June 24, 2021
In this space, we share a more in-depth look at our projects, our theatre practice and why we want to connect with you; either as an audience for a show or as a participant in one of our theatre arts activity events.
Today I’m sharing a conversation with Cory Haas who’s been the workshop facilitator and director for THEN & NOW, the show we’ve been developing over the last 9 months about living through the pandemic. I’m one of the group of about 10 co-writers and performers working on the show.
ME: This project feels like the very definition of ‘slow theatre’ as we’ve held writing and devising workshops at various times since the fall of 2020. From a writer’s standpoint, I’ve been glad for the time to observe and process events, but I’m wondering about your take? It seems like theatre devising practice really wants to engage with those immediate visceral experiences the artist is having. What’s this ‘slow theatre’ process been like from vantage as a theatre deviser?
CORY: One of the advantages we’ve had doing this project at various times during the pandemic is that it’s allowed us to reflect on the different stages of the pandemic. It’s given us the dual benefit of creating portions of the show in real time and then, as we move forward, it’s giving us the perspective to understand what we want to stay about each segment of time, each phase of the pandemic.
In turn, that’s given us a fun challenge with the form in which we want to present the project. It’s giving us the opportunity to play around with the idea of memory vs. the experience of present time.
ME: We came at this project as a collaboration between professional theatre artists and members of the community. This isn’t a model of script development that is practiced very much that I know of. My feeling is that it’s authentic and it’s the direction theatre that’s connected to a community should be going, but it’s challenging! Is this your first project like this? What have been some of your challenges?
CORY: What’s exciting is that we’re allowing people to be themselves on stage. It’s an extremely vulnerable place to be but at the same time, it allows for true glimpses into people’s life and a real sense of connection. It’s always challenging to start like this, especially when we are used to working from a script. It’s a longer process, but I think it’s a rewarding one, especially when it comes to seeing members of communities on stage and giving them a chance to speak what’s on their mind.
The challenge, ironically, is trusting yourself to be yourself. That it’s interesting enough, that we you have to say is interesting. Through games and exercices, we build trust, and in turn, that unlocks a bit of that self-consciousness, it liberates performers. Professionals and members of the community alike.
ME: To say nothing of the technical challenges of having some performers working in-person in the space and others coming in via Zoom!
At various points in the workshops over the past several months we’ve talked about how people haven’t really wanted to be candid about their experiences with Covid, or lockdowns, and how it seems like now people just want to leave it all behind – a mass act of collective forgetting as it were. How do you think we approach this issue theatrically?
CORY: I think we tackle it head on. We have plenty of opportunities, through our interview process and our lived experiences, to be candid about our experiences. The refusal of some people to discuss what’s been happening, or return to their experiences is just as valuable. It traces one of the ways in which people have responded. Theatrically, this might allow us to talk about this refusal from our vantage point and make us make sense of it.
ME: Yes, it’s one of those points of investigation that I’m really interested in exploring and also connecting with audiences about.
ME: Thanks for being on the blog today Cory!