Lauren Chavez, of the We Players theater group, had to send this message to ticket holders, who still don’t know where or if the show will go on: “Our current production ofMacbeth is built very carefully and conscientiously into Fort Point, the Civil War era fortress beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. For over a year we have been integrating our work into that unique physical, sonic and energetic landscape. Because of the government shutdown we have been blocked from our stage, our most prominent scene partner and creative inspiration.”
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers – for he today that shares this play with me will be my brother,” she said. “And gentlemen in Congress now abed, will think themselves accursed and hold their manhoods cheap!”
The power struggles and ruthless ambition they often depict played out in real life this week when the federal government shutdown closed the National Park Service’s Fort Point – the interactive stage at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge where they had rehearsed and charted out each scene for nearly a year.
“Each shift in location builds toward a climactic sword-fight, the details of which I won’t spoil but whose perfect marriage of story, site, and stunt is the kind of scene that could make a lifelong theatergoer — and a lifelong national-park-goer — out of an audience member of any age.” Lily Janiak for SF Weekly
Though the experience was carefully curated, with viewers herded from scene to scene, individual vantage points made for experiential differences. “Even though you’re moving as a group, the spaces we chose were multidimensional,” Roy notes. “I’m staging things way off in the distance, on a cliff above your head. We’re challenging audiences to expand their awareness and perspectives and look above and behind them, below them, off in the distance. People can choose their perspectives, whether they get close to the actor or move farther back.”
With Myths of the Mariner and the Muse, We Players continues a three-year exploration of the theme of the hero’s journey, begun in 2011 with a production of The Odyssey underway aboard the scow schooner Alma, one of the historic vessels in the charge of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, and a longer production at Angel Island State Park in 2012.
“In sum, We Players’ Odyssey on Angel Island took an intelligent spin on Homer’s Odyssey that was custom-fitted to its location, using ritual and participation to create a compelling dramatic production from a non-theatrical story. The OAI exploited theater’s inclination toward memory and discovery to recast Odysseus’ adventures within a historical past. Making use of Angel Island’s picturesque architectural remains and fraught but important history, the production blended theater with forensics, re-enactment with archaeology. Despite the audience’s best efforts to catch up with the warrior, Odysseus’ exploits had always already occurred, leaving only traces for our guide, Telemachus, to discover and follow through inquiry or exploration. Constructed out of events familiar from even cursory knowledge of the Odyssey, the OAI worked carefully around—as it engaged closely with—Homeric epic. In so doing, it was a worthy inheritor of a theatrical tradition forged in fifth-century Athens, but was very much present and alive in the San Francisco Bay.”
“The We Players have been turning public spaces into impromptu playhouses for more than a decade (last year was Hamlet on Alcatraz), but in May, the group presented its most audacious performance yet: a five-hour roving rendition of The Odyssey on Angel Island, wherein the audience is conscripted into the story to cavort with mythical monsters against the backdrop of the San Francisco skyline. With a piece of theater that could leave you grass-stained, sunburned, and in the market for a bronze chest plate, We Players didn’t just break the fourth wall, it toppled the whole playhouse.”
For a transcript of the broadcast click here.
Emerging from this production, you can’t help but perceive the bay differently. As commandeered by We Players, it’s a puzzle, an eternal variable, a dynamic body of water navigable only by skilled craftsmen, a threat to smooth performance, a site for an interesting one, and an obstacle to homecoming. Poseidon lurks always in We Players’ vision of the bay — but so does drama.
We Players named Best Site-Specific Classicists
It turns out the editor’s picks are extra special – the Guardian wrote a full paragraph about WE:
“This year marks the end of We Players’ three-year collaboration with the National Parks Service on Alcatraz Island. The project showcased the island’s scenic isolation in a number of artistic and community-building endeavors. The stage company’s 2010 marathon production of Hamlet was a tour de force of site-specificity, taking actors and audiences all over the island, including areas normally off-limits to the public. In their imaginative stagings of Macbeth, Hamlet, and Iphigenia, as well as their ongoing art exhibitions for, by, and about incarcerated juveniles and adults, the Players highlight themes of isolation, incarceration, justice, and redemption. They wield their art as a catalyst rather than as nostalgic revival. Their Alcatraz residency ends in the fall. In 2012, it partners with the California Parks Service to stage The Odyssey on Angel Island.”
Check out these beautiful words from the Huffington Post!
“Ms. Roy was invited to be the first artist-in-residence on the island in November 2008 after Amy Brees, the National Park Service’s Alcatraz site supervisor, saw her production of “Macbeth” at Fort Point, the Civil War-era brick-and stone structure tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge. That “Macbeth,” with its closing sword fight on the roof, bridge footlights casting stark shadows and a full moon in the distance, was “the most amazing theater I had ever been to in my life,” Ms. Brees said. “The Park Service is interested in provoking people to think about these places and their meanings,” she said. “At Alcatraz, those themes are justice, punishment, crime, redemption.”