Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Swimming in a sea of uncertainty



Well then. To be living and working in a town with more theatre than it can possibly handle or support properly is a strange task for the early career theatre artist.

On the one hand, I've hooked up with Bricolage, a company I adore in both theory and practice, and who have generously embraced me.

And on the other there is this dark and twisted beast comprised of companies I am familiar with and generally frustrated by.

Plus, there's Hostile Takeover. A project that makes up for in beautiful women and lofty intentions what it lacks in direction and focus. Along with two other graduates of Point Park's acting BA, I am brainstorming what we can do. What is the point of jumping into the pool if we're just going to sink anyway? We were so excited to start our own company sans the regular bullshit of bourgeois theatre. Perhaps it was merely a trite rebellion against the middle-of-the-road standards we had pushed down our throats in college: "Throwing Our Bodies Betwixt the Cogs of the Bureaucratic Theatre Machine". But it's hard. Where do we fit into everything else? What are we creating that stands out? Or matters?

Another kick in the teeth: without those bureaucratic systems precious little actually gets done.

I know exactly what kind of theatre I DON'T want to be doing. But how do I actually turn intentions into action?

Our discussions seem limited to the room where we meet. We make lists and agree to contact people. We plan, shuffle pages of monolugues and other people's scenes, and we never seem to grab onto any of this...

Should we as artists create based on our need to push *something* into the world, or create only when we have conceived and developed this proverbial child, and can send it out with legs to stand on?


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Quotes are all I can muster. Save me from my world of retail hell!

"Collaboration is marriage without sex, and subject to many vexations. But
pay no attention to them, because in one respect at least it is wonderful. The
total result is frequently far more than the combined abilities of two people
might give you."

---George S. Kaufman

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


So where did we leave off? Well, we survived the festival and the pressure of being the 'flagship' production, even as our writing team disintegrated. I nervously lead a surprisingly well-received panel discussion, and soaked up the mixed reviews of our work. The overwhelming consensus was that we were clearly ambitious, but not altogether successful in the time frame or the execution. With such a breadth and scope of material to tackle, the play would have benefited from better research to replace weaker section and a serious reconsideration of our use of multimedia. Note to future collaborators: two days before you premiere may not be the day to start collecting and editing footage to play on your screens. Dramaturgy and feedback at a late stage like that was useless--I was frustrated because none of my notes could be acted upon, and everyone else was unsteady because they felt I wasn't giving what I should or could be.

In any case, it was what it was.

Elsewhere in the festival, you found the following:

*"Today's Special", adorable puppetry with food, right at the tables of the cafe. You could have been halfway through your lunch when a sideways glance would find Aya's like teabag giving birth or rowing fearfully away on a boat of chocolate cake.

*"The Bush and the Dog", a nomadic and silly performance that played equally well in empty classrooms, pubs, and the courtyard. Summed up perfectly by director Paul explaining his pitch in his French accent, "Well, you have zee bush and zee dog..."

*"No Expiration Date", a beautiful and evocative movement piece, exceedingly truthful about what we do to ourselves--and each other--for love. The lighting meshing with the glow of sweat on the performers? Sublime. The colors on their bodies? Subdued, neutral, and strangely naked. The undeniable? Vala's bruises after throwing herself against a concrete wall dozens of times in each performance...producing in me a wince each time, not to mention a familiar gnawing in my belly...we've all been here before.

*"Bisclavret", proof that good old-fashioned storytelling still exists. These girls (all girls, playing princes, werewolves, and anything else you can imagine) tackled the art of medieval lais, and struck a chord of intrigue and celebration with dancing, singing, and well-positioned candles.

*"Nothing to Declare", Colorful masks and daring costumes, incredible physicality. Three intertwined stories of immigration...perhaps spoiled by a large and unwieldy deus ex machina. Really makes you consider how to use masks to their greatest potential.

*"Furies", Stylish and clever. Entirely in black and white, based around an Edward Gorey plot and aesthetic, with a live cello, killer puppets, and one badass fight scene.

*"Remain", a site-specific event in St. Stephen's, a derelict church in Hampstead. Filled with light and imagination, not to mention the smells and sounds of life and texture. One memorable moment came when headed back upstairs through a darkened vestibule, where performers are curled into the ledges of stained glass windows just barely perceptible in the near total darkness...and one angelic voice starts singing a wordless a capella. Completely haunting. Also notable, Laura ascending the pulpit to do an impromptu tap number in the shadows. Proof that simplicity is key, work should emerge from the space more often, and also a grand example of what working WITHOUT a director---GASP!--- can accomplish.

*"One Man's Devil Is Another Man's God", Knowing what their intentions were went a long way toward appreciating this: 5 foreign women take on the cipher that is Sylvia Plath--her life, her work, her psyche. Gorgeous scenography in the form of floating books and silverware.

*"Hepworth", a one-woman show exploring the life of Barbara Hepworth. Sculpture recreated by the genius of one huge swath of white fabric that grew and changed as the woman herself did.

*"Heartbreaker", A mix of stand-up and sketch comedy by two of my favorite Canadians. Think self-referential drama school jokes mixed with an ongoing peek at Maddox Jolie-Pitt on a plane to Cambodia. He meets a girl, and I'll be damned if this show didn't show me moments of life and truth that I didn't know existed. They snuck it right in there among the comedy, those bastards. And they left you feeling absolutely jubilant about life when you walked out of there.

(*"Connect", yours truly in a limited engagement...playwright David and I prove that we have some talents outside of our usual roles. 5 minutes of displaced time, one boy, one girl, figuring it out...This was the extent of my onstage London career.)

A strange and wonderful collection it was. But I suppose I am partial.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Utter Confusion and my Impending Return

If anyone is still out there, I wanted to say that I'm on my way back. I'm battling my post-postgraduate ennui (the end of education? What the hell do I do? do I go for a PhD just because I don't know how to function if I'm not in school? Or do I bask in my delicious laziness--days of sleeping in, reading plays, watching project runway, and painting my nails?)...

Soon. I promise. Something thoughtful, relevant even. My brain is retraining itself.

Just one little mini-rant before I go:

Why is it that my MA now makes me overqualified for what I don't want to do and underqualified for what I do want to do? I can't even get a mediocre job to pay the rent. I swear to god those letters on my resume scare people. Help!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Authorial Intentions

As our team writing experiment has dwindled to 1 and a half writers, we're hard pressed to do justice to such a large amount of material in a matter of a week or so--which is when our final draft has been promised. Having our director involved with edits has been a plus, but I worry that she might be directing a play that does not yet exist, and is thereby informing choices in the text. With a writer in the room, I've been privy to many instances where a director might advocate a cut or line change rather than a serious effort to make the 'trouble-spot' work. In my experience, these rough patches can be the ones that give texture, detail, and conflict to the rest of the script. Not always, of course, but more often than not the writer has a full awareness of why they chose to include something in the first place. I would like to see them defend these bits more.

Back at my university, rumor has it that a first-time director was dissatisfied with the play she worked on, and decided to cut, edit, rearrange, and add to the original. Did she realize that this could very easily get her production shut down by the playwright? No. Neither did anyone at the theatre, apparently. (In the end, the writer came and saw it, making the concession that it did need to be changed from what it was, so she was okay with it. Her prerogative, really.)

I've been reading Playwright Versus Director: Authorial Intentions and Performance Interpretations, edited by Jeane Luere in an attempt to gain some perspective on the relationship I generally oversee as I bring new work through its transition to production.

Edward Albee has this to say:"I heard a distinction made that I didn't quite understand: the distinction was between responsibility to the playwright or responsibility to the text. It seems to me--well, first of all, nobody should go in rehearsal with a play that they don't respect. We're talking about a play with a composed text. You should not go into rehearsal assuming that the piece is going to be written during the rehearsal procedure because in the commercial theatre, anyway, there is no time in the four weeks to accomplish that. I claim that my plays don't change very much in rehearsal; I lie a little bit when I say that. I cut my plays because I overwrite. I get infatuated with the sound of my own voice and I out in all sorts of scenes and speeches that I am very fond of and I will probably use in another play if I take them out of the play that they are in. But I don't reconsider the play, because I think about it very carefully before I write it down. The responsibility to the text of a serious useful play is the same thing as the responsibility to the audience, it seems to me. If you mutilate, revise too much a play, the changes that take place in the commercial theatre of a play on the way to opening night are usually oversimplifications, removals of grit; they homogenize, they make it very, very smooth and less an act of aggression against the status quo; and these are very bad things that usually happen in the commercial theatre. Theatre is there for a playwright to give us his vision of what the world is, not the vision that the audience wants to have of the world."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Theatre with a cause

Say what you will about Eve Ensler and her work. I don't care if you like it; it has changed lives. Directing the Vagina Monologues was one of the most important things that I have ever done.


In the past decade, over 400 women and girls have been killed or disappeared in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Many of the victims were raped, mutilated and tortured. One of the victims was a six-year-old girl. In 2004, V-Day dedicated its annual Spotlight to the missing and murdered women of Juarez, placing the issue in front of millions in the U.S. and internationally through the over 2000 V-Day benefit productions and the 7,000 strong V-Day and Amnesty International March on Juarez. Two years after V-Day went to the streets of Juarez, progress is starting to be made as the international community and the U.S. and European governments begin to recognize and address these crimes against humanity.
In the past month alone, several steps have been taken to raise awareness about the issues affecting the women and girls of Juarez and to assist in ending them.

V-Day Mexico City
On Tuesday, May 9th, V-Day returned to Mexico, with Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda and Salma Hayek joining the Mexico City cast of The Vagina Monolgues for a special V-Day production benefiting groups working on the ground to protect and assist the women of Juarez.

The sold out event brought the issue to millions of women and men throughout Mexico and the world via press conferences and news coverage in numerous Mexican and International news services such as Noticieros Televisa, TV Azteca, Reforma, El Universal, BBC, Associated Press, and more. Proceeds from the event were donated to four groups in Juarez, all of whom were represented at the performance: Casa Amiga, a crisis center that provides free, confidential, and professional services to people who experience physical, emotional, or sexual violence; Fundacion Maria Sagrario, a group working to improve the conditions and safety within the community, such as electrification of streets leading to the maquiladoras, among other necessary issues; Justicia para Nuestras Hijas, a group coordinating a grassroots postcard campaign to send to government offices demanding justice and legitimate investigations into the murders; Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a group focusing on legal and social justice through three projects: scholarships for children and young relatives of the assassinated women, an internet radio station and employing lawyers from Mexico City to handle such cases.

In addition to the worldwide publicity that this production brought to the issue, the event also resulted in a plan of action to demand that the Mexican government investigates and prosecutes the perpetrators of past crimes, while agreeing to more vigourously investigate and prevent future crimes. Activists will create a platform of demands for protection and conviction that will be signed by prominent members of the Mexican society, including international star Salma Hayek, and publicly presented to the Mexican presidential candidates and governmental officials at an international press conference. Upon signing, and during the election, there will be a period of accountability - should the signee not meet the demands highlighted in the petition by the timetable agreed upon, there will be a demonstration in the streets of Mexico City.

European Parliament hearing denounces femicide in Guatemala and Mexico

On Wedneday, April 19th, 2006, the European Parliament's Committee on Human Rights and its Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality came together for two-days of hearings and debates regarding the systematic murder of women in Mexico and Guatemala, and the obvious impunity against the perpetrators. Statements and testimonies were heard from both countries and representatives of civil society and two intensive debates took place between Latin American and European politicians of various political affiliations and members of women's and human rights networks.
As a result of these two days, a final statement was issued calling for the Mexican and Guatemalan governments to honour the international agreements and treaties they have signed on human rights and against violence and discrimination against women. It also calls on the Mexican government to apply its national and constitutional laws and refrain from the detention of any person charged on the basis of confessions made under torture. It also calls on multinational companies to take steps to protect their women workers, since many of the young women who were murdered were working in maquiladoras.

House Passes Solis' Juarez Resolution

Resolution Expresses Support for Families of the U.S. Border City
In Washington D.C., on Tuesday May 2nd, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved House Concurrent Resolution 90 (H. Con. Res. 90), legislation authored by Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis to address the disappearances and murders of more than 400 women in Juarez, Mexico.

"We are one step closer to bringing justice to the families of Ciudad Juarez," said Congresswoman Solis. "Passage of this important measure signifies strong U.S. Congressional support for the families of Juarez and the need to address this tragic human rights situation. Binational cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico will help bring an end to the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez and closure to their families," Solis said.
H. Con. Res. 90 condemns the ongoing abduction and murders of young women in Juarez and the city of Chihuahua in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico; expresses condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims; and proposes a set of actions to investigate and prevent the crimes. For the past three years, Congresswoman Solis has been working to bring more attention to the brutal murders of women and girls Juarez, a city located just minutes from the U.S. border.
The next step in the legislative process is for the Senate to pass an identical resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 16, was introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and has 18 cosponsors, including four Republicans.
For more information, please visit: http://www.house.gov/apps/list/speech/ca32_solis/morenews3/juarez.html."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Expand your horizons.

"Theatre Without Borders is like a dating service for international collaboration.
I think it is becoming an essential connective tissue in the global theatre workplace."

--Michael Fields, Producing Artistic Director, DELL'ARTE INTERNATIONAL, Blue Lake, California
in American Theatre Magazine

Check out Theatre Without Borders.