Post-Post- The Ood Reflection

Motherhood and labor can take the wind out of you. It’s been three weeks since post-partum and I am just now able to sit, reflect and rub the birthing belly. The Ood gestated over a year ago. There was no real knowledge of what to do with it, where to foster its growth. It was a simple, overwhelming feeling, a need to yield a work that questioned how to rear children in this present world.

I have an eight-year-old son. Minka has a teenage daughter. Yakini has two young bright eyed ones not yet five. This is a personal conversation, a personal dialogue and set of instructions that played out in the making of The Ood. For these co-conspirators and our young hearted babes, I meditate on the need to continue practicing The Ood’s queries, performing its instructions, because the challenges of being black, of being mother, woman or man, or child, in flesh reflective of myriad dark tones and marred by an American history, charged and resilient within an American history, is not suited for a one off performance. Expect more of this. Expect more of me.

I am grateful to Synchronicity’s Stripped Bare Lab for the resources, the support, and the ‘yes’ to experimentalism. It is exciting to get support from an institution in your hometown. Even greater, getting a ‘yes’ from an arts institution and having legit space to do WHATEVER you seek to do without feeling bound…THE BEST. That’s trust. That’s a brilliant beginning to a new formal practice. I look forward to cultivating more with Synchronicity, the arts community and the city of Atlanta.

–Danielle Deadwyler

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Journey 2 The Left- A Stripped Bare Artist’s Narrative

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“…a poignant, one-woman-symphony that extracts the pain and the playfulness from Lopes, while examining the true makings of a supernova.”

                                  ~Art of Noise

 WE MADE IT!  …NOW WHAT?!?

…the email read, “Congratulations!  Your project “2 The Left: A Tribute to the Life of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes” has been selected for our 2017-2018 Stripped Bare season….” WHAAAAAAT!?!?  Up until that moment 2 The Left(a one-woman play about Atlanta-bred 90s girl group TLC’s (Waterfalls) most controversial member Left Eye who tragically passed away at the age of 30)had been a passion project of mine that I had beendeveloping over the years.  Being a Stripped Bare Artist Labwinner meant I, along with my fantabulous co-artists director Thomas W. Jones II, choreographer Victor Jackson, and dramaturg Addae Moon, would finally be able to put it on its feet to see where it stumbled and fell and where it took flight and soared.  It also gave us an all-important date, something a solo artist once told me had within it “inherent motivating powers”. Now, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there—and that initial excitement started turning into nervousness, doubts, and fears—but with a concrete date I had a goal to set my sights on and I was off and running.

PLAYDATES!

2 The Lefthad attracted an esteemed group of artists, each excelling in their respective fields and excited about working together to bring the script to life.  However, other than Tom directing a private reading for Lisa’s family the prior summer, I’ve only been able to meet with them individually over tea and crumpets. But now we were given the green light to come together and start playing. Since it was around the holidays, we scheduled five “playdates” between December and January that worked with everyone’s schedules.  At our first rehearsal, we had a table read and after everyone offered their different insights and perspectives on the piece. We proceeded to spending those first two rehearsals discussing, cutting, editing, and rearranging portions of the script. With a scissor, tape dispenser, and glue stick being Addae’s weapons of choice, we trimmed away the fat to find the most efficient way to get to the essence of the play’s through line.  We then spent the next rehearsals moving, acting, dancing (Tom does a mean James Brown impersonation), and rapping—and my oh my was that a doozey! Tom’s favorite sayings were “So you said you wanted to do a one woman show, huh?!” and “YOU wrote it!” …Yes, Tom, I did.  But will I survive it?

SYNCHRONICITY–THE INTERLUDE

Over the years, Lisa’s spirit has shown up in many ways directing me and confirming that I was on the right path. From traveling to Honduras (where Lisa visited over a dozen times to seek guidance at her spiritual counselor, Dr. Sebi’s Usha village as well as the site of her fatal car accident) and having no idea where the village was located then discovering it was less than a mile away from the bed & breakfast I was staying at, to TLC songs “randomly” coming on while I’m talking to someone about the play.  So, it would be foolish of me to think I wouldn’t see one of these Lisa winks during a workshop at a theater called SynchronicityIt happened during a private rehearsal with Victor to work on some of the dances before our group playdates.  A man walks into the studio and introduces himself as the owner. After telling him what we were working on, he informs me that Lisa use to rehearse with TLC in that studio and then showed me a poster hanging in the lobby that was the last poster ever to be signed by all members of TLC.  Yep, synchronicity struck again!

THE MAD HATTER

As a solo artist, I’ve had to wear the hats of both a writer and actor, but I didn’t realize that another hat would begin to be weaved during this women-powered theater lab: a “smart, gutsy, and bold” producer and though challenging, I must admit I liked the fit! To ensure we pulled off the best production of this workshop possible, I coordinated schedules; secured rehearsal space, props, meals, additional personnel, financial support, and other essentials; sought out press outlets; and had to promote, promote, PROMOTE.  And it paid off!  I always knew Atlanta would show up for a play about their beloved Lisa but, Atlanta didn’t just show up, it showed out or better yet, we SOLD OUT! both performances a week before the show.  The first time for a Stripped Bareartist– YES! And that news sent me into a happy dance.  No literally, check out my Instagram post @kerissegram 😊

“JUST CLOSE YOUR EYES AND RELAX YOUR MIND AND JUST BREATHE…AND LET IT GO.” ~LISA LOPES

With the three days we had access to the theater, we decided to stage and run the sound and lights for one day and use the other two for performances.  During our tech, I began feeling all types of pressure knowing that the following day would be the first time I would be bringing my baby out in public, before she had all her shots.  I was beyond grateful to have the support and encouragement of our team including our stage manager, Joan.  She began noting similarities between what I was experiencing and Lisa’s journey in the piece and even quoted portions of the play reminding me that my only responsibility was to stay present, breathe, and let the workshop be a workshop.

WE DID IT!  …NOW WHAT!?–REFLECTIONS

Seeing the name of the project that I had invested so much time and energy in, up in lights on a marquee in front of the theater was a surprising and gratifying “Come to Jesus” moment!  Stripped Baregave me the opportunity to begin to see the manifestation of a vision that started as little whispers and the experience has been amazing.  The audience filled with Lisa’s family and friends, my mom and her college girlfriends who flew in from New York (and probably brought in the snow that forced us to reschedule our second show ☹), members of the arts and entertainment community, people who had never attended a performance at Synchronicity, as well as season ticket holders who had never heard of Left Eye laughed, danced and sang together.  They spoke about how the play’s spirit and universal messages resonated with them. It was heartwarming to hear Lisa’s family say that it made them feel like Lisa had never left.  Since the workshop, some people have mentioned they’ve gone on to look up Lisa’s music and research information about the philosophies Lisa and Dr. Sebi shared.  Others have told me they’ve been inspired to begin writing their own pieces.  Art breeds art.  Creativity sparks creativity.  Spirit feeds spirit.  A writer once said that if a work doesn’t change you, if you don’t come out of it a different person, then it’s not worth your time.  I have been forever changed by my journey with 2 The Left and am anxiously anticipating the mounting of the premiere of its full production.  I’m also looking forward to creating my next works and eagerly awaiting to see what synchronicity moments will guide me along the way.

Kerisse Hutchinson

http://www.2TheLeftPlay.com

 

 

Bird: My Stripped Bare Experience

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This post is by guest blogger Adrienne Reynolds, the writer and composer behind Bird: A Study of Sound and a selected participant in Synchronicity’s Stripped Bare arts incubator project.  Adrienne developed Bird at Synchronicity June 26-28, 2017.  You can learn more about the Stripped Bare project and submit proposals here.  The first round of Stripped Bare project applications for 2017-18 are due September 5, 2017.

A little over a year ago, I had a crazy idea about birds living in a world created by birds. Over the course of the year, I researched birds, wrote an outline of the story, wrote songs and began to develop and conceptualize the world where these birds lived. I wondered what it would be like to have a group of people come together who could help breathe life into the idea rooting around in my brain. Then, I received an email about a new project called Stripped Bare, conceived by the team at Synchronicity Theatre. Stripped Bare provides a space for artists to help further the completion of their work at any stage of development, in the manner which would best benefit them.

Awesome! A place for the writer to hash out ideas and move their project forward. I was excited, intimidated and nervous all at the same time. Would people understand the concept? Would I be able to move the piece forward? All of these questions crossed my mind. I relished the idea of having a space and support that would allow me to breathe life into my idea, and I believed Stripped Bare was the perfect vehicle to make it happen. The process stretched my mind and made me exercise creative muscles I was not aware I possessed. It forced me to think outside of the box and require the rest of my team do the same.

The days were set up to have time working with the team and then in the evening have a short presentation of the ideas put together during this time. By far the presentations were one of the most impactful elements of Stripped Bare. The insight received from our smart audience members helped to establish a clear direction for the plot of the piece and the voice of the birds. One comment from an audience member still remains with me and continues to spark ideas:  “Allow the voice of the birds to sound like the call of the birds, ‘cause everybody knows the Cardinal says ‘party, party, party.’”  This comment has inspired music and dialogue.

I am honored to have been a participant in the inaugural session of Stripped Bare. It gave me an opportunity to have other people hear my vision, music and words. It gave me an opportunity to see my ideas up on their feet and it allowed me to be in a room with other artists which always pushes me harder.  Finally, the insight and feedback from the audience which sparked ideas and influenced pages of dialogue and song are invaluable. My experience with Stripped Bare was better than I anticipated and I look forward to seeing all of the shows that will be birthed from future sessions.

-Adrienne Reynolds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep The Fire Burning: Developing Hannah Cremation + The Ash

Hannah FB Banner copyThis post is by guest blogger Rebekah Suellau, creator of Hannah Cremation + The Ash and a selected participant in Synchronicity’s Stripped Bare arts incubator project.  You can catch the workshop of Hannah at Synchronicity May 16-17 and learn more about the project here.

In August 2015, I headed a team of actors as a writer and director for The Seedling Project’s Serial Killers. Our mission: to create and stage a ten-minute episode of a new play, every week, for a month. The catch: each week, a live audience voted on their favorite shows and “cancelled” two of them. The cancelled team would have to return with a new pilot the following week.

In the beginning, we tried to work smart, to plot out our arcs and know just where we were heading. We tried to get the jump on things. But there was no way to predict the tastes of the crowd from week to week, and no way to know what wonderful stories the other teams were cooking up. And sure enough, at the end of the second week, our serial got killed.

I gathered up the team, including Sarah Beth Moseley, Mary Ruth Ralston, and Kevin Roost. “So for next week,” I started, choosing my words very carefully, “I have this idea for a musical.”

A musical. Not one note written. Not one word. And not one of them blinked an eye.

Awesome,” came the unanimous response.

That was Monday. I hammered out a script on Tuesday, wrote an original song with Sarah Beth on Wednesday, and we developed two more by Friday. We added Chelcy Cutwright to the cast and staged it all over a single weekend. The following Monday, Hannah Cremation + The Ash was born.

Awesome, indeed.

We never got cancelled again. We performed our second episode on the final evening of the monthlong event. But our story wasn’t finished. We knew that. And even as we all moved on from Serial Killers, we carried the spark of Hannah Cremation with us.

I’d love to say we tended that fire diligently over the next year and a half, working slowly and carefully and taking pains with this story that had lit us all up. But the reality for us, as for so many early-career artists, is that we had to turn our hustle toward the next deadline, the next project, the next paycheck. Still, we couldn’t run into each other at a show or on the street without saying it: When are we gonna finish Hannah Cremation?

Enter The Stripped Bare Project, in a moment of synchronicity worthy of its producing company’s name.

Hannah Cremation + The Ash is a story all about turning anger into action. Hannah Creem is a dreamer, a musician who gave up under the guise of growing up. Ash Swanson is a drifter, a street drummer who spends her days shouting without saying anything. Without each other, Hannah is a slave to structure and the expectations of others, and Ash is at the mercy of her own defiant anger. But together, they become two-woman punk piece Hannah Cremation + The Ash. Their friendship teaches them to unite order and chaos, rage and love, through the creative channel of music.

When I got the application for Stripped Bare early in 2017, I knew immediately that we had the answer to our question. We needed to finish Hannah Cremation now. In the wake of a deeply divisive election, I was seeing so many strong, passionate people around me fall into the patterns that our characters embody. Some were desperate to make nice, to shut down the fear and loathing that was rising up from their guts. Many more were desperate to make noise, giving voice to their rage without giving much thought to speaking up in a way that could actually be heard. Everywhere I looked, I saw Hannahs and Ashes, dampening down their emotional fires because they felt powerless, or giving them free rein and sometimes burning the people around them. As I felt myself veering between the two extremes, I did what I tend to do when I need answers most: I started writing.

I called Sarah Beth the day I received the application and asked her to join me as music director. I sent an email to the rest of the original Serial Killers team with the subject line “Getting The Band Back Together!” And just like that Monday night in 2015 when we’d been cancelled, the unanimous response was: awesome. The team came back together, and a story that had been left to simmer for sixteen months came back to life in an instant.

We had just a few short weeks to turn two ten-minute episodes into a full-length musical, but we work well under pressure. Our rehearsal rooms are much like our story, a dance between structure and chaos. I bring in new scenes for us to tackle all together. Then, we split off, with Sarah Beth teaching music while I take other actors off to talk through their characters’ arcs and develop next steps for them. You might walk in and find three people strumming three ukuleles, building three separate brand-new songs, while I scribble lyrics or new scenes on the back of the script pages we replaced earlier that day.

Stripped Bare has given us the perfect structure in which to release this creative chaos. Different stages of new play development have different needs. A few months ago, all we had was the spark of a story that wouldn’t go out. And all we needed was the framework to develop it: the deadline, the theatre, the aim of an audience to share with and learn from. This new arts incubator has helped us keep our fire alive, and we can’t wait to share it with you.