River Clyde Pageant on CBC Arts

My dear friend from Montreal, Ashley Duong, dropped in on the River Clyde Pageant process this past July to shoot two short documentaries for the CBC Arts’ series The Exhibitionists.

Both videos were released this fall…the first one is about the impetus to create The River Clyde Pageant in the face of increasing environmental degradation, and the necessity of human action to counteract potential outcomes such as whale extinction and the loss of delicate ecosystems.

River Clyde Pageant Co-Director Ker Wells, from the first CBC Arts doc.
https://www.cbc.ca/arts/exhibitionists/what-happens-when-all-the-whales-are-gone-this-pei-pageant-conjures-a-more-optimistic-future-1.4852162

The second one is about me, and my shifting attitude towards PEI’s art scene…going from being a teenager who couldn’t wait to get off the Island to live in bigger cities, to realizing how important being from PEI is to my artistic practice. My 17-year-old self didn’t see that coming.

River Clyde Pageant co-director Megan Stewart, from the second CBC Arts doc.
https://www.cbc.ca/arts/exhibitionists/where-the-he-art-is-for-this-pei-artist-it-took-coming-home-to-find-her-true-calling-1.4867308

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

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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

 

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 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

For the pigs

We presented an open rehearsal for the Double Edge ensemble tonight, sharing our four songs for Saturday night’s Georgian concert here at the Farm. It good preparation for singing in front of an audience, since all our previous rehearsals have happened around dining room tables. After applause and thanks, Matthew suggested that on the occasion of the pigs’ last night on the Farm, we all go down to their pen and give a blessing to them with a small, informal ceremony. Everyone eagerly agreed.

So off we went, with flashlights and buckets of compost, to the pigpen. The three pigs ran out of their hut to greet us, snorting and happy and hungry. Matthew spoke. “Thank you pigs – you’ve performed with us, you’ve weeded our garden, and you’ve eaten our compost. You’ve seen us and we’ve seen you. We bless you and wish you luck on the next stage of your life’s journey.”

Brian asked, “Should we sing a song?”

Yes, a song from The Odyssey, from a scene near the pigpen, that the pigs heard over and over, all summer long. Another Georgian song.

Everyone began to sing. The whole company, singing all around these pigs. Matthew and Joanna had just thrown in buckets of compost, and the pigs squealed and munched and jumped around in the mud as the air was filled with song.

We stood in the blue light, surrounded by music and warmth and love. Love for the pigs who gave and will continue to give so much to us. Love for this place, that creates a space where animals and art can thrive and influence each other. Maybe the pigs can’t recognize it as art, but I believe they feel it. The passion and the messy, crazy, creative humanity that fills this place. All that is vividly expressed in small moments like this.

I have so much love for the unparalleled closeness and respect we have with each other, with the land, with nature and creation, in all senses of the word. I have respect for death. And an appreciation for the new life that comes from it.

Back to the Farm

This evening, on 551 Main Street, I pulled a tub of garden romaine out of the fridge. Andrew sauntered in, restless.

“Wanna go jump in the lake?”

Sunset at the end of a good long day. An offer that was hard to refuse. The lettuce went back to the fridge.

The two of us, plus Evan, drove down to the Lake, ran off the diving board and plunged into the warm water. The sun was setting behind the hills, a fisherman was reeling in his line, the crickets were starting up again.

Hello Ashfield, it feels so good to be back here. If I get to swim in the Lake at least five more times before the chill sets in, I will feel like the luckiest.

The interns arrive on Friday. At the present moment, there are nine of us in the house, and that is perfectly cozy. A good number for sharing meals created from our garden harvests, and more practically, for always getting in the bathroom when its needed.

But hey, 15 is a party. And it sure feels good to be surrounded by genuine, creative souls.