17 18 December – January
american repertory theater | expanding the boundaries of theater
Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility
Austen on Wheels Charlotte’s Web Growing Up in Theater
Marga Gomez’s Creative Inheritance
American Modern Opera Company
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Artistic Director’s Welcome
MANAGING EDITOR Ryan McKittrick EDITOR Robert Duffley ASSOCIATE EDITORS Rebecca Curtiss Grace Geller Joel Zayac CONTRIBUTORS Elizabeth Amos P. Carl Manuel R. Cawaling Yan Chen Rebecca Curran Kate Hamill Biodun Jeyifo Annabeth Lucas Deidre Lynch James Montaño Erin Murray Brenna Nicely Claudia Rankine Dmitry Troyanovsky
Welcome to the American Repertory Theater!
COPY EDITORS Nicole Banks David Libbey Stacey Schutzman
This winter, we gather around works of bold theatricality in celebration of community
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In December, Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility brings Jane Austen’s novel to the stage with contagious exuberance. A company of up-and-coming artists formed
A.R.T. BOARDS BOARD OF TRUSTEES
BOARD OF ADVISORS
only five years ago, Bedlam is creating a name for itself across the country—and
Andrew Ory, Chair
Ann Gund, Co-Chair Karen Mueller, Co-Chair
making its A.R.T. debut with this production. Revisiting classic texts with wit and
Diane Borger Laurie Burt Paul Buttenwieser RoAnn Costin Michael Feinstein Provost Alan M. Garber Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Catherine Gellert Rebecca Grafstein Lori Gross Ann Gund Sarah Hancock Jonathan Hulbert Steve Johnson Alan K. Jones Robin Kelsey Herman "Dutch" Leonard Serena Lese Dennis Masel Thomas B. McGrath Ward Mooney Bob Murchison Dan Nova Diane Paulus Mike Sheehan Fay Shutzer Sid Yog
vibrancy, Bedlam’s productions delight in constant motion and an irresistible sense
Paolo Abelli Frances Shtull Adams Robert Bowie, Jr. Amy Brakeman Philip Burling* Greg Carr Antonia Handler Chayes* Lucy Chung Lizabeth Cohen Lisa Coleman Kathleen Connor Rohit Deshpande Susan Edgman-Levitan Shanti Fry Erin Gilligan Jonathan Glazer Candy Kosow Gold Rachael Goldfarb Robert L. Green Barbara Wallace Grossman Peggy Hanratty Marcia Head James Higgins Horace H. Irvine II Brenda Jarrell Emma Torres Johnson Jerry Jordan Dean Huntington Lambert G. Barrie Landry Ursula Liff Timothy Patrick McCarthy Travis McCready Jim Nuzzo Irv Plotkin Martin Puchner Ellen Gordon Reeves Pat Romeo-Gilbert Linda U. Sanger Maggie Seelig Dina Selkoe John A. Shane Michael Shinagel Lisbeth Tarlow Sarasina Tuchen Susan Ware Michael Yogman Stephen H. Zinner, M.D.
of play. Adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Eric Tucker, their Sense & Sensibility finds a physical form for Austen’s signature combination of energy, cleverness, and compassion. Performed in repertory with Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility, Charlotte’s Web continues the A.R.T. tradition of holiday programming for young audiences. Directed by Dmitry Troyanovsky (Director of last year’s James and the Giant Peach, IATT ’00) and featuring actors from the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training Class of 2018, E. B. White’s classic fable reminds us that, in difficult moments, a true friend in our corner can make all the difference. Alongside these productions, this winter also invites audiences to engage with boundary-breaking interdisciplinary work. We are proud to be presenting the first ever Run AMOC! Festival of American Modern Opera Company (AMOC), an ensemble of composers, dancers, vocalists, and instrumentalists reinventing opera for a new generation. Run AMOC! is a festival of new works by composer Matthew Aucoin (Crossing, Harvard '12), bass-baritone Davóne Tines (Crossing, Harvard '09), dancer Bobbi Jene Smith, and others. Also don’t miss limited engagements by genre-bending comic and performer Marga Gomez (seen this summer in POUND at OBERON) and iconoclastic drag superstar Lady Bunny in Glowberon, our continuing partnership with Quinn Cox of the Provincetown Afterglow Festival. In a time when we must all cultivate the power to share joy, practice compassion, and imagine new worlds, we invite you to celebrate with us at A.R.T.!
*Emeriti FOUNDING DIRECTOR Robert Brustein
The 2017/18 Season is supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which receives support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Cover Photo: Gregory Costanzo
As of November 2017
DIANE PAULUS The Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director American Repertory Theater
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 1
DECEMBER 10, 2017 JANUARY 14, 2018 AT LOEB DRAMA CENTER
BEDLAM'S SENSE & SENSIBILITY Written by Kate Hamill Based on the novel by Jane Austen Directed by Eric Tucker Eric Tucker’s exuberant, inventive staging of Jane Austen’s classic novel follows the adventures (and misadventures) of the Dashwood sisters—sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne—after their sudden loss of fortune. Bursting with humor, emotion, and bold theatricality, Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility asks: when reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart? ASL Interpreted Jan. 3, 7:30PM Jan. 6, 2PM Audio Described Jan. 5, 7:30PM Jan. 7, 2PM Open Captioned Jan. 4, 7:30PM Jan. 7, 2PM Student Matinee Dec. 20, 11AM LARGE PRINT
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LOVE AND FRUSTRATION Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility Adaptor Kate Hamill
Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility at The Gym at Judson. Photo: Ashley Garrett.
on the creation of women-centered classics
Quite often, I get asked: “What made you adapt Sense & Sensibility?” The truth is: an odd combination of love and frustration. I love the theater. The theater, specifically; unlike film, it’s ephemeral—changing from night to night, from show to show. A group of people gather in a room together and enact an old, old ritual: the audience and actors, all feeling and breathing together. I love the theater for its potential—for the empathy it can awaken. Nothing makes me feel more connected to others than when I experience a truly amazing play or musical, whether from onstage or off: when I find myself laughing and crying openly for the lives of imaginary human beings. Nothing cures me of loneliness like seeing the secrets of others’ hearts onstage. And I love the classics: both theatrical and literary. I love stories that are so powerful they’ve stayed with us for centuries. My love for Jane Austen’s writing began when I was a teenager in a small town in rural America. Reading the novels of a woman who had died centuries before I was born, I recognized the eccentricities of my own neighbors. I read about people just like me, who struggled to reconcile their consciences with the dictates of society. And I felt a strong sense of kinship with Jane Austen—an intense love for her work that’s gone on to shape my life… the frustration came a bit later. I grew up and moved out of that small town, and started working as an actor in New York City. Quickly, I became frustrated by the dearth of complex, female-centered characters and storylines in the theater. And it wasn’t just me: I had so many friends—talented, trained, passionate female artists— who were dropping out of the business for lack of opportunity. For millennia, women working in the theater were largely relegated to playing tertiary characters in male narratives: the girlfriend, the wife, the prostitute.
This is particularly true, of course, in my beloved classics: there are three female roles for every sixteen male roles in Shakespeare, for example. Now, there are some great roles for girlfriends, wives, prostitutes, but I was tired of women losing the chance to lead the stories (and thus losing out on career opportunities). I wanted to create women-centered narratives. I wanted to create new female classics. And then I thought, where better to start than with Jane Austen: also a young woman, and one with whom I had felt a long-standing connection? I started writing. The play born of that love and frustration—Sense & Sensibility—has gone on to productions in theaters nationwide, employing dozens of women and men in a female-centered storyline. I think its popularity is a testament to how many people—like me—are hungering for female-centered stories. I’m very proud to have Sense & Sensibility at A.R.T., directed by Eric Tucker, who directed the world premiere and several ensuing productions, all of which bear Bedlam’s invariably inventive and exciting style. The theater offers powerful opportunities for connection: with our past, with others, with ourselves. I adapted Sense & Sensibility because I believe so deeply that the classics belong to everyone. When we ensure that narratives of all types can take center stage, we know that we can all be protagonists, no matter our gender or background or circumstance: heroes—or heroines—of our own stories.
Kate Hamill is the Adaptor of Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility (for which she originated the role of Marianne). Her other adaptations include Vanity Fair, Pride & Prejudice, and Little Women (forthcoming).
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 3
AUSTEN ON WHEELS
Eric Tucker is the Artistic Director of New York-based theater company Bedlam and the director of their Sense & Sensibility, adapted from Jane Austen's novel by Kate Hamill. Revisiting classic texts with a signature wit and vibrancy, Bedlam's minimalist approach to design relies on actors, language, and fastpaced staging to reimagine entire worlds onstage. In this interview, Eric reflects on the inspiration, and the creative process, for this production. Bedlam was formed only five years ago, but your productions, including Saint Joan, Hamlet, and Twelfth Night have run for multiple years (and visited Boston theaters including, most recently, Central
Square Theater). What makes this theater company’s work unique?
beat us there. That's what keeps it theatrical, and different from a movie.
We place a premium on the text. We’ve always gone about trying to tell the stories from an angle that makes them feel like they are new. We work to get the words into our bodies, and I think that's what people respond to: they become able to hear the play, hear the magic and genius of the writing. People hear things they haven’t heard before, and I think that’s where the success started. The other added element that you’ll see in Sense & Sensibility, is the fact that we try to use only what we need so that our imaginations have to fill in quite a few holes, and then the audience’s imagination has to
How did Sense & Sensibility get started? We were in the middle of doing Hamlet and Saint Joan, and those shows actually took up our first couple years, because people liked them, and they were able to keep running. And in the middle of that, Andrus, who was my producing partner at the time, and who was playing Joan and performing in Hamlet, was Kate Hamill’s roommate. In the middle of those productions, Andrus said, “Kate’s doing an adaptation of Sense & Sensibility.” Andrus brought it to me, and I read it, and I thought it was great because it moved the action forward without narration. So many literary adaptations depend on narration—Kate’s adaptation is so economical. Because of the way it moves, I think it’s satisfying for audiences in the same way that a musical can be. It’s really funny and quirky, and so Jane Austen. The set of Sense & Sensibility moves with or around the characters on stage. What inspired this staging? When I read this script, I thought, “Wow, there are so many locations. This thing could take forever if we stage it traditionally and don’t find a way to make it flow: now we are in a different room, now we are in a parlor, now a park…” A lot of that has to depend on people’s imagination. I wanted to find a way for the text to keep moving forward while the
Director Eric Tucker and Adaptor Kate Hamill on the set of Sense & Sensibility at The Gym at Judson.
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Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility at The Gym at Judson, 2016. Photos: Ashley Garrett.
Director Eric Tucker's exuberant staging
In Bedlam's Sense & Sensibility, wheels attached to chairs, windows, doors, tables, and more keep the story—and the performers—moving.
scenery keeps catching up, so that you don’t really have to stop and wait for a traditional transition. That's actually kind of a theme in my work. So I thought, “What if everything was on wheels—all the chairs, windows, doors, tables?” I asked our set designer to build that stuff so we could play with it, and that’s how it came about. In addition to a moving set, you’ve also double-, triple-, even quadruple-cast actors. Is this typical in productions that you direct? Doing things very bare has always been my directing style. I’m always talking a lot about ideas and then paring things down. When you set yourself up with obstacles from the beginning, such as, “we are going to do this giant play with only four actors and not a lot of stuff,” you’re giving yourself a ton of hurdles that you have to figure out how to get over. It forces you to use your imagination in ways that you might not if you had a lot of scenery and props and money. When I direct for Bedlam, I try and push the line—I try to scrap everything we don't need. And our audiences expect that. In Kate’s play there are the gossips— people are always watching other people in this story—and you need those bodies. You could do it very traditionally, with 1820 people, but I think part of the fun is the presentation of the double casting. I think that is very satisfying for an audience.
Could you talk about the role that rumors play in this adaptation of Sense & Sensibility? That aspect of the play is universal. That sort of intrigue and gossip resonates with everybody. Now, more than ever, talk—even when it’s not necessarily founded in truth— can whip up a whole firestorm, and people will believe everything they hear. If there are enough people saying it, it has to be true. And when it's really intriguing, you kind of want it to be true. There's also an aspect of it, too, that sounds like, "so-and-so is having a rough time, and that makes me feel better about myself." Nobody says that to themselves explicitly, but we certainly feel it—that's human, right? We tried to get that aspect of Sense into our staging. It’s an animal thing, like sharks or a piranha, or a wild pack of dogs that can’t help themselves. It’s fun to sit around in a group and talk about people, even when it’s not malicious. That’s just the way it is. But in Sense & Sensibility, Austen explores how that behavior can be insidious and how it can really hurt people’s lives. Because for those women, their reputation was everything. It’s still like that today, maybe more than we would like to believe.
Regardless of their exposure to Jane Austen, what should audiences know coming into Bedlam’s Sense & Sensibility? Whether you already love, love, love Jane Austen and know Jane Austen, or you’ve never read one of her books or seen a movie, this show is a great time in the theater. It’s not going to feel like you’re sitting reading a big literary novel. It doesn’t feel antiquated. It feels very fresh and now. Of course, we manipulate that a little bit by allowing some modern-day civilities to creep in, but at the same time we try to stick to the social forms of the time in the production. You feel like you’re part of the action. It’s very communal. It’s really fun. I want people to know that: it’s just fun. And nowadays, it’s nice to go and have things that are a little bit of an escape from the everyday.
Interview by Annabeth Lucas, a dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University ('18). Bedlam can also be seen in Boston in March 2018, when their productions of Hamlet and Saint Joan (both directed by Eric Tucker) will run in repertory at ArtsEmerson.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 5
THE SCRIPT OF SENSIBILITY We tend to remember the eighteenth century in Britain as an age of Reason. But the culture that shaped Jane Austen was also one that had strong feelings about strong feelings. During this century, commentators promoted an account of human nature that centered on individuals’ capacity for emotional responsiveness. The term sensibility came into vogue as a label for this sensitivity and susceptibility. In this era, in new ways, to be a self was first and foremost to feel and to express one’s feelings outwardly. The physicians, philosophers, and novelists of the mid-eighteenth century all took an interest in the repertory of blushes, tears, tremors, sighs, swoons, and palpitations through which a human body could do that expressing—and took an interest in how it did this in spite of the mind. When in 1789 George Romney painted the beautiful and notorious Emma Hart (at right) as the personification of Sensibility, he too registered the central role his contemporaries’ descriptions of human nature had given to the body’s involuntary nervous responses. Facing Emma, Romney places a specimen of mimosa. The leaves of this botanical curiosity contract at the slightest touch, as though the plant were flinching from injury. This sensitive plant and the sensitive lady who seems to address it are portrayed as soul-mates. As one poet put it in a caption affixed to another contemporary double-portrait of woman and mimosa, “her tender breast with pity seems to pant / And shrinks at every shrinking of the plant.” To declare oneself a person of sensibility was to announce one’s vulnerability, mental and physiological. Tender-hearted Britons put themselves on the record in this era lamenting the emotional upheavals to which they were subject, lamenting, too, how prone they were to feeling others’ distresses (even a plant’s) as though they were their own. On the other hand, to lay claim to sensibility was also to testify to one’s refinement and delicate taste, to assert one’s moral superiority over duller souls less ready to sympathize or rhapsodize. The cult of sensibility thus had a certain democratic potential. It proposed a meritocracy of feeling and taste in place of an aristocracy
based on birth and wealth. Not everyone shares Marianne Dashwood’s passion for dead leaves, as her elder sister reminds her, wittily and deflatingly, in an early chapter of Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. But for Marianne the raptures she feels in the autumnal landscape are the sign of how special she is—notwithstanding her disinheritance and dismal prospects in her culture’s marriage market. In the era of the French Revolution—as anxieties about that democratic potential mounted among conservatives in Britain—the privileges that men and women of sensibility had claimed came under attack. Female novel readers especially— who had paid many tributes of tears to fictions like Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling (1771) or Goethe’s The Sorrows of Werther (1774)—were with increasing sternness counselled to turn instead to more improving and sober-minded works of fiction like The Illusions of Sentiment (1788), Arubia: The Victim of Sensibility (1790), or Errors of Sensibility (1793). Jane Austen was never keen on sermons that disguised themselves as novels; it is hard to imagine her enjoying books with rebarbative titles like those. But at the start of her writing career Austen did participate in the growing campaign against sensibility. She looked at the emotional extravagance indulged in by sensibility’s adherents and found that it presented her with the perfect target for her talents for ridicule. One of her earliest works of fiction, Love and Freindship (the misspelling is Austen’s own), written in 1796 when Austen was a precocious fourteen-year-old, takes shape as a rollicking burlesque of the novel of sensibility. It portrays two pairs of adolescent lovers—Sophia and Augustus, Laura and Edward—on the lam from their homes, swooning in graceful attitudes, and also with equal grace, or so they say, purloining bank notes from their unworthy elders to finance their escapades. When “the beautifull Augustus” is arrested, Sophia, his young wife, insists that her tender heart obliges her to abandon him to his fate in Newgate prison: “my feelings are sufficiently shocked by the recital of his distress, but to behold it will overpower
6 2017/18 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
my sensibility”: “Never shall I be able so far to conquer my tender sensibility as to enquire after him.” With lines like those the budding satirist gleefully skewers the claim to sensibility, revealing it as a cover for self-absorption and selfishness. To some extent, the impulse to skewer also shapes Sense & Sensibility, the first novel Austen saw into print. Austen does expect us to snicker a bit at Marianne Dashwood. One irony in particular in Marianne's characterization shouldn’t evade us: this self-declared free spirit, who stands up for authenticity and refuses to be penned in by convention as she believes her sister to be, ends up doing sensibility by the book. It can seem as though while she looks out for what is pathetic and sublime, Marianne follows a check list. Romantic poetry—Check. Piano sonatas—Check. Dead leaves—Check. “Where do you pick up those phrases?” Elinor asks her sister drily in Kate Hamill’s adaptation, at a moment of meta-theatricality early in the play. At this point Marianne has started sounding as though a novel of sensibility had given her her script. But by 1811, Austen elicits her readers’ snickers less frequently than in 1796; her understanding of sensibility has deepened and become more complex because her understanding of women’s narrow options has changed. To be sure, her commitment to feeling and to self-expression doesn’t bring Marianne happiness; it leads her instead to the brink of disaster. But in the unjust world that Austen evokes in Sense & Sensibility and which Kate Hamill captures in her dramatic adaptation, the contrasting ethos of self-command that Elinor promotes and models will not serve that Dashwood sister all that well either.
Deidre Lynch is the Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University.
Artwork: George Romney, Sensibility (1789), print on paper, 375x286mm. ©Trustees of the British Museum.
by Professor Deidre Lynch
Sensibilityâ€”the overt emotionality in vogue during Austen's lifetimeâ€” was personified by Emma Hart in George Romney's Sensibility (1789).
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 7
DECEMBER 17, 2017 JANUARY 7, 2018 AT THE LOEB DRAMA CENTER
Charlotte's Web Adapted by Joseph Robinette Based on the story by E.B. White Directed by Dmitry Troyanovsky
On the Arable family farm, a miracle is about to happen. In order to save young Wilbur from the butcher, Charlotte—a very special spider— hatches a plan to show the world how “radiant” one pig can be in the eyes of a true friend. Adapted from E.B. White’s beloved children’s classic and directed by A.R.T. Institute alumnus Dmitry Troyanovsky ('00), (James and the Giant Peach), Charlotte’s Web will feature graduate students from the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training Class of 2018. Sensory Friendly Performance Dec. 29, 2PM LARGE PRINT
Director Dmitry Troyanovsky returns to A.R.T. for Charlotte's Web this season after directing James and the Giant Peach (pictured) last year.
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GROWING UP IN THE THEATER
Joey Donnelly in James and the Giant Peach. Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva.
by Charlotte's Web Director Dmitry Troyanovsky
As a child growing up in the former Soviet Union, I watched a lot of theater. The state invested generous funding in specialized theaters that staged productions for young people. Much of what these theaters presented toed the official party line, resulting in puerile, safe material. Yet a group of forward-looking artists, who did not consider children’s theater to be a separate art form or an isolated subgenre, pushed the boundaries of form and content. Legendary Russian directors Anatoly Efros, Oleg Efremov, Lev Dodin, Adolf Shapiro, and Kama Ginkas, just to name a few, got their start in theaters that focused on productions for children and youth. They believed that young people deserve to see daring theater of the highest quality. Also, they may have felt that the ubiquitous Soviet censors scrutinized children’s theater with less zeal, making it possible to sneak in non-conformist meanings under the guise of allegory, fantasy, fairy tale, and myth. In the late 1980s, when the glasnost era finally permitted unprecedented freedom of expression, youth theaters heralded inventive and relevant productions that addressed young people and adults alike. At the age of twelve, I saw Adolf Shapiro’s adaptation of Tomorrow Was War, based on a popular novel by Boris Vasiliev. Set on the eve of World War II, it dealt with the lives of high school students caught in the grip of Stalinist ideology and paranoia. The stage looked like a precarious construction out of a child’s building block set, on which characters played decidedly un-childish games.
Around the same time, I attended a brilliant adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog, which tackled very problematic chapters of Soviet history in visually dazzling and darkly funny ways. The image of black snow falling on people, who howled like abused dogs, haunted my imagination for years to come. These theatrical gems were created as family fare, with both adult and teenage audiences in mind. The ability to see heady pieces with my parents and discuss them at home afterwards made it all the more satisfying. No doubt I chose to become a professional director thanks to such eye-opening experiences. Today, Germany leads the way in innovation. Recently, I witnessed the work of Berlin’s GRIPS Theater. Combining up-to-date social critique with humor, music, clowning, and other forms of popular entertainment, GRIPS tells stories about the lives of children and young people in contemporary Germany. In the past few years, the theater has confronted immigration, racism, extremism, poverty, cyber bullying, and sexual identity. Discussions and workshops accompany most performances. When I attended a morning matinee of a play about tensions between native Germans and their Turkish immigrant neighbors, a house full of ethnically diverse ten-yearolds raptly watched for two intermission-less hours. In a healthy society, theater is not only entertainment but a civic conversation about weighty issues. The theater’s mission states that GRIPS “is and always will be a theater which wants to give its audience the courage to know that the world around them, large or small, is changeable.” Like their Russian colleagues a generation ago, GRIPS theatermakers and educators do not compromise their values as citizens or artists. Theater for children and young people can address controversial social issues and explore the human condition. Last year, I directed my first family production, an adaptation of James and the Giant Peach. Enormous insects, rampaging rhinos, sadistic relatives, and
ravenous sharks populate Roald Dahl's topsyturvy world. While working on the show, I often thought of Bruno Bettelheim’s notion that fairy tales help children come to terms with the most incomprehensible, unsolvable, and menacing aspects of existence. Of course, our production did not dwell only on darkness and anxiety. In Dahl’s story, violence and pain live side by side with friendship, pleasure, and adventure. Another children’s classic that perfectly balances heartbreak and joy is E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. As I write this, I am preparing to direct an adaptation of the book. I am struck by White’s honest and unsentimental approach to existential problems. “After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die,” says Charlotte to Wilbur. Despite these harsh facts, the story’s living creatures perform acts of astonishing generosity and kindness. White seems to tell us that yes, we are all vulnerable in the face of physical frailty, pain, loneliness, and inequity. But we can strive to make something beautiful out of the time given to us and learn to share this earth with those who do not resemble us. In my experiences as a spectator and, now, a maker of children’s theater, imagination seems to be key. The productions I saw growing up communicated metaphorically and gave me a glimpse beyond realism and literalness. While it may be tempting to sugarcoat family theater with kitschy bromides and aggressively cheerful stagecraft, young people will find intellectual and aesthetic complexity far more rewarding as they mature. We can tell stories that do not shy away from the challenges of life and upend the limitations of form, genre, and style.
Dmitry Troyanovsky (A.R.T. Institute ’00, Director of James and the Giant Peach) is an Assistant Professor of Theater Arts at Brandeis University and the Director of Charlotte’s Web.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 9
SENSORY FRIENDLY, ALL-FRIENDLY The house doors are open, the lights haven’t gone all the way down, and audience members are scattered across the auditorium. During this performance, patrons are free to move to different seats, step outside briefly, or express themselves out loud in response to the show. At the end of the performance, a girl in the front row leaps up and dances exuberantly with the cast onstage. Welcoming audience members with sensory sensitivities, on the autism spectrum, or with other special needs, sensory friendly performances are part of a larger effort to make theater more accessible. In conjunction with other initiatives to expand access programming, the A.R.T. has offered a sensory friendly performance annually for holiday season family shows beginning with the 2014 production of The Light Princess (and including this year’s upcoming Charlotte’s Web). These initiatives are coordinated by A.R.T.’s Education & Community Programs department. To ensure that these performances
accommodate their audiences, the department works with occupational therapist Mary Beth Kadlec, ScD, OTR/L, Program Director for Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (CANDO), an outpatient clinic part of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care. Kadlec describes sensory friendly performances as “providing a space for individuals with special needs where they can be accepted for who they are,” where “they don’t have to be afraid of social humiliation or being judged.” Before, during, and after the show, a number of detailed adjustments accommodate a range of sensitivities to sensory stimulation and large-group events. Distributed before the performance, a printed “Social Story,” with pictures and text adapted for different types of learners, describes the theater experience by providing an overview of the play and informing participants of interactive activities in the lobby, as well as the types of assistance available throughout the event.
In the theater, adjustments are made to the performance: house lights are kept on but dimmed, allowing audience members to move freely during the performance, and house doors are kept open so that audience members can take a break from the show. The show’s sound levels are lowered to accommodate sensitivity to loud sounds. Outside in the lobby, break areas with fidget toys and cushions are available, with trained ushers ready to offer assistance if needed. Actors come onstage before a show to introduce themselves and explain portions of the story or demonstrate actions in the show that might appear confusing or dangerous, a process they rehearse with Kadlec present to offer professional suggestions. The cast also connects with their audience in a meet-and-greet before and after the performance. Audience attendance at A.R.T.’s Sensory Friendly Performances has risen each year. Other theaters in the Boston area, too (including Wheelock Family Theatre, Broadway In Boston, SpeakEasy Stage Company, and others), have staged sensory friendly performances— evidence of a broader, and growing, initiative to make the theater more welcoming to all.
Yan Chen is a dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University ('18).
For sensory friendly performances of A.R.T.'s family shows, adjustments to the production and surrounding audience experience make shows friendly to a range of sensory sensitivies.
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For more information about sensory friendly performances at A.R.T., please visit americanrepertorytheater.org/sensory-friendly.
Photos: Evgenia Eliseeva (L), Gretjen Helene Photography (R).
by Yan Chen
"PROC" THROUGH THE YEARS
PROCLAMATION A.R.T.'s flagship teen program celebrates five years by Brenna Nicely
Proclamation, A.R.T.’s flagship teen program, takes its name from Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which was the focus of the first Proclamation Project in 2012. As the program grew, the word “proclamation” came to name the driving principles of the program: a platform for teens to claim their place on A.R.T.'s stages and a call to speak boldly about critical issues. Every year, a new ensemble investigates a theme connected to pressing issues of our time. Themes interpreted by our ensembles include radicalism, environmental crisis, borders and boundaries, and this year’s focus: truth. Fall 2017 marked the fifth-anniversary Proclamation. Guided by professional artists, an ensemble of six high school juniors and seniors, who were selected based on interviews rather than auditions or tuition payments, created their own devised theater piece over eight weeks, performing in early November at OBERON. This year’s Proclamation ensemble wrestled with the vast concept of truth, guided by three mother questions: what is truth, where can we find it, and what should we do with it once we have it? Eight weeks of rehearsal included building connections among the ensemble through Laban and Viewpoints movement training. The ensemble composed movement sequences, engaged in deep conversation, and wrote every day—poetry, journal entries, newscasts, scenes, and more—to examine personal beliefs, imagine
opposing viewpoints, and identify inherited truths. The ensemble expanded their exploration of truth through conversations with mentors from Harvard and beyond, including Professor Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Director of Culture Change & Social Justice Initiatives and the Emerging Human Rights Leaders program at the Harvard Kennedy School. McCarthy challenged the ensemble to reexamine accepted historical truths. The ensemble connected these discussions of history with the ongoing conflicts around Confederate monuments, leading to a variety of challenging and creative exercises, including using movement to create “monuments” in conversation with the concept of freedom. After weeks of generating material spanning diverse facets of truth—mixing personal, cultural, and historical truths across topics like religion, body image, mass and social media, the pressure to succeed, and historical monuments—the ensemble was faced with the challenge of creating a unified performance from their wealth of material. Through their exploration, a story began to emerge about a world divided, the fear of conflict, and the fear of truths that oppose one's own. The result: Proclamation 5: True That (performed at OBERON in November 2017), an original and moving performance brimming with humor and honesty.
Brenna Nicely (A.R.T. Institute '15) is A.R.T. Education & Community Programs Manager.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 11
A.R.T.'s exploration of vibrant, cutting-edge performance continues
N O R E B GLOW
GLOWBERON AT OBERON
MARGA GOMEZ LATIN STANDARDS DEC. 14, 2017
The loving, funny, and true story of perseverance and creative addiction passed down from immigrant father to lesbian daughter. Between vivid portrayals of characters from 1960’s Manhattan to present-day San Francisco, Gomez ponders the ballads (or Latin Standards) penned by her late father, Willy Chevalier: a comedian/producer/ entrepreneur and composer of dance tunes that reveled in jealousy and obsession.
TRANS-JESTER! JAN. 25 & 26, 2018
From the new pronoun we’re forced to learn every time Will Smith’s son puts on a dress, to Caitlyn Jenner reaching out to Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to become his "trans ambassador," Bunny feels that it’s time for the gloves to come off. The selfproclaimed "pig in wig" brings her trademark huge hair to astound and offend—prepare to be challenged.
In Latin Standards, Marga Gomez performs the true story of perseverance and creative addiction passed down from immigrant father to lesbian daughter.
OBERON audiences may have seen you last in POUND— your hallucinatory send-up of lesbian portrayals in film—last summer. Latin Standards draws deeply on your father’s musical legacy. As a performer with roots in stand-up comedy, how do you find inspiration in other media including film and music? I love this question. I’m in Paris at the moment (unexpected free trip) and feasting on visuals here from museums, the autumn sky, and the architecture while taking in the life force around me—which is oddly reminiscent of the New York Latino community into which I was born. As a storyteller, I’ve tended to listen rather than look. (POUND drew from movies of the 60s through 90s that were dialogue-rich with much to parody). Since starting work on Latin Standards in 2016, I have begun to listen to music differently, finding similarities between how jokes and lyrics are constructed, and how these two different art forms service both sides of passion. My father, a comedian and songwriter of several Spanish-language hits, was always typing and jotting things down and, well, drinking, too. In telling our story, I want the audience to both hear and see how it was with him at every moment. For inspiration in preparing Latin Standards, all I had to do was open my eyes. Latin Standards juxtaposes your father’s experience as a performer in the mid-twentieth century with scenes from your own stand-up career. Specifically, you look back at a comedy night that you produced at a Latino
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drag club in San Francisco in 2012. What inspired you to place those two time periods in dialogue? Yikes. Mid-twentieth century. You’re right, although it makes me think of home furnishings. My father’s glory days were the 50s and 60s in New York. By the 70s, he was struggling for work as live entertainment venues in the Latino community suffered from the advent of Spanish television networks like Telemundo. I watched how my father never gave up performing and adapted to the market with varying degrees of success. By 2012, I had followed in my father’s footsteps, making a decent living in comedy and theater in my adopted home of San Francisco. My audience base there—Latinos, queers, progressives, and other artists— was suddenly facing rampant and illegal evictions then (and now). These events impacted the comedy series I had been running at a historic Latino drag club called Esta Noche, which faced closure after 35 years in business. The drag queens and I had to find another place to work. Fairly or unfairly, everything comes and goes in show business, and we all have to be ready. That need to adapt has not changed since my father hustled gigs and tried to write another hit song. In many queer stories, parents are figures of grief or anger. This play (in which you perform the role of your father), however, seems to be an act of understanding, and of love. As a performer whose queerness has often been at the center of your work, what was your journey
Photo: Fabian Echevarria.
Now in its third year at OBERON, Glowberon is an acclaimed series that features exceptional storytellers, solo playwrights, and cabaret and performance artists. The series was founded by Quinn Cox and is produced in partnership with Cambridge’s Glow Festival and Provincetown’s Afterglow Festival.
toward playing your father like? What drew you to tell this story, in a one-woman show, at this point in your life and your career? I’ve heard plenty of homophobic parent stories in real life. In theater, we get to transform negativity to reach the love or some sort of win. I don’t deliberately center my queerness in my work unless it is a show like POUND, and I’ve been asked if I identify more as queer or Latina, and I can’t answer that, really. My overarching trait is that I’m an outsider, but funny. My dad and I bear a strong physical resemblance. I have his swagger and strive for his charm. In a way, I have been playing my dad all my life. I started working in autobiographical performance because my parents were amazing, and I lost them too soon. If I didn’t tell their stories, who would? Artists are now in unchartered territory—Latin Standards is a father-daughter story intended as a survival comedy for everyone. The show’s subject matter is personal, and you started working on the piece before the 2016 election. But these days, contemporary politics loom over both immigrant narratives and Latinx stories—and this play is both. Have contemporary politics changed the way the piece works, or your own feelings about performing it? I begin Latin Standards with a few minutes of stand-up comedy which was sillier in the early 2016 workshops. Since the presidential election, that opening monologue has become way edgier. As for the rest of the piece, a story of immigrants and drag queens just gets more relevant. You’ve said that this solo play—your twelfth— is your last. What’s next for you? What projects are you working on, or just starting to dream about? Topping my list is getting my solo plays published for future generations in whatever medium exists next week. I have been teaching solo performance in my spare time—I even taught a one-day performance intensive for The Theater Offensive in Boston a few years ago. I also have a few screenplay ideas (who doesn’t?), and I continue to work as a stand-up comedian around the country. There’s so much I want to do, but I will leave the songwriting to my dad. Whatever I do next will be found at margagomez.com.
Interview by A.R.T. Editor & Assistant Dramaturg Robert Duffley (A.R.T. Institute '15).
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 13
American Modern Opera Company A STUDY ON EFFORT AT THE HARVARD DANCE CENTER DEC. 15 & 17, 2017
A Study on Effort explores connections between sound, body, and duration. An hourlong dialogue between dancer Bobbi Jene Smith and violinist Keir GoGwilt, the piece transposes different physical and emotional tasks between music and movement. Efforts are supported and transformed in the exchange between gesture and sound, finding pleasure at the boundaries of the two artistic disciplines.
TEAR THE MANSIONS DOWN
CAGE MATCH AT OBERON DEC. 16, 2017
American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) envisions a new generation of boundary-shattering American art
Pairs of AMOC artists from various disciplines face off against one another in three rounds of virtuosity. Performed by Miranda Cuckson, Keir GoGwilt, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Zack Winokur, Matthew Aucoin (Crossing, Harvard '12), and Conor Hanick.
AMOC defines opera as the medium in which multiple art forms collide and transform each other. At the core of our projects are close collaborations among our members— ones that develop and explore new forms of performative vocabulary. They range from recognizably “operatic” evening-length stage works, to chamber operas written for the company, to intimate duets between, for example, a dancer and an instrumentalist. We consider our approach to be what makes the company modern—a vehicle for exploring what it means to make opera today and in America. We are guided by a belief that the field of opera has a better chance of realizing its implicit ideal—a union of the human senses—if a group of artists from multiple disciplines work together intimately. AMOC’s seventeen artists are committed to building deep working relationships across years of collaboration. Our core members are singers, instrumentalists, dancers, a composer, and a director, all of whom drive the generation of projects and curation of collaborations within the company and beyond. Through this commitment to each other (a model that is by no means new to the performing arts but is rare, if not entirely unique, within the opera world) AMOC is able to support ideas, exploration, and work that cannot be entertained by traditional opera houses. We operate with fewer resources, on a smaller scale, so that we can work on far longer timelines. Our commitment is to working as an ensemble to re-imagine the experience of opera— from conception to performance.
WERE YOU THERE AT THE LOEB DRAMA CENTER A musical meditation about moving from darkness to light and finding spiritual communion in an abstract memorial to the past year's victims of police brutality. Bassbaritone Davóne Tines (Crossing, Harvard '09), accompanied by guest pianist Michael Schachter (Harvard '09) performs a set of songs ranging from Spirituals to a new piece composed by Matthew Aucoin.
Photo: Alex Apt.
DEC. 18, 2017
Led by Artistic Directors Matthew Aucoin (Crossing, Harvard '12) and Zack Winokur, AMOC is an artistic home for seventeen core collaborators and an incubator for their most ambitious projects.
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Bobbi Jene Smith performs A Study on Effort, one of the three pieces featured in the inaugural Run AMOC! Festival of the American Modern Opera Company.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2017/18 Season 15
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Published on Nov 27, 2017