A Little Pageant Process Gallery

When it comes to making the River Clyde Pageant every summer, it often feels like we put our heads down and dive into creation work at the beginning of June and don’t come up for air until the end of July, when the first weekend of performances end.

There’s never enough time spent documenting the slow and complex magic of the process, simply because we can’t always remember to pull out our phones, nor is it very useful to extract ourselves from whatever project we’re working on, just to be the documenter.

But scattered in my phone are some real gems from the the making of this whale of a show. And since they don’t get much exposure beyond my iPhoto Library, I figured I could at least bring them into the world here. Click on through to see ’em up close.

 

Backstabbers!

Last weekend we got our lovely American and Canadian Pageant pals together for Backstabbers! An Evening of American/Canadian Reconciliation & Solidarity Salon at The Mill. Our countries can transcend trade wars and questionable government leaders, right?! All we need are some good tunes.

The event was organized by Marianne Rendon with Kathy Randels and Sean LaRocca, who had spent the past week with us leading The Singing River music workshop for The River Clyde Pageant. Lots of songs were shared over the two evenings, from Woody Guthrie to the McGarrigle Sisters, and there were some rousing group numbers too…a couple snippet-length videos to serve as evidence, below…

The answer is in your dreams

We had such a great time singing with our pals Kathy Randels, Sean LaRocca and Marianne Rendon at The Mill this past weekend. And we raised $1000 for the ACLU and RAICES Texas!

Posted by The River Clyde Pageant on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

 

The River Clyde Pageant: Take a load off Fanny…

Full Pageant jam from last night! Catch Backstabbers: An Evening of American & Canadian Folk Music again tonight at The Mill! 8-10pm, admission by donation and proceeds go to ACLU & RAICES.

Posted by The River Clyde Pageant on Saturday, July 7, 2018

 

 

Decoy at Chutzpah Fest

Ten Thousand Wolves performed Decoy at the Fox Cabaret, amidst 72 bedazzled duck decoys and an audience of humans, at the end of February as part of the 2018 Chutzpah Festival.

Ashley Aron styled us into fabulous wood nymphs. Dan O’Shea created badass projections, and Barbara Adler brought us all together in the spirit of musical collaboration (while also sharing the trade secrets of duck decoys and the perplexing art of paper flower making).

Here we are with our best singing faces:

All photos by Shanna Erienne.

Future Show snaps

Here are a couple shots from The Future Show, performed on Tuesday, January 30th at the Gold Saucer. I had the pleasure of performing to a full house, with unexpected accompaniment from the rattling furnaces of the studio. The furnace rattle has become so rare on Sawdust Collector evenings that I actually cut a line in reference to it in the hours before I performed, thinking it probably wouldn’t happen. My predictions failed in that department!

I was especially excited to share the piece with Deborah Pearson, originator of The Future Show, who was in town for PuSh. She presented her piece History History History earlier that evening at the VanCity Theatre, and we were both able to attend each other’s shows, which was so great.

Hannah Hall and her band were the second act of the night, and as predicted, her casual charm and songs about being a motherfuckin’ woman won me over.

The_Future_Show_1

 

The_Future_Show_2

Photos by: Ash Tanasiychuk

The Future Show will have a second life at the end of May, in Charlottetown! I’m looking forward to performing it at The Vessel on May 25 and 26, 2018. More details on that later.

The Future Show

The Future Show

This month, a performance! A performance I have been thinking about and wanting to do for a long time is finally happening! I am writing it, I am performing it, and yes, I am nervous about it.

It’s called The Future Show, and it was created by Canadian/UK theatre artist Deborah Pearson. She toured internationally with this show from 2012-2015, rewriting the script for each performance. In 2015, she published three versions of the script and a score/structure for anyone crazy enough to undertake their own adaptation of The Future Show (of that task, she writes, “I imagine that it will only be the keenest of theatre students or the most challenge-oriented yet humble artist”) . I am one of those artists.

I’ve been writing and re-writing since late October and through the holidays, an emotionally tumultuous time that provoked a lot of anxiety about the future, and about the choices I was making. I’m uncertain if writing The Future Show through that period helped or not – there was definitely a series of re-writes that occurred as I went through a breakup, and that sucked. The writing draws my attention to how we play these games of prediction every single day of our lives…or at least, I do. How I imagine the places where my tiny and monumental choices may lead me. How those choices inform who I am, just as much as the paths I don’t choose to follow do. The Future Show forces its writer to take a good long look at themselves – what values might I hold closely as I age and what might I cast aside, what things have I invented to create a personal sense of security, what nervous tics pulse through my mind on a daily basis? And, the most daunting task…how do I imagine my death?

By now, the writing is mostly done and I am working with Julie Hammond, who is lending her dramaturgical and directorial eyes to rehearsals. On January 30th, you can come see it in Vancouver!

All the official details below…

The Future Show, presented at Sawdust Collector, Tuesday, Jan 30, 9pm

Gold Saucer Studio

#211 – 207 West Hastings (Hastings & Cambie, above Nuba)

$5-10 sliding scale or PWYC

In The Future Show, a solo performer attempts to unveil her future, from the final moments of the performance to the final moments of her death. The Future Show engages with the games we can’t help but play: of prediction, of projecting ourselves into real and imagined possibilities, and examining doors opened and unopened.
Concept and score by Deborah Pearson
Text and performance by Megan Stewart
Direction and dramaturgy by Julie Hammond

 

September Grudge Match

A couple photos from last month, co-hosting the Underdog Instrument Grudge Match (and playing the role of snappy Accordion Publicist) with Barbara Adler for Accordion Noir 2017.

We gave scores on grassroots iPads, cheered for accordion supremacy, and were absolutely, totally not biased (we love you, team Musical Theatre!!!!!!!).

Accordion Noir 2017

Accordion Noir 2017

Accordion Noir 2017Photo credit: Roman Kralovic

 

Spring things!

I’m doing some fun projects this spring in Vancouver and Charlottetown before the wonderful madness of the River Clyde Pageant hits.

April 11 – New Works Residency at Sawdust Collector in Vancouver – I’ll be singing sparkly vocal harmonies with Ashley Aron & Shannon Scott for Barbara Adler & Ron Samworth’s third show as part of their New Works Residency. Beautiful songs that bring lichen-filled forests and lonely drop-in clinics to life, and might even bring a tear to your eye.

April 25 – Cicatrix at Sawdust Collector – I am co-directing a night of storytelling with Ker, focused on the scars, marks and traces we collect through our lives. We’re working with some local residents from the Downtown Eastside: Paul Decarie, Cori Kelly, and Mike McNeely, and together, we’ll share stories of the small and large events that have left marks on us.

May 13 – AfterImage at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery – I’m sewing up a storm in preparation for this. I’m making several garments for many people to wear at a time, drawing inspiration from artists such as Lygia Pape and James Lee Byars. Put on a hat for two, a cape for five, or a dress for ten, and dance the night away!

June, July, August is River Clyde Pageant time! Workshops begin in June, for stilt-walking and script-writing, followed by July music workshops with guest artists Kathy Randels & Maurice Turner, and puppet making with Ian McFarlane. We’re so excited to get to work with these folks, and with new and returning collaborators. The Pageant has five performances this year, over two weekends, running July 29-30 and August 4,5,6. Don’t miss it!

Sawdust Collector - AprilSpringtime promo for Sawdust Collector, graphic by Barbara Adler

 

 

Clotheslines

clotheslinesposter-small

I’m leading a workshop this weekend with Ashley Aron, a fierce style queen & theatre maker, at the Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood house. This workshop is building on research I started while in residence at Elsewhere this past August, and eventually, it will inform a new performance that I’m starting to create. There will be clothing! crafts! storytelling! tea & cookies! polaroids! All the info is below, and the facebook event is here.

-///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///—///-

Drop in to the Cedar Cottage Neighbourhood House between 12:00-4:00 pm on Saturday, December 10th and take part in a fun, hands-on workshop that looks at memory & identity through the lens of clothing & style. Free & open to all ages.

Take part in the workshop and…

  • Have your photo taken & tell us about your outfit. Don’t worry – every piece of clothing has a story, however small!
  • Write or draw your personal clothing memories & add them to the Clotheslines archive
  • Bring in an item (or items) of clothing to give away, and tag them with a story or memory. They’ll become part of the Community-sourced Closet & the clothing swap at the end of the day!
  • Meet your neighbours!

This initiative is made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between The Vancouver Foundation; Kiwassa, Cedar Cottage and Frog Hollow Neighbourhood Houses; the Government of Canada; and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast.

Go Elsewhere!

Elsewhere Museum

I’ve just started a month-long residency at Elsewhere museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. I arrived on Thursday morning and have been silently and not-so-silently squealing with glee at every moment. Elsewhere is my kind of heaven. It’s an artist/community space housed in a former thrift store, and it is absolutely chock-a-block FULL with stuff – toys, clothing, fabric, books, dishes, paper, suitcases, furniture, wood scraps, every kind of paraphernalia you can imagine. Artists come in on a regular basis and create works within the museum, using objects from the collection. I kind of can’t believe I get to be here for four weeks.

Arriving here from PEI, right on the heels of the conclusion of the River Clyde Pageant, I was close to burnt out. However, since I’ve stepped into this place, my head is overflowing with ideas…the problem is narrowing them down. Today is our project proposal day, and my proposal is centred around the collection items that grabbed my attention the quickest (first thought best thought?): the collection of vintage clothing that fills two whole rooms, floor to ceiling. I’m still formulating ideas and questions, but the plan is to use the clothes as a prompt for conversations around clothing, memory and identity with Elsewhere folks and local residents, and then find a way to create an installation space for a select number of clothing items and gathered stories and images.

It’s basically an excuse to play an elaborate game of dress up for a month.

May Swoons & Pageant Plans

Lots going on this spring…first off, the River Clyde Pageant received the good news that our application to the Canada Council’s Artists & Community Collaboration grant was successful, and that yes! we get to spend this summer on PEI making magical, collaborative, outdoor theatre. There will be blue herons on stilts, giant luminous jellyfish, trolls under the bridge, raft performances and much more coming to life in June and July as we lead the Pageant creation process. The two free performances will take place on July 30 & 31 in New Glasgow, followed by a free community supper for audiences and artists. We have a fancy new website, where you can see some of the amazing people working on the project, and sign up to get involved (if you’re on PEI this summer, you really should). Ker and I are heading to PEI at the end of May, and will be hosting two community meetings for anyone who wants to be involved. These meetings will outline the process, rehearsal and workshop schedule, and the various opportunities for involvement. First meeting is happening in Charlottetown on May 29, from 2 to 4pm, at the Art Bunker at Confederation Centre. Second meeting is happening in New Glasgow on June 5, from 2 to 4pm at The Mill.

In the meantime, I’m working with my favourite Vancouver collaborators (Barbara Adler, Kyla Gardiner, Rob Leveroos) to create an installation in Pandora Park, called Signals From the Mountain, which will playfully re-imagine the 2014 Burnaby Mountain pipeline protests through songs, objects and ephemera. We’re staging the installation at the Pandora Park Field House, in collaboration with friends from Vancouver’s Dance Troupe Practice. This is happening May 20-21 as part of a larger event called “Stories, Sounds and Supper” and has been funded through the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants Program.

Stories-Sounds-Supper-FB

January Update

It’s January – beginning of a new year and the beginning of my re-entry into the world of non-student life, because my MFA is totally done; thesis submitted, approved, now living within the vast catalogues of the SFU library. (And all I got was a two sentence form-letter congratulations. sigh.)

Things are at a slightly different pace now that I’m not worrying about pulling together a defense presentation or an artist statement or marking 50 essays on performance studies – but I still have lots to occupy me this month.

For starters – I am doing PR work and making old phones talk for a sparkly and squishy new show created by my friends from The Party, XXXX TOPOGRAPHY, which runs January 29-30 at Studio T at SFU Woodwards. Go, and be romanced by talking telephones, vibrating things, pillows that pillow-talk. There’s even a bar!

Building phones for XXXX Topopgraphy

Other things I’m up to include…

Learning Arduino, with the idea that eventually I’ll be able to make old phones talk better, and become more interactive. So far, I’ve made a robot-fan that turns on and off. Small steps…

Reading and being generally inspired by Deborah Pearson’s excellent performance script, The Future Show, which also includes structural guide for writing your own version, should you be so inclined. I might be so inclined.

Planning a month-long trip to Copenhagen, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, for a sweet, sweet friend-vacation with team Sappy. The fun starts February 2. Fingers crossed I meet some sheep.

 

Klasika Opens Tonight!

Klasika - Photo by Paula Viitanen

Since August, I’ve been in rehearsals for Klasika, a new musical by my friend and fellow MFA colleague Barbara Adler. But Klasika is more than just a musical. It’s been a year-long project of Barbara’s, which has included trips to the Czech Republic (to research tramping and then accidentally fall into a role in an HBO Europe staged-documentary called Amerika); collecting bandannas and cowboy-inspired clothing items from local thrift stores; and Czech-inspired vandrs in BC’s rural and urban landscape. Consequently, the process of building Klasika has felt less like a traditional rehearsal process and more like a long-term collaborative effort between friends, a series of small acts of editing this strange Czech subculture to see how it might fit into our lives, and how we can find the same feelings of freedom and community in the city of Vancouver. There have been vandrs along the seawall in search of wilderness and plywood; a community event in Pandora Park featuring denim-crafting, sharing songs, and watching a movie on a screen made of grass. There have also been many efforts that are less publicized, like sitting around a table sewing costumes and drinking whiskey while listening to CBC radio announce the election results, or driving to Surrey to pick up an acoustic guitar from Craigslist or a load of wooden logs. And that’s just scratching the surface of this massive, collective effort that is bringing Klasika to life.

Cowboy boots for Klasika - Photo by Paula Viitanen

I’ve been traipsing around the city in Western-themed outfits for the past two months, in my own personal research/preparation process for playing the role of Bára, Barbara’s fictionalized alter-ego in the show. My cowboy boots are looking well-loved, and my ankles are a bit stiffer than usual these days. It’s been well-worth it, and tonight I get to stride onstage in bright red cowboy boots for the opening of the show. The cast and production team have been going all out for the past few weeks, and, to reference Barb the Boot Fitter, “it’s the final moments of the rodeo”. So get your tickets, get your cowboy duds on, and come on down to SFU Woodwards for this gem of a show, this mountain of a collaborative, MFA musical. We’re all pretty proud of what we’ve made.

Here we go…Klasika!

The tramps of Klasika - Photo by Paula Viitanen

all photos by Paula Viitanen

 

 

The Builders Opens This Week!

Less than a week away from the opening of The Builders! The past month has brought many exciting changes and improvements to the show. We switched our venue from a standard black box theatre into the visual arts studio in the basement of Woodwards; a rougher, rawer space that gave us the ability to work and transform the space in an expansive, long-term way. Once we were given the go-ahead that we could perform in the Vis Arts Studio, the creative process changed dramatically. With basically a blank canvas in front of us, the final month of rehearsals became a game. The rules were simple – you had to claim your space by altering or transforming it with your materials, you could claim as much space as you wanted through these alterations, and you could work at any time and could expand in any direction, and the person who claimed the most space would win a substantial prize (the winner has yet to be named – I’ll wait until after the run). And since those new rules were laid out, the Visual Arts Studio has been completely transformed…

The Builders - Robert

The Builders - Rhinestone Cowboy

The Builders - Holy Jewel Home

Along with this shift of turning the process into a game, the structure of the piece also got a major re-draft. The builders as a collective group were killed (though their scenes did make an appearance during our Vines Festival performance) in favour of returning the focus to the individual ensemble members and their respective creative endeavours that they had been developing since the beginning of this process. More attention was given to each person’s efforts of transforming their territory, allowing these various processes to take up more space within the performance. Yet, I did not want to lose the narratives that each ensemble member had crafted alongside their spatial transformations. These narrative moments were worked into a continuous structure of building, so that amid this work, the audience receives brief revelations into the builders’ worlds – their dreams, desires, and personal mythologies.

The Builders - Robert & Eveleen

The Builders - Rules of the Game
In our new space, the audience is able to move around and experience the environments as they are worked on by the four builders, observing them from different vantage points, both up close and at a distance.

The Builders has also gotten some great press in the past few days! This morning we were featured on North by Northwest, in a 15-minute interview with Robert and I. You can listen to it on the podcast from Sunday, Sept 5 (we’re at the 27 minute mark).

A preview piece was posted last week in the SFU Vancouver blog, a killer preview by Dillon Ramsey is now live on VANDOCUMENT, and we were featured in the Sun and Vancouver Magazine today.

Want to buy tickets for the show? (You probably should, cause our audience capacity is small and the shows are on the verge of selling out.) Click here: bit.ly/1PJhokz

In search of Island art environments

Island art environments - Alberton garden

I spent four weeks on PEI from mid-June to mid-July, a slight summer vacation in semi-warm weather. I only made it to the beach twice (in layers the first time) but I did take a couple day-long road trips up West, in search of Island art environments, continuing my research for The Builders. I don’t remember the last time I drove to places like Alberton, Tignish and North Cape, and I’d never done the coastal drives on that end of the Island either (at least not since I’ve been driving on my own). But, I had vague memories of visiting the Bottle Houses in Cap-Egmont as a kid, and the site had lodged itself into my consciousness when I first began to research art environments as a larger phenomenon in 2011. I’d also heard about Kerras Jeffrey’s Backroad Folk Art in Alma, since he had done design work for Young Folk and Row 142 a couple years ago. So with a car, a camera, lots of snacks and two days of clear skies, I set out on a PEI road trip with my mom, in search of art environments.

Continue…

An update from The Builders

Update from the Builders - Eveleen installation 1
So I’m sitting in the Toronto airport, awaiting a connection back to Charlottetown. Magic hour has just ended and I had a seat at the bar to watch its final moments. It was a good time to land at the terminal, everything glowing amber and sending sunbeams of assurance that summertime has arrived here too.

We ended our 30th devising session for The Builders last night, concluding part one of our creation process. We’re taking a one-month break, and I’m confident in the place where we’ve arrived. We have a slew of material and a few different dramaturgical arcs that are starting to materialize. Members of the production team are now appearing at the sessions, including set designer Amanda Larder, musician David Cowling, and Dan O’Shea, who is our dramaturg. It’s exciting having these people in the room and witnessing their contributions to the process. Having live music accompany our improvisations and group compositions has really helped to fill in the sound world of this piece, adding an additional layer to all the elements at play within the work. Just last night, David started to learn Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy”, in connection to research Keely is doing on Loy Allen Bowlin, the ‘Original Rhinestone Cowboy’, an outsider artist from Mississippi. Hearing those lyrics drift down the hallway as he practiced and we worked on solo etudes was thrilling.

There have been some great developments with regard to the installation/spatial intervention projects that I assigned everyone to do somewhere in the Woodwards building or in the neighbourhood. We started quite small and local, with Robert doing a mini intervention with string and pushpins on a 4th floor bulletin board, and me hanging pinecones from the interior of a Woodwards architectural crawlspace on the 4th floor.

Update from The Builders - pinecones(my pinecones)

Update from The Builders - pushpin installation(above is Robert’s installation, a few weeks after being installed)

A few weeks later, Eveleen blew us all out of the water with a banner she installed at 4am underneath some scaffolding around the construction site beside Woodwards.

A week after its installation, I’m amazed to report that the banner is mostly still intact. These photos below are from this Monday. The photo at the top of this post is from the day of installation.

Update from The Builders - Eveleen installation 2(Full quote: “The measure of a civilization is not how tall its buildings of concrete are but rather how well its people have learned to relate to their environment and fellow humans”)

Update from The Builders - Eveleen installation 3
And then, on Sunday, Keely presented her installation, a bathroom stall shrine on the fourth floor, dedicated to the Rhinestone Cowboy, complete with an LED candle.

Update from The Builders - rhinestone cowboy shrine

Update from The Builders - Rhinestone cowboy shrine 2
And I can’t conclude this post without mentioning the wonderful serendipity that resulted in Amanda and I finding the exact set design material we had been hunting for, coming to us via a treasure chest in Ladner, BC. On Monday of last week, I’d mentioned that I’m interested in working with netting as a material with which to create an immersive set design in Studio T. Neither of us had much idea of where to acquire such a material, but I left her to the task. By Thursday, she had found a craigslist free ad listing a trunk full of green garden netting. The next morning we were driving to Ladner in her station wagon, nervous and full of anticipation. We arrived at the home of a fellow named Russ, who was getting rid of the netting and the chest. Apparently it was given to him years ago, and he didn’t even want it, and it collected dust in his garage until he decided to get rid of it. The ad had been up for six weeks! We loaded the beautiful tin and wood chest into the trunk of the car, marveling at the score we’d landed. Later, Amanda unraveled it at the Douglas College scene shop where she works, and discovered that there was 500 feet in length of the stuff, and it was about 17 feet in width! We had found a significant amount of the exact thing we needed, for free! So far, my plan to use mostly recycled and found materials to create this set is working. The amazing circumstances that led to us finding exactly what we wanted reminded me so much of last year’s hunt for a red rotary dial phone, which led me to Dave Hunter and the PEI Telephone Museum. I love when this kind of thing happens.

Update from The Builders - netting treasure chest

So by now, I’m on the plane to Charlottetown, where I’ll spend three and a half weeks writing draft one of my defense statement, playing the fun game of writing the show, going to the beach (fingers crossed for warm weather), and starting the planning phase for The River Clyde Pageant, my next theatre project which comes to life next summer. More on that later.

art environments in the neighbourhood

East Van fence mosaic

Oh the excitement of discovering a kooky little art environment right in East Van! Keely, who is a part of the ensemble for my MFA project, discovered this house on a walk, and brought us photos of it today for our creation/devising session. I hopped on my bike after the session to go find it, and here are the photos! Nobody was outside while I was there, nor when Keely was there. But I’m so curious to know who is behind this work!

More photos are being added to our little tumblr of research and inspiration, check it, here:

http://environmentbuilders.tumblr.com/

East Van mosaic house entry

East Van mosaic house

Builders research

Builders Research - Salvation Mountain

Devising sessions have begun with the ensemble for my grad project. I’m calling it The Builders as a temporary working title (but maybe it will stick). We’ve been gathering a lot of research on individuals who build environments in their homes and gardens, and on public and private property, sometimes taking over an entire village (see Ayano Tsukimi). All our builders research is being posted on this tumblr, so if you care to follow us along, check it out. http://environmentbuilders.tumblr.com/

The Unnatural and Accidental Women

This past semester, I was the assistant director for the Winter Mainstage show at SCA, The Unnatural and Accidental Women, written by Marie Clements and directed by Steven Hill.

The Unnatural and Accidental Women was staged following a lengthy process that included a semester of devising with the students of the Playmaking class in the fall, followed by two months of delving into the politics of actually staging the play…in the Woodwards building, with a non-Aboriginal cast of students, grappling with a painful history of violence against Aboriginal women that has occurred (and continues to occur) right outside the doors of this school in the Downtown East Side.

Throughout the process, we asked a lot of questions of how we could stage the play respectfully, yet provocatively too – presenting our audiences with the stories of these missing and murdered women, asking them to consider their implication, and to become more aware of the contexts in which this violence occurs, so close to us. The performance was presented as ‘an encounter’ with Clements’ text, acknowledging that this was our attempt to grapple with the traumatic history and current situation of our city, and with the experiences of the women represented in the play. We by no means completely understand these issues, but we are in relation to them, and this was a way to share those relationships which we’ve been building since the fall.


There’s so much I could say about this process, but I’ll try to keep it brief. The experience is still percolating in my mind, and still seems to be generating dialogue amongst people I meet. I’ve never been involved in a show that has elicited so much conversation and reaction. The show and post-show discussions encouraged audiences to engage with what they were seeing, and untangle it and talk about it, whether they liked it or not.

The process got me to confront the politics of theatre, which I sometimes shy away from in my own theatre making. Digging into ideas of community, representation, empathy and power with this play unearthed the many operations at work when social issues and histories are addressed through theatre. Watching rehearsals, attempting to stage and re-stage scenes, throwing ideas at the wall and making countless drafts of the show…we were constantly considering reactions, interpretations, what we could and couldn’t do. Maybe the work felt tentative because of that, but the material weighed heavy on us, there was a responsibility attached to it, and it wasn’t just for us anyways. We were making this for the community, to acknowledge our connections, and try to build up those relationships, reaching out from the stuffy fortress that is sometimes the Woodwards building. And I think something was started…another process began through which more ideas and relations and changes will occur. Hopefully. After the show ended, in March, I read this article in the New York Times about Afghan-American artist Mariam Ghani and this quote really stuck with me:

“I don’t think works of art produce concrete change. If anything, they are thin ends of a wedge where they just create a small opening in someone’s mind where something more direct and more concrete can enter in.”

Production photos by Paula Viitanen.

Auditions for an upcoming devised theatre project!

audition screenshot

2nd year MFA student Megan Stewart is seeking theatre makers/artists of all kinds to join a small ensemble for a devised theatre project. The creation process will begin mid-March 2015 and the work will be shown September 2015.

Seeking 3-4 ENSEMBLE MEMBERS to join a 5-6 person ensemble.
Also seeking a MUSICIAN/SOUND DESIGNER to be involved in the process

The devising process will focus upon a body of research on folk art environment builders: people who construct elaborate, imaginative realms within their homes or yards, or on public and private property. These builders often create in seclusion, using found materials and junk to construct their environments over a lifetime. This research material will inform the creation of an original theatre work. The process will be highly collaborative and multi-disciplinary…enthusiastic makers are wanted!

Intrigued? Come to the group auditions on Friday, March 6th, room 4270, SFU Woodwards.
There are two audition times: 1-2:30pm and 3:30-5pm
To confirm an audition time and for more info, email: megan_stewart@sfu.ca

If you’re a musician interested in the project, email me!

Time commitment:
Rehearsals will begin mid-March, 2-3x/week and will run until early June.
Rehearsals will resume in July, 3-4x/week through until September 9.
Performance dates are September 10, 11, 12 at SFU Woodwards.

Audition Requirements:

Please come prepared with the following ready to present to the group:

1. A piece of original prepared material of your own making that is a combination of either:

a) Text and movement/action
b) Song/music and movement

Text should not be from a published play script – rather, it should be something you wrote, or from a poem, novel or another written source. If you are using music, it should be live (no recorded playback). Length: no more than 3 minutes.

2. A proposal for a fun game to play with the group.

 

The ringing red telephone

I’ve had over a week to digest Art in the Open, and I’m about to start posting more photos on the projects page. The piece was a success. The ringing red rotary dial phone was very well received by the public (I just can’t let go of that pun!) and I had so much fun (as did Adam and a slew of other occasional ringer operators) playing with passersby; pressing the single-button remote control to make the phone ring and surprising them and watching their interactions with it…picking it up, listening, hanging up, repeat. I was impressed at how long people stayed with the piece, taking time to listen to the 4 minute track and sharing the experience with others. There were frequent lineups as people waited their turn to hear the voice on the end of the line!

The installation and performance component also intrigued audiences, though perhaps the connection between the two elements could have been strengthened. Closer phone placement to the installation may have tied these two worlds together more solidly. Phone placement ended up where it was for the sake of nighttime lighting, but it was at a slight distance from the installation. I doubt that everyone realized the connection between the two elements, though people were keen to interact with them both. The connections were not made explicit…it required some imaginative and contemplative work on the part of the viewer/listener, which was always a part of the project’s overall design.

I had excellent performers who occupied this strange little space I created amongst a few trees. They added to this sinister yet magical world by building more hanging garlands, reading from the library of encyclopedias, watching people from the trees, resting, being. I have to say, they all looked pretty killer too, wearing the shifty black bandit masks along with coveralls procured from the basement of Corney’s shoe store (a gold mine for odd costume needs).

Near the end of the night, I was approached on the plaza by Craig Mackie, who declared the piece to be his favourite of all of Art in the Open, which was an enormous compliment, and so appreciated. This photo is his. I’m thankful for it, and for the kind words.

Ears Pricked Eyes Peeled 1

 

Andrew Hoffman took the photo below of Sam performing in the installation.

 

Ears Pricked Eyes Peeled 2

I must recognize the amazing technical help I had to realize this project. It could not have happened without the tinkering and sound-engineer expertise of Adam Gallant, who built the remote/ringer system, wired the phone’s insides to play audio from an iPod, and recorded the voice of Jan Rudd, who so softly and strangely whispered into the ear of anyone curious enough to pick up the receiver.

Pat Brunet and Patrick Callbeck helped with other logistical bits of the installation, figuring out lighting and materials with me. Matthew and I spent a lovely afternoon in my backyard dip-dying garlands. And one night Jenny, Sam and Andrew’s friend Sam all helped me make garlands, while drinking gin.

Already I’m thinking of ways to build on this for an AITO in the near future.

 

Here we go Art in the Open!

It’s late and I’m getting a bit cavalier with the x-acto knife, but things are fairly prepped for Ears Pricked, Eyes Peeled at Art in the Open tomorrow.

Spent a productive day making masks, finding uniforms, dip-dying egg carton garlands and hanging them on the clothesline. Once I saw them all in a line I realized that yes, I’d probably made enough.

And in hanging them to dry, I discovered the easiest method of hanging was right in front of me: clothespins!

IMG_1075

Later on I worked out lighting with a team of Patricks. Pat Brunet and Patrick Callbeck and I jerry-rigged spotlight with a clamp light and foil, just like sketchy-biz lo-tech lighting professionals.

IMG_1074

 

Tomorrow we set up on the plaza at noon! And then it all begins at 4pm!

 

Telephone Jackpot

A red rotary dial telephone holds the main role in my upcoming Art in the Open project, Ears Pricked, Eyes Peeled.

A red rotary dial telephone is not an easy item to source…at least not locally. I anticipated hours of calling and visiting every antique store on PEI, and then resorting to eBay where models sell for $60 or more…and maybe even then resorting to using another colour. However, by wonderful happenstance, the magic of Island connections and big Island hearts, I was able to acquire a bright red rotary dial phone this weekend.

It’s a good story, so I’ll explain. Locating this phone began with a tip from a lone Bell Aliant employee at the warehouse on Belvedere avenue. Her daughter had done a Heritage Fair project on the telecom industry in PEI, and they had visited the “Telephone Museum of PEI” to do research. She found the email and website for the museum owner, Dave, and encouraged me to make an appointment, telling me excitedly about the hundreds of different old phones he had on display. It was my strongest lead yet.

I got in touch with Dave, explaining what I was looking for and also my interest in seeing his collection. A couple days later I took a Sunday drive out to Orwell Cove, to a little house off a seaside road I’d never been on before. Dave greeted me on his porch and the next thing he said to me was, “I found what you were looking for.”

Really?! It was that easy?

We walked into the little barn beside his house, marked with a hand-painted sign…

Telephone Museum of PEI sign

The entryway was filled with at least four different teletype machines, with a shelf of little Morse code telegraph machines overlooking them all.

And then, walking into the main room, this is what I see…

Telephone Museum of PEI interior
Phones of every imaginable make and model, from floor to ceiling. Switchboards, rotary phones, boxy wooden phones from the early 1900s, business phones and novelty phones. Colourful phone cords hanging along the walls, wires running everywhere, as most of the phones work! Every phone has an info card detailing its dates, model, use, provenance – all of it thoughtfully and lovingly displayed. Dave was quick to point out what he had found me: atop a table of multicoloured rotary phones was one red model, with Island Tel stamped into the centre of the dial. It was absolutely perfect, and it worked!

I was given a detailed tour of the museum. I learned all about how switchboards worked, party line tricks for nosy eavesdropping neighbours (hint: gossip loudly about fake pregnancies), the early days of payphones, and Dave’s favourite models (the explosion-proof “Russian Princess” used in mines was a highlight). He even had a few of the early cellphone models, enormous clunkers the size of my foot. Never have I been more immersed in the world of telephones.

Dave got his phone hobby started as a teenager. He grew up near a phone factory in Brockville, ON and has been collecting phones ever since. He’s got a friend in Ontario who sends him shipments of antique phones and parts. His collection is ever growing, overflowing into other rooms of the little house and creeping up the stairs.

Telephone Museum of PEI interior 2

Dave wouldn’t accept money for the red phone. He told me, “I’m just happy you’re excited about this stuff!” I told him a bit more about the project, and how we’re working on trying to make it ring and play audio…and of course, he knew exactly how to make this happen, and gave me a spare part and instructions on how to make a ring generator.

I left the PEI Phone Museum with so much more than I expected. A phone, instructions, waaay more excitement about the project, spare parts and even some antique glass resistors (they are so pretty!). Thinking about the execution of this piece had been stressful up until this moment. But having found Dave, the museum, and the main puzzle piece of the project spurred me on…I’m on the right track, and it’s gonna be just fine. What a little gem of an Island museum.

Owner Dave of the Telephone Museum of PEI

Road trip!

After a lot of time thinking and sort-of-but-not-really planning, I made the trip I’ve wanted to take for the past two years real. And I booked a ticket. To Wisconsin.

You read it right.

I’m going to this lost sock of a state to visit folk art environments – homes and properties and spaces that people turn into incredibly imaginative realms through sculptures, structures, murals, and bricolage works that they build, often out of found materials. I first got turned on to this kind of art making a couple years back, in Ashfield, when a tiny voice in my heard started reminding me, ‘You should look into Maud Lewis…remember her?’ and I did and then I fell into a whole world of this kind of art/environment making. I researched it all through my time at Double Edge, especially during my advanced internship, and eventually I thought, couldn’t this type of research fuel some MFA level work? And that was one of the reasons that pushed me into grad school.

So here I am, finally taking this trip. Most people I’ve told think I’m a bit nuts, but I’m really quite excited.

Here’s the basic itinerary:

Arrive in Milwaukee on June 9. The next day, sneak over to Mary Nohl’s house in the suburb of Fox Point, which is currently inaccessible due to disputes with the neighbours and plans for its eventual move to Sheboygan, where it will one day be open to the public as a museum.

(photo: http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mary-nohl-house)

After Milwaukee, I’ll head to Sheboygan, WI to visit two places that have preserved and supported these kinds of environments over the decades: the Kohler Foundation and the John Michael Kohler Arts Centre. I’ve made some connections with the staff here, and hopefully I will get to glimpse into their storage and collections to see works by Nohl, along with Stella Waitzkin, Madeline Buol and other artists.

Nearby is the James Tellen Woodland Sculpture Garden. I’ll visit here while in Sheboygan.

James Tellen

(Photo: http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/artist-environment-builders/james-tellen)

A couple days later, I’ll drive four hours north to Phillips, WI to see one of most expansive environments around, Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park.

Fred Smith

(Photo: http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/artist-environment-builders/fred-smith)

The next stop is the Prairie Moon Sculpture Garden in Cochrane, WI.

Herman Rusch

(Photo: http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/artist-environment-builders/herman-rusch)

I’m especially excited about this next one. The Forevertron, created by Tom Every in North Freedom, WI. It’s apparently the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world, according to Wikipedia. There’s a bit of a performance element to this one, as Every also created a character/persona, “Dr. Evermore”, to go with this environment. Dr. Evermore is a Victorian era scientist, inventor and visionary. The Forevertron is designed to catapult you into the heavens via magnetic lightening force. Yes please.

Tom Every(Photo: http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/artist-environment-builders/tom-every)

My last stop, before returning to Milwaukee to fly on to Montreal, will be Nick Engelbert’s Grandview.

(Photo: http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/artist-environment-builders/nick-engelbert)

Flying solo on an eccentric, roadside America road trip. Wisconsin, it will be good to meet you, see your arts and also eat your cheeses.

Performance for a Deadline

Walk to school in the rain, in improper attire.

Retrieve plinth and dolly from woodshop.

Take plinth for a walk in the rain, with help from dolly.
Think about being both ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the rain and this task.

Set up plinth and rotary dial telephone. Balance umbrella on top of head. Snap a couple photos.

Think about not thinking about the connotations of the gallery plinth.
Think about taking more gallery clichés for walks.

EPEP 2-1