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Archive for April, 2017|Monthly archive page

“The Inspiration Bombardment” from Carol Becker

In Assistantship, Directing, Uncategorized on April 28, 2017 at 10:20 PM

Longer TableOne thing that I believe ALL FAIR participants will agree upon wholeheartedly is that being here, at OSF, is one of the most inspirational environments to create theatre! I am dubbing this term “Inspiration Bombardment” because I feel it is never-ending and it permeates this place in the best ways possible. FAIR’s mission is to send us off into the world not just better artists, but to share what we have learned. This bombardment is not just something I feel in the “Beauty and the Beast” rehearsal room (where I see a beautifully diverse cast and an equally diverse creative team), I feel it in the house where I live and on the streets in between the buildings that OSF owns.

There is a life force here at OSF and it inspires me to want to be better. I would describe it as a pulse. Perhaps it is a heartbeat of a world that is aching to be. Our world is so very far from perfect, but here, I am seeing a world of how employees treat each other and how this organization recognizes each other’s rights to exist and just be. It is impossible not to be inspired by this positivity. It is impossible not to be so grateful for this opportunity.

Life and life lessons are happening here and they extend well beyond the world of theatre and art. I know Ashland is not OSF, but OSF feels enormous. I feel as though this is the place that could start the avalanche on how humans embrace each other in acceptance. Theatre could be that bridge. It is that bridge here. I like that I am learning more about how to be my best self, how to be the best ally I can be.

Let the bombardment continue.

“Discovery and Enlightenment” from JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell

In Assistantship, Directing, Uncategorized on April 24, 2017 at 5:33 PM
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Every day at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a new day of discovery and enlightenment for me.  From what I have experienced so far this organization is a wonderland, a complete arts utopia where creatives of all sorts are encouraged and supported in being the best at their chosen crafts. Even with a total of staff and company members reaching well into the 00’s, OSF remains a tight-knit group of theater lovers with an equity, diversity, and inclusion first mission, and that gives life to quality theater for all.  

I’ll be honest and admit that I have been seduced by the magic, unique congeniality and opportunity that permeates the grounds of 15 S. Pioneer St. Not a day has gone by since I arrived that I have not been amazed in some voluminous way.  This past week was full of moments that reassured me that taking this position as FAIR assistant director 2,835.5 miles away from my daughter will, in fact, be one of the best decision that I will ever make for myself and her in life.  The new things that I am being introduced and latching to have set my soul ablaze and I’m so delighted about sharing all I am gleaning with my tribe back in North Carolina.

Here, in no particular order are a few honest reflections on some of my most memorable, only been here three weeks moments at OSF (insert sound of Vinyl scratching sound here):

  • During week one, On April 4th, Dawn Monique Williams’ read her Director’s Note during the Merry Wives of Windsor Show Intro – It was touching and prescient; it was an ode to the work that clearly and passionately expressed her vision and foreknowledge. I’ll never forget what how I felt that moment when she spoke and I hope that type of spirit shines from me when I discuss that art that I am creating.

  • The Company Call on April 3rd.  Firstly, I want to say that just because you’ve been to a company call before doesn’t mean you can fathom what a company call is at OSF is or is like.  Second, at this particular company call Bill and Cynthia were giving out Longevity Awards.  These awards highlighted the contributions of folk who have been in the OSF fam from a span of five to sixty years.  It was so special to me because I witnessed the names of custodial staff being mentioned and celebrated by their colleagues with the same reverence as actors and executive staff.  It just warmed my heart and soul to see the genuine appreciation. Knowing that the leadership here believes that every department is vital, no matter how “big” or “small” and that your contribution is what continues to allow this organization to flourish and thrive.

  • On Saturday, April 22nd the cast of Merry Wives of Windsor had their first choreo rehearsal.  At the top of rehearsal PJP, our brilliant, dope composer and sound designer gathered our entire cast for our first, unarranged sing-along to our reworked version of Whitney Houston’s I Want to Dance With Somebody. I am telling you, that moment was enough to fuel me for the remainder of my time here.  The cast sang along spritely to the chorus, in a nostalgic and evocative way, most of them without help from the lyric sheet. It was an explosive moment of excitement that wreaked of actors who trusts their directors vision and who were ecstatic to be bringing this piece to life.  

  • On April 19th my associate FAIR assistant director, Roberta Insco-Cox and I (unofficially) renamed the production “Dawn Monique Williams’ Merry Wives of Windsor”.  When you see the show you will understand why!

  • Also on April 19th – The FAIR Assistant Directors sat down to tea with Mary Zimmerman and Robert O’hara – they engaged us with transparent and broadening conversation for over an hour and if they didn’t have rehearsal and tech to get to it feels like they would’ve stayed longer.  It was an invaluable moment that could only be brought to you by OSF. I am still letting that one sit in… In Oregon, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, as an assistant director, sitting Robert O’Hara and Mary Zimmerman drinking tea and sharing THE tea. I may never stop pinching myself.

Again, this list is NO WAY exhaustive.  Stick around… I’ll be sharing more during my next few weeks here!

“Nerding out in the Archives” from Michael Cotey

In Archives, Assistantship, Directing, Literary, Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 8:51 AM

ArchivesHostThis is Maria DeWeerdt. She’s the archivist at OSF and works in what I can only describe as Aladdin’s cave of treasures beneath the Thomas Theatre. Behind her you can see countless recordings of past OSF shows and just to the right of this pictured you’d see several large rolling racks filled with priceless, irreplaceable material like rehearsal reports, meeting notes, and old prompt books. This room is part dramaturge’s dream and part Pandora’s box of sheer nerding out.

Maria and I ran into each other accidentally as fellow FAIR cohort JaMeeka and I tried desperately to remember which of the countless unmarked doors we were shown during our tour led us to the Artistic Offices. She was someone I was hoping to track down because in January I’ll be remounting Equivocation, a show I did in graduate school and a show that premiered here initially. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to really get a glimpse into the original production of something I would be directing.

Now, being able to view the production would have been enough to satiate my curiosity (which I could in glorious Blu-Ray in a little station in Maria’s archive heaven, no less). But then Maria blew my freaking mind by bringing out two boxes stuffed with all sorts of goodies. There was the prompt book from the initial production, script changes issued during rehearsal, dramaturgical resources provided by the playwright, and Bill Rausch’s early notes and thoughts for his director. Never do you get to see this stuff! Usually it’s some shots from the production and, if you are lucky, some archival footage. What Maria provided me with was a glimpse into the genesis of this play.

Theatres are full of folks like Maria DeWeerdt: unsung heroes under the radar. Theatremaking is more than acting, directing and designing. In such a slippery and fleeting art as theatre where nothing is permanent, Maria is so important in helping us not forget not just the end product, but also the process that got those artists there.

I’ve already warned Maria that I’ve put together a short list of other amazing shows that I’m going to get my eyeballs on before I leave. One of the amazing perks of being at a theatre that honors its past as much as it looks ahead to the future!

(Shout-out to Kait Fairchild, Literary Coordinator and Script Manager, for sharing some of the drafts of Equivocation with me and alerting me to the fact that the archives existed in the first place)

“Week 3 Update” from Elizabeth Barrett

In Carpentry, Green Show, Internship, Scenic Design, Scenic Paint, Scenic Painting, Scenic Props, Uncategorized, Welding on April 18, 2017 at 11:33 PM

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This week I started working on the construction of Merry Wives of Windsor. The shop works at a staggered pace with different productions being built simultaneously. We are currently constructing Merry Wives alongside Beauty and the Beast and it has been intriguing to see both being built alongside each other. Throughout this process, as a scenic carpentry intern, I have been able to work alongside different carpenters as we move from project to project. Construction techniques vary depending on each person, thus I have gained many tips and advice from each person I work with. The Merry Wives set uses the beautiful Lizzie theater as inspiration and builds on to that with more doorways and embellishments. Despite my continued struggle to insure everything is square, I am proud of the work I have done this week on the construction of the main doorway for Merry Wives. It is satisfying to construct something that gets to belong onstage alongside the work of extremely talented carpenters, designers, and theatre artists.

This week I also attended the Hip-Hop Open Mic night at the Black Swan. It was an amazing event and a good introduction to the Ashland community. Everyone involved was incredibly warm and welcoming and those performing at the open mic all shared wonderful work. The performers read stories, performed songs they had written, and read poetry. It was a wonderful way to connect with the OSF community outside of the main theatres. I look forward to going again on May 8th!

“Anti-typecasting…the theme for the week” from Roberta Inscho-Cox

In Assistantship, Audience Development, Directing, Literary, Producing, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on April 14, 2017 at 4:27 PM
April_IVP.jpgOn Tuesday, April 11th, I attended the Informed Volunteer Program (IVP), moderated by Lue Douthit, with members of my FAIR 2017 cohort, JaMeeka and Sam. It was a unique experience, especially since JaMeeka, Sam, and I seemed to be the youngest members of the audience. I had no idea what to expect, but this program has created a running theme for the remainder of my week. 
Lue Douthit (or Dr. D, as I’ve come to know her) introduced the two speakers, Dawn Monique Williams, director of Merry Wives of Windsor, and Martine Kei Green-Rogers, dramaturg of UniSon. Both Dawn and Martine spoke to what is going on in rehearsals (or in UniSon’s case, tech). Martine shared with us the experience the cast had on the first night spacing in the Bowmer, how they spent most of the evening playing with sound and bodies within the space, and also how the addition of the projections added a stunning textural element that is “pearl clutching worthy.” After watching the YouTube music video of “Lets talk about the body,” I was already pumped and excited for UniSon’s opening night, but now that I have a little more information, I’m antsy to experience the magic and power of this show. 
Even though I know what’s going on in Merry Wives of Windsor rehearsals, I loved hearing Dawn speak to “what is going on in rehearsals,” “what was her entry point into Merry Wives,” and “what was her experience with the text work?” I never tire hearing Dawn speak to the world of 80s romantic comedy that this Merry Wives lives in, but I can imagine it to feel very exhausting, as a director, having been asked these same questions over and over again. Already in only two weeks, Dawn has had the Merry Wives show intro, the IVP, and countless personal interactions where she is asked to share her vision and points of entry for this play. It takes great skill to make it sound new and exciting every time. Not to mention the need to be consistent. I admire that, because it’s a skill I’m not accustomed to yet, and one that I would need to practice  in order to make it sound as organic and exciting as Dawn Monique Williams does. 
Towards the end of the program, Dr. D opened the panel up to questions from the audience. I wish I could say I was surprised when someone asked what informed Dawn’s choice to cast a woman as Falstaff, but I wasn’t. But what was really moving, was Dawn’s response: “in the spirit of honoring company, I thought ‘why not’ make a statement in life about the facility an actor has to play cross gender, and also, we don’t need to pass up an actor of K.T.’s skill because of gender. K.T. has generosity, comedic timing, and takes great risks in the rehearsal room. Not to mention, she won’t need to wear a fat suit (pause for audience laughter). And I say that, not to be demeaning, but to emphasize that we need to move away from petite actors playing characters of size.” What were they laughing at? Is the notion of casting an actor who doesn’t require a fat suit, funny? Or was it nervous laughter because they are uncomfortable that it’s a plus-size woman playing this role? Or is it both? Fatphobia is a real and true thing. And even within the world of Merry Wives of Windsor, fat jokes are made at Falstaff’s expense. We also see this to the n’th degree in Henry IV, Part One. It’s something that I know, personally, I’m very sensitive to. I could go on and on and on about the daily noise I experience being a plus-sized female director. But I’m also angry that we are still restricted by “type.” Why do we instill this notion in our actors? Just this week in rehearsal, an actor shared their experience being told to lose weight or they wouldn’t be considered for “these roles anymore.” I’m feeling very activated by this, and I am brainstorming in how I can make anti-type casting even more a vital piece of my personal mission as an artist. Stay tuned… 

“Graduate School…How? When? Where? WHY?!” from Cassandra del Nero

In Assistantship, Carpentry, Props, Richard L. Hay Fellowship, Scenic Design, Scenic Paint, Scenic Painting, Scenic Props, Technical Direction, Uncategorized on April 12, 2017 at 12:08 PM

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As I sit in the OSF Shuttle three nights a week, sometimes driving company members home and sometimes whiling away the hours with memorizing songs and honing my drawing skills- I decided I should at least attempt to be productive in that time frame.

What it has amounted to is this: research for future assistantships, job offers for young designers, and graduate school possibilities.

What I found first was the need to set my priorities: What did I want from a program?

My number 1 priority was a school that looked at design with a scenographic or at least dual emphasis process. This would allow students to pursue more than one avenue of design and to learn more about the cohesive nature of collaboration.

My second priority was that the school also teach classes in builds (scenic and costume) to better inform the design process. If one does not understand how something is built- it can be easy to stray into the impossible (or extremely expensive). This has been doubly enforced to me as I discuss Off the Rails with Richard, and Unison with Rick. As we design (and assist in designing) these shows, we must compare them with the demands of the build. For instance, if a unit is built at 8 ‘-6” wide, but the plank lines for the wall are at 1’-0” increments, there will be a very visible divide at the location of the door. This is not aesthetically pleasing. This is just one of many such examples where we must discuss the function of a scenic unit before it is even passed underneath the eyes of the Technical Direction team.  With those ideals as my jumping off point- I’ve found a few options. And they’re no slouch! NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Yale’s Department of Drama, Northwestern’s Stage Design Degree, London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, Trinity College’s School of the Arts- and a few others. The uniting factors here? All excellent schools, and with wonderful reputations, and all with staging costs in attendance and moving fees.

The options I did find for attendance on the West Coast face the same failings, but often did not have teaching assistantships available. As such, I’m beginning to plan for attending graduate school in 2018 or 2019, giving me more time to decide what and how I want to learn… It begins!

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