Tag Archives: Supporter’s Questions

On Collages (and script creation)

It is time to return to collages, and just after announcing our collage perk too (as well as the personalized thank you for those on more of a budget)! But why does a collage make sense as a perk for this show? Let me introduce Tactus supporter Miriam, and answer her question:

Eurydice Collage
Photo Credits: Valerie Giacobbe, Adrian Bridges

A question from Miriam
How did you happen to choose a collage, rather than a linear presentation?

An answer from Sarah
One of the fun things about this piece is that we developed it almost “backwards” in a lot of ways. When Nina, Ashely, and I started talking about doing a piece together, one of the things we knew is that we didn’t want to write a script, in the traditional way. We wanted to discover something, to develop something, not mold something that so that it already said what we “wanted it to say.” We wanted to create something that would be entirely open for us to explore in the rehearsal process.

I should confess that part of that was a personal, rather than strictly “artistic” decision. I have spent just enough time working on scripts I have written to know that I dislike it. When I’ve sat down and written out what I want to say, I find it hard to go back and find the balance of discovering the intricacies and subtleties of the piece with my actors while shaping the overall way the performance needs to unfold. And because I find it difficult to find that balance, it becomes much harder for me to support my actors and bring out the best in them. It doesn’t make me feel good or like I am producing very good art.

From working together the previous year, Nina and I also both knew that we are attracted to scripts that are more “lyrical” or “poetic” or “fluid,” rather than more “traditional” scripts. We are interested in the way physical language comes together with vocal language to explore things you could not express otherwise. This type of work – bringing together these languages, tends to work best with texts that are open and less “concrete.”

Nina suggested that we try using found text. She had studied this method of piece creation in undergrad and thought that they style of piece it creates would be the type of thing we could really get into. I liked the idea that, since it would not involve specifically writing, but instead piecing together things that had already been written, rehearsal would be less  like working on a play I’d written, and more like exploring language as we discovered the script. Ashley liked the idea too, and so we decided to proceed.

Nina wrote us an email that week to remind us that when you use found text, the resulting text tends to be a bit scattered in form and content. It sounded pretty cool to us. We decided to use a story that is, to some extent, about communication and miscommunication because of the scattered nature of the piece.

The piece is like a collage because Eurydice is struggling to re-tell her story, something that may not be a linear process, especially since she doesn’t fully understand it. It is a collage because found text is always something of a collage in its very form. We were drawn to this collage-style because of the types of work we like to do.

Please add your response to this to our comments section. We would love to hear what you have to add or say. Want to ask some questions of your own? Check out the perks on our fundraising site where you can find opportunities to ask the cast and crew questions, as well as other fun goodies!


Lines and Lines and LINES!

Dear Tactus friends,

Thank you for your support and for your lovely questions. Here is our next installment. This question was emailed to us by amazing and generous Tactus supporter Elizabeth. Since it is about learning lines, I will turn this over to performer Nina, to share her insights. Please share your thoughts in our comments section, or just throw some kind of supportive note our way. We like supportive notes.

Want to send us scurrying to answer a question? Donate to the campaign (see the perks!) and then send your questions our way!

Question from Elizabeth:

Do the actors have any special tricks to memorize the order of their lines in this non-traditional format?

Answer from Nina:

There seems to be a common misconception that actors use magic or something to help them learn their lines. I’ll let you in on a little secret, but only if you promise not to tell: we don’t use magic. We are not wizards. There are no tricks or schemes or Rube Goldberg machines* designed to help us learn our lines. The only answer I can give is…it just sort of happens.

Picture yourself as a little kid. You’re in math class, learning how to add numbers. You are told that one plus one equals two, two plus two equals four. You count on your fingers to make sure you get it right, or maybe they give you jelly beans or something as a visual. Your teacher makes you repeat the same exercises over and over until eventually you don’t have to think about it, your fingers remain in their pockets and you’ve probably eaten all your jelly beans at this point. But you know, sure as the sun rises every morning and sets every evening, that one plus one equals two and two plus two equals four. And it gets stuck in your head. Forever. Learning your lines is kind of like that.

Now, our viewer at home makes a good point. The format of Eurydice in Market East/Grand Central is very non-linear and as far from traditional theatre as one can get. You say one thing (“These muffins are delicious”), which means something different (“I want to slap you right now”), and what you do on stage is again something different (maybe you’re folding laundry. Or something). Yeah, what? My head just exploded.

So how the heck do you learn your lines? Same as before. As an actor, you spend so much time rehearsing the same scenes over and over and over again that eventually your lines find some deep crevasse in your brain, plop their fuzzy blanket down, and have an expansive picnic together. No matter how wacky they are. Personally, I find it easier to remember my lines once the blocking and other movement is set – I know what my lines are based on my physical relationship to the stage and the other actors. Every actor works differently though, but it all honesty, it’s not rocket science. Acting is simply another job…it just happens to be a lot more fun.

*Although this would be super duper awesome in every possible way and I really wish something like this actually existed purely because it would be a lot of fun and I would probably giggle like a mad man.

Please add your response to this to our comments section. We would love to hear what you have to add or say. Want to ask some questions of your own? Check out the perks on our fundraising site where you can find opportunities to ask the cast and crew questions, as well as other fun goodies!

Why We Act

We continue to work through the questions that you’ve asked us, and hope that you will join us in discussing the answers. This question was posed by Tactus supporter Josh. Want to join the conversation? Add a comment below! Or, even better, donate on our funding site so you can send us a question of your own!

Since this question addresses the reasons other people want to work on this project, we turn the bulk of the answer over to Performer and long-time collaborator, Nina.

Question from Josh
How do you keep up the enthusiasm of your actors and other volunteers?  What keeps them so devoted to this project?

An Intro from Sarah
I am honestly not sure if I keep the spirit of my collaborators up any more than they keep mine up, and I can’t help but think that is the way it should be. I admire the people I work with, especially these artists, some of whom have stuck with me for years. And I think that that is a large part of the picture: we all admire each other. That, and we are all dedicated to the art. This respect for the people and the project will get you through almost anything, I think.

That said, why not hear from someone who has continued to work with me through several projects herself? She will know why she keeps running around with me better than I.

A Real Response from Nina
Story time! Once upon a time, there was a girl named Nina who really wanted to be an actor. One day, she got an email from her friend with an audition notice for a physical theatre piece in the Philadelphia Fringe. The notice was from some girl named Sarah, who was directing the show and promised to bake cookies for everyone who came to audition. Well, Nina liked cookies almost as much as she liked physical theatre, so she decided to go. Two weeks later, she drove down to Sarah’s house dressed in her black biker shorts and purple tye-dyed tank top, hoping to dazzle Sarah with her talents. She parked and walked across the street to the house, and noticed there were several signs pointing her in the right direction. She giggled at this; she always enjoyed relieving some tension before auditions. As soon as Nina entered the house, Sarah asked her if she had experience with contact improv.

“Uh…yes. A lot of experience, actually, ” she replied, thinking back upon many theatre and dance classed that were spent rolling around on the floor in giddy delight.

“Great! I’ll give you some time to warm up…I don’t want you to hurt yourself, that would be bad,” said Sarah.

Nina placed her bag on a chair in the living room and immediately began to warm up. While she was stretching, she happened to look over at the shelf next to Sarah’s TV and took a brief inventory of her DVDs. There was Planet Earth- okay, cool she likes green things and probably British people, too. Gilmore Girls- she probably has a very strong relationship with her mom. And, O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Right there on the shelf sat a box set of Cirque du Soleil shows, and right next to it was another DVD of her favorite Cirque show, Corteo. Nina breathed a sigh of relief. She was in the right place.

All joking aside, I really did know I was in the right place when I saw that. I knew in that instant that Sarah understood the importance of the body in theatre, and I think that’s one of many reasons why I enjoy working with her so much- she understands the importance of using the body to tell a story, and constantly pushes her actors to find that in their characters. Aside from that, she promised to make us cookies, and that will sell me on pretty much anything.

Please add your response to this to our comments section. We would love to hear what you have to add or say. Want to ask some questions of your own? Check out the perks on our fundraising site where you can find opportunities to ask the cast and crew questions, as well as other fun goodies!

Carving Space

Today’s question was emailed to us by Tactus Supporter Josh. We hope you and everyone else finds the answer interesting (we do hope to be interesting!). Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts or ask questions that this post may spark! In this case, the answer has two parts. The first is a general response from Sarah. The second is a detailed response about the role that sound plays in this piece and in creating the space of this piece from Adrian.

A question from Josh:
How do you think about invoking a complex environment like Hades or Grand Central Station without use of props or scenery?

A general response from Sarah:
This is a tricky question to answer for me because we worked backwards to decide where the play should be set, and then worked forwards again to express that setting to the audience.

When we first started throwing around ideas for a “fringe show” we knew that we wanted to work on a “found text piece.” Given how easily such a project can become overwhelming and too big for itself, we decided to ground it in a story and in a location. We chose the story of Eurydice because it is a story about communication and information that already participates in a rich discourse about society, womanhood, and voice. Second, we chose Market East in Philadelphia, a well-known train and subway station, because it is a recognizable landmark and because, due to its volume of traffic and location, provides fertile ground for artistic exploration.

So the first part of establishing where we are comes from naming the piece Eurydice in Market East already tells Philadelphia audience a lot. They know Market East as a subway and train station, one that lies close to a lot of shops and that sees a lot of foot traffic. It is, like the story of Eurydice, also a place of music, where buskers are a common sight. By using the story of someone who ends up in Hades (and making sure we review the story in the program for those who do not remember) and then invoking the name of a well-known train station in the very title of the piece, we have already done a lot to help our audience reach the train station and underworld.

When we take this production to New York, we will place Eurydice in Grand Central for the same reasons we placed her in Market East in Philadelphia. We want to locate Eurydice in a place that our audience will know, right from the time they first read the name of the show. We want her story to live partly in their own world – the world where they go to work and return home to play. We want to leave the stage as blank as possible so that the audience can bring their knowledge of the places we do and do not talk about with them from off the streets and continue the finding of this found text piece.

That said, we have to turn to sound for the bulk of the work. And for notes on that, I turn to Adrian.

An in-depth look at sound and space from Adrian:
As our production does not feature either sets or props, the setting has to be felt through non-visual senses: in our case, dialogue and sound.  Coming at this from a musician’s perspective, I’ve approached the sound design as a long flowing composition.  I view it like a minimalist piece, which evolves slowly and seemingly monotonously, but three or four minutes on, you look back and realize that you are in an entirely different space.  At Grand Central Station, there is, of course, the great atrium, which is loud and bustling; however, there are also many smaller tunnels leading to various trains, which I imagine Eurydice exploring during her quest for self-discovery.  In creating the space, I seek to aurally transport you out of the bare space where you are experiencing the play and into the vast expanse of a grand train station, which is an experience most urban-dwellers know well and can relate to as part of their daily lives.  Of course, rather than pitched motifs as the foundational elements to develop, I am using the actual sounds of several train stations I have visited in both New York and Philadelphia.

Please add your response to this to our comments section. We would love to hear what you have to add or say. Want to ask some questions of your own? Check out the perks on our fundraising site where you can find opportunities to ask the cast and crew questions, as well as other fun goodies!

Let There Be Light!

As you know, one of the perks for contributing to the campaign is getting to ask a question about the show or the process. Here is one of the first questions that we received and are excited to answer. Since it is about lights, we let Ashely Mills tackle it.

A Question from Miriam:

The lighting in “Eurydice” is very creative.  I’m wondering which piece was the most challenging to light–and was it fun to do, or frustrating?  Are you happy with the result?

A Response from Lighting Designer Ashely Mills:

Designing Eurydice was a different kind of production for me.  Since the script was created from found text there are no stage directions, no setting or time of day references.  This can be freeing and allow a designer to do what ever they want but also does not provide clues on how to light the show.  This is when Sarah as the director provides that inspiration with  what she wanted the lights to reinforce/say in each moment of the show.  It early design meetings we talked about what she is looking as a general look/feel to the show.  Such as is it a ‘bright show’ or a ‘dark show’?  Are there any special looks/effects that should be accomplished? These conversations determined for me what I would need to accomplish as the lighting Designer.

The other huge factor that affects every lighting designer is the constraints of the performance space, the lighting system, lighting inventory and how much power is available.  The space that Eurydice was performed in was a just renovated studio space in a art gallery.  It was so new they did not have there lighting system put together yet.  As the Master electrician at the Wilma theatre I was also to borrow lights, and a small light board.  Also with this space there was not very much power so that limited how many lights I could use. I also did not see the space and find out the power limitations until less then a week before the show.  This meant quickly coming up with a design that would do what I wanted.

All that being said even with a small amount of lights to work with it was a wonderful creative process, with Sarah asking for a scene to feel certain way and providing different options and finding something that achieved the goal.  That is what is so wonderful about theatre is being able to take something, anything, and create something wonderful that speaks about the human condition and connects with the Audience.

-Ashley Mills

Please add your response to this to our comments section. We would love to hear what you have to add or say. Want to ask some questions of your own? Check out the perks on our fundraising site where you can find opportunities to ask the cast and crew questions, as well as other fun goodies!

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