baby:
teflon & marley tests