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Archive for the ‘Directing’ Category

“Juneteenth” from Roberta Inshco-Cox

In Assistantship, Community Producitons, Directing, Green Show, Uncategorized on May 21, 2017 at 8:05 AM

JuneteenthblogFor the past few weeks, I’ve been working on co-curating Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Juneteenth celebration, which this year will be held on Monday, June 19th, with Sam White, JaMeeka Holloway and Nemuna Ceesay. Last year I was able to attend Juneteenth as a community member because I was in town to see a weekend of shows. Now, I’m excited to be a part of the actual planning of the event, the curation of the material to be performed, and working as an ally alongside my fearless co-curators.

Juneteenth is a world-wide celebration to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Traditionally, Juneteenth services and events around the world have focused on community and education. I remember last year, a couple poignant moments were Christopher Henry Young’s choreography to “Rise up,” and the repetition of “yesterday was Emmet Till, Emmet Till was yesterday,” by a FAIR participant,  who popped up from the audience unexpectedly. Both were powerful and full of emotion, and ones that have stayed with me for a year now; a sort of emotional education.

This year our theme is “For Us, By Us: celebrating black joy, resilience and resistance,” and our goal is to move away from using this event to educate, but rather celebrate the joy of the black community, the resilience to move forward even in times of trouble, and the welcoming of ally-ship. Our curating team has already put in a ton of work, but I’m already feeling the pressure of time, as we only have a month left to wrap up planning, building the set list, and scheduling rehearsals for our choreography moments. Thankfully, we have also commissioned Christopher Henry Young to choreograph our opening number, and our first rehearsal was this week! Such beautiful work! He’s a joy to work with, and I had a ton of fun participating in learning his choreography. It was a blast, and I felt very welcomed! Planning this event has really challenged me, not allowing myself to hide away in my room when I’m not in rehearsals for Merry Wives of Windsor. I was originally nervous to speak up about wanting to participate in the organizing of Juneteenth, but I’m so glad that I did. My own community while here in Ashland has expanded ten-fold, and I’m feeling engaged and active in a completely different way.

“Processing my Expanding White Awareness Study Group Experience” from Michael Cotey

In Assistantship, Directing, Education, Human Resources, Uncategorized on May 10, 2017 at 6:27 AM

IMG_1480For four weeks now I’ve been attending the Expanding White Awareness Study Group. As part of the curriculum we are given a rather large study packet and then weekly a small group of us who identify as white get together to talk through the things we had read or watched that week. To give you an idea of some of the material, we’ve read Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack among many other seminal texts on the subject of whiteness, defining words like “white privilege” and “white supremacy” and “white fragility” along the way. In many ways, this feels like a conversation I’ve avoided having for the past three years. Since going to Northwestern (and certainly in conjunction with a more visible rise in tension, violence, and awareness) the concept of ‘whiteness’ has been something I’ve suddenly had to think about. The fact that there is a group of 6-7 to us sitting around every Tuesday speaking openly about our whiteness would have been unimaginable to me less than five weeks ago, not to mention three years ago. And I have found this conversation difficult because essentially it feels like an “Oz behind the curtain” moment. For instance, when Peggy McIntosh draws attention to the fact that she “can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of [her] race” I begin to understand just how easy it is to take for granted all those things I don’t have to think about. 

My life is not a series of obstacles and roadblocks in the way it is on a daily basis for others. I think my resistance prior to this course about thinking about myself as privileged is equating that to advantaged among other white folks. I like the analogy one of the fellow study group members used: it’s like being an athlete and learning that there are performance enhancing drugs pumping through your body without you knowing it, giving you an unbalanced advantage. I struggle at times to know what to do with that knowledge. On the very basic level it’s helped me start to see my own life through a slightly different lens. I feel it’s helped me value gratefulness and acknowledge my own luck of upbringing and circumstance. I’m sad that this study group is coming to an end, but I’m grateful to have had this experience.

“Shoutout to FAIR Forum” from JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell

In Assistantship, Directing, Education, Program Management, Uncategorized on May 8, 2017 at 7:31 AM

18194607_932674476872515_294608980549356765_nAfter last week’s FAIR forum I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership and influence.  Because I do consider myself a leader and an influencer, it lead me to check in with my current inferences and rethink whether or not I have a clear understanding of what those words really mean on an internal and personal level.   

I thought back to the first time my company was ever envisaged and I remembered questions like “Are you ready for leadership?” “Can you handle leadership” and “Are you even actually a leader?” had already begun to take up residence in my mind. I thought about my anxiety, introverted-ness and if wondered if an autist like me had any business running a company.

Even after I “answered the call” I remembered the time’s people said, “JaMeeka, you won’t blow up here.” With good intention, they expressed that I could be doing more with my producing skills and “just wanted to remind” me of how much bigger I could be. But I resolved to stay rooted in my hometown to serve my community; And without personally or formally assuming the responsibility, that also meant being a support system, mentor, and resource for other artists.

Without contrition, I have been blissful in North Carolina ever since.

Our conversation also prompted me to reflect on the things that have always been important to me in leadership, which is watching my people chase their own aspirations and live in their own definitions of success.  It’s never been about me.  A few years ago it came to me that we got to have more of us make moves for anyone else to believe they can too. Some of us will make bigger strides than others. Some will completely diverge from the path. But it’s the constant and consistent evolving that is vital. So I moved forward with a mission to provide safe, exploratory spaces and platforms for other artists to move.  It ain’t always easy. Not everyone has understood my work. In fact, I’ve often times being criticized about my approaches.  There’ve been missteps.  I also know that there’ve been times when I pushed too hard. But that’s part of the process. They learn and I learn.  I realize that as an artistic director the expectations is for me to be out front. But Nah, I’m gonna handle mine and I don’t need attention or notoriety to validate my mark on this field.  I just want my tribe to go and run the race to show folks what we do ’round here!

I am incredibly thankful for FAIR forum and that it always leaves me with things to digest and think on. I have so much love for my cohort and I appreciate Dawn for always keeping it 100 with us.  Stay with me as I continue to reassess my notions on leadership and influence.  The one thing I know stays true for me, is that I have to keep taking steps forward and in taking Dawn’s advice I’m adopting a power pose that I affirm to stand in it for at least 60 seconds daily. I don’t believe I can push anyone if I ain’t pushing myself. So I learn, push, lead, and keep hoping I’m doing it right.

“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)

“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… 

“Monday Night in Ashland” from Julianna Stephanie Ojeda

In Assistantship, Community Producitons, Directing, Green Show, Uncategorized on March 29, 2017 at 10:14 AM

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When you immerse yourself in a new environment, often times you forget to reflect. Thank you for the weekly assignment.

Week two went by fast! I explored Ashland more and stumbled on to the Hip Hop Poetry Open Mic. I walked in and was asked if I’m sharing poetry or watching. I’m not a poet but that question made me wish I had material to share with the community. I entered took my seat and looked around. There was a combination of OSF employees, locals, tourist, and people that were just hiking through and were told hours before that this event was happening.

I think this community event in a nutshell captured the beauty of what OSF is. “We welcome ALL” is prominently displayed across the festival buildings – on windows, on walls, near doorways. To walk into a room with such an eclectic group of audience members/performers was magical. The pieces went from poetry to rap to guitar playing to singing. At one point a performer lent her guitar to the man that heard about the event hours before. One of the actors from the show I’m assistant directing was there with her husband and they shared a romantic love ballad rap duet. The sound technician also took his turn and played a tear-jerking piece of music that moved my soul and all he asked is that we think of the women that have made an impact on our lives.

I left the Hip Hop Poetry Open Mic with my heart opened and my imagination running, walked into my housing and I wrote some poetry.

I was glad that I didn’t stay inside on my Monday off.

“Echos of Social Justice” from Julia Rosa Sosa

In Assistantship, Directing on March 16, 2017 at 9:16 PM

40BC23CF-A4EC-4F64-9301-D9AC8A18D4D6Going on our weekly FAIR forum: This week was SOCIAL JUSTICE. It has been a thought that has been bouncing for quite some time  in my head. As an artist but also as a human I ask myself: How in hell am I going to effectively create a socially conscious theater that strives to create a change towards a more justice world?. When I am part of a target group that could be in danger if I step out of my secure communities.

So attaching all of this again to FAIR. Today in the morning we were invited to a meeting where the season planning for next season was taking place. And with all freedom I can say it was a privilege. I recognized people from the costume shop, from tech (Not sure exactly from which department) the artistic director, from all departments. And us: the assistant directors which will only be here for two months. This proves the responsibility that OSF has to Social Justice. They invite their own company to work as a team to arrange the stories that will represent them next year. And with a magnifying lens they ask themselves question as: Is this play giving me anything? Are this characters portraying a stereotype. Why there is two-dimensionality in the characters. And even there being the people that will budget the plays; They did not talk about money. OSF it’s building a season about the stories that characters live. And I am glad I am here.

How in hell am I going to effectively create a socially conscious theatre that strives to create a change towards a more justice world? Finding stories that have characters that can survive in someone’s mind for more that the time they are on stage. Characters that being heroes/villains/etc have been loved by someone. Or someone in the future could love them. Characters that are able to hate. Characters that are being affected by their environment. Clarifying because sometimes I am not sure if I make sense; I am not saying characters that we are able to hate or love- because that will happen regardless of the story. But that within the play there is a rich world that mirrors our world in some capacity. Yep! that is one of the probably first steps I should take!

“Happy Birthday” from NaTasha Thompson

In Assistantship, Directing, Uncategorized on May 29, 2016 at 9:43 PM

thumbnail_20160523_211621Once again stepping away from the land of Oz, the highlight of my week came in the form of a birthday dinner party. It’s always great when you can take a break from work and actually enjoy the people that are working with you. Though we see each other nearly every day, in different capacities the birthday dinner for Christopher (Wiz Dance Captain) and Cherelle (Wig/ Hair Supervisor) was a treat. Gathering a few members of the Wiz team and a few others, I got a chance to enjoy many of OSF’s talented employees that evening. While the food was spectacular, the love in the room was just as filling. From passing plates in the hall way to dessert and a game of heads up in the living room, the dinner certainly reminded me of a night in my home with friends and loved ones. I don’t know if the picture for this week does the evening justice but it certainly was an awesome event.

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