Monday, May 30, 2011

Unblocked A's: Messengers of Mercy?

The Unblocked A's are a group of six writers, past participants in PTC's Block A. They meet regularly in the PTC library to share work and support each others' process.

Is it morally right to eat from the opening night buffet when you hated the show?

This was my question, brought up at our last Unblocked A gathering; a few of us had seen a show in the past week and we were discussing it.

“Of course you should. The more terrible the show the more you should eat.”

And… “No, don’t touch it. It’s there to celebrate. And if you hated the show you’re not celebrating.”

This lead to another question: can there be a messenger of mercy? This would be a person who comes to the writer, or director, or producer, before deposits are paid, before handshakes are shook, and before the grant applications are sent in, and says, ‘This script is not ready. I know you want it to be, but it’s not.’

The show we saw was interestingly produced but the script was thin. With a messenger of mercy, the script would have gone through a few more drafts, and would have had a chance at being really unique, instead of another mediocre just-add-it-to-the-bio show.

I know, theatre is tough; tough to watch, tough to make, but every underdeveloped script just grinds away at our dwindling audience. Can’t we strive for fucking brilliant? Maybe it just grinds away at me.

There can’t be a messenger of mercy, for a million good reasons, but we could imagine there is one. Maybe the question should be, just because you can produce a show, should you?

Personally, I’ve always been blessed in this regard; anyone who reads my work has become a messenger of mercy.

But, I did inch closer to ‘unity’ this week; that’s where the ideas in my head nearly match the voices on the page. The first 25 pages of my script were read out loud; it wasn’t great but it’s getting nearer. Much better than two weeks ago when the same 25 pages were read; and that was bad, uncomfortable bad. This process of having work continually read out loud is brutal and insightful.

Melissa also had her first act read. I was really impressed. It’s a luxury witnessing the development of someone else’s work.

Unblocked A… we’re chipping away.

Stanley Katz

Monday, May 23, 2011

Trunk Redux: murrhaus meets Craning Neck

PTC Associate Jeremy Waller, in rehearsal with Craning Neck and murrhaus
at The Gam Gallery

Head to The Gam Gallery Friday or Saturday night to see the reinterpretation of Jeremy Waller's Trunk (originally produced at Box Studios, 2010, PTC Colony 2009). With kinetic sound and image, Craning Neck and rock band murrhaus immerse the audience in an energy, a mood, an event.

Trunk: A Fantasy Installation in 3 Movements: Utopia, Affliction, Space
Friday, May 27 at 9:30pm - May 29 at 1:00am
The Gam Gallery 110 E. Hastings, Vancouver

Created By
Jeremy Waller, Adriana Bucz, Simon Driver

Presented by Craning Neck Theatre
May 27th and 28th - Come anytime between 9:30pm and after Midnight.
$10 at the door, cheap bar, beer wine and spirits.
IMAGE AND ROCK N ROLL, this show takes you inside an entirely new world - the London Blitz and a present day After-Hours Club... SEE IF YOU CAN FIND YOUR WAY OUT
The show loops but constantly generates, stay for the whole journey, or come late for a drink, a dance, and a stroll through delicious image and sound.

Kathleen Pollard, Adriana Bucz, and Simon Driver in rehearsal

Directed by Jeremy Waller
Performances by
Jordan Bodiguel
Adriana Bucz
Simon Driver
Kathleen Pollard

Live Rock n roll by Murrhaus

Lighting Design by Kyla Gardiner
Sound Design and Composition by David Mesiha

Check out

Jeremy Waller and Kathleen Pollard

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In development: Sea of Sand

Tuesday afternoon, I looked up from my computer to see dolphins frolicking in the waves. It wasn't a hallucination (though that's always possible when working in the theatre of the mind); I was on the ferry, Vancouver-bound, after a productive script session on my major summer project, The Only Animal's Sea of Sand, by TOA Managing Artistic Director Eric Rhys Miller. Ferry travel and lunch at Molly's Reach were definite perks to start my dramaturgical week, but the real treat was spending 48 hours in one very imaginative playwright's universe - Eric Rhys Miller's. One of the appeals of writer's retreats is the chance to have free ranging discussions about the work, to socialize with your creative team, to eat together and see each other outside of our professional roles. Being hosted by the playwright offered similar benefits - break time that included family frolicks in the woods; delicious home cooking from the playwright himself; and a chance to tap into the writer's rhythm while we worked in the same room on different parts of the play. We're entering a transitional stage, conceiving the directing plan while still firmly rooted in a detailed comb-through of the text. We both moved fluidly from laptop to script hard copy to notebook, sorting the physical image bank from the big picture plot from the actor-preparation notes. We'll be working with actors starting June 6th, and I can't wait to hear the casts' voices breathing the script into being before we get out on the beach in July.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Theatre heaven

Jan Derbyshire, PTC Associate, reports on her recent adventures in Dublin and London...

I have finished my Dublin run of Funny in the Head that included some spanky reviews and a standing ovation for the last show. I have never been able to say anything like that for one of my little shows. Usually people only stand up to leave at the end so when they just stood there, I thought this must be some Irish thing - We all stand together at the end of a show and wait for a bit. But then the clapping gave it away. My God, this is for the show. I am incredibly grateful for the response to the shows, the reviews, the people who hung out afterwards for conversations and the people who came more than once.. The conversations were wonderful, sometimes about the issues in the show but mainly about the craft and the language and people remembering little bits and quoting them back to me. It is a city of readers and theatre goers that love words and a good story. I am proud of my little play and thank all those who helped me get to it. So, really, what could be better than that.

yesterday in London I stumbled across a matinee of Hamlet at the Globe Theatre. Krikee. I may just be a girl off the farm because what a thrill for this little Alberta girl who tried to read Shakespeare on her own at 13 to see Hamlet in the bard's own theatre. Groundlings pay 5 pounds and stand to watch the show. Best seat I never had. Then bedazzled and teary-It was Fantastic- I wandered into the theatre district and happened to get a return ticket for War Horse. Oh do google pictures of the horse puppets. Anyway, workshopping a new play, Wabi Sabi for the next three days. Today's workshop was revitalizing and challenging. Home now for rewrites. I love theatre, I love stories....may I always be able to return to innocence after experience. (Blake)

As is,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nine Tenths: a process converation with Tim Carlson and Richard Wolfe

Dramaturg Heidi Taylor asked PTC Associate Tim Carlson and director Richard Wolfe to reflect on the development process for Tim's Associates project, Nine Tenths. We spent a few days in the studio in March with actors Craig Erickson and Sarah Louise Turner, while Tim delved into the meta-theatrical nature of the play. Nine Tenths investigates the rehearsal process, through four characters' journeys moving from development, through rehearsal, to technical rehearsal, to opening night.

HT: You two have worked together on Tim's new plays before in your longstanding partnership as co-AD's of Theatre Conspiracy (1995-2008) before Richard took the reins at Pi Theatre. How does Nine Tenths' process differ from your previous collaborations?

We used a similar methodology in the past working on short plays that had built-in deadlines similar to the goals we set for this workshop. In those scenarios we also ended up putting the plays on their feet during the workshopping process because they were written for specific events that had immediate production deadlines. For the full length plays we've worked on together, the time-line was much longer and in many ways, more like this process. The PTC workshop / residency process has became a kind of methodological hybrid.

TC: Yes, panic fed those early piece to a great degree. Often we would take a 12-20 page script, rehearse/workshop for a week and then put it up at a cabaret. Did this maybe a half-dozen times. It was exciting to write in that context. It was similar for two one-acts,
The Chronicle Has Hart (1999) and Night Desk (2001). Omniscience (2004) was written as my masters' thesis at UBC so it was structurally sound when we got to rehearsal but we still did a lot of discovery and rewriting in rehearsal. For Diplomacy (2006), I worked a lot with Martin Kinch prior to rehearsal but I was rewriting still in tech week, I think. I learned to feed off the rehearsal process as a playwright and Richard and I often talked of bringing an outline into a workshop and writing the whole thing in the room. The Associate program affords the opportunity. Rehearsal is the setting, largely, for Nine Tenths so I think it works on multiple levels as process.

HT: There's a thread in the piece about the relationship between autobiography and art; we all use our personal histories as source material for making theatre. How do you inhabit that territory and not get overwhelmed? Is it easier working with someone who knows the facts from which the fiction is derived? Is it challenging not to bring references into the room?

RW: Tim said there was a lot of me in the play. I'm not even certain which bits he's speaking about. I think I recognize some of the permutations, but I'm definitely not sure about all of it. And being such old friends, I recognize aspects of his story in there as well. But we never discussed any of that during the workshop. Ultimately Nine Tenths is a work of fiction and we wanted to work with the material as something that lived strongly on its own terms.

TC: There is a lot of Wolfe in the play, I think. His approach to working with actors and playwright. That's all I'll say at this point. Don't want him to think it's all about him. Nine Tenths is ultimately a play about relationships and there's a lot of my experience and thinking about the subject in the play. On one hand, I want to be brave and confront some things to see if this process and the resulting chemistry change my way of thinking — discover something new. At the same time, the relationships of lots of people around me can't help but inform the piece as well. And because of those competing influences, fiction is taking over. There aren't any moments in the piece that are strictly autobiographical.

HT: There's a pressure from our current context - and perhaps an attraction and benefit - to make process visible, to share the making of any "product" as a way to develop relationships with our audiences. What are the tradeoffs for you two in making process visible? What are the risks?

RW: Unfortunately our culture does tend to often look at art as "product" with all the commercial implications that word carries. I'm of two minds about inviting the public into the rehearsal room to view the creative process. The actors, director, stage managers and dramaturg enter into an unwritten agreement about the shared experience of a rehearsal room that's safeguarded by a professional familiarity with what it takes to make theatre. There's real risk and danger in it. Any given moment can be volatile and unpredictable. I'm happy to invite guests in to view a part of the process chosen for their benefit, but even then there's a certain amount of censorship going on in the room that comes from being aware that there are strangers in a very private space, intently listening and watching everything play out. This can put the creative practice into an artificial state to a greater or lesser extent. Families tend to behave somewhat differently when they have guests over for dinner. Because our Canadian rehearsal culture is so painfully short, it's difficult not to want to use every minute fully without worrying about what a stranger (possibly a potential sponsor) might be thinking about what they're seeing and hearing. At the same time I'm aware that most people recognize an invitation into a rehearsal is a kind of gift and, in my experience, treat it with the utmost respect.

TC: In the play, we see two actors working on a new script, from first read to opening night. One thing I've always loved about rehearsal is seeing how an actor's personality as well as talent shapes a character and my conception of the piece. Nine Tenths seeks to expose some of the magic as part of the story. I don't see a huge amount of risk there — it's simply a behind-the-scenes story. More generally, I like the idea of exposing process or trade secrets if it serves the work. The journalist part of me leans in that direction. I'm in rehearsals now for Theatre Conspiracy/GasHeart Theatre's Macbeth: nach Shakespeare and in terms of violence and sound effects we're taking about making the process or tricks visible in some senses — the discussion being what we can do in the theatre that's different from what we experience in mainstream film. Interesting in a piece that's a curtain-to-curtain bloodbath.

HT: This was the first of a series of workshops for Nine Tenths through Tim's residency with the PTC Associates. What's the next stage in the process?

TC: In our one-week workshop the script went from 20 pages of scenes to about 60 pages — almost all of the scenes are at least sketched out. I'd like to do another few days of workshopping in the summer. I'm jotting notes about the script and doing a little research but I wonder if I should resist reading it or rewriting before the workshop. My impulse, I guess, is to stick to the idea of writing in rehearsal and then doing detailed rewrites later.

Theatre Conspiracy/GasHeart Theatre's Macbeth: nach Shakespeare opens May 21. Go here for tickets.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Keeping tourist and actor happy

Jan Derbyshire's update from the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival...

Three shows down and three to go. The response has been good and I'm having many fabulous conversations after the shows. Most of these start with being told how the Irish tend to just sweep things under the rug and not talk about them and how the show sort of just blows everything up and out right there in front of them. There is a review on the festival site It's a review to promote the show but it does express the audience response to the show I think.Outside of the performance I struggle with balancing the needs of the actor and the wants of the tourist. I made it out to Howth on the train yesterday for a breath of fresh Irish sea air. I had a great coffee shop conversation with Jean who at one time worked the sex lines in Vancouver. Wild conversation by the Wild Sea. Just finished the novel Ghost Light by Joseph O' Connor about the playwright J.M.Synge and his lover the actress, Marie O'Neill. Beautifully written and soaked in the history of the Abbey Theatre. Okay Tourist wants to return to Trinity College and sit in the history of the library there but the actor needs a nap. Bought Synge's famous Playboy of the Western World and will read a bit before I nod off.

Above: Keeping tourist and actor happy. Studying lines at the end of the Quay near Samuel Beckett Bridge.

Dublin Bike that I get around town on.
Cheap rent and many locations about town.

As is,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jan Derbyshire reporting from Dublin

PTC Associate Jan Derbyshire is performing her solo show, Funny in the Head, at the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival, May 2-7, 2011. She's sending us updates, as we jump up and down with glee at having one of our Colonists (i.e. PTC Colony 2009 alumna) take on the UK.

I am working on my Dublin tan much to the chagrin of the festival organizers. They are praying for rain as attendance soars in the drab of the drizzle or so I'm told. I'm trying not to smile too much about the sun but it is lovely sitting by the Liffey River, reading my lines and sipping damn fine coffee. I already have a crush on this city where writers walked and talked and plays are shelved along with other fiction. No pathetic little teeny tiny shelf off to the side of poetry but right among the novelists. And not just Ibsen and Shakespeare and Shaw but a lovely array of new plays too. And book stores have not gone the way of the Do Do bird here. There seems to be one every few blocks or so. Not as prolific as pubs but if people need to drink a lot I'm glad they're reading too. First show is tomorrow night and I am both nervous and excited and afraid and confident. A nice mixed state of feelings. Being together and scrambled suits me well in this 1000 year old city where one side was carefully gridded out and planned and the other side is a hodge podge that just made itself up as it went along. Pictured is some new royal friends that I met on my way through London's Gatwick airport on Friday. And me standing in the Gate Theatre before seeing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And it was hot!

As is,