Saturday, April 16, 2011

Canada diary #3

Dear book,

This tour had tons of driving; all by me because who else but a 17th century feminist playwright can drive long stretches in a rented Avis full size white Impala? Up the coast of Lake Superior after flying into Duluth, Minnesota, to Grand Marais – a place I spied on the AAA map and decided it would be a good place to stop for the night before we head into Canada. We arrived at sundown into funky old Grand Marais and low and behold the Best Western had every single room right on the lake! We ask about where to eat and expected to hear the usual…”there’s is a subway up the road.” But surprise...we stumbled into a home style cooking joint aptly named My Sisters Place! It is here that I discover we are not just in any red state small town. On the back of one bar stool at My Sisters Place I spot a pro-choice bumper sticker slapped up and visible. Whoa! We are home! The chili, onion rings, grilled cheese and broccoli cheddar soup hit the spot and we settle in for a night of hard sleep on the shores of Lake Superior. OK so there are no whales to watch, no fish jumping, just vast amounts of ice and sky. But it’s beautiful.

Day two we head up to Canada…I warn the girls not to make ANY jokes at the border, remembering the time when Coco Chanel quipped something and got us all stopped for an hour and interrogated when we arrived in Winnipeg a few years back. We sail though the border and head up to Thunder Bay and Lakehead University. Deer, deer and more deer line the road as if to welcome us to Canada. (None in gorilla masks) And we spot many bald eagles flying overhead as if they are our American escorts into a new frontier.

Our venue is an older auditorium, a wing of the college that used to be an elementary school. Our dressing room is the old girls locker room right off the gym. We practice the cheerleading part of our show…splits and back springs. Tech crew is great…Kate Bornstein had warned ups that they were not together but they got it together since her show and therefore we are in good hands.

The show rocks but the audience rocks more and our Q and A is filled with fantastic questions. My favorite is the last one “When can you come back?”

Soon, Canada, Oh so very soon…”!

Until we meet again…

Aphra Behn

March 31, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CANADA Diary #2 or how to create theatre

Dearest Diary,

What a muggy day! It's 76 degrees outside. And how inappropriate of me talking of fahrenheit when I am about to sit down and write about Canada. I'm such a dork.

I had a great time being in Thunder Bay. It seems to be a city which will very soon be on the brink of opportunity. It brought back a lot of memories for me of when I started out creating theater on the Lower East Side of NYC and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. There was lots of space - both free and cheap (and unclaimed) and not too much Disney to get in the way. What I'm trying to say is, IT'S A GREAT TIME TO CREATE SOME THEATER COMPANIES IN THUNDER BAY!

First off, you want to find a great group of people. Everyone should be passionate about the work you are about to do.

Free or low cost rehearsal space - parks; parking lots; NOT the steps of the Farley Post office in Manhattan - they will insist on asking if you've checked with marketing, and no you have not; unused classrooms; bars in the afternoon when no one is there and be nice and order a few cokes or something; loft apartment of a castmate whose father bought it for tax purposes which she painted aqua with mermaids and bubbles on the walls; a friends' art gallery during the evening hours when it is closed (and be careful not to damage the art or you will probably have to buy it). My favorite free space though was The Roxy nightclub (Do nightclubs even exist anymore or is it that I've just gotten older?) They used to distribute postcards for free admission and open bar from 9-11. No one would be there. We would have this huge dance floor all to ourselves and free drinks. Of course with all the music and few stranglers it wasn't ideal. But we got the basic outlines of a few pieces done there. Ha!

Performance spaces - Back then, you could get away with performing in apartments, abandoned warehouses, storefronts etc. I'm a little fuzzy on exactly how it worked but there was a phone number passed around that you could call that would leave info of performances at these unclaimed spaces on the outgoing message. But nowadays, everyone is so aware of real estate and its worth that that would be too difficult to pull off without any fines or consequences. So try - being creative with site specific theater; or bars on nights there are no scheduled performances; theater spaces after hours - my first self produced show was a midnight show in a tiny 30 seat theater; churches, community centers, bookstores, libraries - any kind of place like that you may be able to negotiate something. And theaters are good as well!

Subject matter - pick a topic and start talking, interviewing, reading, researching. One of the first pieces I was involved in got the text from the creator taping her friend ranting about eating disorders, feeling fat, overeating, and body image. She then transcribed the text and did a little editing. It was about fifteen minutes long. She then put me in a refrigerator, had me recite it at top speed (finishing most nights in under 7 minutes) while fishing for Barbie dolls as she danced around the stage (she was an amazing modern dancer) while cooking (microwave popcorn) and eating tons of food, which ended up in a bag under her shirt that she 'threw up' at the end of the piece. It's a heavy subject matter, but it came off as very tongue in cheek and humorous. The other fun thing about that piece was there was no storage space at the theater, it was too small, so we had to find and discard a refrigerator from the streets of Manhattan every evening!

Fundraising - From the beginning you should look into grants or funds from local, regional 'council of the arts' groups. In NYC there are rules (like you must be in existence for three years) but they were always wiling to tell us what the rules were, and to make suggestions as to where to get money NOW. Hee Hee. Seriously though, you want people who can help to know you exist from the very beginning.

Some books by people I think are cool - The Viewpoints Book - Anne Bogart, Tina Landau; Writer's Block Busters - Velina Hasu Houston; The Invisible Actor - Yoshi Oida; A Practical Guide to Working in Theater - Gill Foreman.

Break a leg!!!!!!

xo Dame Edith Evans

March 31, 2011

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Canada Diary #1

Oh! The joys of Thunder Bay Canada!

We spent the night between our Iowa and Canada shows in a cool Best Western overlooking Lake Superior in a town called Grand Marais, Minnesota. Leave it to Guerrilla Girls On Tour! to find a feminist restaurant on our overnight stop! Called “My Sister’s Place” - the RESTAURANT had an anti-discrimination theme and some of the best comfort food I’ve ever tasted!

The next day we crossed through the Canadian border to perform at Lakehead University. The theatre we performed in was a 70s style theatre with limited lighting effects, but we still managed to have a great tech, with yet another fantastic student volunteer, who learned very quickly. We retired to our dressing room, a gym locker room, and got pumped for the performance.

After an 70 minute laugh filled show, (including lots of enthusiasm from our audience), we had another great Q&A. When asked who we thought was a great contemporary role model for young women, I paused until the answer came to me - Guerrilla Girls On Tour!!!

We actually had several children in the audience, including two 10 yr old girls who posed with us and asked us lots of questions. They wanted to sing “Size 2 Pants” with us, despite not knowing the words, so we sang along with them as they stumbled through the lyrics. They gave me hope for the younger generation of future Guerrilla Girls On Tour.

My Gorilla self loved the drive along Lake Superior, even thought it was cold and snowy on the way back. When we hit the Canadian/US border not only was our rental car searched but something in my suitcase set off the alarms at the airport and I received a full patdown from the TSA. In addition, our last flight was delayed, so we had a cast party in the Minneapolis Airport, drinking flights of wine in the wine bar in our concourse.

The wine made my head spin and recall the warm, appreciative audiences in both Iowa and Canada. Ican't wait to see what's next!

Lots of monkey love,

Audrey Hepburn

March 31, 2011