Catch a River by the Tale

Catch a River by the Tale was the third iteration of The River Clyde Pageant in New Glasgow, PEI. The 2018 Pageant was directed by Ker Wells and I, in collaboration with over 140 incredible people – 60 performers, over 70 volunteers, and an 18-person creative team.

This year’s Pageant maintained the production process that has been in place since the first year but radically shifted the show’s structure, moving from a processional performance through the village of New Glasgow to a single-site production in an outdoor field of the Little Victory Microfarms. The new structure allowed us to explore the potential of using both land and water as stage, and create more lasting design elements on the site, including a Cantastoria frame, platforms embedded in the river for six water dancers, and a hanging installation of chime boxes created by composer and instrument-builder George Rahi.

The Pageant’s narrative, informed by the work of writers Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard and Virginia Lee Burton, took on a much more expansive, expressionistic focus. We sought to create space for attention and contemplation of the natural environment, and how we, as human beings, create a sense of identity and place through the act of telling stories. We were guided by Oliver’s proposal of attention as the beginning of devotion, and we used a three-act structure to guide the audience’s attention to the landscape, the water, and the transformations that emerge in the space where the water meets the land and thus, human activity.

Artistic & production support from Emily Wells, Jane Wells, Ian McFarlane, Marti Hopson, Travis Boudreau, Joanna Caplan, Evan Medd, Anne Paulus, George Rahi, Arnold Smith, Sebastian Poissant-Labelle, Sue Leblanc, Laura Astwood, Kathy Randels, Robin & Debi Stevenson, Tara Callaghan, Kyla Gardiner, Krissi Ewing, Afton Mondoux and many, many others.

Catch a River by the Tale received financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, the PEI Arts Grants program and Innovation PEI.

Photos by Robert Van Waarden. Video by Millefiore Clarkes.

Teach the children. We don’t matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin flowers. And the frisky ones – inkberry, lamb’s quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones – rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.”  

-Mary Oliver, Upstream

Wake the River Clyde

Wake the River Clyde was the second edition of The River Clyde Pageant, created and performed in New Glasgow, PEI in July and August 2017. I produced and co-directed Wake the River Clyde with Ker Wells. Over the course of two months, the 2017 Pageant came to life thanks to a team of over 125 artists, community members and volunteers. Together, we built puppets and costumes; created scenes, characters and choreography; wrote and learned music; walked on stilts; harvested mud from the river; cooked and served food; performed, sang, steered a puppet-ship, and more, all along the banks of the River Clyde.

The 2017 narrative explored the environmental issues of the River Clyde in greater detail, considering the conflicting feelings and opposing viewpoints, as well as addressing the very real possibility of becoming overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. The characters considered what the death of the river might actually imply, and found concrete actions and ideas to pursue to protect our waters for generations to come. Within the production, fantastical, musical and natural elements celebrated these actions and possibilities, presenting a vision of community that accounts for all its members, human and non-human as well as the environment in which it exists.

 

Additional artistic & production support from Emily Wells, Jane Wells, Ian McFarlane, Marti Hopson, Kirsten MacLaine, Sebastian Poissant-Labelle, Sue Leblanc, Arnold Smith, Laura Astwood, Kathy Randels, Robin & Debi Stevenson, Tara Callaghan, Kyla Gardiner, Grace Kimpinski and many, many others.

Wake the River Clyde was made possible thanks to grants from the Canada 150 Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, the PEI Arts Grants program, and donations from over 150 local donors.

Photos by Robert Van Waarden

 

Garments for Multiple People / The Mission

Nine travellers enrobed together, navigating the stages and spaces of an unfamiliar territory. A roving performance in costume.

Five garments for multiple people to wear at a time – hats, capes, and a very large dress. Created for AfterImage 2017 at Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Art in the Open 2017. For AfterImage, garments were displayed and worn by attendees throughout the evening. For Art in the Open, I worked with a group of nine volunteer performers to create a choreographic vocabulary of commands and gestures/movements. On the night of the event, the performers took to the streets in costume, creating an improvised performance throughout the city using this shared vocabulary.

Inspired by garments made by James Lee Byars and Lygia Pape.

With assistance from Kelly Caseley and Sam Stewart

 

 

Elsewear

elsewear

Project created in residence at Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, August 2016

Elsewear takes Elsewhere Museum’s collection of vintage thrift as the starting point for a series of interactions based on clothing and memory. Over 25 different outfits were taken from Elsewhere’s wardrobe to be worn by the artist throughout the duration of the residency. These items of clothing were washed, mended, ironed, worn and documented on a daily basis.

The outfits sparked conversations and interviews with fellow residents, museum staff, visitors, and community members. These discussions revealed the power of clothes as everyday materials that shape our identity and mediate our encounters with the rest of the world. As a witness, a performer, and a protector within the endless process of self-fashioning, clothing can control the body as much as it can liberate it.

Selections from these conversations are compiled within the Elsewear Style Museum, a monogrammed suitcase that serves as a growing archive of clothing memories and a collaborative, multi-perspectival guidebook on style. On the third floor, the selected outfits hang on display. Suspended from the ceiling, they form a forest of garments that are dense with the memories of past wearers, the artist included. And while clothing gathers memory and meaning, clothing stories can be inscrutable, known only to their wearer. Elsewear attempts to bring these stories to light.

 

With documentation assistance from Fraser Carr Miles and Sam Stewart, and clothing care advice from Amanda Carr.

Amanda Carr wrote a bit about this project for The Women’s Room.

The River Clyde Pageant

In the golden hour before sunset, on a summer evening in New Glasgow, a group of children run down to the River Clyde to go fishing. Arriving at the riverbank, they find no fish, but instead, a Singing Oysterman. The Oysterman teaches them a secret fish song, which draws out a colourful cast of wildlife creatures, who take the children on a magical journey along the river. This is the River Clyde Pageant.

 

Directed by Ker Wells and Megan Stewart, with support from Chef Emily Wells and the staff of The Mill restaurant, The River Clyde Pageant is created and performed by local artists and community members from New Glasgow, Charlottetown and across the island. It is inspired by the history, mythology and contemporary environmental issues associated with PEI rivers and waterways. It celebrates the spirit, strength and imagination of the local community.

The first performance of The River Clyde Pageant occurred July 29-31, 2016. Each performance concluded with a free community supper on the lawn of The Mill. The project was funded in part through the Canada Council’s Artists & Community Collaboration Program.

The Pageant has its own website! And a Facebook page where you can see lots of photos and regular updates from us.

Signals from the Mountain

An interactive installation that digs into the failure and uncertainty of a small group of people who were absent from the 2014 Burnaby Mountain protests against Kinder Morgan. Set within the Pandora Park Field House, the installation presents a selection of fragmented, fictionalized stories of boreholes and incorrect coordinates told through songs, objects and ephemera.

Borehole 1

Borehole (Corbin Murdoch)
13 minute loop played inside two tanks containing soil samples

We acknowledge that this work is located in Vancouver, on the traditional and unceded indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh).

We further acknowledge that we weren’t there.

That Sound 1

That Sound, Part 2 (Barbara Adler).
Three loops ranging from 1-13 minutes, played through rotary dial telephones

In Fall of 2014, protestors occupied the Burnaby Mountain conservation lands, in an attempt to block Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion through the area.

Signals from the Mountain is our response, rooted in our absence from the protests.

When we started this project, we wanted to re-imagine the stories of the protest. We knew that the battle for Burnaby Mountain had moments of victory and of failure. The National Energy Board hearings were underway, and there was a sense – based on the N.E.B.’s track record – that the project would ultimately be granted that stage of approval.

The future seemed sure.

Alder Trees

Seven Red Alder Trees (Lucia Misch with Ten Thousand Wolves).
13 minute loop played inside traffic cone

We wondered if we could artistically tip the scales to create more ‘wins’ for the protestors.

We turned to fiction.

We thought that if we could sow some fantastic confusion around the events on Burnaby Mountain, we might create a feeling that a positive outcome was still possible.

We had learned that an early win on the protestors’ side came because Kinder Morgan had submitted incorrect coordinates for the site of their geotechnical studies.

This image resonated with us.

In Kinder Morgan’s failure, we imagined a mountain that resisted measurement and a history that refused to be settled.

Load to Carry

Load to Carry (Barbara Adler, James Meger & Ten Thousand Wolves). 5 minute loop played via headphones, traffic cone, iPod

Stolen Trail Markers

Narrator intro/outro to David Newberry’s Untitled Song
13 minute loop broadcast on FM radio

Installation by Megan Stewart and Ben Wylie

Exhibition text (excerpt above) by Barbara Adler

Audio produced by Barbara Adler, James Meger & Ten Thousand Wolves, with additional sounds & tape loops by Ben Wylie, field sounds by Paul Paroczai

Photos by Lukas Englehardt

 

Coyote Morse Code, audio fragment from 13 minute loop

 

This project was produced with funding from the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants program.

Thank you to: Dance Troupe Practice, Tim Mahoney, Corbin Murdoch, Lucia Misch, David Newberry, Shannon Scott, James Meger, Gavin Youngash, Julie Hammond, Lukas Englehardt, Paul Paroczai, Layla Marcelle Mrozowski, CJSF, City of Vancouver Fieldhouse Residency Program

 

 

 

The Builders

The Builders | Megan Stewart -banner

Step into an environment constructed by seven unlikely architects – theatre artists, dancers, and a musician. The space buzzes with energy as the builders work tirelessly to create the realms of their dreams. In a chaotic merging of theatre and installation, The Builders investigates transformation, territory and the practice of making ourselves at home in the world.

Taking inspiration from the worldwide phenomenon of art environments built by outsider artists, The Builders explores the compulsions behind transforming spaces, materials and the self. The performance immerses the audience into an unfamiliar territory inhabited by the builders, each one engaged in a relentless effort to transform their immediate surroundings. As they work, they reveal their stories and their processes, illuminating the ways in which occupied spaces become reflections of individual identities, mythologies and desires.

Constructed almost entirely out of found materials, the environment of The Builders features 500 feet of netting, three bolts of cast-off fabric, 35 milk crates, along with heaps of ivy, plastic recycling, mylar and scrap metal. Although the materials of the builders are familiar, the spaces they build defy convention and expectation. A gardener tends to a heap of plastic garbage, turning bottlecap seeds into translucent flowers and spindly trees. A lonesome mechanic becomes a bedazzled cowboy in a rhinestone realm that glitters and shines, while another builder aspires to live in the trees, alongside a giant woman woven from branches. All this and more comes to life within the performance, which also features music by David Cowling (of the band Leave) and additional set design by Amanda Larder.

Conceived and directed by Megan Stewart. Devised over a five-month process in collaboration with the ensemble: Robert Azevedo, Gordon Havelaar, Eveleen Kozak and Keely O’Brien

“The oddball protagonists of The Builders shrug off the senseless oppressions and conventions of the society that surrounds them, and set themselves to the sublime task of cobbling together their own unusual havens – or perhaps, heavens. …they reveal the infinite little ways in which a space can be explored, adored, claimed, conceded, and endlessly changed by anyone who identifies with it, and calls it a home.”
Dillon Ramsey, VANDOCUMENT

Photos by Paula Viitanen and Ash Tanasiychuk.

 

The Builders (long cut) from Megan Stewart on Vimeo.

 

Read more about the process on the blog, or check out some of our image-inspiration here.

Builders Research

In June 2014 I spent nine days on a solo road trip through Wisconsin, searching for art environments. I visited folk art environments scattered throughout the state, and paid visits to the Kohler Foundation and the John Michael Kohler Arts Centre, two organizations dedicated to the preservation, maintenance and display of art environments around the world. I was lucky to be granted access to the collections in storage at the Kohler Foundation and JMKAC, and was able to see works by Mary Nohl, Madeline Buol, Stella Waitzkin, Emery Blagdon, Eugene Von Bruenchenheim among many others.

I visited eight different environments all around Wisconsin:

Mary Nohl’s house in Fox Point, Milwaukee
Dr. Evermore’s Forevertron in Baraboo
James Tellen’s Woodland Sculpture Garden
Fred Smith’s Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips
Herman Rusch’s Prairie Moon Museum in Cochrane
Nick Englebert’s Grandview in Hollandale
The Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville

The trip immersed me into these environments and practices of making, which I’ve been researching for the past year and a half. This preliminary research will eventually evolve into a devised theatre piece based on these environments and their makers for my MFA graduating project.

Below are photos from Mary Nohl’s House, the Forevertron, Prairie Moon, Wisconsin Concrete Park, and James Tellen’s Woodland Sculpture Garden. All photos © Megan Stewart

Ears Pricked, Eyes Peeled

EPEP-P Callbeck1 (web)

The telephone rings, answer it! Listen carefully: the voice on the other line has something to say. Pay attention to your surroundings. Is anything out of the ordinary? Who builds the worlds that open up around you?

Theatre for the ears, eyes and imagination.

Ears Pricked Eyes Peeled is two-part installation and performance. It was first presented at Art in the Open in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on August 23, 2014

Technical assistance and sound recording by Adam Gallant
Performers: Carmen Belanger, Sam Stewart, Russell Louder, and Jan Rudd as the voice on phone
Photos by Patrick Callbeck, Andy Reddin, Michael Wasnidge and Andrew Hoffman

Retreat

Retreat Robert

Retreat was an ensemble-created devised performance, directed by Megan Stewart & Daniel O’Shea

Created and performed by the 2014 Black Box Ensemble: Robert Azevedo, Bev Cheung, Brandi Elliot, Andrew Ferguson, Jessica Hood, Katie Gartlan-Close, Rachelle Miguel, Keely O’Brien, Daniel O’Shea and Megan Stewart

Studio T, SFU Woodwards, April 3-4, 2014

Transmissions from Orbit

Transmissions from Orbit 1

Transmissions from Orbit is a devised theatre piece created by the Black Box ensemble, under the artistic direction of myself and co-AD Dan O’Shea. The production premiered in March 2014 at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts in Vancouver. Moving between outer space and earth, the show pulls at the threads of human existence, examining our relationships and the messages we send into the ether, propelled by our desire to reduce distances and find connection.

Working with the ensemble, I developed and re-mounted the production in May 2014, as part of Neither Here Nor There, a festival of art and performance by students of SFU’s MFA program.

The first 8 photos in the slideshow are from the May remount, photographed by Curtis Grahauer. The 7 photos after that are from the original production in March, photographed by Ash Tanasiychuk, Vandocument.

Original production performed by the 2014 Black Box Ensemble: Robert Azevedo, Bev Cheung, Brandi Elliot, Andrew Ferguson, Jessica Hood, Katie Gartlan-Close, Rachelle Miguel, Keely O’Brien, Daniel O’Shea

May Remount Performers: Robert Azevedo, Bev Cheung, Jessica Hood, Katie Gartlan-Close, Rachelle Miguel, Keely O’Brien, Daniel O’Shea

The Crow Parade

Crow Parade 2011

A public procession and performance for Art in the OpenAugust 2011.
Created during a week-long studio residency in collaboration with Jamie Shannon & Harmony Wagner, the Crow Parade encouraged humans to transform themselves into crows by donning feathery costumes and black beaked masks, and fly through the streets of Charlottetown in a marvelously macabre procession, culminating at the Victoria Park battery. Over the course of the week, Jamie, Harmony and I created large-scale puppets and costumes, and led public costume making workshops. We then led the parade of “crows” through the city, cawing and cackling all the way.

The Crow Parade has since become an annual event at Art in the Open that gathers hundreds (hundreds!) of costumed crow people to parade through the streets of Charlottetown.

Interactive, creative, & those bloody crows
“The bloody crows were everywhere. Sinister, glorious and cawing awfully, they emerged from the belly of the Confederation Centre of the Arts to provoke and preen for the people of Charlottetown. Some had splendid beaks; others trundled over sidewalks on large, rubbery toes. They threaded through the crowd on Richmond Street, owned the boardwalk towards Government House, and perched triumphantly atop the battery at Victoria Park. The crows’ performance surfaced our city’s conflicted relationship with the dark, scavenging, raucous birds, just as the Art in the Open extravaganza surfaced the dynamic, multi-disciplinary artistic and creative force at work in Charlottetown’s capital.”

-Henk van Leeuwen, The BUZZ, October 2011

The Island Fringe Festival


The Island Fringe Festival
, PEI’s first official Fringe, is a site-specific festival dedicated to showcasing alternative & independent performance by local, national, & international artists in unconventional venues in Charlottetown. The festival was founded by Sarah Segal-Lazar and I in 2012. The Island Fringe Festival takes place every summer in mid-August. For more info: www.islandfringe.com

Photos below from the 2012, 2013, 2014 Island Fringe Festivals. Photography by Michael Wasnidge and Andy Reddin.

One Great Thing
“How strange is it to sit just outside the floodlights in the dark, watching theatre in Kings Square? Strange enough that a passing minivan veers into the other lane on Weymouth, turns the wrong way down Kent. Instead of gawking, they should have stopped. They could have let the tricks of night and shadow run riot. They could have sat, entranced, as young Fringe Festival actors created a story with nothing more than a flashlight. They could have wandered home, feeling—for a moment—as if a big hand had scooped them up and taken them far away.”

– Ann Thurlow, The BUZZ, October 2012

The Fort

The Fort3

The Fort was an installation for Peake Street Studios’ group exhibition Collaborations at The Guild in Charlottetown, PEI, June 2012.

Created in collaboration with Jeff McGuigan, with assistance from Patrick Callbeck, Alexis Bulman, and Jack Young.