2014 Reflections

“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have.
Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”  – Henry James

Backstage at Macbeth at Fort Point, 2014

2014!

A quick recap: we rallied after the effects of the 2013 Government Shut Down and re-activated our stunning Macbeth at Fort Point, we brought the joyous Canciones del Mar back to the tall ship Balclutha and the provocative and entrancing Vessels for Improvisation back to the ferry boat Eureka (both vessels at Hyde Street Pier); we experimented with roving site-based performance with King Fool, our two-person distillation of King Lear, and we spent five fruitful weeks immersed in rehearsal for our sailing production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Shortly before the expected opening performance of Rime on Halloween, we confronted the challenge of discerning between radically compromising the vision and honoring the core artistic integrity of the piece. We chose the latter. We trust this will lead us to a resplendent fully realized production in due time.

In just a few short months we launch our fabulous annual dinner theatre gala (February 28, save the date!) and then dive into rehearsals for our newest site-integrated colossus: a sprawling and gorgeous Ondine at Sutro. Meanwhile, as the days curl with surprising quickness into cozy darkness, and the crisper chill of autumn air carries us into cave of winter, we embrace this seasonal shift as an opportunity for reflection and envisioning what dreams may come…

In truth, this task of self-reflection is an ongoing and ever-present part of our practice within We Players. Though sometimes confusing and always challenging, to me, these questions are essential, like bread and water.

* Why make art? * What’s the core purpose? * Who is it for? * What’s the intention of a work? * Why does it matter? * What do I have to share that is truly of value? * What do I want to see more of in the world? * How can I contribute to that? * How do we achieve maximum and meaningful impact with our work? * How does our art support the expansion and elevation of the human spirit? *

We Players - Rime of the Ancient Mariner 2014 - Rehearsal

This fall, as I engage with these impossible and crucial questions, I find myself peering back into the mists of spring 2000 when We Players was born, and still more questions bubble up.

* Why did I form We Players? What were my questions then? What were my intentions then?

What were the foundational inspirations and principles guiding the work then? Which are still true now? Which have changed? What have I forgotten that is still essential and must be remembered? Why site-specific work? Why participatory? Why Shakespeare? What’s the role of ritual in making theatre? Why We Players?

Through these questions we continually stretch and strengthen our established practice (our methodologies, intentions, aesthetic and purpose), which enlivens public place, challenges the intellect, stretches the capacity for feeling and empathy, and elevates the spirit.

2015 is just around the bend! In addition to Ondine at Sutro in the spring, we’ll be opening the first of several visual art exhibitions at the SF Maritime Museum in February, sharing a series of dynamic presentations at the newly opened Officer’s Club in the Presidio throughout the year, and announcing a still-secret smaller scale work at a surprise location in the fall.

I look forward to sharing with you thrilling performances, rich with moments of shocking beauty, charged with vital questions and bright with both expansive natural vistas and the radiance of the human spirit. 

xo

Ava Roy

Artistic Director, We Players

2014 Run of Rime of the Ancient Mariner CANCELED

Dear Patron,

We are deeply disappointed, and have had to make a very difficult decision to cancel all performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on Alma. All tickets and fees will be refunded this week.

We were saving this for a surprise, but our production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on historic schooner Alma was built on the central image of an aerial performer as the Albatross, flying high above the deck, descending her apparatus in a painfully beautiful dance after being shot by the Mariner’s crossbow, all while sailing the San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, due to safety concerns related to the aerial performance that we and our partners at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park were unable to overcome, we are unable to proceed with the project at this time.

Alma's wake - sailing the Bay

Over the past several weeks of rehearsal we’ve made great strides in our development of the poem for performance. We have discovered rhythmic and imagistic gems while plumbing the currents of the text, we’ve written songs, we’ve stocked up on salty lingo, and are prepared to get wet. This has been valuable work, and we intend to make use of our investment. We set our sights on a new horizon and trust that we’ll find the time and the place that will best serve our vision for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

We sincerely apologize for this situation and the disappointment it may cause. We truly value you, our audience, and your support of and participation in our work. We don’t exist without you.

Thank you for your understanding and for staying the course with us.

Onward,

Ava Roy and Lauren D. Chavez

Charles De Gaulle’s Egg

Alma mast and rigging

I was more than a little pleased to learn during the high summer that the We Players were to bring forth a production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and deliver the work from the deck and rigging of the scow schooner Alma, an historic ship sailed by crew of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

This pleasure with the advent of the Ancient Mariner to our park derives from my own private albatross and my own urge to prophesy:

Like Coleridge’s ancient mariner, I attend a good many weddings, often as an uninvited guest, often with words well-woven for unwanting ears.

Usually I stand unnoticed by flurries of wedding-guests passing in hopeful finery up the stairways and onto the breezy verandas of San Francisco’s Aquatic Park Bathhouse.  Occasionally I am noticed.  Occasionally, chance allows me to let fall a yarning of history.

The wedding guests rarely ask about the Bathhouse architecture or the murals.  When a guest hesitates in front of an exhibit or an element of the lobby murals, I sense the opening.  Often, too, there is the wedding guest who asks, “why is this place empty?  What are you planning to do with it?”  I point out that the building, artistically speaking, is far from empty and proceed to offer up a story that starts with a strange recurring dream I have.

In this dream it is September 1939, the year the Aquatic Park Bathhouse opens; the year the European phase of World War Two begins.   The dream is in French.  I am sitting in a dark wood-paneled study, a globe nearby; a green shaded desk lamp cast suffused light across a table-top dressed in leather and vermilion felt.  It must be midnight or nearly so.  I sit across from a young Charles De Gaulle, whom I inwardly dislike but toward whom I am being superficially polite.  He offers me a snifter of Armagnac ; I want something from Jerez in my glass; he has none.  He smokes; I do not.  He sits dressed as a Colonel of the Third Republic; I stand in the rumpled tweeds of a washed-out intellectual.  The meeting is not going well.

De Gaulle stabs his cigarette stub into a brass ashtray mounted on a small Gingham patterned bean bag cushion.  The ashtray is too English to be in the room and I wonder where it came from.  De Gaulle rings a bell, stands, and a valet presents the Colonel with an egg and a needle.  Over a garbage can, the future leader of the Free French de-yolks the egg and sets the now hollow and fragile alabaster-white eggshell on the desk before us.  He signals me and we sit.  De Gaulle leans over to me and says:

“It is hollow, Monsieur, but it is not empty.”

I fail to follow his line of thought and De Gaulle really does not care.  Colonel De Gaulle gets to his point quickly.  “I have a mission for you,” he begins, “you are to change into a tuxedo, take this eggshell, and parachute into Warsaw.  You are to carry this eggshell throughout the capitols of Europe while the war rages taking care that it does not break.  Perhaps find a spot where you can keep the eggshell and its contents safe for posterity.  After the war we will have another drink.  Remember the eggshell is hollow but it is not empty.  I will not wish you luck Monsieur; a man should know what kind of luck he has by your age.”

De Gaulle stands, presents me with the eggshell, a tuxedo, and a parachute.  Then he leaves. Then I leave. I enter some kind of anteroom flooded with harsh light.  I am conscious of a clock on the mantel ledge ticking.  On an impulse I hold the eggshell up to a light and peer into the hole in the bottom; my eyes and senses are dazzled by scales of color harmony and dancing patterns of the French Avant Guarde.  Along the interior surface of the shell are Hilaire Hiler’s Parisian murals; the egg is hollow, but it is not empty.

It sometimes takes the wedding-guest a moment, or perhaps long moments, to grasp the idea; the alabaster-white color of the Streamline Moderne building of the Bathhouse, the hollowness of the interior, the richness of the art that Europe lost but San Francisco preserves, in spite of itself, in the murals and mosaics that adorn the walls: rarely does an Ancient Mariner and a wedding-guest start out seeing things eye-to-eye.  Oftentimes the art and act of an Ancient Mariner is to turn apparent reality inside out, and unlock deeper meanings and histories.  In the story I related in the dream of De Gaulle’s Egg, I set the narrative in a past most listeners would understand, the Second World War, and used the metaphor of an egg that was hollow but not empty to demonstrate the value of an often overlooked piece of art and architecture.

“The mark of a civilization is the care and thought it devotes to the next generation.  I have a strong instinct to save ships for people I will never meet.” (Karl Kortum,1987).


We Players’ Rime of the Ancient Mariner begins October 31st and runs Fridays and weekends through November 16th.

 

King Fool’s Treasure

As part of our King Fool events, we gathered with our audiences for conversations after each performance.  King Fool’s content sparked discussions about many related topics: elders and dying, caring for people as they move towards death, and how our culture is beginning to incorporate ways to make it a healthier process for everyone. We came away with a number of resources that we are pleased to be able to share with our community.  But this is an incomplete list! Please use the comment feature on this post to add additional resources you’d like to share.

thank you!

– Lauren

 

King & Fool

 

Hospice of the East Bay, Pleasant Hill, CA

Hospice of the East Bay is committed to providing the hospice and palliative care services that support and comfort people and their loved ones through the final stages of life.

Hospice of the East Bay provides compassionate end-of-life care to terminally ill patients, while offering emotional, spiritual, and grief support for the entire family. As a not-for-profit organization, we accept all medically qualified patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. We also offer free bereavement services to the entire community. Since 1977, we have served over 20,000 patients and their families.

A Yelp reviewer says:  “I couldn’t imagine a better place for my father-in-law’s final days. It is located in a converted home that completely melds into the rest of a beautiful quiet neighborhood. My father-in-law had his own large room. Staff were attentive, caring, and respectful.

Most of all the beautiful gardens in the back complete with memory stones is so tranquil and peaceful. It still brings me comfort two years later to remember our own memory stone my son and I left for grandpa in that beautiful place.”

Sobonfu Somé – keeper of Dagura grieving ritual

Destined from birth to teach the ancient wisdom, ritual and practices of her ancestors to those in the West, Sobonfu, whose name means “keeper of the rituals” travels the world on a healing mission sharing the rich spiritual life and culture of her native land Burkina Faso, which ranks as one of the world’s poorest countries yet one of the richest in spiritual life and custom.

Dagara rituals involve healing and preparing the mind, body, spirit and soul to receive the spirituality that is all around us. “It is always challenging to bring the spiritual into the material world, but it is one of the only ways we can put people back in touch with the earth and their inner values.”

Zen Hospice Project, San Francisco, CA

Our mission is to help change the experience of dying.  We create a space for living that offers the opportunity for individuals, their loved ones and caregivers to find comfort, connection, and healing in this shared human experience. Through our pioneering model of care, we inspire each other to live fully.

Frank Ostaseski and the Metta InstituteSausalito, CA

Metta Institute® was established to provide education on spirituality in dying. Inspired by the Buddhist tradition, we encourage the integration of the spiritual dimensions of living, dying and transformation, through professional training, educational programs and materials.

Our Institute was formed in 2004 as an outgrowth of the Zen Hospice Project (ZHP), nationally recognized as a pioneering model in the movement to improve end-of life care. Our Director, Frank Ostaseski, helped form ZHP in 1987, and guided the program for 17 years.

Currently, the Metta Institute’s primary program is the End-of-Life Practitioner Program. The goal of the innovative training is to establish a national network of educators, advocates and guides for those facing life-threatening illness and the individuals and systems that serve them.

Judith Redwing Keyssar

Judith is the Director of the Palliative Care Program at Seniors at Home, a program of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. Her book, Last Acts of Kindness (2010), is a collection of her experiences being a self-described “midwife to the dying”—working in both palliative care and end-of-life care and supporting people through their personal dying processes.

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Acts-Kindness-Lessons-Bedsides/dp/1453749233

Healthy San Francisco

A low-cost health care option for San Franciscans, with elder care protections recently restored via the work of faith groups in the Mission striving for a Covenant of Care

Improv for Alzheimers

Karen Stobbe offers workshops on how to use the tools of improv with people who have dementia.

On This American Life on NPR, Producer Chana Joffe-Walt talks to a woman named Karen Stobbe and her husband Mondy about a plan they’ve recently enacted in their family. Karen’s mother lives with them and she has dementia. Karen and Mondy are actors and they stumbled upon a skill they have that is incredibly useful in communicating with Karen’s mother – improv.

You can listen to the story at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/532/magic-words?act=2#play  – if you have trouble with the link not playing the story, play the Act 1 audio above for the “Magic Words’ story, and jump to 36 minutes in.

Advanced Health Care Directives

An “advance health care directive” lets your physician, family and friends know your health care preferences, including the types of special treatment you want or don’t want at the end of life, your desire for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation.

By considering your options early, you can ensure the quality of life that is important to you and avoid having your family “guess” your wishes or having to make critical medical care decisions for you under stress or in emotional turmoil. This site by the California Office of the Attorney General offers a helpful checklist and additional resources for assembling your own AHCD.

The Coalition for Compassionate Care of California

The CCCC promotes high-quality, compassionate care for all Californians who are seriously ill or approaching the end of life.

We provide our expertise, tools and resources to families, patients, policy makers and healthcare providers to help ensure that all Californians receive high-quality palliative and end-of-life care. We also lead efforts to train healthcare professionals about Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), as well as cultural diversity and end-of-life care in California. The CCCC helps them develop the skills they need to talk with seriously-ill patients and families facing decisions about goals of care. We work with and support local coalitions throughout the state that provide support and education to healthcare providers and those facing treatment and care decisions.

We bring together people with a passion for increasing access to palliative care to spark growth of community-based palliative care throughout California.

King Fool and Night Walk this Friday!

We Players invites our community to join us in a Night Walk through the Mission in advance of our final San Francisco showing of King Fool, this Friday.
(Our 9/26 event – including performance, conversation and festive closing reception, will begin at 8pm, in a private warehouse just south of Mission Bay. The address will be revealed upon placing your reservation)

One of the things that has come up in our post-performance conversations is the truth that we cannot know when we will die.

Many of us hope that we will be blessed with a full life and well cared for by those we most love as we age and approach death. In our adaptation, Lear is blessed in this way, and yet his story is still heartbreaking.

It is a far greater tragedy for young people to die from violent crime.

The faith communities in the Mission – with whom we shared our opening performance of King Fool, have been making a positive impact in their neighborhood by being present and peaceful.

Our creative team is inspired to connect the timeless themes of death and relationship with current realities and join these communities for this Friday’s Night Walk.

We welcome your participation.

More info below.

*
For over a year now, several faith communities have been regularly walking some of the more violent streets of the Mission with a simple three-fold message:

  •  We care
  •  Stop the violence
  •  What do you need?

At this next Nightwalk we will also celebrate the re-emergence of an important street-intervention organization in our neighborhood. This organization, called CALLES (meaning “Streets”), has been one of the Mission’s most effective organizations reaching high-risk youth. It has been dormant for the last few years, but makes its comeback as part of our next Nightwalk.

When: Friday, September 26, 6-7:30pm

Where: Starting with a short ceremony at Instituto Familiar De La Raza (IFR) // 2919 Mission St, SF, CA 94110 and walking to Centro del Pueblo // 474 Valencia St

Gold from King Fool post-performance conversations

Our King Fool project is an experiment on many levels.

I’ve been kicking off our post-performance conversations with a brief summary of We Players’ mission: connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre and using our art to provoke thought and stimulate conversation on the shared themes of play and place.

We are sharing King Fool in a variety of locations, which does two things:

1) stretches our site-integrated practice to make the piece seem to emerge from and be at home in the place, without a lot of scouting and on-site rehearsal time; and

2) reinforces that the core theme of death, and supporting one another as we approach death, is not unique to any one place.

talkback

Our post-performance conversations have largely flowed without much effort on my part as a facilitator. Ava and John’s acting, the narrative of father-child relationship and Shakespeare’s rich language plucks at our heartstrings. Nature, in her constantly shifting vibrancy, holds us in the present moment. A respondent shares what struck them in witnessing the piece, and offers some insight garnered through encountering death and loss in their daily work. There are so many directions to go!

We’re halfway through the run and I’m looking forward to attending all the remaining performances! No live theatre event is ever the same. Performing outdoors, We Players really embraces and celebrates that truth in all of our work… but since the audience is different each time ‘round, our conversations take the concept of experiencing something “fresh and new” to another level.

I’m heartened that our mission appears to be working. Most people are yearning to talk about death and loss, and theatre is forging the container for an informative and inspiring conversation between folks from very different backgrounds. Below are short summary bios for two of our respondents, demonstrating the very different directions our discussion might take.

Join us for one of the remaining King Fool performance and add your voice!

Friday, September 19 – Cara Rose DeFabio

Cara Rose DeFabio lives in San Francisco and makes experimental performance that examines how technology mediates human experience. Her solo work After the Tone examines how digital debris has transformed the mourning process and how the technological capacity for memory may be shaping our ability to forget. Weaving together newspaper headlines, tweets, forgotten choreography and audience contributions via their cell phones, the show uses multiple platforms to weave together the story of our new digital afterlife. Her latest work, DARKNET explores the deep web, anonymity online, the expectation of privacy and how we behave when we think no one is watching.

Sunday, September 28 – Lois Williams

I am a hospice chaplain in the East Bay. I am also an Episcopal priest, and have at times been considered to be a little mystic. I work with both dying patients and their family or friends helping them come to terms with their terminal illness. I do this from a background of psychology, philosophy and theology. I will assess their spiritual needs, and journey with them as someone who holds hope in a future – whatever that looks like, while allowing them to find and share their own meaning of life with their family and/or myself.

I respect everyone’s faith tradition, or spiritual concepts; we are too complex, and the universe is too amazing for there to be only one way to be. My God is a loving one who does not reject anyone, and I desire to walk in love as Jesus did, as Buddha did, as Martin Luther King has, along with many others, and I do this one conversation at a time.

King Fool site notes – San Anselmo

KF Event 4

While our gracious site hosts don’t know much about the history of their land specifically, here is some interesting information they shared about the land now known as Sleepy Hollow:

The first recorded history of the Hollow is from 1839. A Mexican land grant was given to Domingo Sais, a soldier at the Presidio is San Francisco. His land consisted of 6,659 acres, including part of San Anselmo, Fairfax, and Sleepy Hollow. Domingo Sais died in 1853 leaving his land to his widow and six children. Sleepy Hollow went to his oldest son Pedro.  

Anson P. Hotaling bought the land in 1887. A wealthy San Franciscan, his son Richard developed a beautiful estate and called it Sleepy Hollow. He built a mansion at the end of Butterfield Road, which reflected his love for the theater. The living room had a stage complete with a Romeo and Juliet balcony. Many plays and Bohemian parties were held there.

It wasn’t always parties in the Hollow, however, in 1939 the golf course closed due to lack of water. For a time during World War II, the U.S. Army occupied part of the Hollow as a secret ammunition storage depot.  Barracks housed 30 men. There were two batteries composed of four-inch antiaircraft cannon manned by five soldiers on a 24 hour basis. One battery was on Stuyvesant Drive and the other on Oak Springs Hill. At war’s end, the Army departed.

Our land was undeveloped before we built our home.  The hills had been used as ranch land, but now lie open with oaks, coyote brush and wild flowers running up to Open Space maintained by Marin County.  The paths around the property were set by the deer.  The coyotes keep our deer population in check.  The turkey vultures clean up the remains.  Leaving us the stage upon which We Players sets King Fool.

Synopsis of Shakespeare’s King Lear

KF

The story opens in ancient Britain, where the elderly King Lear is dividing his realm amongst his three daughters: Cordelia, Regan and Goneril. Lear plans to give the largest piece to his favorite, Cordelia, and has devised a public ceremony to assure the loyalty of the various factions. Of the three, Cordelia refuses to engage in Lear’s game. Enraged, Lear disowns Cordelia completely and banishes his dear friend Kent when he intercedes on her behalf. The loyal Kent then disguises himself and returns as a servant who will follow Lear to the end.

Cordelia leaves the court to marry the King of France. Lear and his hundred knights, his beloved fool, and the disguised Kent, go to live with Goneril. This proves disastrous and in a rage Lear abandons Goneril and goes to Regan’s house. Meanwhile, Regan and her husband Cornwall have gone to stay with Gloucester to avoid hosting Lear. It is not long before the two sisters begin plotting to kill their father. Gloucester discovers the cruel plan and rushes to find the King and send him to Dover for protection. Gloucester’s kindness discovered, Regan and Cornwall gouge out Gloucester’s eyes in revenge, then throw him out of his own house to wander blind in the wilderness. Edgar, Gloucester’s son, now disguised as “poor mad Tom”, finds his father and protects him.

Meanwhile, Cordelia has raised an army of French troops to avenge her father and has landed at Dover. Regan and Goneril ready their troops and a battle ensues. Cordelia loses and she and the King are captured. They are sent to jail, but Edmund, Gloucester’s bastard son, has privately sent an order that they be murdered.

Goneril and Regan are both in love with the conniving Edmund. Ferociously jealous, Goneril poisons Regan. But when Goneril discovers that Edmund has been fatally wounded by Edgar, she kills herself as well. As Edmund takes his last breath he repents and the order to execute Cordelia is reversed. But the reversal comes too late and Cordelia is hanged. Lear appears, carrying the body of Cordelia in his arms. Lear’s great suffering is finally relieved, as he too takes his final breath. Kent declares that he will follow his master into the afterlife and Edgar reluctantly receives the crown and the weight of rule.

KING FOOL – Artist Statement

newlear

Every one of us will die, and we will all witness the death of loved ones. We lose things; we lose friends and opportunities all our lives. How we approach loss–and death is the ultimate loss–can make the difference between fear and acceptance.

This is an Everyman Lear. In our play, Cordelia finds her father, Lear, who has wandered off to a remote place. In his disjointed state, he mostly doesn’t recognize her; he imagines all the others around him. They go through the old hurts one more time, fighting, cursing, scheming, then giving in, weeping and laughing. He is the king of his story, as we all are. His caretaker daughter is his fool and a host of other voices, but at last he recognizes her fully as she conducts him to his last breath.

This two-person, one-hour distillation of King Lear is designed to invite conversations about the meaning and experience of death. Each performance will be followed by a conversation with the artists, special guests –  including those whose life’s work involves the dying, and audience members who wish to participate.

— Ava Roy & John Hadden

Limited tickets available. For tickets to KING FOOL, We Players’ newest site-integrated production, CLICK HERE.

Al Blank: The Adventure of King Fool at Battery Wallace

The view from Battery Wallace in the Marin Headlands.

The view from Battery Wallace in the Marin Headlands.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome We Players to the Marin Headlands. Having had the opportunity of working with this great group of actors during their performance of Hamlet on Alcatraz (in 2010), I can say without any hesitation, that the Marin Headlands is in for some very special and unique performances.

During the month of September, We Players will be presenting King Fool at Battery Wallace located in the Marin Headlands. The concept is unique as is the location.

Battery Wallace first constructed during the first World War and reconstructed as the United States entered World War II, stands as part of America’s determination to defend the coast of this country…in other words, to defend life!

We look at the term ‘death’. We talk about it as someone we know passes on. We see death in performances in the theatre, television and movies. We read about it in books. Death is final. What is unique in this process is that We Players is staging a story about death in a place that was created to preserve life: Battery Wallace! What makes this entire location more unique is that across the road from where this production will take place is a deactivated Nike Missile Site. This site was the epitome of attempting to stay alive when nuclear missiles were set to fire at Soviet planes during the Cold War. This history of life and death and how we deal with it is well served by having We Players perform their site-integrated production of King Fool in our park, this time at Battery Wallace.

We Players brings to all of us a new concept in art. A concept that allows us to become a part of living theatre and create a unique interpretive connection to the site in which they integrate their theatre. I am looking forward to the adventure!!

Al Blank started working for the NPS about about 13 years ago. Since then, he has worked on Alcatraz Island, at Fort Mason, Muir Woods National Monument and at the Marin Headlands. Originally from New York City, Al has spent most of his life working and traveling internationally. Al is collaborating with We Players on our site-integrated production of King Fool at Battery Wallace. 

 

Tickets are now on sale for King Fool. To purchase tickets to King Fool at Battery Wallace click here. For tickets to all other ticketed locations, click here.

A Reflection: The (mis)fortunes of Lady Macbeth

Backstage one more time, hovering in my special scorpions bedchamber, in my black gown sitting on the edge of the bed listening to the waves crash and the musical pre-show banter and soon the conch will blow and we’ll be in it one more time…

goodnight lady macbeth
enjoy the ride
this time you really get to die, not to be reborn to do it again tomorrow
tonight you go to bed
get some sleepe.

MAcbeth_Jcl#2 13

Every show leaves it’s own particular imprint on psyche and soul. With a role like Lady Macbeth, it’s imperative for me to establish a ritual, or protocol, for getting in and out of that emotional and psychological territory. Taking care to leave her at the Fort, and not to take her home with me.

The opportunity to revisit this role, particularly in such short order and alongside my closest artistic collaborator, allowed me to access a much deeper, more nuanced and specific expression in our 2014 production. The aftermath of cleansing my body of her presence is both immediate and slow. Initially, the surge of catching up with everything that’s been languishing on the back burner distracts. But there are the more subtle layers to deal with. I crave fat for weeks. Milk, cream, butter, oil – bring it! I want coconut and olive oil everywhere, on everything – on my skin, in my hair and lots in my food. Replenishing. I eat like a lumberjack for a few days.

There is an extreme physical toll in working in an environment as exposing and raw as Fort Point – with severe winds, piercing cold and penetrating dampness. And there was the series of small accidents… The shocking impact of a dagger hilt to the cheekbone mid tech rehearsal. Keep on working, now with an ice pack strapped to my face. My comrades offer their blood and flesh and bone to the work as well. Carmen, one of the nefarious murderers, gave herself a deep bruise literally the size of her hand…from smashing the baby’s head too damn hard in the Macduff family scene one night.

macbeth2014slide 25

(By the way, the baby’s head was a rutabaga. We have experimented with a variety of vegetables seeking the optimal head cracking sound. Onions have a nice thud and squish, but they stink like…well onions. Undeniably and unavoidably so. Acorn squash and butternut squash are nice, but none of the squash family come close to the horrible satisfaction of the rutabaga. Rutabaga, I don’t know who eats you. But you are a wonderful prop for stage violence.)

Then of course, the adventure of John, our Macbeth, losing his front tooth, mid-performance. This not only required his commitment to staying totally in the flow, despite the obvious shock and dismay, but in addition, a more refined attention to pronunciation – for obvious reasons. On the – ahem – second episode of flying teeth, the piercing gaze of our Maria, the attentive little witch that she is, tracked the flight of Macbeth’s tooth from her perch in the window above, scurried down into the audience, and found it.

johntooth

These misfortunes seem to pile up into a great mountain when I begin enumerating…
But they can’t touch the quiet joys of moments alone in the fortress, under the full moon, or under the sunset soaked sky. The precious moments when a perfect shaft of light streams in through a thin window in a casemate otherwise submerged in perpetual darkness. The glory of private views onto the slice of solitary beach just below the fort to the west, a strip of sand untouched by human footprints. The practical and pleasurable act of steadying myself as Lady Macbeth after the torment that is the banquet scene, with a few moments in the thick shadows of a tucked away arch that is covered in sand for some reason (did it blow in through the window? why is it here on the third floor?). I press my hands into the sand canvas and remind myself I have a body.

ava2013

Lady Macbeth is unraveling from the beginning, the madness doesn’t come suddenly, it’s there all along. Like a hard boiled egg that’s been cracked, but not yet peeled. The shell just holding together, despite it’s apparent wholeness. The confining leather corset and tight waisted skirts, the making of her face, the need for some physical contact with the fort walls at all times…all efforts to keep. it. together. A sense of vertigo rushes in when Lady Macbeth loses contact with the brick and veers into open space. From there she tumbles headlong into the “out damn spot” sequence. A fragile object hurtling through space, fatal impact inevitable…

avaos

After one performance, I asked a friend her impressions of the egg drop at the onset of the play. This particular audience member does not identify as a theatregoer or even as much of an art enthusiast (and is certainly not an active Shakespeare fan). I find her responses entirely authentic, not glossed with a desire to please. Among other pleasing things she describes about that cold windy night at the Fort with We Players…
“The egg drop? Oh, I don’t know what it was supposed to mean. But I guess it seemed like…”
a pause
“…an exclamation point and a question mark.”

egg

I’d like all beginnings and endings to come close to this…

!

?

–Ava Roy
Founding Artistic Director, We Players

The Sound and The Fury

There are only two more weeks to join for what audiences and critics are calling

“an experience of a lifetime you will never forget!”

Have you seen a performance, but want to revisit the unforgettable images and sounds of Fort Point?

Have you bought your tickets for an upcoming performance, but can’t wait another minute to get into Fort Point?

Enjoy this 3-min video of Macbeth at Fort Point – story & site highlights! (video by Tracy Martin)

Macbeth at Fort Point from Tracy Martin on Vimeo.

We Players presents Macbeth at Fort Point in San Francisco
May 30 – June 29
backstage.weplayers.org

Film & Editing
Tracy Martin
www.tracymartinphotography.com

See what audiences and critics are saying about We Players’ site-integrated production:

“Entertaining, unnerving, powerful to experience…”
“Amazing and completely engrossing…”
“Those fortunate enough to attend this extraordinary event (it is more than a play) will be revisiting the memories for years to come.”
“The production itself was magnificent!”
“Find a way to go see We Players’ production of Macbeth at Fort Point. Scratch that – drop everything and run, run, run over and do not miss this show. The most delightful use of performance space you’ll ever experience… I ended up having more fun watching this production than I have in many, many years.”
“An experience of a lifetime you will never forget. The power of location is made clear by these performances of Macbeth at Fort Point. Don’t miss this opportunity!”

Macbeth Plot Summary

Excited to see Macbeth at Fort Point, but want to brush up on the story before you see it? Look no further!

Read on for a plot summary of Shakespeare’s tragedy brought to you by our co-directors, Ava and John.

 

Ancient Scotland: Macbeth, a small-time thane (chieftain), is instrumental in defeating a very powerful rebellion against the aging King Duncan. On the trek home from battle with his comrade-in-arms Banquo, three “Weird Sisters” appear and prophecy that Macbeth will be king and that Banquo will father a long line of kings. Next, Duncan promotes Macbeth for his part in the war and names his son Malcome heir to the throne. The king and his retinue will stay with the Macbeths that night on their way home from the front.

Macbeth returns to his castle ahead of the others and confides in his wife, who persuades him to kill the king. Lady Macbeth hosts a party, drugging all the guests, thus laying the groundwork for the murder. Macbeth, weary still from battle and rattled by inner turmoil, does the deed. Macduff, a powerful thane who has not spent the night, arrives in the morning to find the king dead. Macbeth, pretending vengeance, kills the king’s two bodyguards, and Malcome flees to England.

Macbeth is crowned King, but, still unable to sleep and afraid of the sisters’ prophecy, he hires two servants to kill his friend Banquo and Banquo’s son Fleance. During the muddled assassination, Fleance escapes. At another banquet, Macbeth confronts Banquo’s bloody ghost, much to the confusion of the thanes loyal to Macbeth, whose numbers are beginning to dwindle. By now, Lady Macbeth is losing her grip on sanity.

Macbeth returns to the Weird Sisters who present him with two consoling riddles: His power is safe until the forest approaches his castle and no man “born of woman” will ever threaten his life. However, Banquo’s line of kings will “stretch out to the crack of doom.” The Thane of Ross appears on the empty heath with news that Macduff has fled to England to join forces with Malcome. Macbeth, “stepped in blood so far,” orders the utter destruction of Macduff’s entire clan.

In England, Macduff pledges his support to Malcome and learns from Ross that his wife and children have been slaughtered. Aligned against the tyrant and with the support of the English forces, Macduff and Malcome lead the charge towards Dunsinane.

As overwhelming forces approach Macbeth’s castle, the crazed Lady Macbeth dies. The attacking soldiers disguise their numbers by carrying branches hacked from the forest, breach the walls and fight Macbeth’s remaining soldiers. Macduff meets Macbeth who prevails in the ensuing duel until he learns that his adversary was not “born of woman” but was “from his mother’s womb untimely ripp’d!” Macbeth loses his head and young Malcome is crowned the new King of Scotland.

— Ava Roy & John Hadden, Co-Directors of Macbeth at Fort Point 2014

Why Macbeth?

In October 2013, the dark clouds of the US government shutdown hovered over our production of Macbeth at Fort Point, forcing us to cancel numerous performances and disappoint over 1000 ticket holders. In the midst of the drama, the idea flashed through that perhaps we should simply allow this particularly alchemical relationship between play and place a continued life. After all, we had invested well over a year developing the production and it is very carefully built into the specific contours, energy, and stones of the Civil War era fortress beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point itself is a central character, the other director, and our creative inspiration. A renewed life will allow us to share this powerful and unique performance with a wider audience, and hopefully reach some of those who were turned away last fall.

But every “remount” must be a re-development. The work must be allowed to change and therefore, to grow and deepen.

To this end, we are thrilled to announce a new cast that will include a host of We Players’ alumni and will feature John Hadden, my close collaborator and We Players’ Associate Artist, in the title role. In our 2013 rendition, John and I (co-directors on the production) were particularly interested in the story of young warriors. Boys who become men on the battlefield; their vigor, physical prowess and the dynamics of such hot blooded youth under the mantle of an older and wiser king, and a romantic match of a younger Macbeth to an older Lady Macbeth. We are deeply grateful for the excellent work done by our 2013 cast.

This year, in our upcoming 2014 production, we shift the perspective.

We will explore these dynamics of power and relationships through the lens of the “old guard”. Warriors who have engaged in battle for decades, who are older than their young wives, who are the same age as their King – and we believe this will provide us with new insights into the story. It is honor to welcome several seasoned and experienced actors to help us unpack the meanings of the text in yet new ways. Scott Phillips (our Claudius in Hamlet on Alcatraz) will play Macduff, Jack Halton (our Polonius in Hamlet on Alcatraz) will play Banquo, Steve Boss will return as both Duncan and the porter, and John Hadden will once again co-direct the production alongside me, as well as play Macbeth to my Lady Macbeth. We are also thrilled to welcome Nathaniel Justinianio (the unforgettable Zeus from our Odyssey on Angel Island) as the cruel and slippery Ross. Caroline Parsons, Julie Douglas and Maria Leigh will continue their work as the three weird sisters. These women truly act as the nucleus of our production. The trio began working nearly 8 months in advance of our 2013 rehearsal process; developing a profound sense of unity, deft abilities with non-verbal communication, as well as curious explorations of different energetic “states” and of ritual. These “weird sisters” have already begun to revisit their early source work to both reinvigorate their connection and to deepen their work in the 2014 production of Macbeth at Fort Point. We Players’ large-scale productions tend to be so complex that a incredible amount of time is spent negotiating the pathways through the space – both those of the audience (or multiple audience routes as the case may be), and that of each actor maneuvering through the site. The logistics of working in large sites and with the federal government, as well as the impact of severe weather conditions (it is extremely cold, windy and wet with fog at the Fort) is intense. With the route and overall design of the production already developed, we are curious what new dimensions we may be able to expand into.

We are eager to dive even deeper into the richness of the text, the subtleties of the relationships between characters, and to search for further nuance in the language and in our connection with the very stones of the fortress.

-Ava Roy Artistic Director, We Players Director, Macbeth at Fort Point

KQED: The Government Shuts Down Art in San Francisco

Macbeth Presido 14

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.”

 

History’s Mortar: Ambition

“History’s Mortar: Ambition” is a site-specific exhibition of visual art at Fort Point. Four Bay Area artists were invited to explore Fort Point’s history, architecture and landscape, and compose the Fort’s historic narratives into contemporary modes of visual art.

These site-specific works bring the collective experience of the US History to bear, reveal how a contemporary public narrates historic space and examines humanity’s relationship to nature.

“History’s Mortar: Ambition” asks the audience to consider the cyclical nature of human history, marking that it often repeats itself, and presents ideas as to how society copes with it’s legacy of ideologies, ontological positions, and cultural practices.


Curated by Visual Arts Director Patrick Gillespie

Participating Artists:

Monica Lundy
Matthew Gordon
Torreya Cummings
Brandon Walls Olsen

……….Location: Fort Point, San Francisco
……….Dates: September 5 – November 2, 2013

“History’s Mortar: Ambition” was part of We Players 2013 site-integrated project, Macbeth at Fort Point.


HISTORY’S MORTAR:  AMBITION — Curatorial Statement by Patrick Gillespie

Fort Point is an impressive display of technology and military architecture.  Walking through the compound archways and the extraordinary symmetry rendered by compass, right triangle, rule and hand creates an experience of awe.

The backdrop to Fort Point is an equally extraordinary feat of engineering, the Golden Gate Bridge.  It towers above sea level, humming with traffic, stoic against the weight of human bodies and the endless winds of the Pacific.

But before there was the bridge and before there was Fort Point, there was humanity and it’s inability to cope with it’s own folly, particularly an individual’s rise to power.  That particular thread of seemingly endless human ingenuity never fundamentally changes; only the spectacle and the tools utilized to bring about a dismal end evolves.

The site specific artworks created for Fort Point echo the folly of human history, our symbolic projection of power, and the natural forces that seemingly thrash ambition into submission.

The artwork by Matt Gordon responds to Fort Point with the refrain from “The Lament for the Markaris,” by William Dunbar, commenting on the ever comforting and contemplative aspect of death.  Monica Lundy’s Portait of Confederate Commander James Waddell reminds us of our particular vantage point on history, rendering a leader of men as a weed because of his allegiance to the wrong side of the war.  Torreya Cummings simulates mankind’s belief that nature can be captured and put inside a box, controlling it in theory, but ever failing in practice.  And Brandon Olsen reminds us that the spoils of war bring about a kind of transformation we rarely deal with or speak to publicly, surrender.

Fort Point is brilliant in it’s architecture, prowess and stoicism.  Yet for all of the effort and technology used to bring it into existence, it’s design was never coupled with its purpose.  Having never witnessed battle, Fort Point has lasted these hundred years to remind us of fear reconciled with power and security, and the inevitable purposelessness of creation out of fear.