Leave a comment

O Sarah! My Sarah!

O Sarah! My Sarah!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading 100 Essay’s I Don’t Have Time to Write. I think Sarah Ruhl’s essays are simple but also complex and multifaceted, much like her plays. She has a way of presenting the reader with information, making us feel safe and warm in her words, and then asking a hard-hitting question, but then not telling us the answer to the question, and therefore yanking the covers off of us, and exposing us to the cold harsh day ahead of us. There is so much work to do!

Over all, I found this book genuinely inspiring. During the few weeks when I was reading it, I found myself writing a lot more. Her questions subconsciously seeped into my day to day life, and I found myself wondering, “Do I want to make art that relies on the audience to create it?” or “is subtext really that important? What problems does it cause?” It was an exceptionally helpful book to read in the midst of playwriting and directing—a true theatre artist’s almanac. And also Sarah Ruhl has children, and a great job, and a brilliant mind, and a boatload of life experience and words like butter on a page. Um, Goals??!

What ever happened to the humble-nature of theatre? Of theatre for pure enjoyment and the sharing of love? Why is everything so academic? Why is everything so commercial? I want to be the kind of equity actor who stands out in the cold and performs Passion Play with no props, sounds, lights, or stage.

Leave a comment

Thank You LTC and HowlRound

(by Línda Vanesa Perla)

From December 1st to December 3rd a group of approximately 175 Latinx artists, scholars, administrators, and advocates gather in New York City to converse, network, participate in panels, performances, and parties to discuss a range of topics.  This year there was also a gathering of the Pacific Northwest region in Seattle and in 2017 there will be an International convening in Los Angeles. This is due to the amazing efforts of The Latina/o Theater Commons (LTC), in partnership with HowlRound.

A brief intro to The Latina/o Theater Commons (LTC):

  • A national movement
  • Uses a commons-based approach to transform the narrative of the American theater
  • To amplify the visibility of Latinx performance making
  • To champion equity through advocacy, art making, convening, and scholarship
  • Values
    • Service
    • Radical Inclusion
    • Transparency
    • Legacy & Leadership Cultivation
    • Advancement of the Art Form
  • “We envision an American Theater that reflects the boundless spectrum of human experiences, that is accessible to all persons, and where the ideals of equity and cultural acumen are embraces, practiced, and woven into the fabric of our field.”
  • The first convening was held in Boston in 2013 with 80 Latinx artists.
  • All of this information was found and more can be found at http://howlround.com/2016-nyc-regional-convening-new-york-city

On the HowlRound TV network, online, many of the activities, panels, and talks were live streamed and remain up for anyone to watch. So, I began watching and what I found was riveting.

In Latinx Theater; Making a Difference there was a long—table discussion pertaining to questions such as: What is considered a Latinx play? Is it the artists? The narratives? The politics? The aesthetics?

Many of these questions I have been trying to unpack alone and so I clicked.

While watching I was amazing at the fact that before beginning they lit a sage and pasted it around as a cleansing and as an invitation to allow the participants into a space where the emotion, passions, and magical roots of our culture may spur motivation to wisdom.

Here is were I learned that the Assistant Dean of the Yale School of Drama is a Latina named Chantal Rodriguez. (MIND BLOWN)

Anyway, the first topic of conversation was: “Making a difference: What is Latinx theater? What does it mean in the sense of making a difference? How are we different?”

Instantly there was a open rejections of Latinx Theater: according to Alex Menda, you runs (with an ensemble of women) teatro luna, to address the theater that Latinx artists make as “Latinx theater” is to use the vocabulary of the oppressor. Rather we should be focusing of celebrating our differences as Latinx artists as well as our inherit similarities.

Afterword, the question of aesthetic was brought into the space.

From that questions arose that are iheret in the work that I know I and my fellow Latinx student artists are faced with consitnusly: How do we define aesthetic? Through what lenses? For who and why? If there are influenced by cultural shifts that are then seen through theater critiques, who are primarily white, then what in what ways do we challenge our OWN definition of aesthetic?

That was then approached with making theater in a capitalistic society different from many societies in Latin America.

Not letting the integrity of the work off the hook: how does capitalism affect our work? As it doesn’t coincide with “aesthetic adventures” or the deep politics that run through Latinx theater. As we are “too abundant. Too adventures. To political. Too imaginative. Too far.”

As I was beginning to become aware of the fact that I could not find an Afro-Latinx artist in the room the question about diversity without our own community can into play:

How do we look beyond our our history? Or should we? Should we explore the stories of other nationalists. What is the importance of the Latinx artist to find storied within one another and shed our nationalism to blend together? How can we find something about Latinx theater by doing an Adrienne Kennedy play or a Miller or a Henry Hwang?

By the end of the video I was at this bridge. On either side an ocean running fast and hard in front an emerging path behind sunshine and warmth. I’m reaching a point where I must choose to jump into the ocean and let subconsciously built way of doing things sweep me away or run back into what was comfortable or become part of the ones that are diligently stomping out a path for future generations through an unfriendly and hard jungle.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. And I cannot say that I’ve decided yet. I don’t think that I will know when I’ve decided though. It will just click in I think. I hope. I mean I’m hoping that I’ll being walking forward with my Machete and Magical Realism.

Maybe I’ve already been doing just that.

Maybe.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

REVOLT REVOLT REVOLT

Seeing Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again, at Company One was an experience! I genuinely was not expecting to see a piece of theatre that would eject me out of my seat as much as this one did. It’s non-linear structure created a chaos in me—I was not only anticipating what would happen next, but also trying to decipher what was happening in the present moment.

The show used a plethora of tech-elements that added to the commotion of the text. For example, the choice to use a video camera to project the vulnerable images of a woman giving a heart-wrenching speech about ownership of her own body was a particularly striking image. In addition, the contrast between the brightness of the light in that scene and the darkness of the subject matter was so provoking.

I think it is amazing how work travels across the world. Alice Birch, the playwright, started the project in the UK. It has been at Soho Rep in New York, Company One in Boston, Royal Shakespeare Company, etc.. Through research I discovered that the play was written in 3 days, which is incredible but also makes perfect sense—of course a play so skilled in brevity and staccato power took only a short time to write.

I am so proud to know people who worked on this show. The development of new work in Boston is so interesting and important, and just knowing a few alums who helped with dramaturgy or performed made me feel as though I was a part of the process.

Leave a comment

Capability

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about the character I am playing for my thesis and how the qualities of her are forcing me to address qualities in myself. Today I want to talk about one of those qualities.

Image of an Unknown Young Woman deals with acts of violence being recorded and how the contemporary world responds to them through social media. When Elinor Cook was writing the play, she was particularly inspired by the shooting of Neda in the Iran protests in 2009, the blue bra girl in Egypt in 2011, and the woman in the red dress in Turkey in 2013. It is also worth saying that here in the states, there is no lack of recorded violence and killings that have been posted, shared and linked all over our web.

I never watched. Any of it.

It may have started as just a quick browsing through my various feeds, but when violence became more and more predominant, not looking became a choice. One that I am no longer okay with.

In the first scene of Image, three chorus members are made to represent the flurry of internet activity after such an event has been posted. They go through the many different responses: shame for not watching, refusal to watch based on principle, and constant demand to share it. I admit there have been times where I have refused to watch because of being told I had to. Silly, but seems to be a natural response.

Mostly I didn’t watch because I was afraid. I couldn’t handle it. I have a high sense of empathy that I’ve more or less figured out how to manage, and it’s hard enough in my personal life. Adding scenes of graphic violence to my psyche didn’t seem like it would help.

I also didn’t feel like I would actually be doing anything to support whatever people were calling to rally against just by watching something shocking and painful. How was hurting myself going to help?

In Image, Candace doesn’t do well with violence either. As far as I know she hasn’t experienced it firsthand and like me is someone to look away. It makes her uncomfortable. It throws her off balance. It disrupts her world. Which returns me to facing these truths in myself.

The reasons I gave other people and myself for not wanting to look are all shallow. Sometimes yes, I do have to protect myself and what I watch for my own mental health. But there are many times where I use that as an excuse. Much like when I refused to address and start conversations with my right-winged home. I’m not capable. I’m not articulate. I’m not the right one for the job.

All excuses. I didn’t want to because I was petrified of it.

And in a world where the phrase, President-Elect Donald Trump, exists…

That’s not good enough.

It is my job as an artist to turn towards, when everyone else turns away. How can I affect and change the world for good if I act in ignorance?  The simple fact is that I cannot act to the best of my ability if I am not facing the world head-on.

As far as not watching to respect the intimacy of dying, there is a certain claim and validity to that. But in times where hate crimes and fear are on the rise, I no longer believe that we, and especially I, can turn away. We have to look.We have to face the reality of what human beings are capable of. Only when we do, can we fight against it.

 

Leave a comment

Chotto Desh

 

unknown-1

Somehow  midway through this semester I found myself in New York to see a production of Hamilton! Honestly, that show deserves more of a novel than a blog post, so I’ll just say that it delivered on the hype and I was blown away.

Hamilton was a matinee and my bus back to Boston didn’t leave until midnight, which left me with several hours to kill around Times Square.  Of course I hit up TKTS, but let me tell you… Broadway has lost their damn minds and people are charging anywhere from $80 to $250 a ticket! The day-of!! You’re not tricking me… I know you have empty seats in your house that you want to fill so why why why are you sitting up on your high horse and charging so much money?! But that’s a whole other post. My point is that I didn’t buy a ticket at TKTS, which meant I still had time to kill.

So here I was walking from box office to box office looking for central heating, entertainment… a seat. I was about to give up when I passed this tiny theatre with a sign for $15 student tickets to a show called Chotto Desh. Perfect! The show had already started but the tickets were cheap and the house was warm. I got a nosebleed seat and tried to sneak in as quietly as I could. Before I could even take off my coat there was a wave of audience laughter that sounded really high pitched… it sounded… childlike? I whipped out my program and sure enough, Chotto Desh is a show for children! No! I wasn’t in New York for children’s theatre! I wanted gripping, deep, heart-wrenching drama! Ugh. Whatever. Theatre is theatre, right? I guess I’ll suffer through it and maybe learn something.

Here’s the thing – knowing what I know now, I would pay twice as much for those tickets. The show was endlessly creative and sucked me into its world after five minutes. Chotta Desh blew my mind. This one man show utilized projections, shadow puppetry, countless light cues, and a giant white chair on wheels to explore the journey of a young boy and his intersections with his Indian family and heritage. The play transitions from a his bedroom, to his own imaginary jungle, to the streets of India, all without any set or props. The one actor onstage was able to completely transport us simply through his movement and the lighting of the space. Apparently it was adapted from a show targeting adults, but I don’t know the specific adjustments that were made. I’ve watched trailers of both the original piece and the children’s adaptation, and it looks like the piece was shortened, props and set were pared down, and some of the more violent content (a piece where a projection of an army tank pointed their barrel at the actor) was cut. that being said, the piece had no less heart or depth. As a young adult I was as captivated by the performance as the children in the audience. I’ve seen a lot of children’s theatre and let me tell you, that is not always the case. This wasn’t neon-colored caricature-filled comedy, this was a moving piece of theatre that happened to be speaking to children. Amazing!

When I called my friend to tell her how my weekend was, I could only talk about Chotto Desh and she had to ask me about Hamilton. I hopped right off the NY bus and into rehearsals full of new ideas. New ideas of how to move, how to light a stage, how to create a new world with limited set, and how to redirect children’s theatre towards a less condescending and more stimulating piece of art. 

It’s the end of the semester. It’s halfway through Junior year. I would be lying if I said I couldn’t use a second wind, and that’s exactly what Chotto Desh gave me. I went up to New York to see Hamilton and have my mind blown and the show that truly took my breath away was a minimalistic children’s show for $15. 

 

Here’s the trailer for Chotto Desh done by the Akram Khan company at the New Victory Theatre! 

Here’s the trailed for the original piece called Desh

 

 

Leave a comment

The Art of Waiting

I don’t know how Beckett did it. I don’t know how he made waiting seem graceful, provocative, iconic.

My life consists of a lot of waiting right now and I am BAD AT IT. It does not feel iconic. It feels clunky and frustrating and that cliché from the medieval poem “Piers Plowman” keeps echoing in my head:

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.

(I hate that ^that is the suggestion pinned on the cork board at the back of my mind. I don’t want virtue; I want results! I want product!)

“Piers Plowman” is a classic Everyman allegory about the search for a pure Christian life. At the heart of that centuries-old cliché is a reminder to “trust in God’s timing,” which is the poetic Christian of saying,

“HEY! Just a friendly reminder that ultimately you have NO CONTROL over the way your life shakes out and you might as well just wait and see what happens!”

That’s what fuels the tension that exists at the root of waiting. Waiting for something to happen inherently means that you have no control over the result. It’s no wonder waiting has a special place in the theatre – it allows for the buildup of potential energy before a thing springs into motion.

Plus, waiting is an action that the audience can share with the characters they’re watching. Unless a character is sitting down and watching a play, it is rare that the audience and the characters are actively participating in the exact same thing.

And yet, waiting is not a primary action. It is almost always tertiary, accompanied by something more interesting. Waiting is one of those things that happens while doing something else.

Sitting, thinking, worrying, pacing, chatting, yelling, cooking, eating, sleeping, dancing, singing, going about a normal daily existence: these are all things that can be done while waiting. Even when the motivation to do any of these things is to distract from the waiting, the waiting is still happening.

Take the most extreme example of theatrical waiting- Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Think of how active Vladimir and Estragon are, even when apparently nothing is happening. Even when the most important thing they have to do is to wait, they still manage to fill 2 hours with language, movement, and conflict.

What we know as Waiting for Godot is actually an accepted English translation of En Attendant Godot. An equally acceptable, yet alternative translation is, While Waiting for Godot. Embedded in the original French title is the ambiguous notion that the play could either be about Waitingor what happens While we are busy waiting (or both).

While Waiting for Godot reads like an unfinished thought begging to be completed. The title suggests that the waiting is secondary to all the other action of the play. Waiting for Godot is more of a statement, as if Beckett dictated, This Is What The Characters Are Doing In The Play: Waiting. None of the action matters as much as the overriding fact that Vladimir and Estragon are waiting.

Beckett doesn’t answer this question for us, but the difference between the two alternative titles is enormous (*ahh, the beauty of the French language*).

My personal hatred of waiting springs out of willing ignorance of the tension it brings – the same tension that makes “waiting for something” a common theatrical trope. I can feel my world becoming a liminal space. I am living in the tension.

I am waiting for the next chapter of my life to begin. Sure, I’m also applying, interviewing, planning, reflecting, journaling, writing about waiting, crying, stress-eating, planning again, job-searching, hoping, and about a million other things as one thing ends and another thing begins… but mostly, I’m just waiting.

New goal for the end of this semester: Be more like the alternative translation of En Attendant Godot. Life doesn’t just stop because I’m waiting for something. On the contrary, sometimes the most graceful, interesting, and provocative things in life happen While Waiting.

Leave a comment

The Sandy Hook PSA

First, if it hasn’t passed through your Facebook timeline yet, give this video a watch.

The video is called “Evan”, and was put out recently by advertising agency BBDO New York in collaboration with Sandy Hook Promise – a nonprofit organization founded by family members affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December of 2012. Sandy Hook Promise focuses on “Know The Signs” research: identifying ways to recognize an individual who may be demonstrating “at-risk-behavior” and methods of intervention before they cause harm to themselves or others.

Creative director of BBDO New York, Paul Alsante remarks:

Most of us haven’t experienced the tragedy of losing a loved one to gun violence, but we can all relate to the experience of falling in love in high school, and the awkwardness and excitement that comes from it. We use that as a bit of a foil, to get people nodding their heads, feeling that they’re along for the ride with a story they can relate to, then we reveal to them this whole other story’s been going on, we’ve worked our way in to making our story about gun violence into something that’s relatable.”

Upon watching this piece, I was chilled. I happened to be watching it in bed at night, with my lights off – upon the video’s tonal reversal, I turned on my light and sat straight up -along with every hair on my body.

I felt sick, I felt creeped, I felt betrayed. You tricked me, video!!! I knew something was fishy while I watched!!! You made me watch the love story!!! Remember that selective attention video that came out a few years ago? This feels like that!!!! Of course I didn’t see the kid, you focused my attention elsewhere!!!

This was followed by some Good Old Self-Reflection.
Emily. Art made you Feel Things & you are lashing out because you are feeling attacked because you are guilty of not seeing the signs. 

I was heavily reminded of the end of Company One’s 2014 production of We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915, by Jackie Sibblies Drury.

At the end of this piece (spoiler alert) an act of extreme, charged, racial violence occurs onstage as a result of the actors’ “improvisation”. Immediately following, the actors are horrified with themselves for their capability to perform such violence. Then, the actors turn out to face the witnesses, the silent bystanders – the audience. This moment says, “Hey, you didn’t do anything about it either. You are guilty too.” And they exit.

The feeling of betrayal was similar. Then, a similar self-reflection followed. Art with Shock Value is a tough pill to swallow.

However, after viewing the Sandy Hook video, I felt a deeper level of frustration than I did after We Are Proud To Present. Why? I couldn’t put words to it.

Until I saw this set of tweets:

Screen Shot 2016-12-07 at 12.10.38 AM.pngscreen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-08-52-am

 

I thought, Okay, heeere it is.
I am over treating the symptoms of the problem! Why don’t we go to the source?! Why are we talking about how to recognize at-risk behavior, instead of working to stop putting children at risk?! Take guns out of their hands! Take guns out of everyone’s hands! All this video did was shock me and make me feel bad!

Then, my daily spiral of reflection on the 2016 US Presidential Election showed up.

Over and over, I am reminded – if we’re gonna ride the Car to Social Progress, we MUST look in the rear view mirror, and make sure evvvverybody is in the back seat. Or at least in the car following us.

Metaphors rule. Stick with me.

This could be a video addressing gun control legislation and reform, sure.
However, like it or not, anyone on the ‘other side’ of the gun control argument would most likely feel alienated and/or attacked – potentially resulting in a firmer grasp onto their platform.
This video addresses the symptoms, yes.
Would I prefer a video that fought tooth-and-nail for gun law reform? Absolutely.

Yet, this video allows a viewer to feel the weight of gun violence.
This video provides useful tips for recognition of threatening behavior and people who may be struggling with their mental health.
Most importantly, this video leaves space for its audience to draw its own conclusions and opinions on guns. Perhaps, because of this space and the sharpness of the video’s narrative, someone out there has changed their mind about gun control – or has begun their journey to changing their mind.

Paul Asante was aware of the subject matter’s touchy politics throughout the creation of the video – his goal was to unite its audience, rather than divide:

“We focus on people and mental health, as opposed to guns themselves. It invites everyone to be a part of this conversation, regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on politically.”

Honestly, I opened this blank blog document to talk about how I felt the video wasn’t doing enough. How I was sick of Shocking Art That Blames Me For Stuff Instead Of The Fucked Up System. Yet, from the beginning of this blog post to this moment, my opinions on this video have shifted – this article and this article helped. Talking it out with artistic colleagues helped. It’s not enough to be critical. We even have to be critical of our criticism. We have to work to see things from all sides, before moving forward.

If we want our art to be heard, we must first listen.