15 16 February – May
american repertory theater | expanding the boundaries of theater
Elvis in the Badlands
the TEAMS’s RoosevElvis Fiction & Fact:
Spring At OBERON
Experimental New Works In The Body of the World:
Eve Ensler’s Memoir Onstage
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2 2015/16 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
MASTHEAD Managing Editor Ryan McKittrick Senior Editors Robert Duffley Grace Geller Joel Zayac Contributors Christina Davis Eve Ensler Jeremy Fassler Dan Fishback James Graham Louis Jenkins Lily Lewis-McNeil Tessa Nelson Dave Malloy James Montaño Aida Rocci The TEAM Christine Schuler Deschryver Anatoly Smeliansky Graphic Designer Tak Toyoshima Editors Nicole Banks Brenna Nicely Amanda Faye Martin Karlie Fitzgerald THE A.R.T. GUIDE Custom Publishing by Dig Publishing LLC 242 East Berkeley St. 5th Fl. Boston, MA 02118 Advertise: email@example.com SEASON PUBLICATION PARTNER
Artistic Director’s Welcome DIANE PAULUS The Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director American Repertory Theater
WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER This spring, we continue our season of adaptations, embracing the unique power of theater to immerse us in worlds beyond our own. We are always excited to share theater from other parts of the globe with our audiences in Boston, especially when the work fulfills our mission of expanding the boundaries of theater. This is the case with 1984, an adaptation of Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece created by the UK-based ensemble Headlong. We hope that this visceral interpretation of Orwell’s era-defining story will spark important conversations about the role of technology in the twenty-first century. A.R.T. will be partnering with the Ash Center for Democratic Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School to co-host a series of discussions about surveillance and censorship around this production. For the final show in the Loeb this season, I will be directing Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World. Eve Ensler (O.P.C., The Vagina Monologues, I Am An Emotional Creature) has dedicated her life to ending violence against women. Her 2013 memoir chronicles the collision of this lifelong activism with her diagnosis of Stage III/IV uterine cancer. When I first read this deeply touching memoir, I immediately reached out to Eve to commission an adaptation for the stage. Now in the second season of her residency at A.R.T., Eve will be performing in this moving one-woman show that invites us all to recognize the connections between our own bodies and the world at large. This spring also features a very special production at OBERON. RoosevElvis comes to us from the TEAM, a devised theater troupe dedicated to dramatizing (and juxtaposing) icons from American history. Directed by Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Three Pianos), the play puts Teddy Roosevelt and Elvis Presley, played by two actresses, in conversation to explore modern questions of gender, identity, and ambition. Read on in this Guide for a note from the writer and director of 1984, an interview with the ensemble behind RoosevElvis, and a message to Cambridge from Eve Ensler’s collaborators at City of Joy, a leadership community for women survivors of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. You’ll also find articles exploring two upcoming productions at the A.R.T Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard (Dying For It and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), as well as information about Company One Theatre and The Hypocrites, two ensembles performing in the OBERON Presents experimental performance series this spring. Looking forward to seeing you in the audience!
The 2015/16 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.
@americanrep COVER Libby King. Photo: Kevin Hourigan
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 3
FEBRUARY 14 MARCH 6, 2016
1984 By George Orwell A New Adaptation Created by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan Presented in association with Headlong, Almeida Theatre, & Nottingham Playhouse
April, 1984. Comrade 6079, Winston Smith, thinks a thought, starts a diary, and falls in love. But Big Brother is always watching, and the door to Room 101 can swing open in the blink of an eye. The definitive book of the twentieth century is reexamined in a radical, award-winning adaptation exploring surveillance, identity and why Orwellâ€™s vision of the future is as relevant now as ever. This groundbreaking production comes direct from the UK and an extended smash-hit run in the West End.
UK ensemble Headlong Theatre's radical, award-winning adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four explores surveillance, identity, and why Orwell's vision of the future is as relevant now as ever.
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FOREWORD: APPENDIX By Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan
Photo: Hara Yannas in 1984; Manuel Harlan.
The ending of George Orwell’s final novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, is notoriously bleak. “If you want a picture of the future,” Winston has been told, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Sitting in a café, defeated, drunk and waiting for a bullet, he loves his oppressor. Winston loves Big Brother. As we all know, that’s the end of the story. Except it isn’t. After ‘THE END’, there is an Appendix, ‘The Principles of Newspeak’, that many of the novel’s readers miss altogether. The American Bookof-the-Month Club, in discussions to publish the first US edition of the novel, demanded that Orwell cut the Appendix in its entirety (along with much of Goldstein’s book) before publication. “I can’t possibly agree to [it],” Orwell wrote to his US agent in 1949. “It would alter the whole colour of the book and leave out a good deal which is essential. It would also—though the judges, having read the parts that it is proposed to cut out, may not appreciate this—make the story unintelligible.” Orwell stood to lose at least £40,000 in American sales. To Orwell, clearly the Appendix was essential to understanding the story. By the end of the novel, though, the reader should already know about the Appendix. At the first mention of Newspeak (on page four or five in most editions) is the only footnote in the entire novel: 1. Newspeak was the official language of Oceania. For an account of its structure and etymology see Appendix. The reader might notice that Newspeak, oddly, is in the past tense. We might take up this invitation to read the Appendix before reading on. We might realise that fiction doesn’t usually have footnotes or appendices. The Appendix is fiction pretending to be fact. Written in a period long after the novel’s 1984, a time in which the Party appears to have
fallen, it re-considers the text that precedes it. It is written in ‘Oldspeak’, our language, which should have been made obsolete, and concerns itself with the ‘final, perfected version’ of Newspeak ‘as embodied in the Eleventh Edition of the [Newspeak] Dictionary.’ In the novel’s 1984, ‘the tenth edition’ is not due to appear for some months. It refers to Shakespeare, Milton, Swift and Dickens and quotes the Declaration of Independence at length (the latter particularly unlikely to survive Party censorship). It finishes by telling us that “...the final adoption of Newspeak had been fixed for so late a date as 2050,” reinforcing the point its own presence makes: that the final adoption of Newspeak never happened, and its ‘principles’ are so obsolete that they now need an explanatory Appendix. The final word of the Appendix (and of the novel) is ‘2050’. O’Brien tells Winston Smith that he will be lifted “clean out from the stream of history.” Yet, there he is, named once, off-hand, in the Appendix, telling us the name of the Records Department, ‘in which Winston Smith worked’. We don’t know how—but Winston Smith made it into history. But if this Appendix is written by someone who has read the novel from the future and appended these historical comments on the language, what is the novel in their world? Is it a
Party record on Winston which survived into this post-Party future? Something that didn’t get into the shredder or the furnace before the records offices were stormed? Or is it something to do with Winston’s diary? We don’t know quite whether to trust it. The Party controlled all records. How has this ‘account’ of Winston’s life survived? According to the Orwell Estate, ours is the first attempt to dramatise the Appendix in any medium. It never felt less than ‘essential’: given the novel’s interest in records and documents and their relationship to truth, the Appendix perfectly complicates the novel that precedes it. Treating Orwell’s Appendix as ‘essential’ makes his novel something far more subjective and complex than simply a bleak futuristic dystopia: at the final moment, it daringly opens up the novel’s form and reflects its central questions back to the reader. Can you trust evidence? How do you ever know what’s really true? And when and where are you, the reader, right now? R.I. and D.M. September 2050.
Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan created Headlong Theatre's adaptation of Nineteen EightyFour.
With the development of television, and the technical advance which made it possible to receive and transmit simultaneously on the same instrument, private life came to an end. From Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 5
The cast of 1984.
TRACKING Playwright James Graham follows Americans' right to privacy— and its demise—through Cambridge and beyond
There is something immensely satisfying about a production that dramatizes the erosion of civil liberties being performed at A.R.T., given that— arguably—it was in Cambridge where privacy first found its way into American law and then, 200 years later, began its demise as an accepted part of American cultural life.
Too “Orwellian” a view? Possibly. But when Louis Brandeis, the Supreme Court Justice and Harvard graduate, wrote his revolutionary paper for the Harvard Law Review in 1890, he argued in “A Right to Privacy” that legal recognition of a person’s secrets was now paramount given the “mental pain and distress” such an invasion can
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cause. No doubt Winston Smith, the protagonist of Nineteen Eighty-Four, would readily agree. As Brandeis saw it: “Instantaneous photographs and newspaper enterprise have invaded the sacred precincts of private and domestic life; and numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whis-
Photos (L-R): Cast of 1984; Manuel Harlan. Matthew Spencer in 1984; Manuel Harlan.
pered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.’” When Mark Zuckerberg arrived in Brandeis’ footsteps at Harvard two centuries later, he tapped into the modern desire to connect, to broadcast, and to share our most intimate thoughts while simultaneously performing private surveillance on our friends and colleagues (tell me you’ve never done it). Facebook was born, and culturally accepted boundaries about what we share and to whom began to change forever. I should declare an interest—given that no one has any secrets any more. I wrote my own play entitled Privacy for the Donmar Warehouse in London, 2014, and I am currently adapting Nineteen Eighty-Four as a feature film next year. To me, the changing nature of surveillance is the seminal issue of our generation, and—whatever side of the debate you fall down on—there is no denying the prescience and increasing relevance of Orwell’s novel, as witnessed in this truly remarkable theatrical adaptation. Don’t get me wrong—I think sharing is a good thing. And that’s why I love theatre. So much of our entertainment and culture has become “private” and atomized now, where even movies are viewed on cellphones or iPads, alone in our rooms rather than together in the multiplex (after, of course, an algorithm has carefully recommended to you your choice based on detailed analysis of your personality and past behavior). So the public forum that is theatre, where a community must physically come together in a space and debate the issues of the day, has become more and more essential. Having worked at A.R.T. last summer with the great Diane Paulus on our musical Finding Neverland (for which I wrote the book), I can’t wait for the rawness and power of Duncan Macmillan’s uncompromising adaptation to echo around that chamber. Above the politics and the ideas, you’re in for a theatrical feast. It was Tim Berners-Lee—now also a Massachusetts resident—who invented and then donated the World Wide Web to all humankind (or, as he live-tweeted from London’s 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, “This is for everyone”). And there is arguing what a force for good the connecting of the planet and the global sharing of ideas has become. But there will always be compromises that come with such advances. Regardless of the different views on the ethics of his actions, the Edward Snowden revelations about the expanding reach of government sur-
We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google veillance gave nations across the whole world a long pause for thought. Of course, unlike in Orwell’s imagined dystopia, where the surveillance is undertaken by a fascist government regime, today we freely hand over data about ourselves by the tonne, to social media sites, web browsers, shopping websites, fitness apps, you name it, in order to receive goods and services in return. Where complacency led Orwell’s Party to power, our own sheer compliance is what’s done privacy in for us. That is because, in the main, we think it a fair and worthwhile transaction. We give away a bit of our privacy in return for something we actually want, geared uniquely to our own personal preferences. And at labs nearby at M.I.T and Harvard, students are working on the technology of tomorrow we can’t even begin to imagine yet, to assist us in our modern lives, and make us happy.
All I would say is—heed Orwell’s warnings about the fragile nature of our freedom, as brought magically to life by some of theatre’s most exciting talent in this exhilarating new show: “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better…”
James Graham is a British playwright and screenwriter. His plays include Finding Neverland, A.R.T. and Broadway; Privacy, Donmar Warehouse; This House, National Theatre. His film and TV work includes X+Y, Prisoners’ Wives, Caught in a Trap, and a forthcoming feature film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation is collaborating with the American Repertory Theater on several discussions following performances of 1984. The discussions will examine totalitarianism and state surveillance in the modern day.
Discussions will be led by Harvard University faculty doing research on authoritarian states and surveillance in democratically governed states such as China, Russia and the U.S. For more information, please visit americanrepertorytheater.org.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 7
March 8-20, 2016
THE HYPOCRITES H.M.S. Pinafore
April 20-29, 2016
The Hypocrites (previously seen in The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, 12 Nights, and Romeo Juliet) return to OBERON this spring with the final installment of their Gilbert & Sullivan Rep Project. Called “crucial to our well being” by The Chicago Tribune, The Hypocrites place collective experience at the center of their mission. Since their founding in 1997, their productions have re-rigged classics from Wagner to Tennessee Williams, turning familiar stories into experiments in collective imagination. All Our Tragic, developed by Hypocrites Artistic Director Sean Graney at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute in 2013 and featuring acting students from the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training, immersed audiences in a 12hour panorama of all existing 36 Greek tragedies. Converting OBERON into Captain Corcoran’s sailing ship, The Hypocrites invite audiences aboard for a zany promenade in H.M.S. Pinafore. Acting, singing, and playing instruments all through OBERON’s flexible space, the ensemble erases boundaries between stage, orchestra, and audience. The result is a romp through Gilbert & Sullivan’s eclectic and inventive world, where one sailoress’ forbidden love is an invitation for everyone to party.
COMPANY ONE THEATRE
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We’re Gonna Die
Named Boston’s “Best Fringe Company” by Boston Magazine in 2015, Company One Theatre has strived to create a more diverse, innovative, and open theater since its founding in 1999. Driven by their mission to unite Boston’s diverse communities through socially provocative performance, Company One Theatre has performed in spaces around the city, from the ensemble’s home base at the Boston Center for the Arts to Suffolk’s Modern Theater and Arts Emerson. In their OBERON debut, Company One Theatre stages the New England premiere of Young Jean Lee’s We’re Gonna Die. Blending storytelling, stand-up, music, and theater, this song cycle invites audiences to get real and rock about about the one thing we all have in common: mortality. Lee’s work was last seen at A.R.T. in the Institute for Advanced Theater Training’s production of The Shipment (Oct. 2015, directed by Marcus Stern).
Photos (L-R): Doug Pawlik in H.M.S. Pinafore; Evan Hanover. Obehi Janice; Mona Maruyama. Rae Lancaster and Matt Ortner in AcousticaElectronica 2014; Robert Terry Photography.
This spring, OBERON PRESENTS welcomes Chicago-based troupe The Hypocrites and Boston's own Company One Theatre to A.R.T.'s club theater venue. Learn about each company's distinctive style of making and performing work.
AcousticaElectronica, by OBERON Artists in Residence ToUch Performance Art
OBERON CELEBRATES THREE YEARS OF NEW WORK WITH ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE This season marks the third year of OBERON’s Artists in Residence program. Rooted in A.R.T’s mission to expand the boundaries of theater by supporting local and emerging artists, OBERON launched this multi-year program in 2013 with three local performance groups: Boston Circus Guild; Liars & Believers; and Touch Performance Art. Following two seasons of original programming, each OBERON Artist in Residence company is launching a world premiere production in the 2015/16 Season, along with work-in-progress workshop performances during each production’s development.
Boston Circus Guild
is a collaboration of over 80 circus performers, musicians, artists, dancers, and event producers from the greater Boston area, banded together to educate, inspire, and entertain audiences. In addition to celebrating Halloween with their annual macabre circus extravanganza, Cirque of the Dead, BCG premiered Midnight at the Midway (Aug. 2015). Part interactive experience, part show, and all party, Midnight at the Midway joins the members of a circus for their closing night at the end of a very, very long run. Guests are invited to dance, drink, mingle and let loose in a world where anything can happen, and —thanks to a mix of live circus acts and improvisation—every
Liars & Believers combines
ToUch Performance Art
movement and dance, live singing and music, puppetry, mask, clown, and spoken text in devised works that expand the language of live performance. Liars & Believers (LAB) continued its residency at OBERON this year with Who Would Be King (Nov. 2015). Violence and betrayal, angels and prophets, villains and kings...and rubber chickens fill this story of an ancient ruler, whose imperfection in the face of a more perfect rival drives him to madness. Who Would Be King tells a story of nobility and human frailty with vigorous physicality, live music, clowns, masks and humor.
creates high-quality, innovative, and unique art by exploring diverse artistic realities. Following a successful run of the acclaimed immersive event AcousticaElectronica, ToUch Performance Art continues its exploration of club theater with a brand new immersive production, Generation Y (Feb. 18-Mar. 4, 2016). This multi-media work explores failure, success, relationship, and growth through the lens of the millennials’ experience.
night is different.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 9
MAY 6 – 29, 2015
Directed by Rachel Chavkin
On a hallucinatory road trip from the Badlands to Graceland, the spirits of Elvis Presley and Theodore Roosevelt battle over the soul of the painfully shy meat processing plant worker, Ann, and over what kind of man or woman Ann should become. Set against the boundless blue skies of the Great Plains and endless American highway, RoosevElvis is a new work about gender, appetite, and the multitudes we contain.
STRANGE FUSIONS The TEAM talks Elvis, Buffalo, and the Badlands
Once described as “Gertrude Stein meets MTV,” the TEAM (last seen at A.R.T.'s 2010 Emerging America Festival with Particularly in the Heartland) crashes American mythologies into modern stories in order to illuminate the experience of living in America today. As a devised theater troupe, the group ranges beyond traditional methods of playwriting. Led by Rachel Chavkin (Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Three Pianos), the ensemble writes collaboratively on a central topic. Developed over months—and often years—of rehearsal, their works merge improvisation, primary sources, personal anecdotes, dance, and music into performances as far-reaching and eclectic as America itself. Past work has included a rowdy audit of American capitalism spanning from the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam through modern Las Vegas (Mission Drift), as well as a multimedia exorcism of the myths haunting responses to disaster and reconstruction, from the Civil War through Hurricane Katrina (Architecting). In May, the TEAM arrives at OBERON with RoosevElvis, the story of a shy meat-processing plant worker torn between competing models of American masculinity—represented, in person, by the ghosts of Theodore Roosevelt and Elvis Presley. Here, the RoosevElvis creators (writer/director Rachel Chavkin, writer/ associate director Jake Margolin, and writers/performers Kristen Sieh and Libby King) interview themselves about their process of making new plays, their fascinations with Elvis and Theodore Roosevelt, and the Badlands-toGraceland road-trip on which RoosevElvis was born.
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Photo: Libby King and Kristen Sieh; Kevin Hourigan.
Created by the TEAM
In preparation for RoosevElvis, the TEAM followed their characters in a real-life roadtrip from the Badlands to Graceland.
Our work tends to begin with a number of separate impulses, and then there’s a moment where two ideas that had seemed separate suddenly fuse together. Can you remember a moment of connection you made during the process? JAKE: I love this question, because by the time we finish writing our plays, I generally feel like, “of course all of these things go together—in fact, I can’t believe someone else hasn’t already written this!” When they don’t intersect is when something that was perfect on its own gets cut. I can think of so many wonderful scenes that spun off onto the cutting room floor precisely because they never fused together with the rest of the piece. LIBBY: At the initial workshops of RoosevElvis, Ann and Elvis were not in dialogue as they are now. There was Ann, who was a hardcore Elvis fan, and then there was Elvis. And Elvis lived in a very dreamy, almost purgatorial plane of existence. It wasn’t until later that we discovered they could coexist. This discovery happened (I think) when we were doing some longer-form improvisations establishing the routine of Ann’s after-work winddown. She would drink some beer and smoke some pot and turn on Rebel Without a Cause and get undressed and eat a sandwich and eventual-
ly open her laptop to do the online dating thing. And I think it was in the improvisations that I discovered I could use Elvis to give Ann the courage to ask a girl out on a date. And so he began talking to her. And this was a huge breakthrough for me, and Ann, and I think the play. Libby, can you talk about your early interest in Elvis impersonators? This seemed to outweigh your initial interest in the man himself, and steered you to the character zygote that became Ann. LIBBY: We were in Las Vegas for four weeks working on Mission Drift, and I really fell in love with Vegas. I think it’s fair to say that during those four weeks I encountered Elvis daily. Before this, I had never thought long and hard about Elvis. I had never had an Elvis phase. I had a Grateful Dead phase, a Dylan phase, a Madonna phase, a Michael Jackson phase... And in Vegas I was encountering Elvis daily—sometimes multiple times daily— running into Elvis impersonators, going to see Elvis impersonators, mugs staring at you in gas stations. And then I began watching Elvis’s live performances in Vegas. But the impersonators really stuck with me—the DEDICATION—and I knew that I couldn’t just make myself an Elvis fan. I needed to create a character who was completely
and utterly a devotee. I needed to create a character who really needed him, and then I could start to work. And that’s how Ann was born. We’ve used video in a number of our plays, but from the earliest point in the inception of RoosevElvis there was a proposal to make film central to the piece. This led to filming with Andrew Schneider in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Memphis. But I’m wondering if you feel that this filming influenced our writing and development process outside of the actually filmed portions of the play as well? LIBBY: I was influenced by the huge role film played in Elvis’ life. One of the facts that I learned early in my research was that when Elvis was in high school, he worked as an usher at Loew’s State Theatre in Memphis. I was very struck by this image of young Elvis, about to completely blow up, standing quietly in the dark watching movies. I don’t think there would be “Elvis” without “James.” Elvis was obsessed with James Dean and Rebel Without a Cause. He memorized all of Dean’s lines. He really, really wanted to be a serious film actor, and he admired people like Peter Sellers.
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americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 11
continued from page 11
In the end, I think Elvis was deeply humiliated by his film career. I remember us all very early on watching Elvis in Love Me Tender. He really didn’t want to sing in the movie—he thought musicals were cheesy—but ultimately he succumbed, and so I found the movie very sad. Because he was already losing his own pursuits and succumbing to the people who knew what would make money.
KRISTEN: It’s hard for me to say if that cinematic goal influenced the writing, or if Elvis’ relationship to being onscreen just leant itself to that kind of self-mythologizing and self-observation. I think the video element allowed for a kind of epic scope that wouldn’t have been there otherwise: a sense of great distances and enormity that’s really important to each of these icons. Why Thelma & Louise? JAKE: In our writing process, I find it really useful to use cultural or aesthetic touchstones to let everyone else know what on earth I’m picturing. I’m finally learning that after we all spend an hour or so writing in response to the same prompt, we are each in our own brain-space and nobody has any idea what’s in my head. So, as I remember it (and I can’t find the original scene, so this could totally be incorrect),
A THEATRICAL PRESIDENT The TEAM’s RoosevElvis brings Teddy Roosevelt to life onstage. Heather Cole, Curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library, reflects on Theodore Roosevelt’s theatrical life, and his life in the theater.
The TEAM interrogates icons of American masculinity in RoosevElvis.
I was trying to describe the vibe of a scene in which Teddy and Elvis hit the road and wrote something along the lines of “they are Thelma & Louise.” And it stuck. Whereas in the moment I was just referring to the sense of abandon and danger and tension and the Southwest landscape, you, Rachel, responded to the part where Thelma & Louise was a total landmark event in having two women starring in a buddy/adventure movie. And I absolutely love Thelma & Louise and jumped at the opportunity to spend the rest of the development process thinking about it. What were your favorite moments from the process of developing RoosevElvis? KRISTEN: I really enjoyed the initial couple weeks where we didn’t know what the play was going to be or how we were going to stitch these two guys together. Rehearsal went really slowly in a way I don’t remember a TEAM process going before. I liked sitting with Libby and free
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) had many roles: naturalist, historian, war hero, and president, among others. He was also an avid fan of the theater. Roosevelt most likely attended plays and other performances as a young patrician New Yorker. While a student at Harvard, Roosevelt served as secretary to the Hasty Pudding Club (unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that he took part in the performances). As president, Roosevelt took advantage of the role’s perks, and despite a busy professional life, managed to attend theatrical performances with his wife Edith at least once a week. While security demanded that he view plays from
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associating back-and-forth facts about the lives of these men who we didn’t yet know as well as we would eventually. There were also some wonderful road-trip moments… LIBBY: The entire road trip...driving through the Badlands in an RV, seeing a herd of buffalo. I remember we were told by the park attendant that our chances of seeing buffalo were slim that day. Then, after driving for some time, we happened upon this single buffalo hanging out in a field totally solo all except for this tiny bird perched on its back—and then we headed up over a hill and there was this entire herd...the grass was so green and the sky was so blue and talk about cinematic—and I include our RV in the image because it was so out of place but also so right for what we were doing...filming our little low low-budget movie was one of the best times I’ve ever had not just with the TEAM but ever. OH! And seeing Graceland—arriving there, having never been—and carrying Ann’s story of this pilgrimage. It was deeply moving.
the safety of a well-guarded presidential box, Roosevelt would enter the theater through the lobby and cheerily greet anyone who wished to speak with him. He often invited actors he liked to visit him at the White House, where many returned to perform in weekly “musicales” organized by Edith. Roosevelt’s larger-than-life personality, ongoing struggle to overcome personal tragedy, and fiercely articulated progressive ideals have made him an irresistible subject for biographers, novelists, playwrights and actors. Plays featuring Roosevelt began appearing during his presidency; he has appeared steadily in plays and films into the twenty-first century.
Those interested in learning more about Roosevelt’s life are welcome to explore the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library. Among over 50,000 items in the collection are Roosevelt’s diaries, letters, drafts of speeches, published writings, and photos from throughout the president’s life. The Theodore Roosevelt Gallery next door in Pusey Library, open to the public, features exhibitions of material from the collection. More information about accessing the collection can be found online at hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/ collections/roosevelt.cfm
Photos (Bottom-Top): Theodore Roosevelt; Houghton Library, Harvard University. Libby King and Kristen Sieh; Rachel Chavkin.
RACHEL: I often start work with a few godfather pieces in my brain. For this piece, I was thinking a lot about Radiohole’s Whatever, Heaven Allows, which is an homage/deconstruction/ assassination of Douglas Sirk’s films. It was brutally messy and hilarious and queer. On the other end of the spectrum, I was thinking about Kelly Reichardt’s films, especially Wendy and Lucy and Old Joy, which are these nearly nonverbal, intimate and super gentle character portraits. Film is a visual and character-driven medium—I think moreso than theater, which tends to be more dialogue-based. So thinking about film from early on gave me the permission to be quiet, and to let the work be quiet.
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MARY POPPINS Book by Julian Fellowes with the original music by the Sherman Brothers. Additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Based on the books by P. L. Travers and the Disney Feature Motion Picture. Mary Poppins is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).
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americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 13
DOMINATING THE LANDSCAPE The TEAM’s RoosevElvis By Dan Fishback
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ANN: I hated middle school. BRENDA: Who didn’t? ANN: There were definitely people I knew who liked it.
Photo: Kristen Sieh and Libby King in RoosevElvis at The Bushwick Starr; Sue Kessler.
BRENDA: Yeah, and none of them are doing anything interesting now. It’s a heart-breaking moment of insensitivity, for Ann’s life is far from interesting. The quiet, working-class butch is lonely in the middle of South Dakota, and has invited Brenda, the adventurous queer hipster, to visit her, hoping for love, or at least some kind of connection. But Brenda is rude and dismissive. She laughs in Ann’s face, prods her with accusatory questions about Ann’s lot in life, shaming her for her own sadness, her own isolation. If cosmopolitan, feminine Brenda could empathize with gender non-conforming, isolated Ann, she would see that not every gay kid flees their hometown, or finds happiness, confidence, and freedom. Not every queer child grows up to be a defiant hero. Not everyone can conquer their own lives. Brenda is “It Gets Better” incarnate, unwilling to face the grim reality: for some people, It Stays Bad. These questions of self-determination, power and courage propel the TEAM’s RoosevElvis into absurd, rambunctious scenarios and deeply-felt moments of authentic pain. As we watch Ann grapple with Brenda’s instigations, the specters of Teddy Roosevelt and Elvis Presley (played, respectively, by the same actresses who play the two women) guide us (and Ann) through meditations on ambition, tenacity, and greatness. These buoyantly-rendered historical caricatures help us see Ann’s crises in a global context, and urge us to think more broadly about who gets to be great, who gets to succeed, who gets to be “king.” Cleverly, the TEAM sets up a constellation of imagery that questions its own dramatic weight. Set in the plains, near “contested Lakota territory,” and starring Teddy Roosevelt (arguably the greatest American imperialist) and Elvis (arguably the greatest appropriator of Black culture), we are constantly reminded of the long history of white people stealing
from people of color. So even as we burrow into the scarred, wretched psyche of Ann, the butch white factory worker who has no means to articulate her gender identity or ascend beyond her boring life, we know that even she is more privileged than many. And even Elvis, her working class hero, could not have become king without the same sense of white entitlement that won South Dakota for the United States. (As Mos Def says, “Elvis Presley ain’t got no soul / Chuck Berry is rock n’ roll.”) At one point, Brenda says to Ann, “You’re remarkably unbrave.” Later, the same actress (as Teddy Roosevelt) tells Elvis, “I’m sorry if my superiority offends you!” What I love about this piece is that this same perspective has equal moments of credibility and cartoon. In one moment, a character will convince you that you should try harder, strive higher, and achieve tremendous things for your own legacy; then the play turns on a dime and makes people who do such things seem like ridiculous, over-compensating fools. And between those poles, we see the real meat of ambition, and the real questions that haunt a yearning soul: How can I speak for myself? Do I deserve what I want? Does my success require another person’s failure? With an appropriately ambitious range of emotional lenses and theatrical conceits, RoosevElvis offers to us, as striving humans in various states of success and failure, what Brenda cannot easily offer Ann: kindness, warmth, and, ultimately, empathy.
Dan Fishback is a playwright from New York City, and director of the Helix Queer Performance Network. Time Out New York called his play The Material World “the best downtown musical in years,” and one of the Top 10 Plays of 2012. He is currently working on a new album with his band Cheese On Bread and a new play about a Jewish American family trying to reconcile its political dispute over Israel/Palestine.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 15
MAY 7 – 29, 2016
IN THE BODY OF THE WORLD Written & Performed by Eve Ensler Directed by Diane Paulus
TURNING PAIN TO POWER The City of Joy By Christine Schuler Deschryver
In this world-premiere adaptation of her critically acclaimed 2013 memoir, Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues, Emotional Creature, The Good Body, O.P.C.) celebrates the strength and joy that connect a single body to the planet. As an activist and artist, Ensler has spent her career speaking about the female body. While working in the Congo, where war continues to inflict devastating violence on women, she was diagnosed with stage III/IV uterine cancer. This diagnosis erased the boundaries between Ensler’s work and her own body. In this raw, humorous, and bold performance, Ensler charts the connections between the personal and the public, inviting and challenging all of us to come back into our bodies, and thus the world.
Playwright, activist, and performer Eve Ensler with collaborators Dr. Denis Mukwege and Christine Schuler Descryver (L-R) at ONE BILLION RISING at City of Joy, Feb. 14, 2013 in Bukavu, DRC.
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Photo: Paula Allen for V-Day.
It can be hard to explain to people in the outside world what has happened here in our country, the Democratic Republic of Congo—except for in one way. The only way.
BUKAVU, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO— Over five million people have died in the conflict here, hundreds of thousands of women have been raped and violated, where we were invaded by almost all the surrounding countries, who steal our natural resources. Our country is scarred by a brutal history of colonialism, our land and our resources repeatedly pillaged, from rubber to minerals, extracted by foreigners in the name of a colonial crown and flag, or more recently a corporate logo, all culminating in a decades-long war that has been suffered by the Congolese people, most brutally by her women. Since 1996, sexual and gender violence in the Eastern DRC has been used to torture and humiliate women and girls and destroy families. Advocates on the ground estimate that over half a million women and girls have been raped since the conflict began. In addition to the severe psychological impact, sexual and gender violence leaves many survivors with genital lesions, traumatic fistulae, severed and broken limbs, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. What the human brain can understand is stories. I am thrilled that Eve Ensler’s In The Body of The World is coming to A.R.T., as the stories of women in the Congo play a key role within her memoir. And Eve has played a key role in our work in Congo. I live and work in Bukavu, the epicenter of some of the worst sexual violence in the world. In 2005, a woman patient was brought to us who seemed like many women we see: she had been brought to the edge of physical destruction by multiple extremely violent rapes by militiamen. Her name, Jane Mukuninwa. To give her even a chance at survival, she needed nine separate surgeries and will probably need more. The women who were operated on, if they survived, would face enormous barriers to justice and often there was nowhere for them to go. Survivors usually suffer in silence, fearing stigma, rejection, and ostracism if their ordeal is made public and are often thrown out or shunned by their communities, their families. Jane lived. But it was not much of a life.
Then, in 2007, Dr. Denis Mukwege, the founder of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu who has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, met Eve in New York and invited her to come to Congo, so that she could see what women were experiencing here, and what he was facing as a doctor, in his daily strive to repair and heal them after the brutal rapes that were taking place. He wanted her to help us take our stories and plight to the world, so that people could understand what Congolese women were undergoing, in the hope to join efforts to stop the violence. He introduced Eve to me, and we spent weeks on her first visit talking to women, listening to their stories and bonding with each other. To be candid, we get a lot of foreign visitors, who come to have their picture taken and to shed some tears, and then leave. So I didn’t expect much. But Eve did something nobody had done before. She asked Jane, and the other women, what help do you need? The women explained that they would like to build a safe space for the women who have had everything taken from them to rebuild their confidence, their sense of self, and their sense of joy—and for those women, once they had recovered, to go back to their communities, and to lead them. The women whispered dreams like this. Their bodies were leaking from the rapes; they would apologize with shame. Many people would have laughed at this very idea that these women could ever speak to their families again, never mind become leaders. Eve did not. She told them that she would return, with financial support so the women themselves could build City of Joy, a place where they could turn pain to power. By 2011, it was built in full. Jane was part of the first class there and has since become one of its leaders. There, the women begin to choose their own path in life—to explore their feelings and fears and dreams. At Panzi Hospital, Dr. Mukwege and his team can reconstruct them physically; but in City of Joy, they reconstruct themselves emotionally and become political agents of their own lives.
It welcomes, twice a year, 90 survivors of gender violence. They stay for six months, over which they undergo intense therapies, holistic recovery and healing. They are taught about leadership, their rights, and other empowerment programs. I have watched as women who were as broken as a human being can be—emotionally and physically disemboweled—learn to live and love again. I have watched women I did not think could bear to take another breath dance again. And—even more incredibly—I have seen that Jane’s seemingly impossible ambition has come to pass: women are now returning to their communities as leaders. They have become the strongest points of their community, spreading the City of Joy revolution across the whole of eastern Congo. In her memoir, In The Body of The World, Eve tells the story of how she has been tutored, inspired, and changed by the women we know so well. It is not the story of a rape. It is the story of a rising—of women who, in the most horrific of circumstances, are achieving the most incredible things. And Eve tells of how, when she then faced a life-threatening crisis of her own, it was the strength of the women of the Congo, and what they taught her, that helped her to survive. At City of Joy, we have developed a unique strength. We believe it is a strength that has something to teach all human beings—about how to live, and love, and dream. In The Body of The World carries that spirit across the ocean to A.R.T. I invite you to learn more about the rising revolution that is taking place at City of Joy. Visit drc.vday.org.
Christine Schuler Deschryver is the Director of City of Joy and V-Day Congo.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 17
An excerpt from In The Body of The World By Eve Ensler
A mother’s body against a child’s body makes a place. It says you are here. Without this body against your body there is no place. I envy people who miss their mother. Or miss a place or know something called home. The absence of a body against my body created a gap, a hole, a hunger. This hunger determined my life. I have been exiled from my body. I was ejected at a very young age and I got lost. I did not have a baby. I have been afraid of trees. I have felt the Earth as my enemy. I did not live in the forests. I lived in the concrete city where I could not see the sky or sunset or stars. I moved at the pace of engines and it was faster than my own breath. I became a stranger to myself and to the rhythms of the Earth. I aggrandized my alien identity and wore black and felt superior. My body was a burden. I saw it as something that unfortunately had to be maintained. I had little patience for its needs. For years I have been trying to find my way back to my body, and to the Earth. I guess you could say it has been a preoccupation. Although I have felt pleasure in both the Earth and my body, it has been more as a visitor than as an inhabitant. I have tried various routes to get back. Promiscuity, anorexia, performance art. I have spent time by the Adriatic and in the green Vermont mountains, but always I have felt estranged, just as I was estranged from my own mother. I was in awe of her beauty but could not find my way in. One gawked at my mother. One desired my mother. And so I gawked and desired the Earth and my mother, and I despised my own body. My body that I had been forced to evacuate when my father invaded and then violated me. I lived as a breathless, rapacious machine programmed for striving and accom-
plishment. I was driven. I called it working hard, being busy, on top of it, making things happen. But in fact, I could not stop. As I had no reference point for my body, I began to ask other women about their bodies, in particular their vaginas (as I sensed vaginas were important). This led me to writing The Vagina Monologues, which then led me to talking incessantly and obsessively about vaginas. I did this in front of many strangers. As a result of me talking so much about vaginas, women started telling me stories about their bodies. I crisscrossed the Earth in planes, trains, and jeeps. I was hungry for the stories of other women who had experienced violence and suffering. These women and girls had also become exiled from their bodies and they, too, were desperate for a way home. I went to over sixty countries. I heard about women being molested in their beds, flogged in their burqas, acid-burned in their kitchens, left for dead in parking lots. I went to Jalalabad, Sarajevo, Alabama, Port-au-Prince, Peshawar, Pristina. I spent time in refugee camps, in burned-out buildings and backyards, in dark rooms where women whispered their stories by flashlight. Women showed me their ankle lashes and melted faces, the scars on their bodies from knives and burning cigarettes. Then I went somewhere else. I went outside what I thought I knew. I went to the Congo and I heard stories that shattered all the other stories. In 2007 I landed in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. I heard stories that got inside my body. I heard about a little girl who couldn’t stop peeing on herself because huge men had shoved themselves inside her. I heard about an eighty-year-old woman whose legs were broken and torn out of their sockets when the soldiers pulled them over her head and raped her. There were thousands of these stories. The stories saturated my cells and nerves. I stopped sleeping. All the stories began to bleed together. The raping of the Earth. The pillaging of minerals. The destruction of vaginas. They were not separate from each other or from me. In the Congo there has been a war raging for almost thirteen years. Nearly eight million people
18 2015/16 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
have died and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped and tortured. It is an economic war fought over minerals that belong to the Congolese but are pillaged by the world. There are local and foreign militias from Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. They enter villages and they murder. They rape wives in front of their husbands. They force the husbands and sons to rape their daughters and sisters. They shame and destroy families and take over the villages and the mines. The minerals are abundant in the Congo—tin, copper, gold, and coltain, which are used in our iPhones and PlayStations and computers. The Congo and the individual horror stories of her women consumed me. But I found something else here as well. Inside these stories of unspeakable violence, inside the women of the Congo, was a determination and a life force I had never witnessed. There was grace and gratitude, fierceness and readiness. Inside this world of atrocities and horror was a red-hot energy on the verge of being born. The women had hunger and dreams, demands and a vision. They conceived of a place, a concept, called City of Joy. It would be their sanctuary. It would be a place of safety, of healing, of gathering strength, of coming together, of releasing their pain and trauma. A place where they would declare their joy and power. A place where they would rise as leaders. The process of building was arduous and seemingly impossible. We were scheduled to open in May, but on March 17, 2010, they discovered a huge tumor in my uterus. Cancer threw me through the window of my disassociation into the center of my body’s crisis. The Congo threw me deep into the crisis of the world, and these two experiences merged as I faced the disease and what I felt was the beginning of the end.
Eve Ensler wrote In The Body of The World and will perform its world premiere stage adaptation at A.R.T. in May 2016.
Students in Proclamation 3 at A.R.T.
Photos: Student participants in Proclamation 3; Johnathan Carr.
A NEW GENERATION
In November 2015, A.R.T. presented Proclamation 3: World Sick at OBERON and at the Harvard Ed Portal. The performance was the culmination of the A.R.T.’s eight-week afterschool theater program for high school juniors and seniors, now in its third year. The 2015 Proclamation ensemble was comprised of twelve students, together representing seven Boston-area high schools. The topic for this season’s Proclamation—environmental crisis—was one that readily evoked powerful, personal and truly surprising writings. In keeping with Proclamation’s mission of providing students with mentors from both the A.R.T. and Harvard communities, it was only natural that we partner with the Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) to help bridge the gap between climate science and theater-making. Keen, engaged inquiry guided the ensemble’s creative exploration of climate change; their piece generated (and responded to) questions that range from the complex: “Of the myriad ‘environments’ that you inhabit throughout an average day, are any at a crisis point?” to the deceptively simple: “What do you think the future will look like?” The ensemble was privileged to have guest mentors such as Professor Dan Schrag, Director of HUCE, and Tramaine Montell Ford, second-year A.R.T. Institute acting student. The in-house A.R.T. creative team led by local director Cait Robinson helped shape the teens’ work into a theatrical mode through techniques that included improv, clown work, dance, and playwriting. Both the A.R.T.'s productions and its education programs aim to instill intellectual curiosity and fearlessness in their participants. Proclamation helps us expand the boundaries of theater by challenging young people to take risks, to collaboratively and creatively solve problems (both big and small), bond over a common goal, and use art as a form of critical self-expression. The free program gave all twelve of these students their first professional theater credit, and also awarded them each a stipend upon completion of the program. Proclamation is supported by A.R.T. donors who believe in its mission; their gifts have allowed the program to grow and thrive over the course of the last three years. We are thrilled to provide this opportunity for young artists in our community, and we are extremely grateful to the donors whose support makes it possible. To make a gift to our Education & Community Programs, or for more information, please contact Development Officer Lindsay Soson at email@example.com.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 19
RISING An Interview with Jane Mukuninwa
ONE BILLION RISING at City of Joy in Bukavu, Congo, February 14, 2013.
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Jane Mukuninwa’s meeting with Eve Ensler in 2007 helped lead to the creation of City of Joy, a transformational leadership community for women survivors of violence, located in Bukavu, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Jane graduated with the first class at City of Joy. She now works as a staff member, helping women to transform their pain into power.
How did you first meet Eve Ensler? Eve came to visit women who were physically destroyed at Panzi Hospital in May 2007, myself included. Her mission was to ask us what we wanted, what she could do for us. We were fed up with people who made promises but never kept them. When Eve insisted on knowing what we wanted, I simply took the floor and answered that we wanted a shelter where we could heal, tell our stories, and empower ourselves. We wanted to take our destinies in both hands and break the chains of slavery and suffering. We answered without relying on Eve’s fulfilling her promise. You were one of the first graduates of City of Joy. Could you describe what City of Joy is, and your own experiences in this community?
Photo: Paula Allen for V-Day.
City of Joy is a place. It is a place where joy, selfconfidence, love, hope, and ferocity are regained after a period of trauma, isolation, despair, and uncertainty. It is a place of healing from pain. It is a place of revolution and change. It is like a paradise where everything is looked at from a positive perspective. It is a community of people who care. I went through unbelievable situations. My body was tortured and destroyed. I went to the hospital and had many surgeries. I became traumatized and hopeless, but the City of Joy community helped me turn into a woman filled with an irresistible feeling of plenitude and self-esteem. The City of Joy community gave me a new
portrait of myself that contrasted with the image I had from before, when the sensation of an existential gap hindered me, and when everything looked absurd and dark. I found long-lost joy, love, happiness, and hope for the future. Why is this community called “City of Joy?” Women who come from their villages carry a burden of trauma and are unable to speak. Many believe they have lost hope and can’t do anything better. When they enter City of Joy, they start breathing the air of joy because they are embraced. They smile for the first time after they have been assaulted and they find people who want them to feel at ease. They find for the first time people who tell them they are beautiful and the community needs them because they are amazing, brave women. They find for the first time a community of people who value, respect and love them. All the activities that are done in this community allow every woman to take initiative, and to help and encourage each other. In my experience, love has more power than medicine to heal people who have been traumatized and rejected by their communities. After entering City of Joy, you changed your name from Jeanne to Jane. Could you discuss why you made this change? I was Jeanne before I came to City of Joy and have become Jane after my training. Jeanne is old and Jane is young. Old Jeanne was full of self-pity,
I came traumatized and hopeless, but the City of Joy community helped me turn into a woman filled with an irresistible feeling of plenitude and self-esteem.
hatred and suffering. Old Jeanne complained about the world that rejected her. She believed she was the worst person in existence. She had no vision, and was begging. New Jane was born from City of Joy. She is full of power and joy. She is a leader who helps other women who went through the same experience as her to follow the path that leads to self-acceptance, to victory over trauma, and to revolution. She is a woman who is economically empowered. What is your role at City of Joy today? Currently, I serve as a model example of women who have turned their Pain to Power and who are committed to teaching other women to know and demand their rights and duties, raise their voices, and fuel a revolution to end all sorts of violence against women. I teach them to use what they went through as a tool of revolution. I also teach them to use drums, songs and dance as some of the techniques of healing. You are also part of the ONE BILLION RISING campaign to end violence against women. What does “rising” mean to you? For me “rising” means to stand up against violence against women, to alert the power players and condemn the recrudescence of the violation of women’s rights, to break the silence and the chains of muteness and powerlessness, and to speak for those who can’t dare speak out. Rising means taking up space and denouncing what people fear to denounce publically. Is there any message you would like to send to audiences in the U.S. who will be seeing Eve Ensler’s adaptation of In The Body of The World at A.R.T. in May? I tell the whole world to stop being selfish and understand that we Congolese have and are still going through all sorts of violence. The only message I would like to send to audiences is to love one’s neighbor.
Interview by Aida Rocci, a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 21
Photo: Karen Snyder Photography
THE DESTINATION FOR THEATER & NIGHTLIFE IN HARVARD SQUARE OBERON IS THE SECOND STAGE OF THE AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATER
SEE WHATʼS ON THIS WEEK
18+ TO ENTER 21+ TO DRINK
A.R.T.’S OBERON 2 ARROW ST. HARVARD SQ.
22 2015/16 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
MEET A BOARD MEMBER: The A.R.T. is fortunate to have a loyal group of supporters who contribute generously to help the theater thrive. In this issue, we are thrilled to introduce you to a member of the A.R.T. Board of Trustees. Our board members are instrumental in helping us fulfill our mission of expanding the boundaries of theater.
Photo: Karen Snyder Photography.
Mike Dreese is CEO of Newbury Comics, which he and his MIT roommate co-founded in 1978 with $2,000 and a comic book collection. In the early 1980s, Mike also founded Boston Rock magazine and co-founded Modern Method Records, an imprint to Boston’s emerging punk scene. Mike has been a member of the A.R.T.’s Board of Trustees since 2010 and has served as the Chair of the Development Committee. Along with his wife Laura, and fellow Trustee RoAnn Costin, Mike was a co-chair of A.R.T.'s 2014 Boundless Gala. In addition to the A.R.T.'s Board of Trustees, he has also served on the Board of Trustees of Berklee College of Music and the Waltham Boys and Girls Club, and is Manager of Wicked Good Angels Fund, LLC.
Why do you choose to support the A.R.T.? What makes our mission meaningful to you personally? When I was a student at MIT many years ago, Harvard Square was the entertainment destination of choice. In the 70’s there were numerous rock venues in Harvard Square—in fact the punk rock band The Clash even played the old Harvard Square Theater. But then commercial interests ruled the day as The Square went through tremendous economic development, and most theaters and clubs have long since folded. Today’s A.R.T. is in a position to present challenging artistic visions to the future leaders of the country. Venues like OBERON represent a sorely needed bohemian experience in an otherwise gentrifying Harvard Square landscape. What has been your favorite A.R.T. production? Loeb Stage: Pippin/All the Way (It’s a tie.) OBERON: Prometheus Bound
What excites you most about the A.R.T.’s 15/16 season? I’m dedicating as much time as I can to exploring the many offerings at OBERON, both in-house and independent productions. Kansas City Choir Boy has been the highlight so far! What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the A.R.T.? That it continues to increase its investment of time and talent in supporting local artists’ development on our stages.
Mike Dreese, Bryan Cranston, and Chris Dreese (L-R) at the Dreeses' home in 2013.
How about a favorite A.R.T. memory in general? The cast party for All the Way at our house. My whole family are Breaking Bad fans. And to have Bryan Cranston, Michael McKean, and Dakin Matthews with happy A.R.T. staff on our front porch—priceless.
Outside of theater, what are your passions & hobbies? I just raced my boat “Toothface2” double handed across the Atlantic and back. I also especially enjoy playing in The World Series—of Poker!
Interview by Lily Lewis-McNeil, A.R.T. Development Officer.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 23
HAMMOND REAL ESTATE | TWO BRATTLE SQUARE | HARVARD SQUARE
“Bonny stands out by far as the most effective, reliable and inteligent realtor I have ever met.” “Finding a realtor you trust completely is the most important thing you can do to face the challenges in this market. Bonny is that realtor.”
BONNY LAMB Vice President
BLAMB@HAMMONDRE.COM | CELL: -- GREATLISTINGS.COM 24 2015/16 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
MARCH 17 – 19, 2016
THE A.R.T. INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED THEATER TRAINING PRESENTS:
DYING FOR IT
By Moira Buffini
ONLY A DEAD MAN by Anatoly Smeliansky Translated by Julia Smeliansky and Robert Duffley
Photo: Nikolai Erdman; Public Domain.
Anatoly Smeliansky on Nikolai Erdman's banned 1928 satirical farce, The Suicide, the inspiration for Moira Buffini's new English-language adaptation, Dying For It.
To stage Moira Buffini’s new English language adaptation of Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide is an important artistic gesture. The Suicide is not simply a banned Russian play of the 1920’s. Continuing the satirical tradition of writers such as Nikolai Gogol and Aleksandr Sukhovo-Kobylin, this play is a pinnacle of Russian dramatic literature. The first instance of a character committing suicide for the political gain of others in Russian literature probably appears in Dostoevsky’s Devils. In that novel, the provocateur Pyotr Verhovensky, plotting a murder, asks Kirillov, who is about to take his own life, “why don’t you just write on a piece of paper that it was you who killed [the student]?” Erdman’s play turns this device toward tragic satire, targeting the core idea of a Soviet utopia. The miserable life of a “common man,” supposedly only manure fertilizing a brighter Soviet future, turns out to be the true essence of humanity. When Erdman's character Semyon Podsekalnikov decides to commit suicide because he can no longer enjoy even his favorite food (blood sausage), he awakens an anthill of self-serving ideologues. Lured by the prospect of a death for their cause, representatives of conflicting credos jockey for inclusion in Semyon’s suicide note. A priest, a writer, a merchant, and an intellectual all offer to help Semyon make sense of his useless life. (Semyon also briefly and disastrously considers saving himself by taking up the tuba.) From this comic uproar appears a tragic image of the country at a historic crossroads. Semyon is tempted to become a hero, but it all blows up in the end: this simple man decides not to end his life after all. He addresses those gathered around his coffin with a monologue exemplifying the double entendres and sparkling hidden meanings of classic Russian literature. Erdman started his career as a poet, and this play was written in the time between two incredibly important suicides in Russian culture: in 1925, poet Sergey Yesenin took his own life, and right after Erdman finished his play, Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide, leaving a mysterious last note. Both poets were Erdman’s close friends. The play is written on the cusp of times and is filled with the polyphonic clutter of the 1920’s. Above all, the play cap-
tures the dim and deadly rhetoric of the approaching Stalinist rule. In the 1920’s, Erdman was already known as a brilliant and successful satirical writer, and he was a collaborator of the celebrated (though later indemnified and murdered) director Vsevolod Meyerhold. After The Suicide was banned from performance, Erdman’s fate completely changed. In 1934, even in relatively permissive times, Erdman was arrested and exiled to the Siberian town of Yeniseysk. Urban legend holds that the playwright's exile was prompted by a limerick Erdman wrote parodying a classical Russian fable. The story goes that this limerick was supposedly read aloud at a Kremlin Communist Party reception by a drunken Moscow Art Theater star, Vasily Kachalov:
A Free Adaptation of The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman Directed by Scott Zigler Featuring students from the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training class of 2016
In Dying for It, Moira Buffini’s adaptation of The Suicide, a man contemplating suicide attracts a series of hangers-on who want to profit from his death.
“God once sent a crow a piece of cheese—” “There is no God!” “Shut up, you quibbler! There’s no cheese, either.” While this limerick is commonly blamed for Erdman’s exile, there is actually no historical proof that this harmless joke caused the persecution of one of the most powerful voices of twentieth-century Russian drama. Rather, I think that The Suicide was a much more serious reason for Stalin to persecute the playwright, who among many paradoxes proposed this one to his country: “Nowadays, only a dead man can say what the living man is thinking.”
Anatoly Smeliansky, Co-Head of Dramaturgy at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training and former President of the Moscow Art Theater School, is a leading Russian theater writer, scholar, and critic. His many publications include the books The Russian Theatre After Stalin and Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?: Bulgakov and the Moscow Art Theater.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 25
APRIL 6 – 8, 2016
THE A.R.T. INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED THEATER TRAINING PRESENTS:
THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?
A new stage adaptation of Horace McCoy’s novel by Rick Sparks and Gary Carter Directed by Wojtek Klemm Featuring students from the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training class of 2016
WOJTEK KLEMM Polish director Wojtek Klemm stages a new adaptation of They Shoot Horses, Don't They? with A.R.T. Institute students by Kai-Chieh Tu In the rehearsal room, one can hardly escape the electrifying vortex the director Wojtek Klemm creates with his actors. This past January, Klemm visited A.R.T. for the first time to lead a workshop with the A.R.T. Institute acting students. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us. Klemm works like a mathematician, carefully sculpting actors’ bodies and lines in space and time. “Be precise,” Klemm always says. “We don’t want any unnecessary ornamentation on the stage.” Quivering, sweating, dashing, leaping, wriggling, screaming, and mumbling—Klemm’s work is a laboratory for actors to overreach their physical and psychological limitations. The honest, galvanizing energy Klemm generates dismantles not only actors’ inhibitions, but also the distance between audiences and performers.
Photos (L-R): Courtesy of Wojtek Klemm. PWST National Academy of Theatre Arts.
Rick Sparks' stage adaptation of Horace McCoy's gritty Depression-era novel brings audiences face-to-face with the competitors in a grueling dance marathon.
26 2015/16 Season americanrepertorytheater.org
Born in communist Warsaw in 1972, Klemm was immersed in Polish theater as a child. He moved to Germany with his parents at the age of thirteen after his mother was released from prison. Since graduating from the prestigious Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin, Klemm has worked extensively across Europe, mainly in Germany and Poland. This Polish-German director's hybridity of styles, and the boundarybreaking vitality of his work, have riveted and challenged theater audiences across Europe. Klemm’s work is unpredictable, wild, and physical, but at the same time, it is full of analytical clarity and intellectual depth. He tends to create a non-linear, multi-leveled narratives; he believes his audiences have the ability to connect these dots based on their individual experiences. “None of us is linear in our real lives,” Klemm suggests. “So why would we want to see a linear character on the stage?” Klemm pushes his actors to think beyond creating a "well-rounded" character: he never tries to hide the fact that a character is played by an actor. “An actor should understand he/she is the unity of performer and character, as opposed to the conception that an actor turns into a character.” He tries to find a straightforward way of communicating with his audiences, primarily by breaking down barriers between audience members and performers. He encourages his
actors to use their whole bodies as “instruments.” For Klemm, the body creates the purest form of music, which can converse directly with a spectator’s mind and soul. Klemm frequently talks about different types of “separations” in his work: character/actor, inside/outside, language/body, text/emotion. Actors in his productions are often jumping in and out of their characters, changing pronouns constantly. Sometimes an actor speaks one thing, while his or her body does something completely different or even contradictory. Predictability equals boredom for Klemm. He always aims to break down preconceived notions and to encourage his actors to think beyond traditional styles of acting. “Why would you inhibit yourself with the question ‘would my character do that?’” he asks. “Most of the time, fake knowledge about your character leads to fake results.” Giving his actors the freedom to choose from a wide range of ways to tell the story, Klemm’s productions are never short of theatrical twists and turns. His work thus offers audience members multiple levels on which to analyze and engage the social, political questions Klemm poses. For him, theater is a place for public debate. “Theater came from politics,” he says. “Greek plays were all written to support certain ideas of ruling regimes. We would call them propaganda
plays nowadays. All of them.” He has explored a number of sociopolitical issues in his previous work for Polish and German audiences, ranging from economic inequality to xenophobia, from dubious interpretations of history to the lack of effective separation between church and state. This spring, Klemm will direct Rick Sparks and Gary Carter’s adaptation of Horace McCoy’s novel They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, a story about a brutal dance marathon set in Los Angeles during the Great Depression. The production will be his debut on the American stage. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is about love and despair in a time of economic hardship, and how people are willing to humiliate and torture themselves for the slightest possibility of economic reward. “We’re living in a time of shaky economies,” Klemm reflects. “We are not that far from the world of the play.” Featuring actors from the A.R.T. Institute’s graduating class of 2016, the production will be staged in the A.R.T.’s club theater venue, OBERON—an immersive space that will put audience members in direct contact with this story's dance of desire and survival.
Kai-Chieh Tu is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
In winter 2015, the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training class of 2016 traveled to the National Academy of Theatre Arts in Krakow, Poland for a weeklong training intensive.
americanrepertorytheater.org 2015/16 Season 27
A.R.T. Guide offering additional information on productions of 1984, In the Body of the World, RoosevElvis, We're Gonna Die, H.M.S. Pinafore...
Published on Dec 2, 2015
A.R.T. Guide offering additional information on productions of 1984, In the Body of the World, RoosevElvis, We're Gonna Die, H.M.S. Pinafore...