Thing Power

In early January I gathered with a group of artists to launch a new project, Object Karaoke. It was a launch, but also felt to me like a slipping in to something that had been in the works for a long time. This was the result of a few things -- the fact that this piece was part of a larger collaboration between Hand2Mouth, Artists Repertory Theatre, and Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center; the fact that we would be working with objects that were imagined, built, and handled in plays premiered the season before; the fact that the project, from  concept to title, was born from the deep mind of my dramaturg Jen Mitas -- but no project is an island, no matter how new it seems.

 Three lumps in rehearsal.

Three lumps in rehearsal.

I had read some of Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter during my second year grad school seminar, and had revisited the text a few months earlier while working on a student-created project with my supervisor Steven Hill. I knew that Bennett's ideas of "thing power" would be the entry point for the work, but was worried about how to let theory hold hands with practice, particularly when I only had 12 rehearsals (including this first meeting) to build a complete show. Using a practice I learned from Miguel Gutierrez, we began rehearsal with timed sections of continuous movement, critical reading, free writing, and then again, continuous movement. In this way I could bring ideas into the room and into the bodies of the performers without having to talk about them. Each actor was able to absorb and integrate as much or as little of the text as they wanted; there was no "homework" feeling because we were all doing it together, and the chance for fatigue was minimal as we were doing each section for 7-12 minutes (depending on the day). I was thrilled that the actors took to the text and the ideas so strongly, asking for more reading, bringing up key concepts as they discussed the work we were making, and proposing new ways forward using the language of Bennett.

 Our stage, with plinths, harp, and ladders. Painted ice blue for Artist Rep's  Magellanica . 

Our stage, with plinths, harp, and ladders. Painted ice blue for Artist Rep's Magellanica

I spent the rest of January back in BC while each of the actors held solo encounters with the objects: three large pink fabrics, a green brocade drape, a hand-printed dress, three Victorian-style hats, a mask (which we cut early one), and a piano harp (located at Artists Rep and not the Shout House studio). I asked for reports from these encounters, and they ranged from short and pragmatic to wild and stream of consciousness. Jen responded to each with details about the object's origins, maker, and previous performance experience.

From February 6-10 we worked, improvised, and got to know the material qualities of the objects. The performer team, Erin Leddy, Liz Hayden, Kaj-anne Pepper, and Ken Yoshikawa, were incredible in their quantity and quality of ideas. Creating was no problem, how to organize it into something that contained a legible performance grammar, was something else. After a week away, we all gathered again on Febuary 19, nine days before the premiere (and close) of the show. There was still material to be made, and rough ideas to be refined, but my goals for the first few days were to discover a system for putting everything together. This final rehearsal period was gifted by the presence of our incredible musician and sound designer Erika M Anderson. I had spoken with Erika on Skype the previous month (she was in Europe opening for Depeche Mode, ndb), but this was my first time meeting her in person and my first time hearing her play the piano harp live. During an improvisation, which became the basis of the show's opening section, Jen and I came across the idea of turning the whole show into a score. This was appealing for several reasons: we didn't have enough time to fine tune each and every part; the performers were so generous and skilled in improvisation and so open to the power of the objects, and the performing moment, that it seemed right to give space for those impulses; part of the initial impulse of the project was to create a generative model of what can be done with post-show objects; and the score itself is an object of power, an object which gives rise to. All of these plus our unknown to each other fascination with performance scores sent us on our way.

 Object wake. Erin Leddy, Ken Yoshikawa, Kaj-anne Pepper, Liz Hayden, Erika M Anderson (L to R)

Object wake. Erin Leddy, Ken Yoshikawa, Kaj-anne Pepper, Liz Hayden, Erika M Anderson (L to R)

Despite snow and cancelled rehearsals, we crafted loose ends into a piece. We moved into the theatre, still painted ice-blue from the previous show, and declared it to be the most powerful object at our disposal. We added video and plinths, and the day before we opened, lights and amplification. More than any other show I've made, I did not know what to expect when we opened. We had only run the piece once before, and my attention was spent on tracking lighting cues and taking notes (though I suppose this is often the case...). While I hoped some sections would be funny, I was surprised at eager the audience was to laugh at others, particularly my opening remarks framed as a sort of pre-show speech. At the end of the piece the objects sit on plinths around the stage floor. Jen's concluding remarks have invited the audience to wander among the pieces, to read their didactic texts, to looks closely and examine. The theatre, our big object, had turned into another sort of object, a gallery, and the theatre audience was performing their part, wandering and remarking, wine glasses in hand.

  Object   Karaoke  team: Kaj-anne Pepper (on plinths with dress, green drape, hats, pink fabric), Jen Mitas (standing), Lucille Dawson, Erin Leddy, Ken Yoshikawa, Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Erika M Anderson (front L to R).

Object Karaoke team: Kaj-anne Pepper (on plinths with dress, green drape, hats, pink fabric), Jen Mitas (standing), Lucille Dawson, Erin Leddy, Ken Yoshikawa, Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Erika M Anderson (front L to R).

Môj Gidget at NWNW / Sawdust Collector

After a whirlwind few weeks of putting text with movement, building green screens, and working audio magic, the Môj Gidget team is hitting the road for an micro mini international tour! This weekend we're performing at On the Boards' NW New Works Festival and on Tuesday we're hitting the boards closer to home as part of Sawdust Collector's new works series. Deets on both shows below. 

NW New Works Festival Weekend 2 Studio Showcase: June 16-18 | On the Boards, 100 W Roy Street, Seattle, WA

Linda Austin Dance: a world, a world — (Un)Made Chapter 3 (Dance | Portland)
Sandbags, headphones, a moveable stair unit, and five dancers in a performative interrogation of the borders of the self; the  push-pull between autonomy and “groupness”.

Ella Mahler: Really, it’s this. (Dance | Seattle)
Two dancers sort through any and all strategies in their search for “this” – that ever changing, perhaps never arriving solution or answer.

Julie Hammond: Môj Gidget (Theater | Vancouver, BC) 
A California-born Jew travels to a landlocked country to learn to surf. Pop music, dentistry, and a family story that can’t be told.

Mother Tongue: < sic > (Performance | Seattle)
Moving through strange worlds an alien and a believer seek refuge, an artifact, and understanding.

Sawdust Collector | New Works | June 20th, 9:30pm, Gold Saucer Studio (207 W Hasting Street, Vancouver, BC)

An evening of various artists presenting new works and works in progress. 

Gavin Youngash w/ James Meger + Skye Brooks
Ben Wylie
Layla Marcelle Mrozowski + Matilda Cobanli : Variations on a theme: virtuosity
Julie Hammond : Môj Gidget

Night Walk 2

Last spring when I invited Radix Theatre's Andrew Laurenson to attend my Future Markers Community Walk he mentioned he was working on some "art walk" projects of his own. We didn't have a chance to talk about his future walking plans then, but this March I had the chance to attend Radix's first Night Walk, a 10km adventure in pouring rain through the darkness of Vancouver. It was exhilarating (and yes, cold), full of surprise and delight, and left me feeling more full than anything I'd experienced in a long time. I was super happy then when Andrew reached out to ask if I could help out with Night Walk 2: a new route, a few new additions, and a new way of walking (one larger group rather than many small ones). About 20 people, some known to us, some not, joined the walk through the (this time) dry night air. A few photos from the walk below.   

Môj Gidget Workshop

I just wrapped up two weeks in the studio and am bursting at the seams with ideas for what's next in this crazy process of building a new show. I've spent much of the last few months writing on my own and it's been great to step away from text and begin to explore space and objects and what they can say and tell and do. With input from scenic designer Robert Leveroos, I assembled a collection of palm trees and beach objects, and then my beautiful crew of performers (Amanda Sum, Nicola Rough, Annie Therrien Boulos, Eddy Van Wyk, Montserrat Videla, and Dominique Jenkins) alongside sound designer Matthew Ariaratnam, dramaturg Caroline Liffmann, and special guest Michelle Milne started to play. We packed beach bags, rolled around on skateboards, made seagull sounds, and tried our best to create a bit of Gidget-style magic. 

Embodied Emplacement

One of the real pleasures of grad school has been the time and space to expand my practice and my circle of collaborators. I first worked with Matthew Ariaratnam on a performance installation project in March 2016 (with fellow SFU student Dave Biddle), and this past fall he created sound for my production of The Danube. While we continue to work on each other's projects, we've also developed a collaborative walking practice and this week we'll share our first work: Embodied Emplacement: a multi modal walkshop presented by Vancouver New Music.

Drawing on Steph Ceraso’s call for “multi-modal listening” alongside practices of soundwalking, field recording, in situ composition, and map making, Matthew Ariaratnam and Julie Hammond will lead a 90 minute “walkshop” around New Westminster’s waterfront. Participants will be asked to explore sensory inputs in select locations via playing, singing, listening, walking, touching, and writing.
Sunday, April 9, 2017; 2PM
Led by Matthew Ariaratnam and Julie Hammond
Meeting Location: Outside the Anvil Centre (777 Columbia Street, New Westminster – one block east from the New Westminster skytrain station) [map]
FREE

Site Stories Exhibition

Last spring I met artist Mark Cunningham at the ArtStarts Arts Integration Learning Lab. On the last day of the week-long workshop we realized we had a number of interests in common and over the next few months we worked to put together a project proposal to work with students at New Westminster Secondary School. Thanks to generous funding from an Artists in the Classroom grant, we've spent the last 15 weeks with 58 grade 10 Art & English students introducing concepts and practices of contemporary art and guiding students to build their own projects. This week we wrap up with a final exhibition of student-created work in media including pencil on paper, video, web-based sound mapping, and site-specific installation. Details below:

WHAT: Site Stories Exhibition and Opening

WHEN: Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 5:30-7pm

WHERE: New Westminster Secondary School Library, 835 8th St, New Westminster, BC

COST: Free

MORE INFO: www.nwsssitestories.blogspot.ca

The Danube

I've been working with a great team of actors, designers, and mentors to as I work towards my debut directing a script written (gasp!) by someone else. It has been a dream to dig into María Irene Fornés' text and to imagine and build this strange prescient world. The show runs November 24-25 at SFU Woodward's Studio T and all performances are free. 

My beautiful team includes performers Dominique Jenkins, Nicola Rough, Simon Garez, and Patrick Blenkarn; Sound Designer Matthew Ariaratnam; Scenic Designers Josie Lee & Jake Lindsay; Lighting Designer Shahlla Karmali; Costume Designer Terra Deng; Puppet Designer Ian McFarlane; Choreography and Movement Director Sasha Ivanochko; and Dramaturg Robert Leveroos.

 

Between Two Rocks

Last January I began working with Robert Leveroos as a dramaturg for his new show Between Two Rocks. Since then, we've gone sheep shearing, organized a visual script, listened to audio in Norwegian, and worked with an incredible team of performers, designers, and creators to build a show. The whole thing happens for three nights only at SFU Woodward's Studio T, September 22-24. Below is a blurb and here is the FB event.

 A mountain of wool turns into a cloud. A stream of thread becomes a song and slowly leaks out a bucket. Morning rises on a curtain, pushes our gaze to the end of the world, until the sun finally sets on our laps. Between Two Rocks draws from dance, visual art, theatre, and handcraft to transform the horizon of the theatre, pull inside out, and turn rightside down. This new work mixes moments of humour, tension, and geologic meditation, asking what compels us to journey into the unknown and how we change in the process.

Taking inspiration from Norse folktale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”, a team of performers animate the stage using movement, words, and piles of fleece. The encounter between traditional folk art and live performance, written story and oral telling, feminine and masculine, animal and human, merge in this sensory trip to the edge.

Directed by Robert Leveroos and created with performers Elliot Vaughan, Elysse Cheadle, Gordon Havelaar, Linnea Gwiazda, Pascal Reiners, dramaturg Julie Hammond,  designers Kyla Gardiner, Ben Wylie, Paula Viitanen, Lukas Engelhardt, stage manager Xin Xuan Song, and writers Barbara Adler, and Maria Tryti Vennerød.

PEP TALK in CT / Situations in BC

Last December Hand2Mouth presented an excerpt of PEP TALK at the National Performance Network conference in Portland, Oregon and we were lucky to meet the new programmer for the Autorino Center for the Arts & Humanities at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, CT. Nine months later the team of coaches and our director are flying east to perform as part of the 2016/17 season. We're doing two shows, September 16-17, a workshop on pep talks for some student athletes, and an appearance at the University Bingo night. Adventure awaits. 

And, as it happens, Vilhelm Sundin's film Situations, which I had the pleasure of performing inwill receive its Vancouver premiere on September 17 at the Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema (149 W Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC). Wish I could be there to celebrate with the cast & crew.

Summer Research

I'll be in Berlin, Slovakia, and Hungary for most of July and a bit of August as I begin field research for my new project, tentatively titled My Gidget. I'm looking forward to visiting a tropical beach paradise built into a former zeppelin factory, seeing Forced Entertainment at the Foreign Affairs Festival, discovering what contemporary beach culture looks like in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, visiting Prešov, Slovakia (my grandparents' home town), and reading Frederick Kohner's Gidget over and over while I dream of surfing, salt water, and California.

Dramaturgs in Portland

I'm excited to punctuate my season of dramaturgy with my first ever Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the America's Conference in my beautiful Portland, Oregon, July 6-9. A crew of BC dramaturgs from SFU are making the journey south and I'm thrilled to be moderating a panel talk entitled "Re-thinking the Role of Theatre" with a few of my favourite Portland theatre makers: Jessie Drake, Taiga Christie, and Anthony Hudson. Here's the official blurb:

Join a range of Portland theatre makers for a robust discussion about the boundaries of what theatre is, what it can do, and how it intersects with the community in which it is made. From community health to dive bars, rural touring to audience engagement, we'll tackle the who, what, where, and how of making for where we live.

Tours & Films & Dances

When it rains it pours, and some days I wish I could be in three places at once. I'm performing PEP TALK with Hand2Mouth at the FURYfactory Festival in San Francisco from June 15-18, and on Sunday, June 19, while I drive back up the west coast of the USA, the beautiful crew of 30+ community dancers will be performing Solstice Dance, for which I was a dramaturg, at Mountain View Cemetery (5455 Fraser Street, Vancouver, BC). Meanwhile, while across town at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St, Vancouver, BC)  Patrick Blenkarn & Lily Ross-Millard's film Heart & Soul: S12 E10, in which I make a small appearance, gets its Vancouver premiere as part of the Festival of Recorded Movement

Future Markers in NO LOST BLIPS

In summer 2014 I had the opportunity to spend a week with Mariano Pensotti as part of Theatre Replacement's New Aesthetics program. During that workshop I hit upon the idea of creating plaques for events that had yet to happen. I wasn't sure what they would look like or what they would say or where they would be, but something about it felt right.

Fast forward two years, and I'm wrapping up a month of work with grade 6/7 students at Lord Strathcona Elementary during which we learned, walked, discovered, and created markers past and future. I had the distinct pleasure of working with David Chandler to turn the students' drawings into printable signs, and with Lukas Engelhardt on documentation and installation design. The signs will be shown as part of NO LOST BLIPS May 4-15 at the Audain Gallery (149 W Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC). On May 15, I will be leading a community walk with cake to share the public installation of the signs in Strathcona neighbourhood. Artists Barbara Adler, Megan Stewart, Matthew Ariaratnam with Marcelo Vieira, Farooq Al-Sajee, and Mr. Fire-Man will present surprises along the way.

Belated Update

This area has been neglected as I made my way from wrapping up Time, A Fair Hustler to packing my bags, heading north, and beginning a new adventure in graduate school at Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts. Before jumping into the now, Barry Johnson of Oregon ArtsWatch gave a beautiful, in-depth review of Time Hustler. You can read the whole thing, or just this bit:

Hammond’s Mike is preoccupied, too—there’s a mother to find in Idaho, his dangerously close relationship to Scott, his sudden fits of narcolepsy that leave him collapsed on the floor. Hammond doesn’t try to link these aspects together; she allows them to play out in turn, disparate shards of consciousness, of desire, of biological interruption. Her Mike’s intense vulnerability emerges from this, and whether or not we remember the last sad scene of the movie, when Mike is picked up off an empty stretch of Idaho and deposited in van, we fear for this Mike as much as we did for Phoenix’s.

In addition to creating my own work (more on that soon), I recently performed in Barbara Adler's Klasika, a musical extravaganza investigation of Czech tramping, Canadian rodeo queens, and all things denim. My hair was big, my eyes were sparkling, and there was fringe on my dress. Magic.

A Show At Last

Time, A Fair Hustler (finally!) opened for the world on July 31. The road to opening was a whirl of rehearsals, tech, cuts, edits, white jean searching, Pepsi machine dissection, wax paper cup hunting, and the magic of collaborating with a remarkable team of artists. While it's been strange to be in a rehearsal room without Hand2Mouth's performing team, it has been a joy to learn from and work with a new group of performers, and truly wonderful to again be with so many familiar designers (and friends). I'm really proud of this work, and happy to report that the reviews are positive. Read on in the Portland Mercury and Willamette Week. We run thought August 16 and tickets can be found here.

Time Hustler

After a year of on again off again workshops, labs, and being in a room with many, many people, the full cast and table team began rehearsals for Time, A Fair Hustler this Monday. It is so exciting to realize how much we have already created, and yet to find that we just on the tip of the iceberg of where this show can go. There is so much to be built and played with, and the next five weeks promise hard work and deep discovery. The Portland Tribune published an article on the play and Jen Mitas, Hand2Mouth's remarkable Executive Director, wrote a beautiful, personal essay for The Brooklyn Quarterly on Portland, My Own Private Idaho, and what growing up with and about a place means. 

The Best PEP

On April 1, two of the Hand2Mouth coaches and I performed a section of PEP TALK at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Oregon's only women's prison. It was, without a doubt, a highlight of my personal and artistic life thus far. Read "reviews" from our embedded reporters: Enid Spitz in the Willamette Week, and Josh Kulla in the Wilsonville Spokesman. A few days later the whole crew performed the whole show (twice!) at Linfield College in McMinville and this Sunday, we're heading to Eugene to perform at the Oregon Contemporary Theatre. Wheeee!

Off to Eastern Oregon

This week PEP TALK hits the road for the wilds of southeastern Oregon! We'll be roughing it by staying at the Summer Lakes Hot Springs before performances in Paisley (Thursday, Feb 5 at the Paisley High School Auditorium), Lakeview (Friday, Feb 6 at the Lakeview High School Gym), and Sisters (Saturday, Feb 7 at Sisters Middle School). Many thanks to the Oregon Community Foundation for making Hand2Mouth's rural touring initiative a reality.