Hello Internet, today is Friday, November 9th, and we’ve just finished the first week of rehearsal for Original.
A bit of background:
I’ve been working on Original for a few years now – it was a fledgling idea in the fall of 2016 when the call for proposals came out from the Arts & Culture Centre’s Playwright-in-Residence program for a playwrights’ unit. I was on tour at the time with woman, naked, a play written and performed by Berni Stapleton which was playing in Saint John, NB for a week’s run. I had a few pages written then, and I ran them by Berni in our little efficiency unit. With her encouragement, I applied to the unit and got in, and then had the incredibly valuable experience of working in the unit with Playwright in Residence Megan Coles and 7 other fantastic playwrights. Most of Original was written between November 2016 and June 2017, with some gentle kicks in the butt from Meg and a lot of encouragement and support from my unit colleagues. (Sidenote: Andrea Cooper’s Room for a Pony and Marie Jones & Patrick Foran’s Her Closely were also projects in that unit, so it was a great room to be in!) The unit culminated in a table read workshop where I was lucky to have actors Nicole Rousseau, Kimberley Drake and Laura Huckle play the women. An excerpt was read publicly for the first time in June 2017.
In the middle of that process, PerSIStence Theatre announced their existence, and I went straight to Artistic Director Jenn Deon with this play. Jenn’s excitement, and that of the PerSIStence board of directors, is to thank for the momentum that has brought us here. In October 2017, PerSIStence and skc originals put together a one-week workshop and staged reading of the script, which you can read about here. And PerSIStence has programmed Original to open their second season… which brings us to now.
So, first thing’s first: LOOK AT THIS GROUP OF AMAZING WOMEN!
This photo was shamelessly stolen from the PerSIStence Facebook page.
Clockwise from my blinking face: Kathryn Burke, sound designer; Berni Stapleton, director; Diana Daly, production designer; Melanie Ozon, costume build; Emily Austin, production manager; and Jaimie Tait, stage manager. Absent from the photo (because she is behind the camera) is Jenn Deon, producer.
This is what Jenn calls our “production community,” and I love them. They are incredible and brilliant and their enthusiasm and ideas for this little solo show are inspired and inspiring. It’s going to look and sound amazing because of them. There’s going to be fire and wind and water and beach rocks and light and it’s all going to be beautiful.
On day 1 of rehearsal, Jenn walked us through PerSIStence’s Respectful Workplace Policy, which I am linking here because every theatre company should have one. And also because it’s on their website because they, too, believe that every theatre company should have one of these documents. Then we had a bit of a design show and tell, complete with costume sketches (!!) and set drawings (!!!) and a full read. I love my production community so much!
Day 2 was special because we had Sara Tilley come in to help me with some movement work. Sara is a wonderful human and artist and an incredible resource to have for a project like this where one person is playing multiple characters. Sara was on the workshop in October as dramaturge, and I can’t imagine doing the production without her. She brought in her neutral mask and we explored the elements I have assigned to each character: Embla is earth (or, since it’s quite hard to move like earth, she’s a tree), Eve is water, and Pandora is fire. If you don’t know about neutral mask, and are interested, you can read a little about it here. The work that Sara and I did on Tuesday has been enormously influential in developing the three characters separately from each other in body and voice. Neutral mask is magic and I wish I could do it every day of my life. But, lucky for me, Sara kindly loaned me a mask to use until the end of this process, so I get a month of it!
This is a still from a video Sara took so that I can watch my alien self move around.
Days 3 and 4 were mostly table work – reading through the play and talking about it, Berni giving me notes on the readings – with physical check ins in the form of mask work for me and yoga for all three of us – Berni, Jaimie and I. (Do you know Move with Melanie? You should.) This work was excellent and valuable but doesn’t take great photos. At least nothing as great as…
Day 5: the beach
Because the play centres around a beach, today we (Berni, Jaimie, Diana & I) took a field trip to Middle Cove Beach to do a bit of exploring. It was a beautiful day for it – not too cold, blue, and the elements were right there with us.
I mean… hideous, right?
We walked around on the rocks and listened to the waves – not just the crashing in, but the tumbling of the rocks as they pull out again – and we breathed in the wind and we found a sunny patch of ground, and then we sat down on camp chairs and I read a bit from the play. The text of Original comes back again and again to the elements we explored in neutral mask – earth, fire, water – and reading it aloud, informed by the work I had done with Sara and by our wild beautiful surroundings, was an incredible experience.
When it got a bit cold, we stopped the reading, but we took the opportunity to pull up a few pieces of seaweed and beach junk for the set (I’m telling you, it’s going to be beautiful), and drove back into town.
Our job is the best job.
When we returned to the Arts & Culture Centre for our afternoon’s work, the elements gave us an extra little end-of-week gift: a rainbow.
Original is made possible by a grant from the City of St. John’s, as well as the generous supporters of PerSIStence Theatre Company. It runs November 28-December 2 at the LSPU Hall.