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

 

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.

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.

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