Archive for the 'Rehearsal' Category

14
Aug
17

Richard Grantham & ZEN ZEN ZO Present DUSK

RESTRUNG 2017: The Viola Cloning Project & ZEN ZEN ZO

 

Saturday August 19 2017 at 3:45pm & 9pm 

 

Hit pause on your fast-paced hectic life, and take a moment to slow down, breath, and be present at DUSK

 

Restrung 2017 delivers an all-star line-up of more than 50 international, national and local artists to explore the spaces between genres – classical, electronica, folk, jazz, rock, pop, minimalism and more.

 

The three-day program includes The Viola Cloning Project and Zen Zen Zo’s DUSK, and Collusion and Queensland Ballet Academy’s Muscle Memory: Reflex.

 

Third in the series of Restrung festivals, the program offers a joyous explosion of strings-driven music, dance, theatre and art that challenges musical and artistic boundaries: a roller coaster ride through the arcane, the forbidden and the gorgeous.

 

 

 

DUSK is the third collaboration between renowned Australian composer and improviser Richard Grantham (aka The Viola Cloning Project) and leading contemporary performance company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre.

 

DUSK is a moving meditation, a danced haiku, an opportunity to inhabit the “space between” (day/night; sound/silence; movement/stillness; life/death)

 

a regenerative space of unfolding potential…

 

Performer, Travis Weiner talks about

DUSK, ZEN ZEN ZO & RICHARD GRANTHAM –

 

There are 2 aspects of the show itself I can tell you about.

 

I’ve performed in all of Lynne’s shows since I started with the company in 2014 and this is probably the simplest but the most physically and mentally demanding choreography I can remember. That’s partly because some of it is just hard work and partly because Richard’s original composition can’t be broken into beats of 8. When we dance to his music, which is also in parts just him jamming, we have no musical beat to keep us in sync with each other. So almost the entire show is us kinaesthetically responding to each other. It’s an exciting challenge.

 

From a creative perspective it’s more complicated to explain what’s unique about this show. We were talking about this yesterday and we all see Richard as this god-like maestro summoning us as otherworldly spirits. I would say he deserves such a role. He is a very talented musician, and I wouldn’t say so lightly. The music he is able to create with literally one instrument and a bunch of pedals at his feet is mind blowing. It’s like he takes the concept of a one man band and turns it into a one man orchestra.

 

Our challenge was to create a movement score that kept Richard in focus for the majority of the piece. After watching Richard create his music I don’t think we would be able to steal too much limelight if we tried. His performance is simply fascinating.

 

Working with Zen Zen Zo is always a challenging experience because of the nature and standard of the work, but also very rewarding. Anyone who has trained with the company knows how exhausting an experience it can be. When it comes to a show the bar is set even higher and understandably so. Sometimes we look at each other and go, “can we actually do this for that long?” And then we do. I would say to anyone it is worth coming to see Richard play, even if he was on stage alone. But also to anyone who missed Zen Zen Zo’s sold-out In the Company of Shadows season last year, here is a second chance to see the performers from that show take to the stage again.

 

 

In the Company of Shadows from info@zenzenzo.com on Vimeo.

 

Bring a wine or a green tea and enjoy an afternoon or evening of mindfulness in the presence of these extraordinary artists.

 

DUSK is an exploration of the liminal, the space between, the threshold which facilitates transformation. The dancers move like shamans or spirit walkers between the light and dark, life and death, music and silence, weaving a shadowy web through the bitter-sweet original score of Richard Grantham’s live looped performance.

 

 

THU 17–SAT 19 AUGUST 2017

Two-Show Festival Pass (full)$110*

Two-Show Festival Pass (conc.)$100*

Three-Show Festival Pass (full)$150*

Three-Show Festival Pass (conc.)$135*

*An additional fee applies to each booking transaction. Single tickets $3 / Multiple tickets $6.

 

 

Composer: Richard Grantham


Directors/Choreographers: Lynne Bradley & Jamie Kendall


Lighting Design: Simon Woods


Design Consultant: Rachel Konyi


Costumes: Bill Haycock & Kaylee Gannaway


Performers: Richard Grantham with Jamie Kendall, Gina Tay Limpus, Aurora Liddle-Christie & Travis Weiner

 

 

 

19
May
16

anywhere festival’s biodrama day11 – grotowski laboratory

 

MARACCAS

(Mobile Active Recreation and Creative Community Art Space)

Preparing for La Andariega: Ancient Memories

from notes taken during #biodramadharma day11: Grotowski Laboratory

 

by Xanthe Coward

Sunday May 16 2016

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MARACCAS’ 17-day Intensive

 

Read Part 2 here

 

Read Part 1 here

 

Sunday morning is another gorgeous sunny day, typical at this time of year on the Sunshine Coast. Days like this are why we live here. I wonder if we will work outside again but no, the morning promises an intense physical workshop requiring a flat floor and as little clothing as possible. That’s right. The focus today is the body’s physical form and it’s limitless potential for movement, or at least…exploring risk-taking to get as close as possible to understanding what our limits are. 

Alex is a Colombian born and trained actor. His Laboratory process is influenced by Jerzy Grotowski; Alex worked for 4 years with Fernando Muñoz, who trained with Grotowski. In terms of the legacy and the concept of the Laboratory, he makes it a personal journey, it’s about the inner self; the person who is inside is observing ourselves. It’s a journey and it’s an investigation. It’s important to be able to commit: it’s the commitment as an investigator. For example, if we’re going to explore an elbow movement the commitment is to focus on finding the meaning of one movement for two hours. It’s kind of a meditation…exploring and trying to understand (ourselves). 

What is the theatre giving us? What is important? It’s helping us with the drama of existence. It’s not about the play, the performance, the costumes, the makeup; it’s helping us to connect with an essence of who we are, why we are. And how the movement is connected to ritual…

– Alex

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In the Sacred Circle today, Linda is acknowledged. What have we learned form Linda? Denise offers, “Curiosity and the energy you bring.” Lilly continues, “Your wonderful sense of eternal youth – your beautiful innocence and purity and joy – a real willingness to give everything a go even though you’ve never done this before… Your sense of questioning, integral to this process and the ultimate outcome of the show, because of that questioning; bringing the inner child (asking why?).”

“Your sense of play and jokes,” adds Dan. Olga tells Linda, “There is room for laughter” and “Those who seek, find.” Mary thanks Linda for the laughter, which brings a new perspective to things (the totems). “The laughter and acknowledgment… You are a light in the black, beauty in the darkness…serenity in dealing with very heavy emotions.” Jonas has had to find the right English words to express this. There is laughter…it’s kind, connected laughter.

Linda thinks and tells the group that what she has learned from herself is that it’s okay to step into the unknown. “Trust and take that step. I just have to breathe. The most valuable thing I’ve learnt about myself is about the self awareness and knowing who that being is, which relates to breath. My aspiration is to be aware of every breath. To know myself with every breath. The most amazing thing I’ve learned about myself is that that is possible.”

Lilly invites everyone to speak their Sacred Name and hands over to Alex. He jumps to his feet and says, “Let’s try to wear as less clothing as possible.”

This is going to be hardcore, exploring the plasticity of the body and the centre, the core. I’m glad I’m watching and not doing again. I’m a little bit scared for everyone…

This is how the Grotowski Laboratory goes. I’m going to give you a heap of what Alex actually says. Don’t imagine there are too many pauses between instructions and actions and the following instruction…there is barely time for the actors to pause, to take a breath. This is the most intense acting training I’ve seen to date.

let’s embrace this space and start walking. be aware of the space. we can start having some eye contact as well. let’s be aware how our spine is, our shoulders. we’re going to go in a bit more of a rhythm. let’s try to be aware of our weight, how we place the feet on the ground, faster…and faster…and faster. try to get into all the empty spaces.

we’re going to create a little bit of risk. add more speed and play with levels. vocalise if you feel (“let the voice coming out”)

add more speed, more risk. try not to touch anybody, be very aware of the space. how close can you get without touching the person? how much risk can you create?

Alex claps and everyone freezes.

start to lift one of your feet, very slowly, then transport the weight to the other side.

run again. try to eliminate the sound on the ground. don’t forget to breathe.

freeze. repeat the weight transfer, slowly, slowly.

he claps. keep running. too much sound on the ground.

form a circle. knees bent and core strong. create a rhythm, a simple beat, which we can keep for a while. lighter on the feet. arms reaching, stretching above head, one hand holding the other, change arms. increase the speed. stretch the arms across the chest one by one to stretch out the shoulders.

Mary and Lilly keep their torsos so still – they have in common their Zen Zen Zo training. And Denise, the dancer, so controlled, elegant, her upper body still.

Alex is strong and grounded and relaxed at the same time. He is picking up his feet, not shuffling, lifting them, keeping the upper body relaxed and strong. Such simple, focused movement, full of control and power.

keep the rhythm and moving in the circle, bending forward into tabletop with hands clasped behind backs, stepping more and more slowly, then rising upright and increasing the speed. faster, faster, change direction.

find a wall, step away from the wall facing away from it. lean back to let your head rest against wall, and curl the spine down against wall, vertebrae by vertebrae to a seated position – a strong core – and roll up again.

Alex claps. Everyone goes back to running in the space, creating risk and aware of where everybody is in the space.

Alex claps. return to the wall. lean your head back and roll your head back against it, roll down to seated position and roll up again to push away from wall, dropping into plank position on the floor and rolling up from the floor through downward dog.

Alex claps. back to the risk!

Alex claps. back to the wall!

next time, drop to the floor in plank position and lift right leg, shift back and forward to change legs through three-legged dog, shift back and forward, to smell the floor rolling back up through downward dog to the wall.

Alex claps. back to the risk!

His little baby, Gabby is here. She is 17 months old and too beautiful for words; an old soul with the calm, quiet, bright-eyed spirit of a cheeky old lady who’s seen it all before. She stays aside, out of the way with Billie. She is sitting on a chair, watching, at times rubbing sleepy eyes, just like Poppy has done since she was the same age, always interested, always watching, absorbing, always there, inadvertently learning so much more than most adults know, about humanity, making connections, communication… At times she needs acknowledgement from Alex, or from Lilly, and she accepts a smile or a kiss on the top of her head before returning to the edge of the space.

Alex claps. back to the wall! you know what to do.

back to the risk! keep your eyes wide open. eye contact. more risk. get to your limit. very, very fast, as fast as you can.

back to the wall! let your voice go out if you need it to.

back to the risk! (There are exultant, exhaustion defying voices now, whooping and shouting). less sound on the ground, more voice exploration now. faster, faster, lots of controlled risk.

STOP

Everyone is either pale, almost sickly white, or flushed pink with effort and exhaustion. But there is only a moment to take a breath and a sip of water, if you can be sure you won’t throw up yet (another’s voice in my head tells me, “Throw up after!” and I say it aloud to Mary, who laughs, exhausted and exhilarated). Alex demonstrates Diagonals and Jonas follows his lead. Jonas is just as strong and lithe and quick (and sweaty!). Amazing. And this is just an introduction, without further investigation or application…

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They move from one corner of the room to the other, stepping on hands and feet facing the ceiling, lifting one hand in front of their faces for each step and breathing, “hah!”. The core stays up, it’s like reverse table top before going into a backbend. They repeat this, raising the opposite hand and leg for each step. The core is strong and stays lifted.

Olga does a variation. Is it supposed to be the gentler version? She is squat-stepping with hands clasped in front of chest. This movement too is ridiculously demanding.

Now they are jumping forward with hands stirring in front of the pelvis, the pelvis rotating, feet staying hip width apart. The core stays strong. Then stepping left to right, archers arms to match. Then open arms, wide legs, and round-kicks stepping widely forward. “keep the rhythm!” Alex says, not a bit out of breath.

Next, they are “climbing” across the floor (scrambling but not, because the movement is slower than that, and so controlled, and so, “climbing”), keeping the torso off the floor whilst keeping as close to the ground as possible, moving forward on forearms and feet only, commando style. There are groans now, the effort too much. Still, only Linda and Billie, and much later, Mary, take any time out.

Alex asks, “How comfortable is everyone with rolls?”

The yoga mats come out. Everyone is shiny with sweat. Nice. Alex checks that necks are supported as individuals roll. Jonas continues to do everything Alex does in the same relaxed, controlled manner. Little Gabby checks in with Alex; she gets a kiss and in one swoop she is lifted off the yoga mat and up onto a seat, with a drink of water and a snack.

Now they are rolling and coming out of each roll, reaching arms out, and reaching one arm back between the legs before rolling forward. Slowly, slowly. And now rolling backwards. Jonas glances behind him before each roll. He almost flips and he is ready to leap into the rolls to get some height and distance and momentum. There is no formal check in or checking to see if everyone is okay, but still, no one is throwing up yet, so they continue.

Next is a shoulder stand going into each roll – keep a strong core – balance – control (control the coming out of it and finish with a roll). There is laughter. And the breath. And intense focus. Everyone is testing their limits.

Now there is a check in. “How is everybody feeling?” More laughter. “Tired!” “Awesome!”

let’s raise the energy a little bit again. let’s create some risk. when I say “uno” bring the knees to the chest (jump!), and “dos” we do the front (forward) roll and “tres” we do the backwards roll.

As Olga hears this she laughs, “My god!” and runs again, smiling and laughing and trying to catch her breath. She might be going crazy.

faster, faster, now maximum speed!

STOP

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find a partner. face your partner, feet wide and knees bent. the partner will touch you with their foot – it’s not a kick – and you receive it. apply pressure with your foot and the partner will move back in response to the pressure. “if you are the person receiving the touch you have to be strong but mobile.” try to go higher. “I think we think it hurts but it doesn’t hurt” – Lilly

be flexible and strong to hold it, and then go backwards with the touch.

deliver a little bit more pressure and you take the hit and use the pressure to take you into a backward roll. controlled. you basically sit and roll backwards to get out of it.

Next, the partner jumps up, pushing up with his/her hands, onto the receiver’s shoulders, and as the receiver responds to the pressure, they simply drop down to lie on the floor. It’s not a push, and you land over the receiver, feet either side of his/her chest. The next level is to then end this move with a forward roll over the receiver, who follows with a backwards roll to get out of the position.

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The body has to adapt to the floor. “It could take a year of bruises.” A Russian teacher once told Mary, “It’s just a body. What’s wrong with you? You’re so precious!” Alex says, “Once you develop that relationship with the floor you can do so much.”

Then, “Let’s put everything together to create one sole choreography:

start still, make eye contact, both find centre, both eagle kick and then jump and drop and roll out of it.” Denise says, “Maybe you think it’s not possible to slow it down but to me it’s possible.” Denise and Alex work on the slower, more controlled version of the movement. They are completely in tune with one another and they pull off the movement several times.

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The session wraps with a small circle, tight; the close connection between these guys about to become even more apparent. Lilly starts in the middle and Alex introduces a familiar trust game. “Build a little bit of trust, allowing yourself to fall and your friends will catch you. Take her all the way to the ground. Friends, take a limb and massage her. Lilly, just enjoy it”. The group works together to roll Lilly ever so gently onto her belly to continue the massage. Gently, gently… “Put her back to standing position without allowing her to do any of it. Lift her all the way up (slowly, raise her up), with straight arms, and walk around the space with her. Place her back to standing and give her a big hug.”

It’s someone else’s turn. I take my leave and head to another rehearsal.

The weekend, indeed the entire creative process leading up to the show, is about learning to communicate story and emotion; discovering ourselves (our fears, our perceived limitations and our potential), and discovering what our bodies and minds are capable of; building trust, and building connections through the intimacy of touch and the acknowledgement of each individual existing in the same space, to tell the same story. This ensemble is learning the value of bringing focus and energy and skill to the space, embracing vulnerability, and drawing on ancestral knowledge and the energies of the elements and the earth to feed back to the world something we don’t stop often enough to consider…

This ensemble is unravelling our human experiences and opening up, preparing to connect with us, to share with us, La Andariega: Ancient Memories.

19
May
16

anywhere festival’s biodrama day10 – la andariega: ancient memories

 

MARACCAS

(Mobile Active Recreation and Creative Community Art Space)

Preparing for La Andariega: Ancient Memories

from notes taken during #biodramadharma day10: The Viewpoints

by Xanthe Coward

Saturday May 14 2016

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“theatre isn’t necessarily for everyone, in the same way that football isn’t necessarily for everyone. My attitude to the latter is pretty much the rest of my family’s attitude to the former: I’ll happily watch it on the odd occasion, but it isn’t really my cup of tea. And that’s fine. But theatre should be there for everyone: equally available and accessible to all who might – and might not – gain something from it. That means making theatre buildings as welcoming as possible; it means making theatre affordable and easy to access; it means letting people know that it’s happening and that they might be interested in it; it means avoiding lazy, offensive assumptions about different demographics and what they might want to see; it means opening up a dialogue with potential and existing audiences; it means talking about theatre in a way that makes it sound interesting and fun rather than elite and exclusive.

It’s that last point that I’m particularly (sometimes agonisingly) preoccupied with. There is of course work still to be done when it comes to theatre spaces, their accessibility, and who and what gets represented on their stages. But the surrounding discourse feeds into the same set of structures and ultimately influences, in however invisible a way, who gets admitted or shut out by those structures. How is theatre being discussed? Who is discussing it? What is being discussed and what is being ignored? What assumptions is that discussion – knowingly or unknowingly – founded on?”

– Catherine Love

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“Theatre needs to be discussed in a way that makes it seem available, rather than shut away behind a barrier of big, reverent words.”

– Catherine Love

The Inaugural MARACCAS’ 17-Day Intensive continues…

Read Part 1 here

On the weekend the group had moved into the Black Box Theatre space at the Old Ambulance Station, Nambour. I pass a whiteboard on the way in; it’s the “Parking Lot”, for holding ideas. Questions and thoughts about enlightenment, catharthis, cleansing and rebirth; notes about the arrangement of chairs in the space; humour – relief – the inner child, and later, after the first Viewpoints exercise, Olga adds “stress or relief?” I say hi to Mary and then speak with Linda, an artist from Cooran, who explains her work – it’s amazing – and her initial intention of coming in for 5 days of the Intensive. After that she decided to “jump in” and join the performance ensemble.

When the session begins with a Sacred Circle I stay out of it, observing only. I feel the group is too far into the process for me to join them and my interest is in how the work develops from here. I love the ritual of the process itself, the connections, and the deeper understanding that comes from simply stopping, listening and acknowledging. Saturday’s Sacred Circle is for Olga – Lilly reminds us, “we each talk with Olga and let her know what we learn from her.”

Jonas begins. “You have amazing energy, you keep the fluidity, you’re very compassionate and pure, not only today but through the whole experience.” I miss something uttered in Spanish and there is laughter and – this from Olga – “Don’t mess up with Olga!” and, after more laughter about a conversation that took place last night, “We are here in a Big Brother house…”

Lilly says, “You have this incredible sense of groundedness; it’s joyous. I see you as the mama bear of the group. You see communication and you allow it and you create space for other people to experience freedom.” Dan says that what he’s learned from Olga is to speak his voice, to stand up for what he thinks is right, and “to keep pushing in the direction of your goals even if it’s uncomfortable.” Dan has worked with Olga at Playback Theatre.

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And what has Olga learned? “When I give myself permission to create and I don’t hold back I have a great capacity to jump over anyone… My totem came out to be the snake. I have to explore my camouflage.

I’ve learned a different meaning for the word compassion, which is more human, which comes from small gestures…and I can see connections: the threads, how all the strings keep on pushing and pulling; the complexity of human relationships. and the great things that happen when you take away pre-judgment…

It’s really nice to be able to repeat things, make it better (in this process). And how good food tastes…”

Everyone says their Sacred Name in a confident, powerful voice and Deanna introduces the session: an introduction to The Viewpoints.

The group begins with the basic exercises, listening intently, following Deanna’s every word. It’s mostly new work – remember, in here not everyone is a trained actor. But the energy in the room has changed. Everyone is ready to do the work. The group forms a circle and the actors use peripheral vision to start walking, equidistant apart, tuning into impulses and stopping or changing direction or jumping when the impulse takes them, and following the lead of others. 

Deanna reminds everyone to continue correcting the balance of the circle, stay tuned in and maintain the same pace. Next is the exercise called Lanes (exploring limiting factors in order to work more closely as a group), and after so much circle work it must be refreshing to work in straight lines! The options – the gesture range – include stopping or jumping or sitting or to lie down upon impulse, breaking up the movement forwards and backwards. Everyone explores pace and kinaesthetic responses i.e. “Think about how other people in the line are affecting your movement” (let the movement of others affect you and make a choice about how to respond). Deanna prompts everyone to explore duration e.g. hold the sitting position or jump 10 times.

Through restriction comes the exploration of certain elements.

– Deanna

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And here, suddenly, is the shift in energies. It happens in every rehearsal room, hopefully at every rehearsal! The individual energies have all come into the same realm and the group energy is focused. I watch as everyone drops their insecurities and embraces real confidence, really trusting the impulses. Moments of slow, controlled movement are broken abruptly by the impulses to run forward or jump. At one point the group runs forward towards me, fast! It’s confronting and unnerving. The individual energies continue to shift and balance out, but the collective energy and the level of focus remain the same. The sound of feet pounding the timber, the shuffling and the silence and stillness are all very satisfying. At times the floorboards creak. Deanna instructs everyone to “find an ending.” Eventually there is stillness and silence and a straight line again.

It’s interesting to detach…to turn your brain off and become a vessel for movement.

– Lilly

Linda notes that during the exercise she was aware of silence followed by a sudden orchestration of sound. “A certain feeling could be created in the room, like suspense, so it was a really powerful evocation of…something.” Lilly muses, “There’s an element of leadership but being able to follow as well. The dynamic is of being able to lead and to receive.” Dan adds, “I found myself grabbing control, having control and then releasing again.”

Whether by chance or by listening, are we coordinated? There’s a very strong sense of responsibility. I can do whatever but it doesn’t fit in with the group. I can be a leader but that doesn’t fit in with the group.

– Olga

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There is no break. Deanna goes on to introduce the 7 Energy Levels, which she takes us through one by one…

#4 Neutral (lying on the floor; no energy)

#1 The body is very heavy, breathing is slow, very deep. To make any movement is really difficult. To lift a limb it feel like the limb is full of lead.

#2 The body is still not easy to move, breathing is still slow, but you can pull yourself along the floor if you have to. You might try to get up but you fall back down before reaching your feet.

#3 The body feels lighter but it’s hard to take control of your movement, as if the wind has more control than you do over your movement; air comes into your joints. The body floats through space. You are off-balance, mostly slow. Big long exhalations.

#4 neutral (standing) The spine is straight, the head is straight, feet are shoulder width apart and arms hang loosely. Breathing is steady. You’re feeling relaxed and ready for what may come. You’re alert and aware, and relaxed. From here we can create any emotion.

#5 The breathing becomes more rapid and tension becomes apparent. Shallow breaths, a quicker pace; anticipating something: stress or anxiety. Add gestures (wring hands or shake out the tension). Whatever that feeling does to your body, let it inhabit you. Maybe other people start to agitate you in the space…

#6 The breathing is fast and shallow, fight or flight energy, fear, terror. N.B. Not a faster pace.

FREEZE.

#7 feel the energy of Level 6 energy while frozen. This is dynamic stillness (if you unfreeze you can go back to Level 6 energy in an instant). Keep the moment of being alive, being “in action” in your head.

Deanna taps shoulders to allow performers to step out of their frozen position to take a look at what the dynamic stillness looks like in the others. She calls out, “Level 6” and “Level 7” – switching between Level 6 & Level 7 is exhilarating and exhausting…and I’m only watching! Deanna takes the group back through the energy levels until the bodies sink into the floor, relieved. Deanna prompts the debrief discussion – any discoveries?

Lilly says, “We can play with those higher energies for the city scene.” Dan agrees, suggesting the group consider using the essence of both exercises – the lanes and the energy levels – to build the city scene. Jonas notes, “The exercise is really valuable for seeing the energies still there when we detach and look. Your breath is what filters the energy and brings it up to the next energy.” Linda discusses the importance of the performer’s gaze. Deanna agrees: on the other hand, high energy levels require (breaking the gaze and) looking all around because the awareness comes up and out. Linda observes a major benefit of having an ensemble on the same page when it comes to energy levels. “It could be a shorthand to what’s required in a scene. Somebody might be feeling stressed and giving Level 7 energy when what’s required is Level 4.”

Is neutral energy not alive?

There is some discussion about Level 6 energy. Olga sees the potential for Level 6 energy to be used for someone in love and Deanna counters, “It’s orgasmic” (and not just enthusiastic). We understand that excited, high stress can be positive or negative energy.

The breath is the key. The body follows the breath.

Someone remembers that Zen Zen Zo’s Lynne Bradley talked about commitment. Commit to the gesture and the audience sees the 100% commitment in that moment. The audience doesn’t see how much or how little experience you have.

Next, Deanna takes the group through a laughter exercise:

Breathing in and taking arms out (outstretched), clap hands and vocalise, “HA!”

Walk across the circle, making eye contact, “HA HA” then “HA HA HA” then “HA HA HA HA”, clapping to match.

Make the “HAHAHAHAHA” sound like a motorcycle starting. Greet people with the motorcycle sound.

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

Gesture becomes a cup of tea. Lighten the sound. Greet others between sips of tea.

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

Gesture becomes both hands on the belly for a big Santa Claus, “HO HO HO HO” (or as a gorilla)

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

Vocalise a siren (“orchestra”) of laughter, conducted by Deanna. This inspires whirling and twirling around the space, laughing in the upper register, and snorts and “strange” laughs.

Deep breaths to come back to neutral.

I wonder if there is anyone outside, on their way to Woolworths, hurrying by when they were in no hurry at all, and wondering what on earth is going on inside the Black Box Theatre…

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There is full commitment from this group. Everyone is here to get out of it what they will, even if they’re still not sure what it will be. With the new addition to the daily routine – sharing what each individual has taught everyone – everyone might find out something new through what someone else reveals.

Jonas steps out to confer with the Indigenous elders and advisors. There are still some traditions and acknowledgements to get right. The rest of us move outside, roadside, onto a patch of grass in the sunshine, working on images created using bodies in space, and gesture and proximity. And perception…

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What do we see in each picture? What do we “read”? What will the audience get from it?

We are here to give a message…at the end of the day the goal is to make that message to the others.

Olga

Back inside, there is some concern about the performance space. “Where are the spaces where the energies can leak out (and come in), and where is it possible for those messages to be weakened?” asks Linda. Lilly explains, “It’s the circle that creates the container for the work to take place…we’ll delineate the circle and the doorway where spirits and energies can come in and out of that space. Being aware of that circle as a sacred space and being a container, a vessel, for those energies. That’s the device… There’s a power in the gesture of making it a safe space.”

Lilly takes a call from Jonas and advises the group that David (Gubbi Gubbi) will not be coming in after all because his energy is not in it today. David and his brother, Mark, will come tomorrow to assist with choreography and talk with the group about the possibility of them being involved in the performance.

There is a discussion about the chairs. The chairs in the Black Box Theatre are rows of 5 square plastic chairs, which doesn’t allow for the curved audience the group wants. The performance space will continue to change so the discussion is added to the Parking Lot. The conversation turns to clarifying the meaning of the work. Having joined the core group later in the piece, Linda is still working out what it all means for her. She says, “The intention of BioDrama is to somehow connect the ancestral beings and we’re here on the Sunshine Coast. It’s like a timeless meeting of ancestral beings but how does that relate to the Coolum story? Is that the port through which we meet the ancestral beings?”

Lilly reminds the group that the show and the process of creating it has a lot to do with acknowledgement. Kerry (Gubbi Gubbi) spoke about acknowledgement. It’s about the reconnection with ancient wisdom – acknowledging and remembering – “and the story that we chose came up spontaneously in our communication with Kerry. For me it has a lot to do with the cleansing and reconnecting with nature that I feel needs to happen. In the world, we’ve reached a level of ‘grotesque’ and the cleansing is necessary,” explains Lilly.

It’s the story of the cycle, of the river – the river of life – the story of birth, reminding us that the river not only brings us life but a reason for fighting, that duality; not only the good thing or the bad thing but all things and you eventually find the cleansing, the rain…

– Olga

Lilly: “There’s the cleansing. Olga continues, “And the stories don’t finish here. It may find something that’s negative and it will rumble and it will become positive. It’s the cycle of life. We need stories that we can understand. They’re all metaphors for that cycle of the river; that cycle of life.” For Dan, the story is still evolving. He says, “I’ll wait and see how it unfolds.”

Lilly leads a discussion about the shape of the performance. There will be the initial acknowledgment and welcome, with mother earth in the centre and the umbilical cord of life. Each person has a line to speak, to connect and acknowledge, “and we have permission from the Indigenous people to work with these traditional stories, and it’s really important that we have an elder to do that welcome. Then we begin.” The story of Maroochy and Ninderrry and Coolum will be shared.

On Friday the group had sketched the units of performance to create a storyboard. There are 5 main story segments, which is a simplified version of events. Lilly is wary of the message becoming convoluted. Olga simplifies the message (the story) further, breaking the images up into just 3 narrative acts: the beginning, middle and end.

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There is some discussion about aesthetic choices. For example, will the same grief motif be used a second time, rather than changing Maroochy’s grief and asking the audience to recognise different forms (different representations) of grief. The decision is to keep it simple and repeat the recognisable “grief” gesture and sound.

Lilly reiterates an important point learned from David in the original discussions about which story to tell. This is new to me. She explains that despite the need for some light comic relief, the Indigenous story of the two frogs cannot come into it because the one Dreaming story is already being told. Unlike our Anglo penchant for mash-ups of fairytales and the like, our Indigenous people prefer the traditional stories to stay unmixed. In fact, it would be disrespectful to try to combine them, undermining the entire cultural exchange.

Dan suggests skipping through the city scene to add some lightness and Olga talks about comic relief and awareness of the inner child, and what about the clowns? There is some confusion about the ‘clowns’. Lilly clarifies, “Definitely not the image of a (circus) clown, but bringing in that essence of childhood play. It could be leapfrog but we would avoid the frog story because David has expressed that.”

There must also be some sort of debrief with the audience because it’s always such an intense experience for them. “With a debrief you give them closure and you get closure as performers.” There might need to be a physical way of involving the audience in the rebirth/catharsis… Erica describes a performance in which she and Maddy were involved, culminating in a dance with the audience. Holding hands is always a good idea… A hand-holding tribal dance sounds like the upbeat version of the sort of ritual that might open the show. Lilly suggests that when children are added to the performance, dancing and playing, they can bring the performers back to life after the grotesque segment and bring the audience into their dance by holding hands…

Deanna wants to get up and try some things…

I remember some of the tangible things I’ve taken away from (mostly indie) shows over the last few years –

  • an unsealed envelope containing paper for letter writing
  • a paper crane
  • a cupcake
  • a boxing glove keyring
  • a seed

A seed. The seed of a native Australian plant seems to me the ideal gift to offer audience members. I think the council or a local nursery would be more than happy to sponsor…but it’s not my show. I continue to consider these elements of ritual and involving the audience and the “social theatricality” of Biodrama. And I remember reading Catherine Love’s discussions about “catering” for certain demographics, and who is included and excluded from certain forms of culture… 

Dan reminds the group that harmony is the answer to the disruption of the city. Linda tells the group that the thing that’s missing for her is the build up of suspense. “It needs this brooding sense of something awful…” Lilly thinks the the energy of the storm will be evident in the music.

Olga clarifies what the group will work on for the rest of the day – connecting to content, connecting with each other, clarifying the story and marking the movement. This is the ensemble at work, and as I tell Lilly later, during a different conversation, it’s working beautifully.

I promise to return the following day to check out the Grotowski Laboratory…

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09
May
16

Anywhere Festival plays host to Australia’s first BioDrama – La Andariega: Ancient Memories

 

MARACCAS

(Mobile Active Recreation and Creative Community Art Space)

Preparing for La Andariega: Ancient Memories

from notes taken during #biodramadharma day3: archetypes

by Xanthe Coward

Saturday May 7 2016

La ANDARIEGA-Anywhere Festival-Masked Man with Rose-Photo by David Leonardo Caycedo Jimenez

 

Everything that happens around us is absolutely connected to how we engage in our artistic and everyday life.

– Beatriz Camargo, Teatro Itinerante del sol

 

The experience of an event begins for its audience when they first hear about it and only finishes when they stop thinking and talking about it.

– Tassos Stevens

 

La ANDARIEGA-Anywhere Festival-Ensemble Looking Out- Photo by David Leonardo Caycedo Jimenez

 

Through our travels in the dreaming world we come to know the ancient wisdom and memories of our ancestors, land and peoples; weaving whispers through symbols of time untold coming to recognise the ancient wisdom and connection in all beings, all lands, and all cultures.

 

Working with Lyndon Davies and the local Gubbi Gubbi (Kabi Kabi) mob to develop the play’ script inspired by the traditional song lines and stories of the Sunshine Coast area. Presented at the Old Ambulance Station’s Black Box Theatre in Nambour, the work is an investigation of Ancient Memory and Origin Myths in the innovative contemporary form of theatre called Bio Drama – Bio Dharma.

As an interesting cross-cultural exchange generated from MARACCAS’ recent collaborative theatre work in South America. The Bio Drama style is inspired by the indigenous cultures of Colombia and the Amazon – pioneered by renowned artist Beatriz Camargo;

“The style is the first approach to the vision that integrates through the performing arts, all arts and knowledge with nature. The focus is to find again the balance between human beings and the planet. This theatre leads practitioners and audiences to ancient mythologies which connect body, soul, voice, territory, dramaturgy, staging and performance. It establishes a creative relationship between contemporary art and ancient roots.”

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In the centre of a faded rug are two brass Tibetan singing bowls and a candle. Later, Lilly adds a bowl of nuts and seeds to this centrepiece, to nourish both the spiritual and the physical. When my eyes adjust to the dim light I see that beneath the rug, the space is a raked stage of artificial grass. The slope must be an old driveway-turned-loading bay. We’re in Nambour’s Old Ambulance Station, home to the Black Box Theatre, a humble cafe called Coolihawk, and a ramshackle vintage clothing store. I didn’t know these little businesses existed. I haven’t been here for years.

I’m here for mostly selfish reasons, with the intention of gaining insight into the creative process and responding to it before I review the show that is the culmination of the work here – La Andariega: Ancient Memories, part of Anywhere Festival 2016. It’s the only show during this year’s Anywhere Festival I’ll get to see, so I thought the experience would be far more enriching by sitting in on a couple of the sessions prior. So I invited myself along to check it out. And thought I should probably share that. Importantly, I was invited to join the sacred circle and participate in the discussions, as opposed to sitting invisibly in the corner and observing. 

It’s something I’d like to do more of (not participate necessarily, but observe and absorb what’s happening in the rehearsal room); I think there’s enormous value in sharing a glimpse of the show and the people putting it together before the show goes up, rather than simply rushing to respond to it after Opening Night. It’s not even a “finished product” at that point, and continues to evolve throughout the season. Much Ado About Nothing is a good example. Apparently, so I’ve been told, some performers were not as convincing on opening night as during the first Saturday night’s performance, by which time said performers had hit their stride. (We already know there is merit in a mid-season review). Anyway, there are certainly some more interesting ways of attracting the attention of potential audiences than we are seeing, and one of these approaches is to reveal a little more than a simple pull quote or interview can do. We also get a record of parts of the process; a glimpse at the way in which other artists create new work, and a glimpse, as artists, at the way in which another artist perceives our work and our approach to it.

London theatre critic, Andrew Haydon, goes to some lengths to discuss this style of behind-the-scenes “embedded” reviewing here (thanks to Jane Howard for the link).

The idea of “embedded critics” seems to have gained something of a momentum recently. Perhaps the most interesting session (to me) at this year’s Devoted and Disgruntled was the one called by Maddy Costa and Jake Orr on this very subject. Their basic question was: “What new dialogue can we set up between people who write about theatre and people who make it?” with the sub-question “Do we want to maintain a distance between the people who write about theatre and the people who make it?” (full report here).

And it is an interesting position for “a critic” to find themselves in. Indeed, the question of “embeddedness” is one that goes to the very heart of what we think a critic is *for*. Or what a critic’s job is/should be.

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From the Howard Street cafe entrance I don’t know which part of the building to start to move towards so I ask the barista where I’ll find the BioDrama Dharma group. He looks at me blankly for a second and says, “Oh, you mean the actors?” and directs me towards a gap between a wall and a panel leading to an empty room with a black curtain at one end. I think I expected to see people (and I think I expected to know people) hanging about on the street outside in the sunshine, with their coffee and cigarettes before I would have to ask anyone for actual directions. Clearly, the Sunshine Coast theatre crowd is evolving…

In fact, this is an entirely new crowd, although a couple of us discover we have mutual friends at Woodford Folk Festival. Of course! They are Puppet Project people. I introduce myself to a couple of the others at the bottom of a flight of narrow stairs. Nobody is surprised that I’m there. I discover later that new people come every day and maybe stay for just 1 or 2 or 3 or 5 days of the 17-day intensive program. (I think this is brilliant and so many more courses could consider offering short package deals).

I have time to wait for a real barista brewed chai and I chat with him about their tea selection, which comes from Mt Tamborine in the Gold Coast hinterland. When I return to the space with my chai everyone is there. Placed randomly are several mismatched cushions and occupying the cushions are the participants (six for today’s sessions) and the facilitators, Jonas Teixeira and Lillian Shewring.

The Intensive began on Thursday and since then Jonas and Lilly have given everyone homework tasks in preparation for the weekend’s work around archetypes and symbols. Participants were asked to consider their fears, and the fears and symbols that might be coming up in their dreams. The morning session will cover archetypes, dreams and shadows. The afternoon session builds on the notion of our fears and shadows, giving participants the opportunity to explore Lynne Bradley’s highly physical approach to making meaning in performance: Zen Zen Zo’s highly regarded Suzuki training for actors. I’ll miss this workshop (and the invaluable insights that come up in the conversations over lunch), but I hope I’ll be welcomed back next week to catch up on the development of (character) bodies and voices…

We introduce ourselves by way of offering a sacred name. Jonas explains that this name is something that we choose; it just comes to each of us, triggering ancient memory and the fire burning within us. Fantastic! I love Olga’s sacred name – Creatura – because it’s the powerful name that comes up so often in the stories and myths shared by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. You might already know that I’m completely obsessed with her teachings so everything Jonas and Lilly talk about in this context sounds familiar. An eagle comes soaring across the farthest reaches of my mind so I trust the image and offer to the group, “Eagle”, with the disclaimer that it will sound better in Spanish. It does. I repeat, “águila”. The cultural exchange is underway.

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We each choose a tarot card, which may offer guidance or insight before we begin the work. I pull the Ace of Cups: water, emotions, our senses, a divine gift; either I have a gift or I will receive a gift.  I’m astonished to hear that Lilly drew on the back of each card in her deck before turning the cards over to see whether or not her symbols matched up. Her markings are surprisingly accurate.

Jonas notes that it’s interesting that Lilly uses tarot as a strategy, and as connection to the source, and goes on to explain that we are working towards recognising the subconscious through the conscious, drawing spontaneously in the present from symbols in the past. I love this.

Jonas has drawn the Devil and Lilly reminds us that the Devil is a warning card…don’t let your base desires lead you away from your true self. Remember to come back to your authentic self. We’re able to free ourselves.

When you bring the devil to the real world you can’t hide it with the angel.

– Jonas Texeira

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Olga shares her moon cycle wheel, which has on it her original symbols to record emotions, creativity, sexuality, health and dreams (and so much more; there are many, many symbols!). She explains that it’s about recognising patterns and preparing herself for her highs and lows, and having a choice, letting go of attachment and judgment. The tangible book and the colours are with Olga always. She trusts us to look closely at it and confides, “I remember my dreams. I write them in the back of the book.”

Jonas talk about the notion of mapping as storytelling and the tradition of choosing totems. Lyndon Davis and Kerry had touched on this, when they stopped by on Day 2 to introduce some of the aspects of the local Gubbi Gubbi (Kabi Kabi) culture into the creative development process.

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We talk about the symbolism of dance. (And I think about the enduring power of dance, the arts, to transform a person). Denise tells us she was “super, super, super shy as a child. I had a pain and would not tell the teacher…so shy, and then I danced…”

In BioDrama we practice detachment, from the physical and material world, from attachments, from judgment.

The discussion around archetypes and symbols begins with a brief overview of Carl Jung’s practice and the terminology associated with his physiological process of integrating opposites (the conscious and unconscious) towards achieving individualisation. We talk about the common symbols – circles, the sun, the cross, the lotus – that trigger the collective unconscious. 

In the same way the circle is empty, it’s filled.

– Jonas Texeira

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Jonas talks about the introvert and the extravert, and I consider, once again, Susan Cain’s Quiet, a book that I wish she had written a decade earlier; it validated my mixed feelings since childhood of wanting to be involved in social occasions whilst craving solitude, space and quiet. At times, this is why I run away immediately after seeing a show, although the more sensitive of the Brisbane artists have told me they thought it was because I didn’t love the show. At times this is also true.

Our message – our mission – is to empower your identity, shaped by stories, for an audience.

– Jonas Texeira

In BioDrama our mission is to discover ourselves. When we discover our archetype we collect messages to make meaning of a main message. We are those archetypes, and in performance we can shape an archetype or discover another. The symbols used are connected to our surroundings. We each read in our own way the symbols applied in performance.

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During the morning, Jonas had observed Denise dancing. He described his own interpretation of her movement: her arms reaching out, sweeping, one then the other to embrace the earth, outstretched and moving back again to enclose her arms around herself, a “hug for yourself”, lowering slowly – so slowly, controlled – to the floor, taking a moment in that state of awareness before rising and moving into the next part of the sequence. 

In the recognition of individual identities and in the process of forming a group identity, further motifs were explored and combined to create a group sequence. The movements stemmed from the images and impulses inspired by “fluid liberation of life” – the group goal/intention, which came from individual goals (one sentence), combined sentences in pairs, and choreography (movement) devised by the pair to represent the essence/energy of the sentence. The group sentence conveys the sense of every individual’s original goal/intention/sentence.

Olga notes that in devising and repeating this sequence with a partner, one performer became the giver and one performer became the receiver. “It was really rich”.

FLUID LIBERATION OF LIFE. How good is that?!

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The Intensive continues over the next week, culminating in a unique performance La Andariega: Ancient Memories on Friday May 20 and Saturday May 21 at 7:30pm at Nambour’s Old Ambulance Station. You’d be crazy – or lazy – to miss this sensational Australian first, happening right here on the Sunshine Coast. Book here

MARACCAS Ngo is an emerging Social Enterprise and International Community Arts NGO based in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast – Running annual South American theatre and arts exchange programs as well as other productions in Australia. Their next cultural-exchange is happening in July during the annual international Bio Drama School in Colombia.

 

For the theatre is not only spectaculars…

for the theatre is not only technical…

for the theatre is not only ego…

– Ruth (Argentina)

 

25
Apr
12

That Scottish Play: deliciously wicked!

ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?
My husband Sam, who you know is the President of the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance,
is at Lind Lane Theatre tonight, rehearsing for what I’m predicting will be
Why? Because it’s a parody of all things community theatre…and it’s all true! Well, okay; to be safe, let’s just say it’s “inspired by true events”.
Sam says of the show, “In true Denver style, this is chaos on speed!”
Locals will recognise many familiar faces not only on stage but within the references and in-house jokes, which Simon Denver has ingeniously (or is that just deliciously wickedly?) mashed together in order to present the play we had to have. Or is it a musical? Let’s use Midsummer’s line and call it “a play with songs”.
With Darren Heskes (MD) on board, we can certainly expect to hear some clever little musical references.
If you’ve ever been involved in community theatre anywhere, you will love this show.
(Actually, there’s a slim chance you’ll loathe it but that’s only if you’re unable to have a laugh at yourself!)
By the way, you might have noticed that on certain publicity materials my name appears, however; I was unable to commit to early rehearsals due to my involvement in Travelling North. Wait. Were there early rehearsals?!
I can’t wait to see what this show becomes by Friday night! I’m sure it will be full of surprises!
A deliciously wicked farce parodying community theatre. 
A local group crash tackles Macbeth, sorta by William Shakespeare – but with all the Macbeth bits taken out! 
A co-production presented by Lind Lane Theatre & SRT Productions
written & directed by Simon Denver.
“That Scottish Play” could almost be retitled – “ROAST THE COAST”  
Opening night: Friday April 27th
Season continues: April 28th, May 2nd, 4th & 5th at 8pm
 
Matinees: April 29 & May 5 at 2pm

Adults $22. Concessions apply
Once word gets out this show will sell out so be quick to book!
 
The cast of 25 plus, includes members of 12 different theatre groups.  
 
Or to put it another way, 15 current and past committee members of 
aforementioned groups and 6 past or present presidents!  
 
Pound for pound this is a very frightening cast!  All from the deeper end of the talent pool.  

The cast includes:
Brett Klease, Joy Marshall,
Sam Coward, Errol Morrison, 
Anna MacMahon, Jane Rivers, Jenni McCaul,
Howard Tampling, Darren Heskes, Angel Goulter
and a host of others.
 
Bookings: 5441 1814 or online at
 
06
Apr
12

april’s fool: return season


This April, the powerful production April’s Fool, based on the 2009 death of Toowoomba teenager Kristjan Terauds, embarks on a national tour.

A startling work of sadness, loss and love, while laced with humour and ultimately optimism, April’s Fool has been based on interviews about Kristjan by local playwright David Burton, with friends and family of the popular youth, who died from complications from illicit drug use just two weeks shy of his 19th birthday.

After its debut season in 2010, young people, parents, teachers, youth workers and theatre critics alike, for its honesty and ability to engage its audience without preaching or lecturing, universally praised April’s Fool.

We asked Writer, David Burton, and Director, Lewis Jones, to tell us about what it means to re-visit this moving play and offer it up to a whole new audience. Rehearsals started last week. Jones said, “It is a little surreal coming back to something, where it is almost entirely the same cast – four out of the five cast members are the same.” The only change of cast we’ll see for this tour is Belinda Raisin replacing Kathryn Marquet.

Jones explains, “The initial creative development process came directly out of the events on which the play is based, in that David Burton began conducting interviews on which to base his verbatim work within four or five months of Kristjan’s death. There were then three intense creative developments between then and the final rehearsal period. The show premiered in July 2010, some fifteen months after Kristjan died. It was a very raw and immediate process for all involved, which I think made its impact very raw and immediate as well.”

Writer, David Burton

Burton notes, “It was originally commissioned by the Empire Theatre Project’s Company. So Lewis Jones, the director, is the brains behind this whole project. I quickly caught Lewis’ passion for the piece and ran with it. When you sit down and hear the story for the first time it’s pretty astonishing, and we had Kristjan’s father’s journal as source material too. Lewis’ passion, along with the family’s desire for positive change in the community, really fueled the project and turned it into what it was.”

Director, Lewis Jones

As Director and the person who had to instigate the production – it was a high-risk undertaking – Jones was not sure how the local community would react. “I knew that it was a story that was both innately theatrical but more importantly, it was a story that needed to be shared. And I feel that this is why it has been received so positively by audiences. It is a story that we share with the audience very gently and with a great deal of love. It is not sensational. It is not ‘dramatic’ in the usual sense of the word.

We have found that audiences appreciate the gentleness and the directness of the storytelling and young people respond very positively to the work, because it respects their ability to make up their own mind. At no point does the play tell them whether to take drugs or not to take drugs; it just tells the story of one boy who took drugs.

At a Conference I was talking to Nicole Lauder who is a close family friend of the Terauds family. At the time, Nicole was General Manager of La Boite Theatre and in asking her how she was, she shared that she had just been up in Toowoomba watching the son of a friend die. She asked if it was time to revisit Margery Forde’s X-Stacy and I suggested that it was probably time for a new work within this genre.

She put me in touch with David, Kristjan’s father who had written a journal entitled ‘April’s Fool’ chronicling the last days of his son’s life. It was a devastating read and I asked if it could form the basis of a new theatre work and very generously the Terauds family gave permission for the development of the work.”

Burton interviewed family members and friends to get the full story. I asked if this was a “difficult” process.

“Difficult is too simple a word. It was one of the most beautiful and awful experiences of my life. It’s still haunting. Obviously you’re sitting with people who are going through massive grief, so it’s very sad. But you really become aware of how much love is in a community, and how much a death can affect so many people. It was never difficult finding people. Overall, people were very willing to come forward and talk quite openly. The community was extremely gracious and generous with their stories.”

The result of such generous, courageous community sharing is a new breed of verbatim theatre. Burton notes, “If I can make up an entirely new label, I’d say April’s Fool is a ‘narrative verbatim’. We were always very focussed on the narrative. We don’t stop too often to really stop and smell the roses and reflect in this play. I always wanted to keep the story moving. So in that sense I think audiences shouldn’t expect a ‘discussion’ about the event that you can see in some verbatim plays. April’s Fool tells you a story. That was always it’s main goal.”

Not an easy story to share.

Even so, neither Jones nor Burton had any misgivings and they remained consultative throughout the process, allowing those interviewed to have a seven-day cooling off period. He says that the immediacy of the interviews was of utmost importance to allow it to be part of the grieving and healing process. Jones observes, “I guess that is how the rehearsal process is different this time. There is a distance from Kristjan’s death. The mood in the rehearsal room is somewhat more reflective. The premiere season had an urgency to it, this remount is perhaps a little gentler, though nonetheless powerful, and it is underpinned with the knowledge that this is a show that has proven its artistic merit and its ability to have a positive impact on the communities where it is performed.”

During the original rehearsal process, Burton says he was involved as much as any writer. “I would pop in every week or so to check in, tweak things and make changes. Lewis Jones and I work extremely well together, so there was the occasional phone call where we’d bounce around ideas. I was there when we showed the parents for the very first time. That was one of the most memorable days of my life. But overall, it was such a pleasure to work with the team.  It’s a superb cast and crew.”

“There were a few key people with this script that really bounced it along,” says Burton. “The most influential was Lewis Jones, along with Christie Tickell and Michael Futcher. There was other advice from the cast along the way too. Theatre’s a collaborative art form, and especially with a piece like this it’s important to remember that you (the writer) actually has very little spiritual ownership of it. So if someone suggests an idea that’s brilliant, who am I to complain? Once again, the team behind this was brilliant, so I always felt the script was in good hands.”

As well as holding an open call for actors who would complete his cast, Jones handpicked Barbara Lowing and Allen Laverty, whose work he had known for many years. “I knew I could trust them with the material,” he said. “There is an added dimension to working on material you know to be real and immediate and all the cast met what I will call the main players over the creative development process, with David Burton perhaps operating as a conduit; he had, after all, conducted the interviews and built close relationships with the family and close friends. The most important thing for the family is summed up by Kristjan’s mother, Helena who said, when asked why she was prepared to let this tragic story be shared, said, ‘If I can stop another mother going through what I have been through, then it is worth it.’”

Interestingly, Kristjan does not appear in the play, nor do we hear his voice. Burton says, “It was an instinct. The very first thing I knew about the play was that it wouldn’t feature Kristjan in any real physical sense. The fact he’s not there is what the play is really about. And an attempt to reenact his life or have someone play him flirts dangerously with bad taste. I kind of really like that by the end of the play you feel like you know Kristjan, but you still feel like he’s incredibly mysterious. I think that’s really important to the piece.”

I wondered what that original opening night would have been like, as a member of that community, as a member of that family…

Burton remembers, “The opening night was huge. It was terrifying. But then the lights went down and it all played out and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We all hung around with the family and the cast and it was a really beautiful symbol of a community coming together. Kristjan’s whole community seemed to be really pleased with it. From there, the play’s had pretty amazing affects. We get feedback from every show that blows us away. It’s changing lives, which is what Kristjan’s parents originally wanted.”

I asked Burton if he thought April’s Fool should be mandatory reading/viewing for high school students. He said, “I’m biased, so of course I think yes. But I certainly don’t think it would hurt! We’ve had people come to this show and say things like ‘I never knew theatre could do that.’ We’ve had teenagers come and then go home to their parents and confess their drug problems that same afternoon. We’ve had several local politicians see the show and say that every teenager and parent should be exposed to it. I think it’s a vital issue, and I do think that there’s very little out there that talks about these issues in quite the way that April’s Fool does. I think it’s rare you get a play like this.”

Original audiences might want to see this production again. “They might want to bring a friend or a young person who is now in the age group who are most deeply affected by these issues, but who was not the last time it can around,” says Jones.

The response from school groups has already been phenomenal. When the government doesn’t show their support for the arts, it’s vital that schools and parents do and it’s pleasing to see so many families, teachers and principals prioritising a student trip to this show.

“They witnessed real characters, real feelings and real reactions. It shocked them, it challenged them, it angered them, it saddened them, it made them laugh and it made them cry. This was the first performance my students have been really passionate about.”

Michelle Radunz, Drama Teacher at Chinchilla State High School

“I was amazed by the rapt attention of the large audience of school students. They appeared to hang on every word. For me, this is clear evidence of the play’s success in reaching its target audience who will hopefully consider and discuss the issues long after the season has finished.”

Katherine Lyall-Watson, ourbrisbane.com

April’s Fool is a real, raw, affecting story but Jones would not describe it as “hard-hitting.” Rather, he explains, it is “remarkably gentle – profound, moving, beautiful, sad. From my perspective it is an act of love. The work opens up discussion on a difficult topic. This work will save lives.”

April's Fool is available at australianplays.org

Kate Foy reviewed the world premiere in Oakey, near Toowoomba, in 2010 and likened the play to – “a piece of art and in form and intention” – a quilt, with its fragments of deep feelings and shared history. I was curious about what made the final cut.

“There were long and very confidential conversations between Lewis Jones and I about certain pieces of information. You’re going to encounter that with any verbatim play. There are some moments in the play that we took a small (and very calculated) risk by including, because we felt they were important. There are other moments that we sacrificed along the way. Sometimes this was because it was information that was too sensitive. But almost all of the time it was simply because a moment didn’t work because of fairly mundane theatrical reasons.

We have to wonder if the experience of telling a difficult story is a cathartic experience for those involved in its telling. Burton notes, “The six or so months that I worked with the family was fantastic. I can’t speak on their behalf of what their emotional experience was like, but I know a lot of them felt positively about it. I think it’s dangerous to assume these things can always be cathartic. Grief is a funny and mysterious beast. For one person it may be ‘cathartic’, for another it can be extremely dangerous. The only reason we ever went ahead with the project was that the family (who have been involved in theatre before and understood what would happen) were so enthusiastic for it. They really wanted it to happen. I feel humbled and honored to be a part of it. It remains one of the things I’m most proud of (creative work or otherwise) in my life.”

Burton is currently writing a couple of plays for school audiences with Grin and Tonic Theatre Company. He’s also writing a new work, which will premiere at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba in September. “I have a weekly podcast that I do with a mate about arts in Queensland (stuffandthings.com.au) and I’m polishing off a couple of novels that will hopefully see the light of day quite soon.”

As Director of Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre, Jones continues to seek out work that “transcends the ordinary by putting us in touch with the intangible.” He points out, “Yes, that last sentence is not logical. Perhaps it sums up my artistic heart.”

Jones’ support for new work, new talent and the growth of the industry in general does not go unnoticed. He says, “I carry with me a belief in the ability of EVERY one – artist or not – to have their life enriched by the arts. There is a lot of shit that goes on around the arts, and so I like to focus on ‘the work’. In the end it is about connecting artists to audiences and audiences are our masters.

There are audiences out there with a hunger for productions that feed them – perhaps – spiritually and it is our task to make work that transcends the ordinary.

My hope for Queensland is that we continue to acknowledge that we have some brilliant theatre makers and that we have the capacity to take that to audiences near and far – and that we do not need to validate what we do by seeking approval from afar.

It’s about the work and supporting artists to develop business models that allow them to build genuinely sustainable practice.”

Book online to see April’s Fool at the Judith Wright Centre or Nambour Civic Centre

 

 

 

14
Feb
12

Dominic Nimo: As You Like It

Dominic Nimo is probably not a name you’ll recognise…yet.

David Berthold’s La Boite production of Shakespeare’s comedy, As You Like It, marks Nimo’s professional debut. It’s an impressive first step into the professional arena and one for which he’s grateful and also tres excited about.

Nimo graduated in 2009 from QUT’s Fine Arts Acting Course. He says he entered as an extremely quiet and shy 17 year old.  The three years at QUT, training with the same 10 individuals daily, was an intense period.

Nimo’s biggest influences during acting training came from the countless mentors and the “very confronting yet valuable” Eric Morris System classes. Required reading was Eric Morris (No Acting Please). “He has many books, however; this was the first book I read as a student and it was a real introduction to Acting as a craft.” You can order Morris’s texts online from our friends at the Book Nook.

Nimo says he felt like a giant sponge, soaking up everything he could. The directors who came in to direct the actors’ 2nd and 3rd year shows were influential across all areas of Nimo’s acting training. “We were very fortunate to have such big names as Sean Mee, Bille Brown and Jennifer Flowers, to name but a few, not only direct us but also teach us throughout the entire process,” he says.

Nimo decided early to pursue acting as a career, simply for the love of it. I guess there are not many of us who go into the arts to make a fortune. “It’s very hard to explain to people the high an actor feels whilst on stage or on location for a shoot; the adrenalin that shoots through your body before you walk on stage for a show can only be compared to jumping out of an airplane before parachuting.  I love theatre, I love film and I love music; there isn’t anything else I would rather do.”

Nimo’s parents support his ambition. From the small island of Samoa, they moved to Australia in 1987; English was their second language. Nimo grew up the youngest of the family (he has two sisters and a brother). “My parents were always very hard-working and from a very young age I was well aware that my parents had moved here to give us greater opportunities in life. It was because of that reason that I felt like I could pursue anything and when I told my parents I wanted to act  they were nothing but supportive. They are very much like my biggest fans and I cannot express how thankful I am that they moved here, otherwise who knows what I would be doing.”

It seems that nothing will deter this ambitious young performer, though he notes, “This is a very tough industry to be in and I have learnt that first-hand from the two years I have been out of QUT. It is very easy to have your spirit broken or lose sight of your passion, however my parents did not raise a quitter. I have a very strong support system so I am not going anywhere.”

Berthold cast Nimo as Silvius, the ideal ‘Courtly Lover’ who is, Nimo explains, concerned only with his incomparable love for Phoebe, despite that love not being reciprocated. “There are many varieties of love explored throughout the play and Silvius introduces the foolery of love, suffering anything for the sake of his beloved Phoebe. I think we all, as humans, have had a lapsed moment where we became fools in love so in that respect, I can relate to Silvius. I have learnt that with characters like him it’s important to play the truth, play his heartbreak and play through the comedy, and the character will come naturally.”

Nimo is one of two new actors to the La Boite stage for this production. He says he was was extremely nervous being “one of the newbies” (Luke Cadden is the other), especially coming into a cast that has so many respected Brisbane actors.

Helen Howard (Hamlet, Colder) and Thomas Larkin (Hamlet, Julius Caesar) lead the 18-strong cast as lovers Rosalind and Orlando. Berthold said, “I needed a brilliant Rosalind. She is the indisputable centre of the play and Helen is indisputably brilliant. The role requires an actor of maturity, and Helen has that in the best possible mix of intelligence, experience and sexiness”

Berthold adds, “She needs to be matched, and Thomas was my one and only choice. He was great in Hamlet, but he blew us away as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar. “They complement each other fantastically – there’ll be sparks.”

Joining Helen and Thomas are familiar faces Helen Cassidy (Orphans), Kathryn Marquet (Ruben Guthrie), Bryan Probets (Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness), Hayden Spencer (Ruben Guthrie), Trevor Stuart (Hamlet), Kate Wilson (Water Wars).

Nimo has felt completely comfortable working with the actors he has admired for so long. “Everyone has been nothing but welcoming and I am very thankful for this amazing experience. I am very quiet in the rehearsal room and that is because, much like at uni, I feel like a sponge, observing and soaking up everything that I can.  I admire how free the cast is and how openly they play in the rehearsal room – sometimes when you are new you find yourself just trying to do everything right and forget everything else. That is the greatest lesson I have learnt from this experience.”

And what of working with one of our pre-eminent directors? Nimo acknowledges Berthold’s wealth of experience and observes that “he is not afraid to offer that to the young actors. This is evident by the eight student actors from QUT and Southbank Institute of Technology he has cast in this production. This is the first year that La Boite has had an actors internship program and it is great because David directs us all the same and that is very beneficial for a student actor.” Can working with a great director and with great actors help in becoming a great actor? Nimo says yes. “I think that is where you can learn the most.” Nimo admires the work of many actors, listing Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Drew Barrymore, Angela Basset and Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush among those who have most influenced him thus far. Nimo says he is “a complete sucker for American reality TV.” He also keeps up with Spirited and Boardwalk Empire. He saw George Clooney in The Descendants and he’s currently reading Telesa- The Covenant Keeper by writer/blogger/teacher, Lani Wendt Young. (She’s a mother and wife as well as a writer and she states that in her ideal world, she “wouldn’t need to sleep. Ever. I would just stick my finger in a light socket and get a boost of energy whenever I got tired.”) Not just an actor, Nimo also sings. He says he loves music as much as acting. Perhaps the secret to Nimo’s boundless energy is the light socket of which Wendt Young speaks.

If Nimo were not acting, he says he would still love to be involved in the arts. “I’d love to be an A&R for a record label.” In the meantime, he’ll continue  “trucking along” on his journey as an actor and “hope for more amazing opportunities like this one to come my way.”

In the last two years, with Berthold at the helm, La Boite has tackled two of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. “This time around David has chosen one of Shakespeare’s most infamous comedies,” Nimo reminds us. “This play is so free and playful and at times you will find yourself in tears from laughter, and as opposed to the other two plays, As You Like It ends with one of the most beautiful endings.”

One of the most famous lines from the play is uttered by Jaques, who observes, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” Nimo believes that this means the world is bigger than just one person. “For me it really puts everything into perspective. We come into this world, we play our part and then we exit.”

 

Rosalind falls in love with the younger Orlando at a wrestling match, as you do. Banished from the city by her usurping uncle, she disguises herself as a man, as you would.With her best friend Celia by her side, she seeks refuge in the magical Forest of Arden where she meets Orlando again and teaches him the art of love, just as she likes it.

As You Like It

at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre, Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove Village

Show Times: Tues & Wed 6.30pm, Thurs – Sat 7.30pm

Matinees 2pm Sat 24 Mar and selected mid-week shows Season 18 Feb – 24 Mar

Previews 18, 21, 22, 23 Feb (Tickets from $28)

Director: David Berthold, Designer: Renée Mulder, Lighting Designer: David Walters, Composer and Sound Designer: Guy Webster,

Assistant Directors: Heather Fairbairn and Steven Mitchell Wright

with Luke Cadden (Oliver), Helen Cassidy (Celia), Helen Howard (Rosalind), Thomas Larkin (Orlando), Kathryn Marquet (Phoebe), Dominic Nimo (Silvius), Bryan Probets (Touchstone), Hayden Spencer (Duke Frederick/Corin/Audrey), Trevor Stuart (Jaques/Adam) and Kate Wilson (Duke Senior).

Also featuring students actors from QUT and Southbank Institute of Technology: Thomas Carney, Hanna Galbraith, Thomas Hutchins, Jordan Kadell, Lucy-Ann Langkilde, Jerome Meyer, Alec Snow and Mahala Wallace.