Meet the Designer: Amber Brown

ABOUT THE SYNCHRONICITY THEATRE DESIGNERS OF COLOR INITIATIVE:

Designers of Color is an ongoing initiative to expand the diversity of backstage professionals in the Metro Atlanta area. The goal is to transform structural cultural bias paradigms by curating a new, holistic ecosystem that removes barriers to access, creates a pipeline from high school to design careers, and empower arts organizations to better receive and embrace BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) designers.

This work is done in partnership with our ever-growing list of partners, including:

Multiband Studios, South Fulton High School, Legacy Speaks, 360 Arts Blvd, Atlanta Theatre Artists for Justice, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, KSU, Spelman and Clayton State, and others.

1. What drew you to become a designer in your field?


Ever since I was a little girl I have loved props. I’ve always enjoyed using my imagination to then create
things with my hands.


2. What project are you currently working on? Can you tell us about your design process?


I am currently the Props Designer for Mirandy and Brother Wind here at Synchro. I’m also the
swing/understudy for the same show…. which is super exciting!
My process begins by reading the play at least 3 times all the way through. Next, I start taking notes of what I
think the props should be and which character will use them. My research usually includes reading historical
documents, communicating with the set designer(s) about their vision, and watching lots of videos of
experienced prop designers.

3. What is your biggest dream as a designer?


I’ve never gotten to combine my two favorite things: baking and props! My biggest dream is to be able to do
props design on a play or musical that has a lot of eating and drinking in the script and then have to make all
of the food for the actors myself……Waitress, maybe?

4. What do you believe can be done to make sure more people of color are represented as designers in the theatre
industry?


See us, seek us out, give us chances, and mentorships! All of these things would help people of color to be
more represented in the industry, while helping us grow. There are plenty more things that can be done;
however, these are just some of the immediate ways to get the ball rolling.

Keep up with Amber Brown and her work on Instagram @abtwo_colors 

Synchronicity Theatre to Offer ASL Interpreted Performances

Hands In!, an organization based in Athens, GA will interpret three upcoming productions.

ATLANTA, GA – For three upcoming productions in the 2020-2021 season, Synchronicity Theatre will be partnering with Hands In!, an organization based in Athens, GA that produces and interprets original artistic works in American Sign Language (ASL).

All “On the Screen” ticket holders for A Year With Frog and Toad (Dec 11—Jan 3), Mirandy and Brother Wind (Jan 29—Feb 21), and The Bluest Eye (June 7—27)will be receiving links to two versions of the performance – one with interpreters and one without – in their ticket confirmations.

Hands In! connects communities by promoting accessibility in the arts and produces workshops, classes, and community events. Using two artistically-trained interpreters for each show, American Sign Language will be used to sign dialogue and to echo the emotions in the words and songs. There will always be two interpreters on screen at the same time, and they will be playing the different characters, along with the actors.

The production will be recorded and shot with up to four cameras spread throughout the theatre. Felipe Barral of IGNI Productions and Amanda Sachtleben will record the interpreters in a live performance, with possible pick-ups, then in post-production create windows that show the interpreters in a “one picture format,” interpreting the performance simultaneously.

During filming, the interpreters will be unmasked and socially distanced, or they will be wearing clear plastic masks that do not disrupt interpretation. Everyone involved will adhere to Synchronicity Theatre’s COVID-19 safety protocols.

For more information on this partnership, or to purchase $10 “On the Screen” tickets, please visit synchrotheatre.com.

ABOUT HANDS IN!

Hands In! is a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit based out of Atlanta, GA that aims to connect communities by promoting accessibility in the arts. Hands In! produces original works such as workshops, classes, and community events with a special interest in theatre and jukebox musicals, all of which are fully accessible in American Sign Language. Anyone and everyone can enjoy their visually immersive shows.

Black Womanhood, Chopped and Screwed in RIP

By Jordan Ealey – RIP Dramaturg

RIP: A Conversation between Playwright Danielle Deadwyler and Dramaturg Jordan Ealey.

In her autobiographical work, Dust Tracks On a Road, novelist, essayist, and playwright Zora Neale Hurston writes, “No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” This oft-cited quote accentuates Hurston’s perspective on the world: one where she is less concerned with the way she is viewed as a black woman, but more so on her own self-definition. This is the way we enter into rip: a woman, on stage, sharpening a knife. Through poetic meditations and striking visual imagery, Danielle Deadwyler takes us on a wayward journey, exploring, in her own words, “what emerges after a rip.”

What is presented is “equal parts performance art and domestic drama” that re-members a black woman that has been dismembered by the world. Adapted from her MFA thesis, entitled “the dissolution of things,” rip pushes the bounds of what is even considered theatre. Throughout the development and rehearsal process, Deadwyler was insistent on the nebulous and wayward aesthetic of rip; nothing about the final product rests on tradition in any way, whether it’s her emphasis on the show not being pretty or on the fact that she doesn’t even consider it to be a play. Dance and movement is, similar to sound, just as important to the young woman’s development through the piece; from start to finish, her movement animates the anxieties of the words. This multiplies rip’s transformational multidisciplinarity, demonstrating the tradition of black women’s performance culture that disrupts traditional modes of theatre making.

Deadwyler’s words are accompanied by a gorgeous soundscape; even in simply reading the words, one can almost hear the sharpening of the knife, the bouquet of voices in the chorus, the weight of the words of a black woman beaten down by the world. “Chopped and screwed,” a hip hop remixing technique that originated in Houston, Texas by DJ Screw, underlies rip’s corporeal and sonic form. In the piece, the woman begins and ends with a knife; she is both screwed by and screws society, chopping up expectation into pieces and using the fragments to fashion a new self.

Of equal importance is the important work of the chorus. Drawing inspiration from cultural historian, Saidiya V. Hartman’s text, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval, rip beautifully incorporates her notion of the chorus, an aural representation of ancestral and communal connection among black women. Hartman understands the chorus as the choral interludes illustrate black feminist collectivity, as we are often the ones who nurture and challenge each other, fully accepting the nuance and dimension of black womanhood. The chorus is the conceptual glue of rip, a reminder to all that none of us can go this alone, that we can and do lean on one another and that we open the way for us to find ourselves. The refrain of the chorus, in Hartman’s words, “opens the way” and “propels transformation”; toward the conclusion of rip, she is on the new, open path, having been ripped open.

Thus, rip is a rehearsal of the possible within the seemingly impossible. In its liminal space of not-quite-theatre, of not-quite-performance art, of not-quite-dance, yet and still, it embodies the multitudinous worlds of them all. It pushes the bounds of art-making practices, demonstrating the ways that black women have a vision of the world not as it is, but as it could be. This intimate journey is anything but delicate and pretty; in fact, Deadwyler openly leans into its difficulty, its illegibility, its ugliness. What emerges after a rip, then, is not a definitive answer, but a clarified question. Deadwyler’s rip narrates a process of becoming: ripping away from expectation and swimming into endless possibility.

Switching It Up!: Behind the 4×4 Set Design

By Gabrielle Stephenson, Set Designer for 4×4

Set Designer Gabrielle Stephenson and ATD Ethan Weathersbee strike the Backstage and Other Stories (show 1) set to then become the set setup for Stiff (show 2).

If you got to see Wayfinding, you actually got to partially see the sets for 4×4 in person – we decided to recycle and reimagine it.  The main inspiration for this series was stages without any dressing: no set onstage, no temporary risers for performances, no lit drops, simply the original architecture/bones of a theater.  4×4, at its core, is truly a celebration of theater and art continuing to push forward through the uncharted waters of what 2020 has brought us.  

Part of the challenge on designing a unit set for four completely different shows was figuring out ways to differentiate each from the other with minimal yet creative changes.  The Wayfinding set was repurposed in this case so that more budget could be allocated towards said unique changes you will see throughout the run.  We kept the back wall & moving wall structures but refaced them with faux brick, added 2 side walls to maximize projection surface options, and removed all the fabric from the metal structures to suggest truss structures that you would typically see in wings of theaters behind the curtains.  We also repainted and laid down a faux wood floor, one of many elements that will change before the next show, Chorus of Bears, comes to the stage.

For Backstage and Other Stories, we utilized every small trick in the book, with rolling furniture, flashing proscenium lights around the center moving wall, fishing wire that hung frames containing pictures from Terry Burrell’s respected career and moving the red house curtains in and out at times.  I wanted Stiff to feel more intimate, so we pushed the two smaller platforms together, shifted the moving walls more downstage, brought the house curtains in, and added some different dressing to give it a more relaxed ambiance. 

Stay tuned to see the exciting further changes in the remainder of the productions!

Introducing Art Beats Atlanta!

ATLANTA, GA – Art Beats Atlanta, a co-op of Atlanta-based arts and culture organizations, has launched ArtBeatsATL.com, a free online portal where people sheltering at home can find and engage with virtual events and digital content created by arts organizations throughout the greater-Atlanta area. The website showcases weekly virtual events, information, and digital content for theatre and spoken word, dance and movement, music, visual arts, film and classes. The site will be live beginning Wednesday, May 20, 2020. More info can be found at ArtBeatsATL.com.

Even though the immediate intention is to provide a space to share online arts programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, the long-term goal is to continue to build Art Beats Atlanta into a platform where Atlanta’s arts organizations can promote their work through June 2021, and to ultimately become a permanent resource for the greater Atlanta-area. The goal is also to inspire people to learn more about the arts community, and how they can become more engaged.

“This idea is rooted in a couple of beliefs,” says Rachel May, Producing Artistic Director of Synchronicity Theatre, and one of the founding members of Art Beats Atlanta. “First, people need entertainment, amusement and engagement for their emotional well-being. Since this is our business, the arts community has the innate ability to serve this need. Second, having one place where people can find high-quality digital content that can be enjoyed while they are sheltering-in-place, will keep people engaged in the arts, and bring them back to us when restrictions are lifted.”

“The excitement and buy-in of supporters and board members was an early indicator of the appetite for a site that will bring together virtual arts offerings throughout Atlanta,” says Gretchen Butler, Managing Director of Theatrical Outfit. “We were thrilled to have two donors step up immediately to cover the costs of the design and launch, allowing us to offer arts organizations the opportunity to participate at no cost to them at this time.”

So far, over 50 organizations have begun listing virtual events. To become a member organization or to submit events or content, please visit ArtBeatsATL.com. There is currently no membership fee to join. The public can access ArtBeatsATL.com at no charge.

ABOUT ART BEATS ATLANTA

Art Beats Atlanta (Art Beats) is a co-op of Atlanta-area arts and culture organizations with a mission to increase engagement between the public and the vibrant professional arts community of the greater Atlanta area. Originally created at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a space to share innovative online arts programming, the long-term goal is to continue to build Art Beats into a platform promoting Atlanta’s vibrant arts ecology.

Be a SHERO and Donate to Our Playmaking for Girls 10K Challenge!

“I feel free. I am me. Nobody has the ability to take over me. In here people can be whoever they want to be.”- Khaty, Playmaking for Girls Participant

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Now in its 17th year, Playmaking for Girls has impacted thousands of Atlanta’s most vulnerable populations. This theatre outreach program helps girls living in group homes and refugee communities “find their voices” as artists and creators. Playmaking for Girls is especially vital for these young women as the COVID-19 pandemic affects their lives.

DONATE TO OUR 10K CHALLENGE (May 22 through June 13)

With a generous 1:1 match challenge from a community donor, you can help us reach our $10,000 goal! If we raise $5,000, they match $5,000. All funds directly benefit PFG.

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As of June 12, 2020, we have funded this challenge and now have raised $10,511!

YOUR GIFT MAKES AN IMPACT!

Playmaking for Girls annually impacts over one thousand people in our community, including:

  • 400 girls living in group homes or refugee communities participate, at no cost, in the Playmaking for Girls program.
  • 17 professional teachers work with participants throughout the year.
  • 5 to 10 student interns assist with the program each semester.
  • 800 community members and patrons support these young women by attending PFG performances.

 

Be a #SynchroSHERO. Donate here.

 

“… the young actors relate to characters they created and, for the first time, maybe, have a model for working out problems before they’re really facing them. This group of girls used to expecting little and getting less quickly warms to a room full of women who won’t give up on them. ”

– Jamie Gumbrecht, Atlanta Journal-Constitution Reporter

“Playmaking for Girls affirms every ounce of [the girls] beings through their loving, unconditional care and belief in these girls.”

-Inspire Shalom, Playmaking for Girls Community Partner

Agnes Scott SCALE Program at Synchronicity – Reflection

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SCALE at Synchronicity

This year Agnes Scott College launched the Sophomore Class Atlanta Leadership Experience (SCALE), a week-long program to give students professional experience in Atlanta-based organizations. We spent three days in the classroom preparing to visit our site, and four days of immersive learning at the site. Groups of students went to 22 different locations, and our team of eight spent a week at Synchronicity Theatre. We observed and engaged with the theatre in two groups, Arts Administration (Leandra Colley, Amelia Handly, Ryan Hayes-Owens, and Jacqueline Yarbough) and Arts Journalism (Journey Bradham, Lydia Cash, Maddy Franklin, and Camryn King). While at Synchronicity, we worked closely with the team of leaders here to get a sense of how theatre and non-profit organizations operate as well as the unique challenges Synchronicity faces in their mission to uplift the voices of women and girls. As the Arts Journalism group, we want to share a few of the core themes and experiences that have shaped our time here.

Women in Leadership 

During our time at Synchronicity, we had the opportunity to talk extensively within our groups and with the amazing women who work at Synchronicity about women in leadership. A core theme that our group continued to return to was the notion of taking up space– which can mean finding self-actualization and self-respect within the workplace as well as one’s personal life. Within this notion of taking up space, we also discussed what carving out space for others can look like. Synchronicity, through their focus on women’s and girls’ voices, have made it their mission to give space to underserved communities and unheard voices. They implement a leadership style that allows for communal leadership, giving respect to everyone in the room. This respect for others is also manifested in the ways in which they conduct performances, with having 85% of their shows written by women playwrights. It was inspiring to see women leaders in the writing field and also in the world of arts administration, marketing and design. 

Arts Journalism Journey

Our group, dramatic criticism, has come from a variety of majors from International Relations to English Literature. None of us had much experience writing reviews of theatre, or anything like reviews, outside of analytical essays for class. We knew we had to collaborate and work together while also fine-tuning our own reviewing and journalistic skills, and in order to do so, we needed to learn from the best and actually watch a play in real time.

In this week for SCALE, our group watched Wayfinding and were given guidance before and after watching the play on how to write a theatre review. We Skyped with Kelundra Smith, an arts journalist who has worked in arts administration and marketing, and who now writes and edits for the GSU Law Newspaper. We learned how to form a review to both inform audiences while also providing our own analyses. When we watched Wayfinding later that evening, we made sure to take notes in order to fully be able to write the most well constructed review that we could, especially since this was our first time trying to actually write arts journalism.

The next day, we worked and wrote for a couple of hours on constructing our review based on Kelundra’s instruction, and we then met with Synchronicity’s own Celise Kalke to go over first drafts. We each had an individual meeting with Celise where we discussed our writing and changes we could make to be clearer and more concise. Both after the meetings and at Agnes Scott after returning from SCALE, we worked on making a final draft that we could present to our peers and the folks at Synchronicity. 

Why did we choose Synchronicity? – Maddy 

For everyone in the group, choosing Synchronicity as their desired place to spend the week was a no-brainer. Many of us are interested in pursuing a career in the arts and felt that being here would provide a unique window into a section of that world, one that couldn’t be found anywhere else. We all connected with Synchronicity’s mission of empowering and uplifting the voices of women and girls and felt that transitioning from Agnes Scott’s world to Synchronicity was incredibly easy, given the diverse and supportive nature that’s been cultivated. Once we arrived, it became clear that Synchronicity is committed to giving a platform to emerging artists and that we’d always have a place to turn to if ever a chance to jumpstart a career in theatre were to arise. Over this past week, all of us have had the opportunity to learn about a side of theatre that we’ve never explored before and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to do that than Synchronicity! Thank you to the team, especially Rachel, Celise, Dalyla, and Sarah, for allowing us in!