A Wild One: Interview with Meg Bierman
Meg Bierman is spinning pirouettes in our living room on a Thursday night. It’s the informal tech rehearsal for our August 4th collaboration: an afternoon brunch salon and performance of WHAT?!, Meg’s latest creative project.
Before we lived in our current home, my wife, Helen, and I lived downstairs from Meg in San Francisco’s Mission District, where she exhibits her work in her studio, 24th Street Theater Works. She has been a dear friend and neighbor for almost twenty years, and she and her partner, John Gruntfest, have been influential creative mentors. Living with Meg’s art and music all around me fueled my own drive to pursue a creative life. Helen and I cannot wait to present her work to our community.
Meg is an improvising performer who draws from both her music and movement vocabulary to express what arises in the moment. When performing, she enjoys attempting to move fluidly between saxophone, her body, her voice, whistles, flute, and percussion.
Her primary development as an improviser was at Bennington College, where she studied and danced with the ground-breaking Judith Dunn-Bill Dixon Dance Company. This area of artistic exploration has continued with her partner, John Gruntfest, with whom she began working in the 70s.
She spent 30 inquisitive years as a Performing Artist-in-Residence at Buen Dia Family School in San Francisco, where she researched early childhood learning through the arts in her innovative Storyplays Program, taking story dictation and facilitating the process of children directing and acting out their stories with their peers. This work is rooted in the research of Vivian Paley. Catherine Stifter directed an award-winning documentary about the school and Meg’s work, “The Three Headed Bear and Other Stories by Children,” which aired several times on NPR.
Now she is playing the flute. Now the balafon on our dining table. She climbs our stairs and shouts from the landing, “I could just jump down from here,” proposing her big entrance. Helen says no, and we all laugh and go back to our different jobs. John’s the sound tech. Helen’s making dinner. I am moving furniture around, auditioning chair-and-table arrangements for the show.
“Time to eat,” Helen announces, and I move the table into dinner-party position. Meg moves the balafon to the hallway. We gather around artichokes and a chicken-and rice-dish. We discuss the RSVPs so far. “No kids after all,” I report.
“Good, it’s going to be R-rated then!” says Meg, and she gets back up and shows us some of her slinky, wacko burlesque number. We talk about costumes, instruments, and as we reach the artichoke hearts, our beneficiary.
Our salon party will raise funds for an organization we all love and support, Homeless Prenatal. These local superheroes work in partnership with families to break the cycle of childhood poverty. You can give at the link below or donate at the party. Helen will serve a brunch menu and libations. “I’m getting out the punch bowl for this one,” she tells us.
It’s getting late, but I want to interview Meg about her artistic process for this blog post. “Before you go, tell me something about process, Meg,” I plead.
She jumps up to dance one more time and says,
“I like to sing instead of talkin’.
I like to dance instead of walkin’.
So loose the knees and ride the glide with Megy and music by your side.
Cause I’m an IM-PRO-VI-SER. A wild one. So expect the unexpected like I do do do.
I’m Coyote. A mean one and I could bite your head off!
When that Silver Fox comes around I’ll show her how I make the world. Bim bam boom!
Don’t think too much or you’ll blow it away.
Yes no yes no yes!
If you crap in your pants wash ‘em out.
If you fall on your face get up and do what you’re not supposed to do
Again and again and again.
Color shape and sound collide.
Rhythm lets you fly fly fly.
“What?” Helen asks, dumbfounded, and throws an artichoke leaf at her.
Maybe that’s how the show got its name. Maybe not. You won’t know WHAT?! to think unless you show up to brunch and find out, Sunday, 8/4 at 2pm at our place. Details below.
I coax sexy writers like Meg Bierman to reveal their creative secrets and processes in writer interviews to inspire you:
Give now to the Homeless Prenatal Program, or donate on Sunday when we pass the hat at the party.
Browse the wild world of Meg Bierman on her website, where you can see her artwork , watch more videos, and listen to her recent recordings of children telling their stories.