Oh my god...what is this place?

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Talk about a journey, a celebratory ride, the best director, playwright, cast and crew a person could ask for.  Open Pit Theatre has raised the bar in my mind of the way a company should treat their staff, the talent and the art form.   Great accommodations, great rehearsal venues, good pay, great snacks, great coffee and mostly an incredible respect for process and artistic evolution.   Never have I been told by a director to just trust where I organically land.  

It was a difficult ride, I haven’t worked 8 hour days in a long time let alone 6 days a week.  I also suffer from osteoarthritis in both knees and throughout the rehearsal I came down with pneumonia.  This made it extremely hard to get up in the morning, to remember my lines, to get my blocking,  …. but I was always encouraged to take care of myself, to rest, to do what I needed to do to make the rehearsal process work for me.   I never felt any pressure... the concern for my health and well being was genuine and was a priority.   Everyone in the cast always felt safe and supported.  

So here I sit and my fellow actor mates sit in their homes, after a 7 week soulful arc, most of us flew back from Whitehorse to our cities down south.  My heart broke once again as I sat on the plane watching the sun disappear … and I shake my head thinking did all that beauty really happen?

Have you heard the north call?

"In 1992 I was 25 years old and I bought a 1966 red VW pop up simply because it was the year I was born and it had a set of horns on its dashboard . It didn’t even work.   I had just been cast in the theatre production of “The Rez”  and my friend Dean Eyre asked if he could fix my VW could he borrow it for the summer and go to Whitehorse?  I said yes but the night before he left I called him and I said can I come with you? and he said yes… and my agent kindly reminded me that I would never be able to do theatre again in BC and I never did. 

This three day journey was a majestic and awesome one, I learn’t how to drive a stick and at one point we saw one of our tires bounce ahead of us on the Alaska highway and down a ditch, When we finally arrived to Whitehorse, we helped a banjo busker (Kim Barlow) move her things to an abandoned house down the long lake road affectionately called “the Daisy House’.  Before we did that though we had a couple of beers at the Capitol which is now the Dirty Northern and watched strippers strip down to their birthday suits and dance on stage around a pole.  Welcome to Whitehorse and welcome to the Yukon!

That summer we parked our van outside the Daisy House where about a dozen of us squatted  ( Kim Beggs, Zola, Karen Sullivan, Joe Bishop etc) We would cook on an outdoor fire and camp stove and we washed our dishes in the Yukon River.  At night we would pass two or three guitars around the fire and take turns playing songs by Dillon, Chapman, Morrison and Mitchell.   We enjoyed almost 20 hours of sunlight each day and we loved, grew up and supported each other the best we could. Most of us had temp jobs and most of us stayed past the summer to become legit sourdoughs.  I never returned back to BC and I abandoned my life there and stayed another 8 years here"

This is my Busted Up Yukon Story and its always a magical one, one you share with your family and friends, the type of story that has the weight you would want to pass to your grandchildren... just ask anyone who has ever come up here right ?  So here I am 25 years later where the Shipyards are now manicured, there is no Capital, or Taku and hardly anyone wears long johns anymore and they all wash their hair, not very people even own a truck and no one even hitchhikes anymore .

Busted Up is an echo of everyone’s story that has ever come up here… thats why it resonated for some many people , thats why it affected deeply  the guest artists who came up here for the first time.  There are so many passages in the play that people could relate to , that people have heard, that people have said …. so many people laughed and cried, others got angry but most of all people started dialoguing, there was a buzz in the street to go see that play, to go see that love letter to the Yukon.

My heart and head are moved once again in an enormous way by my experience with my dear cast mates, by Open Pit Theatre, with Busted Up: A Yukon Story and by the silence, the northern light and the thick healing energy of the Yukon!

And that’s your gift for today and yesterday and tomorrow… and yet mosquito...

The jobs of these Animals

Full disclosure, I may be a bit drunk on life (and alchohol) when I start to write this.  An evening of fire, singing songs and laughing about the last month and a half of experiences will do that to you.

You know, sometimes you take a gig and you by the end of it you kind of feel like...

Thankfully, this hasn't been the case in the slightest.  It is always a pleasure when the people you work alongside have passion and are genuinely good humans.  We all know that the arts bring drama, and not always in the good on stage for everyone to enjoy way.  People as in any profession can be difficult at times, impossible at the worst times even, but in a 200 pounds of beautiful way, that wasn't the case here.  I'll miss these knuckleheads and the laughs we all enjoyed together.   

Everyone came here to work, everyone was easy about it and none of us animals failed to live up to the agreement that we made.  In the end a story of the Yukon that has the voices of 33 characters was formed and as we do our final show in Haines Junction it is without worry that I say I'm confident the performance will be one that will connect with each person in the audience in it's own way.  

We not only managed to chase down those sparks we individually were tasked to chase, but we kept our eye on that fire that they flew from.  

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My time in the Yukon is one I'll always treasure.  This has been a gift to know these people and to experience what and why these characters in this show are saying what they are saying.  There is a real connection here with people to this place.  I feel it, I know it. 

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P.S. Working with Gen and Jess? That ain't work. Eh, Barnes? 

 

Busted Open in Whitehorse

Photo by Alistair Maitland Photography

Photo by Alistair Maitland Photography

Some have asked me what it’s like taking on my first full-time theatre acting job at 55? How’s it going, how are you feeling Barnes?

Physically exhausted, yet emotionally exhilarated. I’m the kind of tired where I fall asleep within seconds, but with a smile on my face. Being in the moment in a kind of way that realizes every second how incredibly lucky I am to be a part of any of it. Experiencing an instant rapport and comradery I have not felt since I was a young person in community radio.

I am having the time of my life. Every day.

The best part is being and creating with beautiful, committed, loving, self-deprecating, witty, smarter and younger adult humans. That is the prescription for hope if you have ever felt as though you have lost it. Sometimes, I want to live forever in that moment of anticipation holding onto all of you just before we step on stage.

Hello risk. I’ve missed you.

Thank you Busted Up for choosing me to be a part of this. However long it may last.

P.S. I may haunt CCC road after the run looking for Roy back rubs. Oh, also being around Genevieve every day? That ain’t work.

Bust a Leg!

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Alright so, in the spirit of verbatim theatre and Busted Up: A Yukon Story, I thought I would, uh, narrate this, orate this, instead of trying to write something out.  Umm, so I’ll try to keep it to about three minutes, and here goes…

Uh, we just finished cue-to-cue, er not so much finished as got about halfway through. For those that are not initiated, cue-to-cue is this painstaking process that, once you’ve gotten out of rehearsal you, uh, go through with the lighting designer and sound designer every step of the way to make sure, you know, the actors look good.  They’re lit properly, the sounds come in at the right time. It’s not a very flattering experience for a performer because you, come to realize that you’re largely a puppet in a much… uh, broader scenario. I don’t know, umm…  (pause)

But, in some senses that’s what I like about this show. Because, aaaacting is a very self-involved, and or can be, a very egocentric endeavour, and uh, I think this show is… eehhh… collaborative, ensemble-based, community-oriented in the best sense of the word and I’m not trying to blow smoke. I’m just trying to say that, uh, it’s a very good coming together of people who want to tell a story about the place that we love. Which is Yukon, obviously, the Yukon, whatever. 

Bout 10 years ago when I abandoned the idea of, ah, acting professionally and elected to, uh, be an amateur for life, uhh…. I, I felt very empowered because I wanted to do theatre on my own terms. Umm, projects that I felt had merit.  Umm. And, uhhh, that’s been doubled down since I’ve become a father, I have so little spare time.  I want to make sure that anything that I’m going to invest my energy into and my time into, is something that I feel, uhh, is worthwhile. Not only in terms of my growth as a individual performer, but in terms of the audience and the community that the works are being presented to. 

So, I don’t know how this is going to go, because, uh, it it’s a, it’s a brazen thing that that I think Open Pit Theatre is doing here. Umm, it’ll probably be well received because people are polite and diplomatic, umm… But, but hopefully… uhhh, hope, you know, hopefully it, resonates with, er, our community.  And uhhh, helps us reflect on ourselves and actualize or visualize what we want to be into the future.

Umm, the play deals with a lot of themes about, uh, the legacy that we’re handing to our children, and our unborn children. And that’s become a very acute realization for me through this process, having my daughter Lupin present at rehearsals and participating in rehearsals – thanks Jessica. Umm, we want to make sure what we’re doing is propelling us towards a future that that is something that we’re proud of.  And I’m pretty sure even though, uh,  we’re in the melee here, I’m pretty sure I’m proud of this.

Um, so I’m humbled and grateful and thankful to the… all those involved for making this experience what it is. And, uh, it’s a it’s a gift to me.  And I’m pleased to share – I want to share it with you. So, come see the show, it’s opening week!  Uh, and let’s have a good yak about it. 

Much love,

Roy (Performer)

I’m not sure how to say this.

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There’s an overwhelming feeling of peace that is present here, in the Yukon. I’ve been in town for three weeks now, working hard, but I’m not stressed, I’m not consumed by worries. This is a magical place.

Working on this show has given me an insight into the community that exists here, and I’m grateful I get to interact with these people in such a unique manner. To learn lines, mannerisms and dialects of real people that may come to see the show is an incredible honour, and quite scary at the same time. What if I don’t represent them well enough? What if I change the meaning of their words with my tone?

Luckily for us, Geneviève (the playwright) is always watching and listening, making sure that we stay on track. In a sense, she’s the guardian of these words that have been gifted to us, and she is upholding her duty to ensure they are conveyed appropriately. As we work through this process, 6 days a week, 9 to 5, I’ve seen that I can trust her to make sure we are being truthful to the people that have lent us their voices.

This play is a huge undertaking, and I cannot wait to experience the payoff. Many theatre companies cannot take new works and build them with experienced, talented individuals -- and yet Open Pit Theatre has managed to do exactly this. I am excited to be working with these artists, with their bright and beautiful voices.

I want to share the experience of Brenda’s laughter enveloping JD’s intensity, Brooke’s soundscapes gliding underneath Roy’s silence.  Each of these people embody the idea of an artist, and I feel that I have been gifted with an environment to grow and explore in.


And the land!

I’ve enjoyed waking up every morning, walking downtown, watching the landscape. The river, steaming in the early morning. Clouds pouring over the mountains surrounding the city. Foxes darting behind bushes near the hospital. The stark contrast of landscape and industry. It’s the perfect setting --

Heck, someone should write a play about it.

- Caleb Gordon (Performer)

Nobody puts baby in a box!

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Wait, that’s not the phrase, is it….

Okay, let me explain. My name is Kaitlyn, and I am a 5’2, small(ish)-framed human with a baby face. I am going to be asked for my ID until I’m at least fifty. Though I am 24 years old, but the roles that I am cast in on the stage typically range from 10-15 years old. Oh how I have longed to hit puberty in the performance world!

Hey, I won’t complain- I have been extremely fortunate to have played amazing young roles in my time thus far. However, through the never-ending cycle of same-age roles, I made myself a happy little home within a cardboard box that the industry had provided me. I found some comfort within the un-comfiness(not a word… but let’s just go with it) that is being an artist. 

Until I began this project.

What drew me to this project was the challenge of stepping outside of my little cardboard box. To oil up my rusty machine of playing roles my own age, and older. This was terrifying. Before I got here, I spent many frustrating hours trying to figure out how the hell a 50-something year-old woman was going to sit in my body. How do I play this role authentically, but still putting it in a place that is real to me?

In reality, I can’t pretend that I am any taller, older, or wiser. But there is a beautiful word in this industry called PROCESS- a word I overuse because of its importance. Process means that you never get it right the first time- or the second, or third, or fourth, or EVER(yikes, imagine that?!). I might get to opening night having not convinced anyone that I have eleven children and got both of my hips replaced. But, when I get to opening night, I will have something that I am proud of. I will have acquired tools that I didn’t have previously. I will have learned so many things I never knew from the wisdom, creativity and support of my cast and creative team. I will approach older roles with a lot more confidence. I will have a greater understanding of my body and what it can do.

I have already learned so much through the guidance of our director, Jessica Hickman, who has provided us with a safe space and incredible tools to be able to explore ourselves, and continuously discover where each of these characters sit within us.

Being an artist has helped me have a much greater understanding on life, as well as performing  (it wouldn’t be a Kaitlyn blog post without a small existential rant). Being happy with your journey, rather than the end result, has helped me tremendously on how I choose to guide my life. I find beauty in smaller moments, I try to remind myself that is is okay to make mistakes, and I try to forgive myself constantly for being human.

I am not a perfect person. I am not a perfect artist. I am always a work in progress and that is something I am proud of.

- Kaitlyn Yott (Performer)

Real Life Characters

There are many different ways for performers to approach verbatim theatre characters. Some productions have their cast listen to all the interviews for them to get a vivid sense of the person behind the characters. Some companies go as far as having the performers wear ear buds and listen to the recordings of interviews as they say the lines so they can replicate as precisely as possible every intonation shift.

Open Pit Theatre decided to go down a different path. None of the performers have access to any of the audio recordings. Jess and I wanted to maintain people's anonymity (as much as a small town allows it) and we especially wanted to avoid having actors imitate or mimic the interviewees.  For us, what mattered was for the performers to be true to the essence of the people we interviewed rather than striving for a documentary-like accuracy.

We started by all sitting down together to talk about these characters. Jess and I shared what we recall of them physically, what they were wearing, how they smelt, their mannerisms, tone of the voice, where the interview took place, etc. With that information and all the insight that the exact transcriptions offer as far as speech patterns, stutters, hesitations and accents, each performer's job was to find their own interpretations of the real Yukoners behind the characters, with guidance from the director and myself as playwright.

We are one week into rehearsals and it has been so gratifying to see all these words I have been reading over and over and over again in the editing process come to life. During our very first read through, I was fascinated to hear performers absolutely nail characters they have never met before. JD, a Saskatchewan raised and Vancouver based actor read the part of Bill, a Yukon miner, with such accuracy that I thought to myself "He knows him!!! How does he know him?!" But he didn't. It's been just as interesting to discover new layers of the script by hearing some of thewords delivered in a slightly different way than how the interviewees spoke them. I love to see these new perspectives emerge and I am finding that they often emerge when a character is being played by a performer from a very different age group, shape or ethnicity. When Brenda plays the role of a character who is described by his peers as "the local redneck" or when our youngest cast member Katlyn plays the role of a woman who's been in the Yukon for over 40 years, I find their stories and statements resonate in a different way. Strangely, I hear the words themselves more.

With several more weeks to go before opening, I can't wait to see how these real-life characters mature in the rehearsal hall. 

- Geneviève Doyon (Playwright/Performer)

Powerful Yukon women in theatre...

5 days until rehearsals begin. 

I was sitting here staring at my never ending to do list when I started thinking about the powerful Yukon women on our team.  I noticed that one of my items on my list was to write the first project blog. Ok, here goes! 

FYI - In keeping with our mandate to have an open and transparent creation process, we will be having each of our performers write a blog about their experience during rehearsals and the shows.  So keep checking back in! 


Photo by: Emilie Lavoie

Photo by: Emilie Lavoie

First there is Geneviève Doyon.  Some of you may know her.  She spent the last 3 years crafting Busted Up: A Yukon Story, and now not only is she the playwright of the piece but also performing for the first time since her sweet baby Löic arrived. My thoughts go to Kim Colliers acceptance speech for the Siminovitch Prize, "To all women director / creators with children: bravo, be brave and break the mold–carry them in the hall, breast feed between the seats, go on tour together, whisper about process and actors and what worked and what didn’t. Include your kids in your life, let them learn from your passion."  She is the absolute best. 


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Then there is Selene Vakharia, our incredible producer.  Selene has been working her ass off for over four months getting everything ready for the show.  I have never met ANYONE who can have literally 45 tabs open at the same time on her computer.  I feel anxiety even looking at her screen but it doesn't seem to faze her.  My favourite quote from Selene so far is, "I just wish that the internet could follow me around."  She is calm under pressure, always up for a laugh, and has been the force behind this production.  We are so lucky that she wanted to join the team. 


And then there is the fabulous Erin Corbett, our production manager.  Erin knows her shit.  I can't tell you the relief I felt when she said, "Just send me the contract and I will deal with it."  Sweet. Not only can she decipher a contract like no one else, but she also catches my mistakes, which is incredible because I NEVER MAKE MISTAKES. We also have a mutual love for spreadsheets, which I think really brings women together these days.  Nothing like settling in and combing through some formulas to get those endorphins pumping.  She is rad, and I feel super lucky that she is working on this show.  


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New to the game is Rebecca Smith, our technical director.  Although quiet at first, Rebecca has surprised me on multiple occasions.  She seemed uncertain but when I saw that Tech Rider she made, I was like, "yessssssss."  And then that time I asked her to send a sound plot and she said, "I'm on the road travelling right now, I won't be able to do it until we get to a campsite later (I am super paraphrasing)" and then an hour later there was a sound plot in my inbox.  Incredible.  I hope she starts getting hired more as a TD because she is awesome. 


Starting last week (the last to join the team)(it's ok we won't hold it against you), is our stage manager Léa Roy.  I am super excited to have Lea on the team because she is a dancer/performer who is extremely organized and efficient. In my mind, the perfect combination for an incredible stage manager.  She will be able to tune into the performers and call the show in a way that I think brings out the best possible performance.  It's going to be awesome. 

 


A big shoutout to all the women theatre artists working their asses off out there.  I am super proud of our team, and can't wait to get these rehearsals rolling!!

- Jessica Hickman (Director)

 

 

 

 

Do you want to follow along?

Last week we shared a personal story with the group which led to each of us creating a sequence of gestures to represent the story. 

On Monday I decided that I would choreograph, on the spot, a sequence that combined some of the gestures that were shown.  I then taught this new sequence to the group.  At first we learned the choreography using counts which is generally how I teach. This became a problem because we weren't using any music and I realized that in order for us all to stay together one of us would have to be counting out loud.   We then decided that it might be easier to go through the moves and establish, as a group, where the inhalations and exhalations occured.  So we went through the sequence one move at a time and decided how we were breathing and for how long.  Suddenly we could do the choreo all together without anyone counting aloud because our breath was synced.

As the leader of this particular exercise, I then asked the others (Sam, Genevieve, and Sarah) if they would do the sequence facing me in a tight formation.  I noticed that the first half of the sequence was much cleaner than the second, so I temporarily cut the second half and asked them to do the first half over and over again.  I wasn't happy with the three of them doing it together, so I asked Sarah to come and join me as the audience.  I then asked Sam and Genevieve to start at the opposite end of the room, and repeat the sequence side by side as they travelled across the room.  I asked them to never look at one another, and to use the word hunt as their point of concentration.  I also gave them permission to repeat any part of the choreo if they wanted to.  Here is what they did:

Since then I have continued to shape this piece by taking the moments that I liked from the improv and rehearsing them into a scene that could be performed (in the sense that the actors aren't improvising anymore).  

I thought it would be interesting for you, the reader, to see how this improvisation develops over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned for more.

- Jessica Hickman

L'histoire d'un geste

Il y a autant de manières de créer une histoire qu'il y a d'histoire. Ça fait beaucoup.

On peut partir d'un lieu, d'un thème, d'un personnage, d'une couleur, d'un évènement, d'une condition humaine etc... Viennent ensuite les différentes manière de développer cette histoire. Encore une fois il y a une multitude de manières de procéder. Je pense cependant qu'elles se divisent en deux larges catégories: soit on travaille intellectuellement, soit on travaille corporellement. Personnellement, je suis une partisante du travail corporel comme moteur de création.

 

Je m'explique.

Je trouve qu'en cherchant une histoire dans sa tête, on risque de l'intellectualiser et l'éloigner de la vérité. L'histoire devient ce qu'on pense qu'elle devrait être. Ce qui n'arrive jamais dans la vie. Plutôt que d'évoquer l'histoire, on la démontre, la souligne, la surligne, on l'essoufle, et on finit par la vider. Lorsqu'on part du corps, on part de notre instinct. Ce dernier est selon moi bien plus fiable et pûr que nos cerveaux saturés. En retournant à nos impulsions plutôt qu'à nos connaissances, on se rapproche de l'humanité. Ce qui me semble un bon point de départ lorsqu'on fait du théâtre.

Depuis le début du travail avec Open Pit, nos trouvailles les plus intéressantes ont été accidentelles. À chaque fois que nous avons intellectualiser le schéma narratif d'une improvisation plutôt que de se donner le temps de le découvrir à travers nos actions, le résultat était prévisible et futile. J'ai trouvé que le plus concluant pour nos explorations était de partir de gestes simples mais évocateurs, et de laisser ceux-ci nous porter vers un récit qui nous était encore inconnu. Il est intéressant de remarquer que les mêmes gestes sont porteurs de différents sens dépendemment de qui les fait, comment, et avec qui. Maintenant que nous avons un vocabulaire corporel commun, il nous est possible d'orchestrer ces différents mouvement pour générer du sens et des récits.

Chaque geste contient une histoire, il suffit de lui donner l'espace suffisant pour qu'elle grandisse. Un regard de côté, une tête baissée, un poing qui se ferme, un haussement d'épaule. Ce sont ces mouvements que nous connaissons tous tellement qu'on les oublie qui renferment les plus grands secrets d'amour, de défaite, et de trahison. Pas les idées pré-conçues qu'on s'en fait.

- Geneviève Doyon

when things make sense the first time

Dear recorded sounds (voices, stories, streetscapes, environments, instances, interviews; anything that once happened live captured in an audio recording);

There is something very beautiful about you.

Listening to someone tell a story captured in their real time when their real time has nothing to do with the time we’re in, that’s a beautiful thing. We feel it when we listen to old audio of whatever, speeches, commercials, interviews, broadcasts, there is something in audio recordings that captures a moment’s essence.

Last week each of us told the group a story of a time when we didn’t get what we expected. We recorded those stories in the moment. The audio was transcribed unedited (no punctuation and including all ahs, umms, ands, buts). The next day each of us read the directly transcribed version of our story to the group.

What happened was, frankly, awkward. Faced with the written transcriptions of our stories in black and white, we tripped and faltered over our own words and could hardly make sense of our original stories and intentions; the text was almost unintelligible in some places. There were some feelings of embarrassment, of ‘Oh God I didn’t really sound like that did I?’. And the reality is yes. We did. We speak how we speak and an audio recording doesn’t let us escape that. It holds us to how we expressed ourselves in a given time and place.

When we originally shared the stories, we understood each other perfectly well. But the written versions of our speech, when originally met, were stilted and confusing. It was only after a good revisit, punctuating, and editing that the stories started to make more sense. The words were meant for speaking, not writing. In order to make easier sense in written form they needed to be shuffled around, organized, lined up in little rows.

There’s something really magical and interesting about not being able to make immediate sense of an exact transcript of our own words.

That’s all I really have to say about that. I liked it a lot.

And I think there is a mirror of this experiment happening in our process as a whole; recurring ideas are being explored, pared down, distilled – losing some verbosity, gaining some clarity. Cutting away, away, away without losing the impulses and excitement of the original discoveries. It’s a process of taking things back up again and trying to make sense of them in and of themselves and in relation to one another.

Tackling a recurring theme or image is much like being faced with the transcribed versions of our stories; we knew what we meant at the time, but now we have to face the idea again, make sense of it, and see what life can be explored there.

- Sarah Moore

What defines a Yukon artist?

I don’t know. 

I currently live in the Yukon, and I consider myself an artist... so... am I therefore a Yukon artist?  What if I had just moved to the Yukon a month ago from another city, let’s say Calgary, where I was working as an artist, and I plan on making the Yukon my home.  Am I a Calgary artist?  Or am I now a Yukon artist because I plan to stay?  Do I need to contribute a certain amount to the artistic community before I am considered a local artist?  When does this shift occur?

This train of thought caused me to observe the theatre community here in Whitehorse and the local artists who comprise it.  It seems like I can assume that most of us consider ourselves to be Yukon artists, yet how many of us are from here?  I think it would be fair to say that most of us come from somewhere else.   Quite often when you ask a local if they are from here they will respond along these lines: “I’m not from here, but this is home,” or “I’m from Calgary originally but I’ve been here for 27 years,” or “I grew up here but I left for a long time and now I’m back.”

I turn to one of our local funding sources to see what they say, and I found an answer.  In order to apply for an Advanced Artist Award it states that you must have lived in the Yukon for one continuous year prior to the deadline in order to apply.  Is one year my answer?  Is that how long you should be contributing to the community before reaping the rewards of its funding?   

It seems fairly ridiculous to have a cut and dry answer to any of these questions because I don’t think the definition of a Yukon artist is something that we can't decide intellectually.  Does that mean it’s a feeling?  We can sense inside when that shift has happened?  This intrigues me because at some point a new place will become home... but it’s not a definite moment.  It’s almost like an accumulation of moments that add up to this new sensation.  It’s like becoming an adult.  When did that happen? 

We have been reading some of Robert Services words to spark our improvisations and also to connect us to our location of creation – the Yukon.   I find it interesting that Robert Service became one of the most famous Yukon writers and yet he was born in England and travelled to the north of his own accord.  He arrived in Whitehorse and began performing his words at church concerts and used his experiences in the north to fuel his most famous poems.   Is he a Yukon artist?  My first response is, “Of course he is!’ but when did that shift occur for him?  Was it when he got a job at the bank?  Or was it when he went to Vancouver to marry his wife and bring her back to the Yukon?  Or was it when he moved to Dawson City and became a full time author? 

I don’t know.

- Jessica Hickman

Questions à choix multiples

En bons humains que nous sommes, nous aspirons tous à des résultats. À un processus qui ne nous fait jamais reculer, toujours avancer. À un agenda qui nous mène à terme sans trop suer. Et surtout: à la certitude d'un produit fini concluant. Èvidemment, je ne vous apprends rien en disant que la vie n'est pas un constant crescendo accumulant les bons coups et les réussites. Surtout pas dans une création collective. 

C'est ainsi que pour la première fois depuis le début des séances, nous avons eu nos premiers doutes et nos premières réelles discussions à savoir: Qu'est-ce qu'on fait? Pour qui? Pour quoi? Comment? 

Insécurité? sûrement.

Légitime? tout à fait.

Nécessaire? sans aucun doute.

Lorsqu'on simplifie au maximum le mendat du Devised Yukon Project, il peut se voir en deux parties distinctes. La première étant de prendre du temps de studio exclusivement pour apprendre à travailler ensemble, expérimenter différentes approches ,et développer différentes méthodes de travail qui servent la création théâtrale. Ensuite, la deuxième étape consiste à créer un spectacle à partir de ces explorations. 

Ces deux étapes étant claires, c'est la transition dans laquelle nous sommes qui reste à découvrir et maîtriser. La première semaine de séances était consacrée au mouvement. Nous avons réussi à développer notre langage et notre vocabulaire non textuel dont je parlais la semaine passé. En cette deuxième semaine, nous avons introduit le "vrai" langage dans notre travail, celui qui se met sur papier. Ce fut très productif, Mercredi soir nous avions déjà plus d'une heure de matériel textuel de notre cru. Maintenant que nous avons beaucoup de matière à travailler. Il nous reste maintenant à forger l'entonnoir idéal dans lequel placer toutes nos trouvailles pour qu'en ressorte le spectacle qu'on veut vous offrir.

J'aime les remises en question dans un groupe. De se complaire dans le plaisir qu'on a à jouer et à se regarder ne dure qu'un temps. Ensemble, nous nous posons des questions pour trouver la route dans laquelle nos six chemins se rencontrent. Et ensemble, nous mèneront la route jusqu'à qui veut bien nous entendre. Et peut-être que ce sera votre tour de remettre en question. Qui sait?

- Geneviève Doyon

beginnings of a story lab

This week (yesterday) we started what we're calling a story lab.

The idea behind the story lab is to play with text and storytelling. To begin, Sam offered a theme of 'a time when you didn't get what you expected'. Yesterday we each told stories on the theme. The stories were recorded on snazzy smart phones and transcribed lovingly. Today, we'll bring in printed copies of each story and swap 'em. Then it's off to the races, playing, remixing, and mashing up text like nobody's business.

How does it feel to give your personal story over to someone else to read aloud, ahhhs ummmms likes ands and all? How does it feel to hear someone else take on your memory? How does it feel to hear your words interpreted by someone else?

I have a feeling it will be pretty disconcerting.

I really like playing with stories. In our collective's terminology, it jazzes me.

Why?

On a basic, personal level I like hearing people tell stories. I like being told stories, I really like audio of stories being told. Listening to the voice. Hearing the story in the air outside the teller's mouth, story made into soundwaves, story made external. Being part of someone remembering or creating and sharing something. Feeling like I am there, inside the story. And then I come to share it, and I can repeat it, creating new life and variations.

On a the theatre creation level, I'm interested in playing with story. Upsetting it. Seeing how telling and retelling and retelling makes us feel. In particular, I'm interested in the sharing of true stories by the people who experienced them (i.e. I tell a story of my first day of school) vs. mediated stories and memories told by people removed from the actual events (i.e. I tell a story of my first day at school, Sam records it, Jess transcribes it, Adele reads it, Shaun directs it, and Genevieve adds images to it).

In this vein, I've been thinking about these folks -

In February nervous system system (Vancouver) presented a show called close at hand. In the show, two female characters improvise monologues about their first experiences of death, swapping text and story lines and repeating stories over and over, talking over each other and slightly altering things just enough so that the audience is left wondering who actually did what and what actually happened to who. It was compelling and discombobulating to watch. I felt I was being toyed with. I was denied the satisfaction of tying one story to one person. My expectations were upset over and over. This story telling was not comforting or lulling, it was jarring. We were being lied to, but being lied to in such an evident, unforviging, and yet still disturbingly convincing way.

secret theatre (Halifax) is developing folkloremobile, a piece of work exploring folklore and the amateur stock car racing circuit in the maritimes. In the making of folkloremobile, audio recordings of stories are gathered, shaped, transcribed, and recorded by a cast of female actors. The final presentation will incorporate these recorded stories listened to on headphones wirelessly connected to FM transmitters in a space. In this case, story has been altered from its original source and filtered through a transcriber, the makers of the work, and an actor. As the stories are broadcast through various FM transmitters in the presentation space, each participant's experience of the 'folklore' will be shaped by their journey through the space and their interactions with others within that space.

So this week we'll find out where our own explorations of story will take us.

I'm jazzed.

- Sarah Moore

Physical Theatre and Dance

I was asked to briefly describe the difference between phyiscal theatre (see the workshops we are hosting) and dance. That is a tough question; I'm not entirely sure what the difference is, so I've hit the google pretty hard. Here's what I've come up with.

Dance:

  1. A series of movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music 
  2. A particular sequence of steps and movements constituting a particular form of dancing
  3. an artistic form of nonverbal communication
  4. Dance (from French danser, perhaps from Frankish) is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting.

Physical Theatre:

is the craft of building theatre through physical actions, characterization and stage composition. Physical Theatre uses as its primary means of expression movement, dynamic immobility, gesture and a variety of acting techniques. ..

Physical theatre is used to describe any mode of performance that pursues storytelling or drama through primarily and secondarily physical and mental means. ...

First of all, there are a lot more definitions surrounding dance than there are physical theatre. These don't help to differetiate dance from physical theatre, but it is beginning to look like dance could be a part of physical theatre. Physical theatre is dance and text and gesture and a whole slew of other potential things. Physical Theatre is a blanket defition for theatre that uses the body as much as the voice to tell a story.

I ran across an article from the New York Times that seems to argue in the opposite direction (physical theatre is just a type of dance). The whole of the article, written by John Rockwell, is focused on British physical theatre, but the first and last paragraphs seem relevant:

ALL dance, even the most abstract, includes theatrical elements, and all theater involves physicality. What, then, does the term "physical theater" mean? Is there any difference between physical theater and plain, old-fashioned dance?

And in the final paragraph he answers his questions:

The barriers between the different performing arts are fluid: dance flows into theater, which flows into music and song and stage pictures. The emphasis among the various elements of performance shift, from piece to piece, from creator to creator, from decade to decade. In the end, all dance is physical theater, even the most sternly abstract, and no country has a monopoly on it. It's just that the British seem particularly good at it these days.

The whole article is worth a read in order to fully understand Rockwell's argument, but I can understand that physical theatre is dance with a shifted emphasis, or, conversely, dance is physical theatre with a different emphasis.

This probably doesn't make the answer any more clearer. Oh well, I did my best. Feel free to weigh in with a comment. Here are some other opinions:

Anna Efthymiou - Porto Physical Theatre

I have learnt that physical theatre can act on impulse, you can move when you feel the moment is right, this is another clear difference between the physical theatre and the timing needed in dance theatre.

Lloyd Newson - DV8 Physical Theatre

However when we made Strange Fish (1992), the risk was not so much about physical danger, but whether dance can deal with complex emotional narrative, and whether tragi-comic theatre can in fact be created through dance alone. You can take risks without always being physical.

Sam Bergman-Good

Flying the Coop

Behind every beautiful thing there s been some kind of pain, Bob Dylan

The Devised Yukon Project completed our first week of exploration in the Studio Space at the Yukon Arts Centre. We have been developing a vocabulary through various forms of improvisation and slowly tilling the earth to find our story that we need to tell. In doing so, we have been presenting ideas for experiments and working them without judgment, pushing each other for clarity and chaos.

With the first week compete and as we start to find our collective rhythm I would like to comment on my hope(s) for the next seven weeks of discovery.

Our point of concentration for the project is Outside, which is obviously a very broad theme, there are so many micro themes that can be extracted from the term itself. My hope is that this theme will push the collective to not only examine what it means to be outside, be it yourself, the outdoors, etc, but also to explore the opposite element of inside.

Through our improvisations and experiments I have noticed a collective discovery, the hint of an apex of interpretation of the under current theme of Outside, and that is of breaking free. Some of the physical images that have begun to recur with only four days of studio time under our belt are of escape and the force to which we escape from. Sometimes we are bound to floor and need to fight against the unseen force grasping our movements; sometimes en mass the collective will signal out one and the rest will move as a monstrous menace threatening any variable of safety, be it physical, or mental or emotional. To truly examine this idea of breaking free or escape we must now delve into the ugliness that we must break away from, to find freedom we must know why or what was/is keeping us bound; how vicious is it? Where does it come from? What does this prison look like and who or what is controlling the entrapment that we must free ourselves from? And ultimately what is the call to adventure that inspires the great escape?

I hope that as our explorations continue that we can really mine what in our story is the force of "inside" and how much we can cage our hearts before we find the beauty of losing the pain.

Shaun McComb

Re-Visiting Gems

Thursday was our last day of our first work week, and we compiled a list of gems that we would like to re-visit.  A “gem” is literally defined as:

A precious or semiprecious stone that may be used as a jewel when cut and polished. 

Our definition:

A precious or semiprecious moment (or series of moments) that may be used again when cut and polished (or explored further).

The use of this word was introduced to me during my participation in the One Yellow Rabbit Summer Lab Intensive.  My memory may have altered the original description but I remember Dennis Clarke stating, “When you look at a photograph, there is always one thing that catches your eye, whether it is a young child’s undone shoelace, or an open window in the background.  This detail that moved you, and made you feel something, is the gem of the photograph.   Here is our list of gems from week one:

1. Shapeshifting Against Wall

2. Sniffy Creature

3. Female being bounced around

4. Tunneling

5. Hangs Mimicking Feet

6. Conquering Chicken

7. Animal Sequence: snake and birds

8. Death Ritual

Now what?  We have eight gems that we would like to explore further, but how do we do this?  This is uncharted territory for the group.  Up until now, we have been exploring what I like to call the “barfing phase” (feel free to steal and incorporate into other collective projects) where we improvise freely to gather usable material.   Re-visiting a gem was new.  We went around the circle each stating which gem we would like to re-visit first and Shapeshifting Against Wall won.  This gem consisted of bodies stuck to the wall with a mastermind-ish person moving them as puppets and shaping them.   Shaun suggested that we start the improv at the other side of the room and explore the journey to our gem so that we reach that moment having been informed by an experience vs just launching into the gem cold.  Sam also placed a limitation on the improv by suggesting that we can only move when assisted by another (either physically or subconsciously). 

Thus we began!  

After each improv we always try to discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what we would like to re-visit.  One person writes these observances down into our Master Notebook for future reference.  This post is already getting long so I won’t go into detail about what happened but I will share what we learned:

  • When re-visiting we must always have one person who is an outside eye.  We need to establish together what role this person plays.  Director? Feedbacker? Documentor? Scribe?
  • That our initial gem might not work again, but may lead us to other discoveries (see new list below)
  • That it is equally important to state what didn’t work in the inprov as what worked so that we can get closer to finding our group aesthetic.  
  • To not be concerned about offending someone by stating, “That didn’t  work”.  There is no need to navigate the politics of the group.  Be honest. 

New gem list:

1. Shapeshifting Against Wall

2. Sniffy Creature

3. Female being bounced around

4. Tunneling

5. Hangs Mimicking Feet

6. Conquering Chicken

7. Animal Sequence: snake and birds

8. Death Ritual

9. Journey Home: Sleeping Giant

Jessica Hickman

un nouveau voyage, un autre langage

(Je tiens a m'excuser d'emblee pour l'absence d'accents dans mon texte, clavier inconnu oblige. Il n'en sera pas de meme pour mes prochaines entrees sur le site!) 

D'arriver dans un nouveau projet artistique me donne toujours l'impression de mettre les pieds dans un pays inconnu, avec tout l'enthousiasme et l'inconfort que cela peut amener. De nouveaux visages, differentes manieres de faire, et un nouveau langage.

Depuis quelques jours, les six membres de Open Pit se decouvrent et s'aprivoisent. J'aprecie beaucoup le temps que l'on prend pour etablir un langage commun. Je trouve que trop souvent en theatre on utilise des termes valises (emotion, triste, heureux, realiste, symbolique ...etc) que l'on agremente d'adjectifs sperflus plutot que d'etablir un vocabulaire precis et simple comme denominateur commun. Venant de differents horizons artistiques, ayant de differents bagages academiques et experiences professionnelles, nous unissons nos connaissances et nos aspirations pour pouvoir communiquer de maniere saine, simple et precise avant, pendant et apres nos explorations. En tant que francophone, j'aprecie particulierement ce desir commun de tous s'accorder au meme diapason sur ce que nous voulons faire, et comment nous voulons le faire. 

 Puisque le projet s'interesse au theatre physique, il s'impose donc aussi pour Open Pit de trouver un vocabulaire gestuel sur lequel nous pouvons nous baser pour nos huit semaines de travail a venir. Je trouve que de l'exploration physique peut vite se perdre en brouhaha corporel denue de sens. Avec le Devised Yukon Project, nous joignons nos efforts pour developper des techniques physiques precises, et des themes porteurs de sens. Ce vocabulaire corporel nous permet ainsi d'orienter nos improvisations et de garder une communication riche sur scene, malgre l'absence de paroles pour le moment.

Dans une creation collective, ou il n'y a par definition ni metteur en scene, ni texte, nous sommes entierement libres et livres a nous-memes. Bien que cette liberte soit merveilleuse et precieuse, elle peut facilement devenir l'ennemi d'un projet comme celui-ci. C'est pour quoi je suis heureuse de travailler avec des gens qui, comme moi, croient en la contrainte creatrice. C'est en travaillant avec rigueur et dans la meme direction que l'on aboutit a la reelle liberte, celle de creer un seul et meme langage theatral pour parler tous ensemble du monde dans lequel on vit. 

Geneviève Doyon