Artistic Directors

the nytheatre i: Kickoff! — Stolen Chair Theatre’s Community Supported Theatre

Here’s the first dispatch from Jo Ann Rosen, nytheatre.com’s “embedded journalist” with the Stolen Chair Theatre’s Community Supported Theatre program.

*****

November 22, 2009

Even before President Obama urged educators to concentrate their efforts on math and science, Stolen Chair Theatre co-artistic directors Jon Stancato and Kiran Rikhye were reaching for the stars. Last night, they launched the pilot program of their Community Sponsored Theatre (CST) that introduced friends, family and, most importantly, the new CST members to this year’s theatrical theme: Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage.

The evening, divided into two parts, began with a slide presentation by Jon, also the resident director, explaining the CST concept, which he hopes will solidify a long-term relationship between the theater group and its membership. The plan is to update and educate the members monthly on the creative process. Kiran, Stolen Chair’s resident playwright, focused on their mission statement: to create “playfully intellectual, wickedly irreverent and exuberantly athletic original works.” Aviva Meyer, the communications director, explained how they intend to increase awareness through telephone interviews that will become pod casts and through their online social network, The Chaise Lounge, where subsequent CST events and other related activities, will be posted.

But it was the second part of the evening that delivered on the CST concept; that is, they shared the result of their first steps in the dynamic process of creating a play. Seven actors re-enacted exercises developed during a recent creative retreat. To prepare for the retreat, each actor received a 211-page compilation of articles and books on a wide variety of scientific subjects, including theoretical physics and neuroscience. They also received books by Bertolt Brecht, Aristotle, and Richard Schechner, who, in Jon’s words, “approach theater with the same sort of empirical rigor as scientists.” During the retreat, ideas percolated and Jon added requirements and boundaries to the concepts. The actors interpreted and enacted them. The best of the compositions were presented at the kickoff.

Performances represented the personification of five theories: chaos, gravity, memory, evolution, and synethesia (senses crossing from one part of the brain to another, as from brain damage or drugs). The first exercise, made up of all seven actors, reflected an imaginative interpretation of a human collider creating new matter. The group, held tightly together by a hula hoop, moved slowly to center stage. Once the plastic ring dropped, each burst from the whole with great energy. Another performance related the story of The Three Little Pigs to represent three gravity-defining moments; a third showed the daily routine of two people that could easily have doubled for two rats in a maze. All were big scientific ideas applied to every day life. They were made comprehensible and whimsical by this very clever group.

Kiran, who will be giving shape to the final play, knows there will be lots of changes during this year-long collaboration. The final version may include parts of the exercises, maybe only a gesture, or none of it. But, what the charter members saw last night was the first spark of a new play – Quantum Poetics: A Science Experiment for the Stage. The next event is on Sunday, December 13. They will be screening clips from movies that explore scientific themes. Membership is still open.

*****

via the nytheatre i: Kickoff! — Stolen Chair Theatre’s Community Supported Theatre.

Philly Fringe: Off the Grid

Excerpt from centraljersey.com: “Off the Grid, on the Fringe” by Ilene Dube, August 26, 2009

Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, the creators of The MeLTING Bridge, Flamingo/Winnebago,¡El Conquistador!, and Red-Eye To Havre De Grace & Lost Soles, present a new theater festival to be powered entirely by renewable energy. Titled Off The Grid, the festival will take place concurrent with the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe and will feature three world premiere theater works and a hybrid performance concert. Off The Grid will be powered by solar panels, a wind turbine and bicycles and will take place in the heart of Old City, Philadelphia, at the Painted Bride’s new studios at 230 Vine St. The festival was conceived by Thaddeus Phillips and Tatiana Mallarino, co-artistic directors of Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental.

The program includes new work from Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental, New York based Magician Steve Cuiffo, Miro Dance Theater and a concert by the Mural & the Mint. Each work will be powered by a different renewable source — the only thing these artists promise to be plugging into is creativity.

Mr. Phillips, co-organizer of the festival within a festival, says “After creating two works that dealt with current environmental problems — Flamingo/Winnebago and The Melting Bridge — we wanted to create a work that explores solutions to those problems. We thought we would try something that has never been done before: create a visual theater work without plugging into the power grid. Realizing that it could be virtually impossible, we took it to the next level and decided to make a whole festival of it, and challenge other artists to create work “Off the Grid,” to make and perform multimedia pieces using only sustainable energy.”

Performances will rotate on a nightly basis. Mr. Phillips will perform in Microworld(s) Part 1, a world premiere and solo theater work set in Tokyo and played within a 3-foot-by-3-foot-by-8-feet white box. The play is about a man named Milo who is fascinated by Nikola Tesla, the comedian Bill Hicks and Fumio, his rubber duckie. Milo does not see the need to leave the self-contained world he lives in until he loses everything. This live action piece claims to be the first theater work constructed only out of recycled materials and special low-energy LED lighting.

Digital Effects will be powered by solar panels, Generate. Degenerate. will be powered by bicycle and the Mural & the Mint will be powered by solar, bike and “weza.”

Tickets cost $15

For more information, visit offthegridfest.org

ShareThis

Go to the Green Theater Initiative

Earth Matters On Stage: Wrap-Up

photo_052909_003

It’s been more than a week since the final days of this year’s Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama Symposium. I returned from Oregon to be immediately eaten alive by my other life: just coming up for air now and able to digest some of the great happenings and events. Hence this giant post.

The picture above is from day nine : that’s Ian Garrett and Naseem Mazloom of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts chillin’  on the lawn of the University of Oregon. After nine very full days of lectures, workshops, panels and a staged reading of Theresa May’s intense play Salmon is Everything, we  needed a break.

The very full final weekend  started off with an early-morning video conference with a UK contingent hosted by the  Ashden Directory. The overseas contributors overcame the fuzzy video and iffy sound quality of our current technology by preparing  a short film.

In it, several leading environmental artists, administrators and thinkers passed the philosophical baton by asking questions like: “How far is art worth the damage?” and “How can we reunite culture and agriculture through performance?” The room was brimming with ideas after that, and it was all we could do to get a few notions exchanged across the Atlantic before time ran out. Watch the video: do it now.

The stimulating conversation continued the next day with a panel called Theater’s Double Helix: Green Building and Sustainable Community Engagement.  Tim DuRoche and Creon Thorne of Portland Center Stage discussed their mecca of a green theatre: the folks from CSPA discussed their future mecca of sustainable practice.

Easily one of the most fascinating panels of the week, however, was the Northwest Theater Town Hall Meeting on Place/Community/Theatre. In it, Artistic Directors and administrators from a wide swath of Pacific Northwest Theaters (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Teatro Milagro, and the Lord Leebrick Theatre, to name a few), discussed how they strive to best serve their communities.

Issues of race surfaced, and not timidly (quote from Valerie Curtis-Newton of the Lorraine Hansberry Project: “Why does the marketing sound like an anthropological expedition? White people! Stop trying to sell me to other white people!”). The idea of non-local community also came under discussion (45% of OSF’s audience is from the SF Bay Area: the internet creates seas of non-geographic communities: PCS had Scrooge “twittering” during A Christmas Carol). All in all, great perspective from a group of seasoned professionals.

Somewhere within these ten days I led a panel and a workshop: there were also many, many other worthwhile performances and presentations (including a short play starring a Cedar Tree). Over the next few months I’ll do retrospectives of works I’ve missed: stay posted.

Garrett and I had to miss the last day to get back into California for work. We left exhausted, but excited about the future. The Earth Matters On Stage EcoDrama symposium was a kind of turning-of-the-soil, great groundwork for things to come. Thanks to the University of Oregon, Damond Morris, and Theresa May for making it happen.

Some greenmuseum.org ecology and performance links:

~enterchange

~Platform London

~Hester Reeve

~Simon Whitehead

Go to the Green Museum

Critical elements of change…

This Post was originally posted to Mike Lawler’s ecoTheaer blog on May 8, 2007. We are reposting it here to share this ecoTheater classic with new readers while MIke continues to regain his health. You can read his blog about his ongoing battle with cancer, The “C” Word, by clicking here.

Everyday I think about this subject more, and everyday I try to talk to someone who might help me see it a little more clearly. Most recently, I had lunch with Natalie George and Michael Massey, a theater professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He is not an expert on this subject by any means, but just having the opportunity to speak with folks and get an idea of what they think is enormously helpful. Nowadays I even dream about green theater–and the question that keeps rolling around in my brain, persistent, nagging, is whether or not it’s even possible. And, if it is, do those in power (the artistic directors, the business managers, the board members) care enough to make it happen? Or, maybe that’s the wrong way of looking at it–the question really is: do they believe the issue is critical enough to influence the decisions they make about their mission, and their funding? I’m not sure. But I have come up with a rough list of the elements that are at the center of the dilemma, the things that must be scrutinized and addressed if any of us are to help curb the world’s destructive path toward catastrophic environmental and human health dead ends.

1) The building —
    The buildings that house the performing arts may be the most detrimental to the environment of all. According to the U.S. Green Building Council(USGBC), commercial buildings are responsible for 70% of the electricity load in the United States. Furthermore, the USGBC estimates that “if half of new commercial buildings were built to use 50% less energy, it would save over 6 million metric tons of CO2 annually for the life of the buildings—the equivalent of taking more than 1 million cars off the road every year.” Those numbers are staggering. What’s worse, there is only one performing arts facility in the entire country that has taken the steps necessary to reduce its impact on the environment (see ecoLogue, April 26, 2007). This is not for lack of newly constructed or renovated facilities–consider the Guthrie’s new spaces, for which they spent nearly $200,000 on “utilities” in 2005! If theater facilities did their part in reducing the negative role that buildings play in our lives, we would make enormous strides.

2) Theatrical lighting systems —
    Chris Coleman of Portland Center Stage (PCS) told me last month that the necessary lighting equipment for the new Gerding Theater made it difficult to meet the USGBC LEED Platinum rating. Other areas of efficiency were ramped up significantly on the project in order to offset the amount of energy required by the desired system. While theatrical lighting companies, such as Electronic Theatre Controls, Inc. (ETC), have made moves toward efficiency (witness ETC’s ever popular line of Source Four equipment), they have a long, long way to go. 

3) Material waste —
    This is a subject that has come up time and again in ecoLogue–even in its short life. The fact is, theatrical production revolves around a process of creation and subsequent destruction. So much effort is devoted to imagining, designing, and building theatrical scenery–and yet, very little (or so it would seem) goes into what happens to all of it once the final curtain has fallen on a production. And even those who do consider the demise of scenery, allowing it at times to weigh heavily on their minds (see May 3, “Is Waste Inherent in Theater Production?”), can only do so much. Remember, reuse and recycle come after the all important reduce. This must become the central word in theatrical production. The problem, of course, is our fear of limiting the artistic process. No artistic director in the world wants to tell his or her creative teams to limit themselves in order that they may reduce the waste generated by their productions. But, is there a time that artists must step forward and play a role in change, rather than merely using what they may to comment on it? Reducing the use of non recyclable materials alone would go a long way in reducing a theater’s waste. Conceiving of a way to reuse and store (safely–perhaps off site) scenery would be another.

4) Toxic materials —
    Just have a look at the ecoLogue entry from April 27 up there (“Monona Rossol and the toxic, unsafe theater we create”), and you may begin to understand the often toxic stuff that we theater artists work with on a regular basis. Actually, that entry doesn’t really go into detail, but suffice it to consider these fields: scenic carpentry (welding, working with foam of all sorts, adhesives, stains, finishes, et cetera), props (ditto), and costumes (including wigs, makeup, millinery, crafts and dye–all using a myriad of toxic chemicals). Of course, there are laws and regulations in place that dictate the safe use of these materials, as well as their proper disposal, but guess what? According to Monona Rossol of Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety (ACTS), most theaters don’t abide the law. As has been written here before, simply acting in accordance with OSHA and EPA regulations would help reduce harm to both the environment and theater artists themselves.

There are, to be sure, other areas that will affect the environment and human health in theatrical production, but I think the four listed above are the worst offenders.