Archive for the ‘three stages’ Category

Three Stages: Sarah Bliss and Rosalyn Driscoll

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Moving image artist Sarah Bliss and sculptor Rosalyn Driscoll (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Fellows ’13) have just premiered their latest collaborative project, a four-channel, 30-minute, immersive sculptural video installation, Blindsight (6/11 – 7/19/15 at Boston Sculptors Gallery). Here, they retrace their journey through its maze.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, with Woody Bliss, photo by Sarah Bliss

Inspiration

Sarah Bliss: We bring to our work together a deeply shared interest in the human body as starting point. Both the visible outer body and the inner, subjective experience of one’s body have long been sources of inspiration, imagery and mystery for both of us. My own experience as a mover very much informs my art practice. I need my body to be physically engaged in my work, which drives the way I approach my filmmaking. We knew from the start that bodies would be central to the project, and decided to focus on aging bodies, which are rarely seen and often taboo.

Roz Driscoll: My work has derived its imagery and materials from my experience of my body, but the body has also become the medium through which I want people to experience my work. For the last few decades I’ve explored tactile, proprioceptive, visceral perception as a basis for my sculpture, making sculptures that people can touch, as well as sculptures that speak to people’s proprioceptive, visceral selves. This is the first time I’ve constructed an entire multisensory, immersive environment animated by moving images and by visitors’ movements within the environment.

Sarah: Yes and likewise, the awareness of place, and its conscious engagement for embodied encounter is a central concern of mine. I create moving image installations that engage site-specific architecture, where space and place are used as central metaphoric and narrative elements. For instance, I’ve projected the moving body onto the massive scaffolding of a bridge-under-construction, and into the extremely cramped space of a miniature stainless steel elevator.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, photo by Sarah Bliss

Roz: We also both shared a desire to work with water—to explore its nature, behavior and life-sustaining qualities. You’d already been experimenting with filming bodies underwater, using an underwater camera housing and an underwater light. When we started work on Blindsight, research of ritual uses of water revealed that sauna, which compresses the elements of steam, fire, water and bodies into a small room, is traditionally considered a ritual cleansing. We ended up filming in a small steam room (another tiny, compressed space filled with water and steam that intensified the feeling of intimacy and internality), and underwater in fast-moving streams beneath ice.

I became intrigued with the physical, psychological power of these small, contained spaces as a way to imagine the structure of the installation. The obscurity of the steam room suggested being lost and wandering in the dark, which crystallized for me into the idea of a maze. The concept of maze suggested the Daedalus/Icarus myth, which offered us a narrative line as well as a physical structure for the installation.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, photo by Sarah Bliss

Sarah: I’ve long grappled with the question of how to make meaning in the absence of a shared cultural story, religious framework or mythology. How do we face and embrace aging, loss, death, entrapment, destruction? Can we face the apocalypse of climate change without denial, and without collapse? For me, the answers lie in community and connection, and the creative act.

So I drew from a rich world of visual and cultural referents: early WWII-era paintings by Phillip Guston that depict troupes of street kids reenacting their world at war using the detritus of back alleys; filmmaker Bela Tarr’s remarkable opening scene in Werckmeister Harmonies, in which a young man injects possibility and meaning into listless has-beens in a barren bar, catalyzing them to co-create with him a literal dance of the spheres; the masks and costumes adopted by Carnival-goers as memento mori in medieval times; and Diane Arbus’ unsettling photographs of developmentally disabled people promenading in masks on Halloween.

We wanted to create an encounter with these elemental forces of Eros and Thanatos that was not fully tamed — still wild, raw, mysterious and sensual. It was also important to us to give people enough space to enter the risk of encounter. We needed to find ways they could modulate their distance.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT with Hope Wen, photo by Sarah Bliss

Into the Maze

Roz: By designing the installation as a loose maze, we could invite people to enter into the experience, take a journey, find their way and choose their path. Like a labyrinth, there is a center, but with many ways to move around it. We also wanted to contrast the ephemeral evanescence of film with concrete, palpable matter, so we searched for materials to bridge those two poles.

My favorite material is rawhide cow skins. Their capacity to both reflect and transmit light is what originally led me to incorporate moving images into my work. In this project, the use of the skins as receptive surfaces resonates with the rich variety of human skin in the film — skin of various ages, genders, colors and textures, skin with many sorts of markings, and skin that both hides and reveals the being inside. The rawhide skins underscore the film’s themes of death and transformation, and hint at the presence of the Minotaur. We also explored other reflective, translucent materials, such as various kinds of cloth, paper, and metal, to see how they would interact with the projected images.

Sarah: Wanting to break the constraints of standard projection screens, and its collusion in turning the viewer into a passive observer, we experimented with projections onto and through these materials, from various angles and heights. The tension between the integrity and legibility of the moving image and its transformation and abstraction by the materials and angles of projection became a source of joy and wonder as we played. We thrilled to the many ways that the physical architecture of the installation created opportunities for new kinds of engagement with people’s bodies, and for new perceptual practices.

Roz: Right. We wanted to create an experience for visitors that would speak to the somatic, haptic dimensions of their perception—the way we sense with our bodies and respond empathically and viscerally to what we see. We wanted to create a range of sensory possibilities and to stimulate people’s perceptual powers. We wanted to reveal how context determines what we perceive — how the same image appears radically different on rippling cloth, wrinkled rawhide, hanging vellum or a flat wall; when seen from different sides, angles or perspectives; or when seen in changing relationship to other moving images, spaces or materials.

Sarah: That said, we sometimes felt trapped in a maze of our own making. The challenges of filming multiple bodies enveloped in fog and steam in a tiny, dark space in complex lighting conditions, and filming in fast-moving water under ice, along with the challenges that inherently arise in any collaborative venture, amplified that feeling of being trapped in a maze, and mirrored for us the narrative that we were seeking to express. We found ourselves actors in our own story.

In addition, I wanted the choreography of bodies in the film shoots to continue and extend into a choreographic dance between the four projections in the installation. This required development of a software and hardware system that could implement the finely tuned choices we made concerning rhythm, pacing, convergence, emphasis, singularity and focus. Arcs of movement, gestures, forms, and color move from one projection to another, appearing and disappearing like dancers throughout the installation. We were very fortunate to work with the highly skilled artist and software designer, Jeff Warmouth, to develop and program a hardware and software system that could meet our needs.

Roz: Throughout the project, we explored the territory between visual and tactile (optical and haptic) perception: in the film shoots, in the editing process, in the projections, and in the installation materials and structure. The film shoots, for example, were intensely physical and haptic as you moved with the actors and I moved with the light. The imagery then became optical when footage was transferred and compartmentalized onto the flat computer screen for editing. It was a revelation when you realized that the editing process could only be accomplished by projecting the images onto the materials and spaces of the maze, thus returning the imagery to hapticity and tangibility.

Installation detail of BLINDSIGHT, with Hope Wen and Peter Schmitz, photo by Sarah Bliss

And Out Again

Sarah: It’s interesting too, to reflect on our different relationships to narrative. We felt tension between the desire to create a coherent experience and the desire for an open, polymorphous container for the work. Between literality and abstraction. The choice of the flight and fall of Icarus as our narrative inspiration provided rich interpersonal themes as well as a metaphor for the cycles of creativity, dissolution, death and rebirth that informed all stages of the filming, editing and projection. That narrative arc also became a metaphor for our own creative and collaborative processes, for the ways we work through the differences in our respective disciplines, temperaments and aesthetic intents.

Roz: In the end, the materials, structure and imagery of the installation — the maze — became a place to be inhabited by the two of us, by the filmed figures, and by visitors to the installation, a place both dream-like and substantial—underworld, inner world, and the world itself. The maze invites an experience of wandering, losing one’s way, and encountering unexpected revelations, just as we did in our collaborative creative process. We hope the metaphor enables visitors to the installation to undergo their own liminal, transformative experiences.

 

Blindsight is on view at Boston Sculptors Gallery thru 7/19. Read a glowing review in the Boston Globe.

Sarah Bliss is a moving image artist focused on the intersections of body, place, language and memory. Recent screenings include the Alchemy Film Festival, Scotland; TransArt Film Festival in Berlin; and a new media public art commission on Boston’s 80-ft tall, seven-screen MCCA Marquee. Bliss received her M.T.S from Harvard Divinity School, and teaches video production at Greenfield Community College.

Rosalyn Driscoll explores the dynamic relations between sight, touch and the body. Her work has received awards from the New England Foundation for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Dartington Hall Trust, UK, and Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She is a member of Sensory Sites, an international collective in London, and has been a member of Boston Sculptors Gallery since 2008.

Images: installation details featuring performers Woody Bliss, Hope Wen, and Peter Schmitz, photos by Sarah Bliss.

Three Stages: Charlotte Meehan

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Charlotte Meehan, Artistic Director of the interdisciplinary theatre group Sleeping Weazel, is about to premiere her play 27 Tips for Banishing the Blues (8/30-9/13, 8 PM, at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre), the second in a trilogy of plays called The Problem with People. Here, she traces the sometimes nonlinear journey of creating that trilogy, through three stages in the process.

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Inspiration

It seems I do everything out of order – or at least sideways. My mother always says I got around until 14 months old by scooting backwards on my butt. When I started writing the first play of my trilogy, The Problem with People, for a long time I just jotted down phrases and then lines until, finally, I attributed them to characters whom I called A, B, C, D, E and HER. Looking back, it makes sense that I didn’t name those characters, as that play, Sweet Disaster, was inspired by my late husband David Hopkins’ animated film series of the same title, by our having lived in downtown Manhattan during the tragedy of 9/11, and by his subsequent diagnosis and death from terminal cancer. Although those characters are very much individuals in many ways, they are also shards of all of us who have experienced the kind of trauma that marks one’s life to the extent that some parts of memory never return. It’s as if there’s a large puzzle in the brain, the pieces one day get tossed up in the air, and even after they’ve landed again, they never quite fit back together the same way. The image I’ve always dreamed into Sweet Disaster is one of my having taken words off all the papers that flew out of the two buildings on 9/11 and re-purposing them as ruins of scenes put together for the survivors.

The second play, 27 Tips for Banishing the Blues, currently in rehearsal for an August 30 opening at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, was inspired by my need to look at depression, which Isd_detailpic1-1 have myself, from an aerial view. In conducting my research, dollar store books such as Banishing the Blues, Happiness, and Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It took equal billing with sociologist Eva Illouz’s Oprah Winfrey and the Glamour of Misery. I also watched many episodes of Dr. Phil, The Millionaire Matchmaker, and even Maury Povich. Of course all of these sources make a delicious recipe for satire, but on top of that I became more and more aware, through television commercials for new anti-depressants and many products designed to “make you happier,” that in America’s free-market enterprise system even people’s sadness and pain can be preyed upon by opportunists looking to make a buck. While 27 Tips is indeed a very funny play, it’s also a searing indictment of a system that allows the mentally ill to be cheated by promises of healing that only line the pockets of those selling the “cure.”

The final play, Real Realism, is a microtonal view of the lives we are living today in minute-to-minute, ADD-causing increments rather than the two-hour, real-time dramas that continue to be called Realism since the days of Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams. In Real Realism, the five characters mostly pass right by whatever is said to them with an expression of their own immediate need, or by giving advice via string theory and Evolutionary biology, in a style of associative response rather than linear conversation. Basically, the play acts as a mirror to the cultural psyche splitting caused by a bombardment of too many things to do and too much information overcrowding our daily lives. These five characters, who are eventually named, find themselves in some kind of undisclosed treatment center where there is no therapist and they are left to sort themselves out on their own. Essentially, there is no hope for them except in coming to terms with their own demons and that is a tall order in the late Capitalist paradigm they – and we – inhabit. Still, in Real Realism, the five characters eventually become named, as they are meant to represent us in the most full-bodied way of the three plays and we are meant to recognize ourselves in the need to take responsibility for making a better world.

Challenges

For a long time I said to myself that I get what I deserve (very few productions) for writing these doggedly idiosyncratic plays that very few people understand on the page. Yet each time one of my plays has been produced, audiences largely do understand them, relate to the characters, and experience the kind of emotional transformation I am seeking to create through my writing. After the successful 2008 premiere of Sweet Disaster at the former Perishable Theatre in Providence, I sent the play to numerous theatres in New York and around the country, but gradually came to realize (after receiving high level rejection letters and, in some cases, no response at all) that it was simply not going to be taken on by any of them. If only they could have seen Kenneth Prestininzi’s visionary production, they would get it, I thought. But that’s not how it works.

En route to the Sweet Disaster premiere in 2008, I was lucky to be nominated for the Alpert Award, to receive a Howard Foundation fellowship in playwriting, and to be sent by the Alpert Foundation for a MacDowell Colony residency where I wrote the first draft of 27 Tips for Banishing the Blues. So, before the discouragement of no further productions for Sweet Disaster came upon me, I had already embarked on another play populated by character shards and fractured narrative. Aside from an artist residency and workshop production offered me at Dixon Place (NY) in 2010, 27 Tips was met with the same enthusiastic rejection that Sweet Disaster had received.

Stubborn as I am, I set out to write Real Realism anyway. After all, I had the idea to do it and there was no stopping me in spite of the fact that this play would surely not be produced. At the beginning of my writing process, playwright Jeffrey Jones asked me to submit something to his Little Theatre salon that takes place monthly at Dixon Place and I sent him the first nine pages. In June 2011, director Vanessa Gilbert and I presented the first fifteen minutes of the play there with a group of actors we brought with us from Providence and Massachusetts. It was that summer I realized I must re-launch Sleeping Weazel, the company my late husband and I had founded in 1998 to put on our productions in New York and the UK. Three former Wheaton College playwriting students and I worked toward a January 2012 launch party, Adara Meyers has stayed on as Managing Director, and the rest is history.

Culmination

RealRealismflower_modThe Problem with People trilogy has been ten years in the making. My means of writing plays, which is essentially to create interdisciplinary dramatic collages for the stage, necessitates that I design a unique means of production to match each of them. In keeping with my non-linear mindset, I decided to unveil the plays of The Problem with People in reverse order, and Sleeping Weazel premiered the final play, Real Realism, directed by Vanessa Gilbert in June 2013 at The Factory Theatre. 27 Tips is about to open, under Kenneth Prestininzi’s direction and with scenic and projection design by Seaghan McKay, through a residency generously provided by Kate Snodgrass at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. As always, I am sitting on the precipice of culmination rather than resting at the end of its passing shadow, but perhaps that is the nature of my own life drama – or the way I have invented it. Nonetheless, culmination implies death for me, so it’s probably best to keep living in the middle of the scene. I am already thinking about my next play, Cleanliness, Godliness, and Madness: A User’s Guide, a multimedia hootenanny that will have no fans in the Tea Party.

27 Tips for Banishing the Blues by Charlotte Meehan opens at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (8/30, 8 PM), and will run through 9/13.

Charlotte Meehan is Artistic Director of Sleeping Weazel and Playwright-in-Residence at Wheaton College (MA). Her stage works have been presented in Providence at Perishable Theatre, in Bristol (UK), and in New York at Dixon Place, the Flea Theater, La MaMa, Bleecker Street Theatre, and Pratt Institute, among others. She has been a resident artist in HERE Arts Center’s HARP program and Perishable Theatre’s RAPT program, was a 2008-09 Howard Foundation fellow in playwriting, and was awarded an Alpert/MacDowell Colony residency through the Herb Alpert Foundation.

Images: photos of 27 TIPS FOR BANISHING THE BLUES (l-r, Stephanie Burlington Daniels (Astrologer), Elise Morrison (Nutritionist), and R. Bobby (Famous Chef), photo by Steven H. Bell; SWEET DISASTER (l-r, Elise Morrison, Luis Astudillo, Elizabeth Keiser), photo by Sara Ossana; and REAL REALISM (l-r, Andrew Tung, Alex Dhima, Jennifer Welsh, Veronica Wiseman, James Barton), photo by David Marshall.

Three Stages: Steven Barkhimer

Monday, October 28th, 2013

WINDOWMEN by Steven Barkhimer, at Boston Playwrights Theatre

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.

Steven Barkhimer‘s play Windowmen is about to open at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, running October 31-November 24, 2013. Here, he traces the play’s history, weaving through dramatic moments from his real life.

Inception

Steven Barkhimer, photo by Michael Forden WalkerWhat writer doesn’t hope to be “original?” It was no doubt in this hope that I wrote many a piece, often grounded in actual experience, but magically transformed into Art by careful selection and restructuring of events, aiming for the elemental and padding it with trenchant observations and clever repartee. Until one day, faced with a deadline for a playwriting class and an embarrassing lack of “original” ideas, I deigned to fall back the old enjoinder to Write What You Know.

For years I’d been telling anecdotes about one of my very first jobs after college, a stint as a “windowman” – basically a clerical position, but a rather unusual one – at the Fulton Market right beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Yes, with a head full of Great Books and untutored in the ways of the world, I had stumbled into a position that treated me to a host of colorful characters. Truly I was a fish out of water, a pasty-faced philosopher thrust into the rough-and-tumble of commerce as lively as the stock exchange, and with an air of glamorous danger to boot. I didn’t know what I would do with the scene I wrote, but it was very funny and lively and I determined to write another installment for the following class.

Development

The most difficult part for me (so far) was watching these anecdotes unfold and wondering if there ached to be a “story” in there somewhere. Naturally, it wasn’t long before I was condensing events and collapsing three actual characters into one fictional one, etc. And – something I’d never really thought about much – it seemed the young man, my proxy in the story, was finding not only a surrogate brother and unlikely friend in his workmate, but a sort of surrogate father in his stern and demanding boss. I worried that I was writing yet another coming-of-age story. I feared that it might morph into something that was predictable and edifying or, possibly worse, into some lament for lost innocence. I had to find a way of making it a play rather than a series of funny scenes, and in imagining some situations having gone to extremes, I tried to find a narrative to hang the whole thing on, and hope I have succeeded somewhat.

Fruit

Kate Snodgrass at the Boston Playwrights Theatre prodded me into finishing it (“I’d like to produce it; however, that means you have to actually write it!”), and the SpeakEasy Stage granted the play a reading at the “warm-up” lap of the Boston Theatre Marathon that was very encouraging. Terrific actors came to the auditions and callbacks and gave many wonderful and varied reads of the characters; it wasn’t always easy to come up with final decisions. I’m thrilled to have Brett Marks directing it and thankfully he really likes the piece. I had hoped to be more actively engaged in the rehearsal process until a sudden medical emergency took me away. So I am doubly excited to see how this talented group of artists brings this play to life without my nagging “interference!”

Windowmwen plays at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre October 31– November 24, 2013.

Steven Barkhimer is a graduate of the Playwriting Program at Boston University. He co-created the theatrical miniseries Blood Rose Rising and wrote the short play, A Hard Rain, which earned the Cauble Award for Best Short Play of 2009 at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. A 2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow in Dramatic Writing, he is also a director, actor, musician, and instructor.

Three Stages: Ben Berman

Friday, December 28th, 2012

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.

Ben Berman will read from his debut poetry collection, Strange Borderlands, at Brookline Booksmith on Jan. 5, and here, he maps its path to completion.

Inspiration

Many of the poems in the book are rooted in my experiences abroad – as a student in Nepal, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zimbabwe, as a visiting teacher in Morocco – and tread the “strange borderlands” between cultures.

My years abroad tuned me into the complex layers of experience and the difficulties of saying anything with certainty. The first draft of a manuscript was over a hundred pages long and simply chronicled my day-to-day life in Zimbabwe. Eventually, I pared this down to a ten-page sequence called Interruptions that opens the book. The rest of the poems in the collection consider what it means to return home and continue on with our lives.

Challenges

I like to think that I tried to immerse myself in Shona culture as respectfully as I could. Still, it’s hard to write about Africa without remembering the final paragraph of Things Fall Apart when an incredibly complex world is reduced to a sweeping generalization in a white man’s book. And so one of the challenges of writing these poems was that I didn’t want to think of my experiences abroad as fodder for my writing – and when that’s what they became – how to understand that as part of the narrative.

Nor was I interested in writing a memoir – in thinking of my experiences as worth writing about simply because they happened. It wasn’t until I found a rhythm or unsettling image or strange rhyme that I became interested in shaping my experiences into poems. In some ways, it was easier to write the poems that weren’t based on personal experiences. I have one about eating a grilled dog penis in Vietnam – a story that I stole from a friend of a friend. Because it wasn’t my experience, I didn’t have to figure out which details or threads to leave out and found it easier to stay attentive to the language and images as I composed it.

Completion

The book is divided into four parts, and I like to think of the final section as a conversation between Yeats’ notion that a poem clicks shut like a box and Valery’s that a poem’s never finished, only abandoned. The poems in this section alternate between the tightly intertwined rhymes of terza rima and some loosely connected prose poem sequences. I guess this is how it felt to be home for the first few years after the Peace Corps. Sometimes I felt deeply entangled with the life I left behind, sometimes I understood it in fragments that refused to align as a continuous narrative.

The final poem of the book ends on a line describing a video I saw in a modern art museum in New York – Still, there is something about the man running and his dead-end flirting with the world – the way he continues on, flailing and unwavering. I think this is probably as close to closure as I get.

Ben will read from Strange Borderlands at Brookline Booksmith on Saturday, January 5, 2013, 7 PM.

Ben Berman grew up in Maine, served in the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe and currently lives in the Boston area with his wife and daughter. He has received the Erika Mumford Prize from the New England Poetry Club and Artist Fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. Strange Borderlands is his first full-length collection.

Three Stages: Lydia Kann Nettler

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.

Here, Lydia Kann Nettler (Drawing Finalist ’00) discusses her installation Embedded Legacies, currently on view at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.

Inspiration

My current installation at Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center, Embedded Legacies, began with a trip I took to visit relatives in Paris six years ago. I was digging for information about my mother’s experience during the Holocaust since she had told me virtually nothing whenever I asked her where she was during the War. On this trip, I learned something completely unexpected, that my mother had been in an internment camp, also called a concentration camp, in the south of France.

In the following few years I did research on this camp, Gurs, and then, since I am a writer in addition to being a visual artist, I began writing a memoir incorporating the new information. I applied for an art exhibition at the Brandeis WSRC with the proposal that I create an installation to explore the interface of visual and written storytelling, specifically focused on the Holocaust legacy on a woman’s midlife experience. I also wanted to explore the concept of tree to paper to story to grafting and recycling back into the tree. I had been creating environmental installations for several years, and in 2010 began grafting my prose into the sculptural tree forms in these installations. At Brandeis, I proposed that the writing and environment tell the story of integrating the new information about my mother’s war experience into my adult life in Western Massachusetts and my identity.

Challenges

The first big challenge was to do specific research on the Gurs camp, on the details of my mother’s internment there, and on the physical environment in that area of France. I managed to arrange an artist residency at CAMAC, an art center in the Champagne region of France, and while there in April, 2012, I visited archives in Paris and Pau, the town near Gurs, and visited the camp itself. I returned and designed the installation incorporating the physical specifics of that geography, and the story of the camp. For the Brandeis exhibit, I focused on depicting the camp as a symbol of one possible story of how a Jewish woman at that time in history may have lived through the War, and the impact of that story on me, the next generation.

The artistic challenge was to express the layers of the camp’s history… after the camp was shut down the local residents reforested to cover over the unhappy memories. Much later the survivors of the camp demanded a memorial be built to honor those who had suffered there. How would I show this evolving sense of suffering over time? The memoir is about the legacy of suffering over the generations. The installation spoke to the legacy of suffering in a particular symbolic representation of the War over time.

Culmination

The solution to communicating a sense of time and change was to first depict the reforestation of the camp through drawings and sculptures of new growth trees. These 2D and 3D images are less substantial and detailed than the rest. Some of the drawings have sections that can be opened up to a layer beneath which shows photos of the camp as it was before the reforestation – the barracks, the conditions, the internees. The sculptural trees have peepholes that identify one survivor, my mother. Then the memorial is created out of transparent vinyl superimposed on top of the drawn trees and depicting the pillars that list those incarcerated at Gurs, the walkways that separated the barrack areas, and a facsimile of a barrack. There are sculptural pillars bringing the memorial into the 3D space to represent the present time. The viewer is invited to look behind the new trees to what was there before and to look at the new memorial structures that honor those who were imprisoned there. The grafted prose serves as iconography and also literal storytelling about this history.

The second half of the gallery represents my current life in Western Massachusetts with its longer-lived forests, and its sense of grounded security. The peepholes in these larger tree forms show images of my parents and my childhood as an American girl. The forest surrounds the viewer with the drawings extending onto the walls and even the windows.

The hope is that the tree forms join these two lives, one who suffered and survived, and one who carries the history as the legacy of the second generation.

Embedded Legacies: Lydia Kann Nettler will be on exhibit at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University through December 18, 2012.

Lydia Kann Nettler creates charcoal drawings and installations, oil paintings, and public art. Nettler has exhibited her charcoals and oil paintings widely in New England. She is committed to exhibiting art in both traditional and non-traditional environments to involve the widest possible audience in the creative experience.

Three Stages: Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.

Here, Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro (Playwriting Fellow ’11) traces her new play Before I Leave You from its inspiration, to its challenges, to its culmination in this month’s premiere (October 14-November 13, 2011) at The Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, produced by the Huntington Theatre Company.

Inspiration

My play, Before I Leave You, began 10 years ago with an inexplicable tumble in my kitchen. I began to lift a heavy skillet from the stove and suddenly fell backwards onto the floor. For no real reason I thought this was the beginning of the end. Four of my five characters are on the cusp of old age. As one of them says, “One day you’re in good health, the next – who knows? You hear of someone having his hips replaced or his arteries reamed, and you say to yourself, ‘Well, he’s seventy.’ And then you think, in a few years I’ll be seventy.” There have been many mid-life crisis plays, many coming of age plays. I wanted to write a coming of old age play.

The four characters in my play range in age from 58 to 65, the time of life when one is alert to any sign that one’s physical and mental powers might be failing. All four are lifelong friends – they dine together regularly at the Royal East, a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge; they drop in unannounced at each other’s houses; they each try their hand at parenting the fifth character in the play, an angry boarding school dropout. I wanted to see what happens when a serious illness strikes one of the group – do they remain steadfast, or is it time to run away?

Challenge

I soon decided I wanted to set Before I Leave You in Cambridge, the place I have spent 46 years of my life. My other plays have been set as far afield as Amsterdam, Mexico City, Mount Olympus, and an imaginary dictatorship in Latin America, but I thought it was high time to write about my own city, teeming with college students, but also inhabited by vigorous elders, whose passions, both personal and professional, still run deep.

I wanted to capture the diverse community of Harvard Square: Jeremy, a professor and novelist, is the one who takes the tumble; Koji, a professor and theater director, suddenly rediscovers his Asian roots; Peter, the boarding school dropout, has found romance with the Vietnamese checkout girl at Shaw’s; and Emily, an artist, Koji’s wife and Peter’s mother, is the still point of this spinning world. My challenge was to create recognizable Harvard Square types – accomplished, neurotic, and opinionated, but each with their own unique and keenly felt problems, based as they are on people (including myself) I’ve known for a very long time.

Culmination

As I write this, the rehearsal space has just changed from a large, cold, windowless warehouse room on Huntington Avenue to the warm comfortable Wimberly Theater in the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. Tech rehearsals have begun. Suddenly everyone is in costume, the three sliding palettes (Jeremy’s study, Koji and Emily’s living room, and the Royal East) are taking turns at center stage in an amazing set bordered by back-lit bookshelves. It seems incredible that we are about to open for previews in three days!

I gathered notes (and scenes) for Before I Leave You for four years, then I worked on it at the PlayPen in Central Square Theatre, where it had its first public reading, and at the Huntington Playwriting Fellows program, at the end of which I was told it would be part of the 2011-2012 Huntington season. One compelling reason for being a playwright (as opposed to a novelist or a poet) is that it’s a sociable profession for at least part of the year. You spend most of the time alone with characters of your choice. You put words in their mouths. You spend hours thinking about what you should have said in conversations that never took place. Then, if you’re lucky you get to hang out with exciting directors, actors, dramaturgs, designers, all working together intensely for a short time to get the play on its feet and as perfect as humanly possible for opening night. There are few things in my life more stressful and exhilarating than that!

Before I Leave You, produced by the Huntington Theatre Company, runs at The Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, October 14-November 13, 2011. Find video, audio, images, and articles about the production.

Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro is a Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow whose plays have been performed at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Magic Theatre, The Boston Women on Top Festival, La MaMa ETC., and elsewhere. She is the writer and narrator of the documentary Japanese American Women: A Sense of Place. Seven of her short plays have been in the Boston Theater Marathon, and eight were finalists in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest. Her plays have been anthologized by Baker’s Plays, Heinemann, Charta Books, Smith and Kraus, and Meriwether Publishing. Ms. Alfaro is 72 years old, and has been a resident of Cambridge, MA for more than 40 years.

Images and media: Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, photo by Gustavo Alfaro; Ross Bickell, Kippy Goldfarb, Glenn Kubota, and Karen MacDonald, from BEFORE I LEAVE YOU at the Huntington Theatre Co., photo by Paul Marotta; quote from BEFORE I LEAVE YOU; behind-the-scenes video about BEFORE I LEAVE YOU, by Huntington Theatre Company.

Three Stages: Dawn Lane

Friday, August 26th, 2011

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.

Here, Dawn Lane (Choreography Fellow ’10) traces her new dance piece “one potato, two potato” from its inspiration, to its juxtapositions, to the collaborations that have led to its premiere at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, MA, September 2 and 3, 2011.

Inspiration

I first traveled to Ireland in the spring of 1984 and knew immediately it was a place I would return to. On my fifth trip in 2006, I found myself driving a “green” road in the Burren in County Clare. I stopped at what looked like a farming road and started walking… I soon noticed a megalithic stone, which I later learned was a pre-Christian well and children’s burial ground. On the stone was a simple and stylized carving of a child’s face. I took some photos and drew a sketch. That night as I wrote in a travel journal I felt a fascination forming… the road was the Famine Road, also know as The Burren Way.

In June 2009, I returned and shot some video, the true beginning of this project. I was moved to learn this road was built by those whose homes and crops were devastated by the potato blight in the mid 19th century in exchange for food and if they were lucky a bed in a workhouse. Between the years 1845 and 1852, over one million people died and another million left Ireland. Some died on what came to be called coffin ships… boats that went back and forth from Ireland to North America, never letting anyone off.

Juxtaposition

The juxtaposition of this calamity and the beauty of the Irish landscape coupled with the spirit and humor of the Irish people triggered me to create this work. My intentions are to draw upon this history as a metaphor, rather than to create a historical depiction. All of us are vulnerable, all of us exquisite, all of us wasteful. We all subscribe to hope and possibility. We bear responsibility for our choices yet, we sometimes have no choice in our predicaments. The piece one potato, two potato looks at the delicate balance between devastation and beauty, hardship and triumph. The choreographic challenge is to find ways to depict the balance… paying attention to take care and honor my intentions while remembering that an audience has to be engaged and not turned off by tragic subject matter. It’s about trust, really. I want to trust my choreographic instincts, so the audience will trust me and get on the ride!

Go maire sibh chomh fada is mian libh, Is ná raibh gátar oraibh chomh fada is a mhaireann sibh. (May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.)

Collaboration

I want to extend my gratitude to Ella Baff, the Pillow staff, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and my colleagues at Community Access to the Arts for their support in the creation and fruition of this work. In October 2010, my dancers and I had the honor of working in the Doris Duke Theatre for one week as part of the Pillow’s Creative Development Residency Program. It was during this week that we established the basis for one potato, two potato. We are delighted and honored that the premiere is in the Doris Duke Theatre, the very space the work was nurtured.

Since October 2010, the work has grown to include much collaboration, integrating dancers with mixed abilities from CATA’s Moving Company, working to include the children of the several of the lead dancers, and collaborating with a filmmaker and photographer to create video/photographic projections which will play intermittently during the work. The assembly of all these people exemplifies true collaboration, each facet needing the other in order to create a completed work. It has been a lesson in letting each step inform the next and letting all involved bring their passions, talents, and expertise to the process.

Dawn Lane’s “one potato, two potato” will premiere at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow on September 2, 2011 (8 PM) and September 3, 2 PM and 8 PM.

Dawn Lane’s work has been performed at The Kennedy Performing Arts Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Boston Conservatory, and elsewhere, and has been funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. She is one of three nationally chosen dance educators to teach Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion™ residencies, and recently took part in a new work residency at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Her work was selected for the VSA International Arts Festival in Washington, DC in June 2010. In 1998 she founded The Moving Company, a mixed ability dance company for Community Access to the Arts (CATA), for which she has worked since 1995 and is currently Artistic Director.

Images: all photos courtesy of Dawn Lane.

Three Stages: Betsy Damian

Friday, February 25th, 2011

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in one work of art.

In 2010, artist and educator Betsy Damian received a Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Finalist award for her children’s book Rèv Abnè a: Abner’s Vision. Here, she traces its creative path.

Inspiration

Over the past twelve years, I have had the privilege to be involved with the Matènwa Community Learning Center (MCLC), on the island of Lagonav, Haiti. Chris Low and Abner Sauveur, the founders of the school there, have been inspirational as both teachers and leaders. At first, I listened to their stories and looked at photographs of the local people as they began to build a culturally alive, literate, healthy and sustainable environment. Then I opened my Kindergarten classroom in Cambridge to visits from the Haitian teachers and staff. Finally, two years ago, my son Ben and I joined a small group of educators on a visit to the island. There were so many things I wanted to do: present a painting/art class, take video footage for a documentation project, and spend some time sitting quietly and painting.

Josianne was our local hostess. We helped with cooking, played dominoes, and learned about the resilience, joy, history and culture of the Haitian people. During the visit, we were able to see firsthand the beginnings of gardens, children carrying five-gallon drums of water, and donkeys laden with bulging sacks. Before we left, Ben bought a chicken at the market as a gift to Josianne for her generosity and good spirit, hopefully contributing to her well-being for a long time.

The school, which began with two classes, has grown to a full elementary school with two hundred students. Based on a strong belief in social justice, the plans and dreams never stop. Abner says it best: “Our dream is to be an agent of positive change in our community. There is a need to expand and to radiate and to serve as a model for other schools in order for the whole community, the larger community, and the country of Haiti to really feel the impact.”

Challenge

Back in Cambridge with videotape and photos, I collaborated with Joanne Cleary, a longtime colleague, to complete a film Education and Hope, and create promotional posters for MCLC.

The next fall, I began to ask myself “What do you want to say with your art?” Until that moment my painting had been focused on building skills, creating realistic landscapes, still lives, and such. I decided to bring together my strengths as a painter and a teacher with my knowledge of Matènwa to create a children’s book that would honestly represent the Haitian people in their struggle to realize their dreams.

There were many challenges. I wanted to tell a story set in the rural mountains of Haiti. My focus would be on the strengths of the people there, and their many steady steps toward changing their own lives, the lives of their children, and the characteristics of their community. As the main character, Abner would be a child of great wisdom dreaming as he walked through his neighborhood on his daily mundane route to get the water for his family. I wanted the images to be simple, beautiful, and strong enough to tell the story by themselves. There was as much editing in the illustrations as with the words. Finally, since the book would be bilingual, I had to find a respected translator. Creole has long been the native oral language of Haiti, but it is less than twenty years old as a written language. So, it is really important to be respectful of the process and take the time to get it right. All along the way people have been very generous offering help with technology: scanning, correcting and printing the manuscript, networking and offering encouragement. Finally I sat with Abner and a translator to make sure that my writing held up to his dream.

Realizing the Vision

At this point, I am looking for an agent or a publisher to work with me on bringing this book to fruition. I’ve researched the current market, and it seems that very few, if any, books are written in both English and Creole. Using Creole rather than French for the translation underlines the importance of literacy development in the mother tongue, respect for the people of Haiti, and recognition of Creole as a written language. The bilingual verse brings attention to the likenesses of all people and our ability to learn from each other. The daily necessity of water is universal, as is Abner’s need for water to see his dream emerge and grow into reality.

Although this book project has been in development for many months, the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti gave it a new sense of urgency. Presently, I am also working on illustrations for a book called I Am A Child Of The Caribbean. The verse is written by Juliette Low, the ten-year-old daughter of MCLC co-founder Chris Low, and is her reaction to the earthquake of 1/12/10.

Watercolor paintings by Betsy Damian will be on exhibit at the Harding House bed and breakfast in Cambridge. There will be an opening reception on March 24, 5-7 PM.

Betsy Damian is a Mentor Teacher at Matènwa Community Learning Center in Lagonav, Haiti and a teacher at Tobin School in Cambridge, MA.

Images: pages from REV ABNE A: ABNER’S VISION by Betsy Damian, a Creole/English picture book for emergent readers (2010); photos from Lagonav, Haiti; and a page from I AM A CHILD OF THE CARIBBEAN by Betsy Damian and Juliette Low.

Three Stages: Cynthia Morrison Phoel

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in the creative life of one work of art.

Here, Cynthia Morrison Phoel (Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Fellow ’10, ’04) discusses the personal and creative history behind her short story collection Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories.


Listen to an excerpt from Cynthia’s novella COLD SNAP.

INSPIRATION

Inspiration, in this case, took the form of evergreen mountains hovering over a valley of crumbling cinderblock apartment buildings. A ragged road that trudged up the mountain, passing old plaster houses and wrinkly babas in knit sweater vests. Caring (sometimes too much) neighbors who brought me food, invited me into their homes, and made my business their business. And 250 students, some of whom got a kick out of the young American teacher, others who did not.

The seeds of Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories were first planted during the mid-1990s, along with onions, garlic, tomatoes. Peace Corps years for me. Early post-Communist years for Bulgaria. These were wobbly, precarious times. The value of the Bulgarian currency had dropped precipitously, robbing people of their life savings. The country had recently emerged from a time of food shortages, and the residual distrust was palpable. If I harbored some doubt that this ramshackle bus I boarded would reach its destination without a flat tire or other mishap, this paled in comparison to the doubt Bulgarians likely felt in every aspect of their lives: that tomorrow might be a predictable continuum of today and that a stable future – let alone one that offered opportunity – was possible.

I did not go to Bulgaria with a writing agenda in mind (I did keep journals, but I have yet to harvest them). I was just there, living long, hard, wonderful days, without a computer, TV, radio, or reliable phone, but with plenty of time to watch the sheep that clustered on the main drag outside my apartment building, waiting for the shepherd to take them up the hill. Or the orange slant of the setting sun.

I did not entirely recognize the inspiration that had been sown in Bulgaria for some time. When I returned to the States, I had to find a job and start paying on student loans. My college boyfriend (now my husband), who had waited for me for two years, was ready to get married. I had to leave Bulgaria behind for a while and live in my new reality. But the seeds were there, like vague lumps beneath the soil.

CHALLENGE

Within a couple of years, I was dabbling in night courses and writing workshops, attempting to capture my Bulgarian experience in writing. I have a whole graveyard of stories about young American women living in small Bulgarian mountain villages. The stories are flat and comic and mocking. Nothing ever happens.

The big leap, for me, involved believing I could write from a Bulgarian point of view. This seemed too audacious to me: the entire time I was in Bulgaria, I knew my perspective was different, in part, because my time there was temporary. Bulgaria was not my destiny, and I didn’t dare own it as a Bulgarian might.

After a few years of floundering around, I eventually summoned some audacity. I was working on an MFA at Warren Wilson College at the time, churning out lots of material, and I found myself wondering how my friends and students back in Bulgaria were faring. What did the future have in store? When my students graduated from university, would they manage to find jobs? I wondered about the tolls that corruption and chronic unemployment would take on character. I thought about the aging population and about the load that women, in particular, carried in Bulgarian society. Women are the unsung, everyday heroes in Bulgaria – and in my book as well.

I was at Warren Wilson to learn, not necessarily to write publishable material. With learning as my intent, I finally dared to walk in Bulgarian shoes and to own characters that were fundamentally very different from myself.

The result was magical. With all that distance between me and my characters, I was finally writing fiction. I was deeply inside my characters, imagining how they would feel, what they would do, letting them take the lead. I stopped trying to poke fun, and instead started to simply see the humor that was inherent in my material. Most of all, I was respectful of my characters and generous, possibly to a fault. Being an outsider meant I had to give each character, no matter how unlikable, the fairest possible shot.

In short, I was beginning to write stories that worked.

COMPLETION

Once I made this breakthrough, the stories started coming, slowly, slowly, but without too many missteps. The stories in Cold Snap were written largely in order. At some point, some of the characters began to reappear. At some point, I realized all these stories took place in the same town. At some point, I decided I wanted to spend more time with the characters I had left behind, and I could bring them back for an encore performance. Thus, the idea for the title novella was born.

People often ask me, how true are these stories? And the answer is very. Writing as an outsider meant that I couldn’t totally make things up. I had to represent my experience truthfully. I took people I had known on some level and got to know them a whole lot better, aging them, subtracting some characteristics and adding others, introducing them to situations I had seen others experience.

I doubt many people in my wonderful mountain town in Bulgaria recognize themselves. This is fiction, after all. But Bulgarians tell me they can see, feel, and smell what I’ve written. And Americans tell me that this very foreign terrain doesn’t feel so foreign at all.

Cynthia reads from Cold Snap during the Concord Festival of Authors on Sunday, October 24, reading at 3 PM. Then, on Tuesday, October 26, 7 PM, she reads at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. On Thursday, October 28, 7 PM, she reads at Andover Bookstore (for both the Porter Square Books and Andover Bookstore events, she’ll be joined by Tracy Winn). Finally, she takes part in the Blacksmith House Reading Series: Monday, November 1, 8 PM, at Blacksmith House in Cambridge.

Cynthia Morrison Phoel holds degrees from Cornell University and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, and Cerise Press. She lives near Boston with her husband and three children.

All images courtesy of Cynthia Morrison Phoel; delivering the Peace Corps swearing in speech (in Bulgarian); visiting friends – and baby goats – in the village; with students Preslava and Petya; roasting peppers on her balcony in Bulgaria; Peace!; Krastavitza the dog, who is included in many of the stories in COLD SNAP.

Three Stages: Eric Henry Sanders

Friday, June 4th, 2010

In Three Stages, we ask Massachusetts artists to shed light on their art-making process by focusing on three stages in the creative life of one work of art.

Here, Eric Henry Sanders (Playwriting Fellow ’09) discusses the evolution of his play Reservoir.

Listen to a scene from Reservoir, performed by Company One Theatre. Directed by Shawn LaCount, with Fedna Jacquet as Psychiatrist and Brett Marks as Hasek:

INSPIRATION

My inspiration for Reservoir grew out of the chance confluence of several sources: media coverage of the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Georg Büchner’s 1837 expressionistic masterpiece Woyzeck, and scholarly texts that fused readings of classic Greek theatre with the psychological impact of war on returning veterans, including Bob Meagher’s Herakles Gone Mad (2006) and Jonathan Shay’s Odysseus in America (2002).

Büchner’s play is the story of a soldier abused and dominated by authority figures – Captain, Doctor, Drum Major – as he strives to support Marie, the mother of his child. At its heart the plot is a classic tale of jealous love; when Woyzeck correctly suspects that Marie is having an affair, his tenuous grasp on reality severs and he drifts into murderous madness.

In its treatment of Woyzeck as a soldier, the plot bears sad and striking resemblance to several reports of veterans returning from Afghanistan. In July 2002, in four separate instances, veterans murdered their spouses at Fort Bragg. Those murders are emblematic of a rise in domestic violence by returning veterans, and as subsequent scandals over the care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have made clear, the military is woefully unprepared to deal with the thousands of personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical and psychological wounds. It is a tragic irony that with the latest advances in battlefield medicine a wounded US soldier has a better chance of surviving a physical injury than ever before, only to suffer a greater likelihood of psychological trauma, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), when returning to civilian life. Symptoms of PTSD such as hypervigilance, rage, and restlessness – which can be useful as survival adaptations – can under conditions of extreme or prolonged stress change the chemical make-up of the brain, making the adjustment to coming home unbearable.

My initial thought, then, was to write a contemporary adaptation of Woyzeck which would acknowledge these struggles by depicting the eponymous protagonist as a soldier suffering from the psychological strains of active duty in a foreign war.

CREATION

As I began to write, however, I found myself moving further and further away from a strict adaptation of the original text.

Considering Woyzeck, I was struck by the parallels in Büchner’s portrayal of his soldier protagonist with descriptions of PTSD in returning veterans. In this light, the tormenting secondary characters in the original play may be read as the malevolent and possessive manifestations of an injured mind. The carnival-mirror world which Büchner creates is, if read in these terms, starkly recognizable.

Were I a director, I would have chosen to take that idea and direct the original play as if all its actions were being viewed through the distorted lens of Woyzeck’s interior vision. But as a writer, I did not see the need to retread the same ground as Büchner.

Instead of following an experimental rendering of Woyzeck’s first-person narrative, I wanted to discover both how Woyzeck (since renamed Frank Hasek in my play) came to the condition he was in, and, by shifting to a traditional third-person point-of-view, to fully render the motivations and humanity of the secondary characters. This inclination became particularly acute as I began a correspondence with several veterans – a doctor who served in Baghdad, a young air force pilot waiting to be deployed to Afghanistan, and an infantry soldier who served in Vietnam – to get a sense of their actual wartime experiences and the difficulty they faced (where applicable) of returning home. This research, in particular, was vital to creating all the characters as fully dimensional and understandable (if not, for dramatic purposes, always sympathetic).

With this new challenge in mind, the key then was to contemplate and depict the circumstances leading to the play’s inevitable conclusion. While the broad outline of the plot is still in place, I found it necessary to rewrite and reconceptualize the entire story, giving life to the desires, motivations, and obstacles facing each of the five characters on stage. Here, Hasek is trying to get well in order to provide for Marisa and their baby, but as he struggles through the symptoms of his condition, his ability to stay focused on his work and maintain a healthy relationship is increasingly strained. In turn, Marisa’s affair is motivated by the stability and normality of the Sergeant. And the doctor, rather than being a malevolent presence bent on experimenting on Woyzeck, developed into a therapist treating Hasek for PTSD, while struggling with her own burden of having far too many patients and far too little time to treat them all properly.

In the end, I hope that the play remains engaging on a dramatic level. And though the tragedy of the story remains, I hope that by focusing on these issues I can expose the relevance of problems faced by returning veterans in today’s world, and in so doing gesture towards a hopeful future.

REALIZATION

After completing a first “final” draft of the play I decided to do something I’d never done with any of my seven previous full-length plays. Rather than sending the script out immediately, I waited several months so that I could reread it with fresh eyes, thinking that I would make changes and then it would be perfect without the need for a huge development process. So I put it aside, waited, and after three months I was delighted to see that I knew exactly what it needed. Great. Perfect. I made the changes, and then arranged a table reading with Ian Morgan at the New Group in New York.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but after hearing it aloud for the first time, I was shocked to realize how much work the play still needed. My sympathies for the secondary characters had clouded my eyes to the necessity of keeping the drama as tense as possible. In short, there was no antagonist. Deepening the dramatic conflict formed the basis of my next revision.

Two subsequent readings – with the Astoria Performing Arts Center (NY), directed by Tom Wojtunik, and at the Drilling Company (NY), directed by Joe Clancy – and several subsequent revisions later, I was fortunate enough to work with Company One on an audio recording for the Massachusetts Cultural Council blog.

That recording – directed by Shawn LaCount (Artistic Director, Company One), starring Fedna Jacquet (Psychiatrist) and Brett Marks (Hasek), and organized by Anne Morgan (Literary Manager, Company One) – was a pleasure to work on and one of the most satisfying expressions of the play thus far. Though we were only recording one scene, it is a testament to the skill and talent of all who participated that Shawn was able to coax the abundant gifts of the two actors into characterizations that were immediately believable and nuanced.

Finally, with this draft completed and a production scheduled at the Drilling Company November 4th – 24th, 2010, I hope that I have accomplished what I set out to achieve with the script. Of course, anything can – and probably will – change in rehearsals.

Special thanks to Company One Theatre. Don’t miss Company One’s next play, GRIMM, a world premiere evening of short plays that re-imagine classic fairy tales. July 16-August 14, 2010, at the Roberts Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, in Boston.

Images: Eric Henry Sanders; Georg Büchner; promotional image from early version of RESERVIOR (then known as WOYZECK: HOMECOMING); Company One Theatre reads RESERVOIR; Company One Artistic Director Shawn LaCount offers direction to actress Fedna Jacquet.


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