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Archive for the ‘Literary’ Category

“Self Identification” from Bernardo Mazón

In Administration, Audience Development, Fellowship, Human Resources, Literary, Residency, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on May 16, 2017 at 5:33 PM

/var/folders/84/dy2qtnz13wddhtx39pw3vr1h0000gn/T/com.apple.iChat/Messages/Transfers/IMG_3700.JPG.jpegMy first sit-down with my supervisor, I tell her, “I want to make a lasting contribution here, what can I do” and she is like, “I know just the thing.” A few more discussions later, and I’m writing a thesis for a research project based on this company’s progression with the equity, diversity, & inclusion movement. I’m setting out to examine how successful the organization has been in terms of hiring and representation onstage/offstage. As I’m crafting this proposal and preparing to share it with jefes here, I step back for a moment and think about the problems I’ll face in collecting data.

Por ejemplo, incomplete records. Sometimes information is archived selectively; we can’t see the whole picture. There’s also tokenism. Quizás we CAN see the whole picture, but there’s no way of knowing if someone was hired based on their merit or for liberal bragging rights. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with the latter, as there is a difference between equity and equality, but the point is that sometimes a step forward is followed by several steps back. It’s common for situations like this to be followed by a long and dreary dryspell of hiring straight, able-bodied white men again—back to the old ways. The greatest obstacle, though, is the following:

Self-identification.

Which is self-explanatory. It’s not enough, no, it’s not right for us to determine a person’s ethnic or gender from their appearance. Furthermore, it’s not like you can do a google search on any given name and see what that person is, because identity is an intimate thing. It ought to be shared, but not necessarily put on display. Therefore, por lo tanto, it’d be unfair (not to mention, crazy wrong) for me to go through a company’s history of hiring and make inferences off their picture. “Are they masculine or are they feminine”, “Their skin is dark, so they’re black”, “Oh, this dude must be Latino, oops, Latinx”, “I can’t see if they’re unable to hear” etc.

Back to my story. Entonces, I have this lump in my throat knowing that my research project is destined for turbulence. When I present my idea to the jefes, I leave out my concerns for fear of sounding too complicated. I neglect my politics in hopes for approval.

Seguramente, the responses are essentially, “Great, except…”. They’re receptive but skeptical. They point out exactly the same ethical difficulties I’d experience, and I’m in quiet awe.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it otra vez: I feel like I’m finally in America. Y eso es porque “self-identification” was not something we knew of in my hometown. Mexican border politics tend to enforce nationalities onto people (and don’t get me started on the Arabic diaspora, for I don’t know enough, but I do feel). The culture I come from doesn’t invite you to decide what you are and how the world ought to see it—let alone celebrate it. And here they are, celebrating it like champions.

Joining the parade, 

Bernardo Mazón
FAIR Literary Resident
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
My pronouns: He/Him/His
American

 

P.S. As a chavalillo, I didn’t like story time at school, because most of the books they chose seemed far-away and unimportant to me. They’d either be about animalitos, fairy tales, or some condescending sh*t talking down to little kids. Every now and then, though, they’d pick books that were about people. And they had a multicultural selection. Pictures of people owning their origins. Those books, those were my favorite thing.

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“Shakespeare’s Histories” from Bernardo Mazon

In Fellowship, Literary, Producing, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on May 5, 2017 at 10:08 PM

Picture1One of my duties here is to assist the dramaturgy team on Henry IV Part 2. When I found out I was going to be working on that, I let out a long, anxious sigh—not because I wasn’t excited by the opportunity, but because I knew it was going to be a hell of an undertaking. Until this point, you could have asked me what I knew about Shakespeare’s Histories, and I would have said virtually para nada. Zip zilch zero. Never seen one, never dared read one. And now I’ve been assigned this play that lands right in the middle of the chronological saga. Hijole. I sighed because I want to do my job well, which means I have a lot of homework to do.

Fast forward to a week ago, I watched Henry IV Part 1. I say this honestly: I could tell it was a stellar show. Without saying anything about the story, I could at least say the production itself was phenomenal. But regardless, that pesky story went right over my head. I understood ni madre of what was going on up there.

As the literary resident, I’ll admit proudly that I have a particularly hard time with Shakespeare. Value judgements aside (though I am a fan, yes), I cannot watch or read a Shakespeare play without the overwhelming struggle and frustration. So any history play, especially one as planted in context, is daunting. On top of the difficulties there already are for this 21st Spanglish speaker, the entangled politics, the jimble jamble of names, and the historical references make it more difficult.

I see, though, that this uphill battle in comprehension isn’t unconquerably steep. Fortunately, the resources here are on another level, and everyone is on my side. Plus I’ve heard my mentors admit themselves that they still have to lean in to get the language. So a few days later I printed the text out and returned to that theater sin verguenza. No shame. I read the text as the play went on, and felt like I was starting to follow. Today, I went again (with my script) for my third viewing of Henry IV Part 1. I’ll confidently say I that I finally get it.

And. It. Is. Sick.

I love this play! The patience paid off, and it doesn’t feel as faraway as it used to. Before I didn’t have a high opinion on stories about kings and queens, let alone medieval England. Now I’m geeking out. I get what people mean when they say it’s captivating like a soap opera. It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s totally accessible if you put your mind to it. I’m hungry and eager all to learn all these history plays, porque ya sabes: it’s like the Bard meets telenovelas.

“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… 

“The Yin and Yang” from Wind Woods

In Literary, Residency, Wind Woods on January 7, 2013 at 3:48 AM

yinYang

The Yin and the Yang, the present and the future, hope and hopelessness, woken life or wrapped in the mystical qualities of a dream – there are always two trains running, with three distinct options: 1) to stay or 2) board train #1 or 3) board train #2. Whether these trains lead to love or loneliness, success or failure, dreams achieved or dreams deferred, with every choice we must tote the heavy baggage of history. The weight of this baggage increases the depth of the footprints we leave in the soil. This weight skews our sight as we strain to decipher the road map that marks our future.

Wilson’s plays are haunted with the spirit of history, encamped in the state of the present, and actively involved in the creation of what is yet to come. Two Trains Running forces us as artists and audience to wrestle with the dimensions of the past, present, and future. Wilson in each scene draws attention to the interconnectivity of the “now”, “back when”, and “someday” and demonstrates how dependent these three temporal settings are to each other and to understanding our position in the world. We, as well as the characters in the play, are a product of this time triad.

In the rehearsal room and in the world of the play, we are forced to go back before we go forward. As Memphis states “Ain’t no need in keeping running, ‘cause if you get to the end zone it ain’t gonna be a touchdown [if you dropped the ball].” We must all go back to our own individual past, retrace our own personal journey. Before there were tracks in the ground there were foot prints and dirt paths to follow, most of them now washed away by wind and rain.

The setting of Two Trains is a location where paths cross, a transfer station on the way to someplace else. There are many places like this in the world, where travelers stop, nourish themselves and ready for more travel, more life. When we arrive at the crossroad, the transfer station, we are met with the questions: Where are we? Where have we come from? And where do we want to go? If we miss a train, we catch the next one, but we cannot stand idle in the present forever. So we board, finding a destination that excites or frightens us, some simply get in the first line they see, some may flip a coin. We hope that the seats are comfortable and the service is good, but once the train jolts into motion we are all transported in different directions. The next stop might vary for us all, but the nature of the journey is always the same. We leave, and sometime in the future we arrive. For no matter what train we take, what direction the train heads, what souvenirs we collect along the way, we are in the end caught in the tragic irony of time and existence. We all, at one time or another must board that final train, an unavoidable final stop on the line. One person’s final destination might be another’s initial point of departure. They board, take their seat, perhaps come across something a fellow traveler has left behind, a partially completed crossword puzzle, a receipt, a hat or a scarf. The item may remind them of how alike everyone’s journey is.

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