a HEROMONSTER reflection

An audience member and new volunteer with We Players took time to share some impressions from her HEROMONSTER experience with us. We think this is so thoughtfully composed, that you might like to read it too! Thanks Geneva!

HEROMONSTER’s only two actors opened the doors to the mead hall in the interior of the Chapel at Fort Mason and welcomed the audience into the space. We Players’ mead hall had food and real mead and ale on offer. The show itself was a mix of battles and fellowship, disjointed attacks and assists. During the show, the actors played both friend and foe, both ally and enemy to the other. With tenderness, brutality, and extreme physicality – framed in the Chapel with its beautiful stained glass windows and the chilly autumn air outside – HEROMONSTER brought forth difficult questions about the practice of kindness and severity in the distant past and the tangible present. Dressed in rags and meeting each eye, the performers laid these questions before every audience member to face if they could. Each moment was either warm or cold or frightening, and no member of the audience was free to leave without the challenge and discomfort of witnessing both loving and abusive intimacy between strangers.

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HEROMONSTER pulled the epic Beowulf out of the shadows of space and time and introduced a modern perspective that has the power to change what we understand to be “heroic” or “monstrous.” Heroism as defined by old texts often describes strength and ruthlessness in a time when you would die without them. With the intimacy of the action and the continuity of the setting, We Players makes the epic relatable while still deconstructing the traditional understanding of its meaning.

The rustic mead hall setting, simple costumes, and haunting accompaniment helped revive the sense of wildness and danger beyond the walls of the mead hall, feelings we relate to less in our modern world but that help to remind us of the base moments in which these concepts of “hero” and “monster” were born and given life via story as a means to prepare for and survive in the harsh northern world. With that world as a seamless part of our own HEROMONSTER experience, the advent of heroism and monstrosity are pulled apart from the confusion many of us found in Beowulf. HEROMONSTER asked relevant questions about what our understanding of heroism and monstrosity are today, how each can exist and operate unnoticed by many people. HEROMONSTER came up into my face and asked me, “Have our definitions after all these centuries remained so much the same that we no longer recognize true heroism and monstrosity?”

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While HEROMONSTER was indeed a divergence from We Players’ usual large-scale, outdoor performance, it was a show still fully committed to exploring new boundaries for the company and its audience. We Players delivered a grand experience in which the actors participated in exactly what the show asks of their audience: willingness to try something new even when it is uncomfortable, something that values thorough examination of the self and how we choose to behave and treat each other as fellow humans.

– Geneva Redmond

HEROMONSTER at Fort Mason Center Chapel

Heroes and Monsters live among us and within us.
Join us this fall to encounter them up close.

HEROMONSTER

Created and performed by Nathaniel Justiniano & Ava Roy
Original Music by Charlie Gurke
beginning at Sunset
Thursday – Sunday, October 9 – November 1
Fort Mason Center Chapel

This work is being developed while in residence at the Lucas Artist Residency Program, Montalvo Arts Center

We Players’ newest production, HEROMONSTER, is being forged!

Performers Ava Roy and Nathaniel Justiniano join forces to create this stunning new work of intensely physical theatre. With an original score by award-winning composer Charlie Gurke, We Players presents a feast of poetry, mythology, and interactive storytelling at the Fort Mason Center Chapel this October, 2015.

The ancient poem Beowulf serves as a provocation, a jumping off point, and as source text. Through rigorous physical and intellectual investigation, we explore and challenge conceptions of heroism and monstrosity, good and evil, light and dark, and how this dynamic lives in all of us. In an explosion of physically and sonically activated text, this daring duo invites us to examine our relationship with these epic archetypes.

Journey into the darkly illuminated forest of HEROMONSTER 

Share in the ritual of gathering and breaking bread together

Enjoy sumptuous food and drink at our banquet table

Linger in the dwindling light as the reverberations of image and sound move through you

This entrancing new production is the first phase in a multi-year exploration and development process for We Players. Subsequent phases will include collaborations with the renowned dance theatre company inkBoat and masters in the avant gard music scene, the Rova saxophone quartet. Throughout, multiple translations of the ancient anglo-saxon poem Beowulf serve as our guide.

 

About the artists: In her sixteen years as the Artistic Director of We Players, Ava Roy has developed a creative process that seamlessly integrates text, artist, and location into an interactive experience that is emotionally, intellectually, and visually provocative. Nathaniel Justiniano is an award winning actor/creator, director, and teacher. Most recently you may have seen him as the Chamberlain and the grotesque Fisherman in Ondine at Sutro or previously in Macbeth at Fort Point or The Odyssey on Angel Island. Nathaniel has co-created and performed in multiple critically-acclaimed productions with his company, Naked Empire Bouffon.

DateShow time
October 9-116:45
October 15, 16 & 186:30
October 22-256:30
October 29-316:15
November 1 (clocks change)5:15

Please note:
Alcoholic beverages are passed about this gathering in the mead-hall. Please drink responsibly.

From the Studio to the Living Room, From The Mead Hall to The Chapel

The Mead Hall and The Chapel

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For We Players, Place performs as a character. Locations have distinct energies, personalities and even desires. In the Old English epic poem Beowulf, King Hrothgar’s great hall of Herot functions as an important cultural institution that provides light and warmth, food and drink – a place for singing, story-telling and safety. The mead-hall served as a place of refuge within a dangerous and precarious external world – a world continuously threatened by attack of neighboring peoples and wild beasts of the great northern forests. The mead-hall was also a place of community, where traditions were preserved and loyalty was rewarded. This is where legends were created and perpetuated, reputations were built, fame broadcast, and history written through the telling of it. By extension, we imagine the WWII era chapel at Fort Mason Center – a place of quiet for private contemplation as well as a community gathering place – as the hall of Herot. Herot, like the chapel, is a sanctuary, a refuge for the tired and a place for rituals that support community.

The Process

Artistic risk often comes in the form of working with new materials, unfamiliar tools, and experimenting with new techniques. HEROMONSTER is a very different type of project for We Players. Unlike our hallmark large-scale, site-integrated theatre projects, which employ somewhere between 30 and 60 performers, artisans, and stage crew, this project features only three performers: two actors and a musician. This is part of a larger experiment for We Players, an exploration in balancing the massive scale of our signature works with projects smaller in scope, though still rich with poetic imagery and inspired by classical texts of epic dimension. We aim to build powerful theatrical events that are more flexible than our large scale works, and can be adapted to a variety of spaces, including indoor environments.

With HEROMONSTER, we began with the actor/creator’s version of a blank canvas – a studio with four white walls and open floor, which we (Nathaniel Justiniano and I) promptly covered with images, phrases, an avalanche of ideas scrawled on giant pieces of paper.

Ava & Charlie at Montalvo working on HEROMONSTER

(Music Director Charlie Gurke joins a rehearsal at Montalvo)

The studio space we inhabited for the month of August was generously provided by the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. The month-long immersion into the themes and imagery of heroism and monstrosity yielded the first version of HEROMONSTER, which we are currently performing in private homes throughout the greater Bay Area (ranging from San Jose to San Anselmo, with multiple stops in SF and the East Bay) while simultaneously continuing the development process while in residency at the Fort Mason Center Chapel. In this way, we learn by doing. New insights from each living room performance, and the charged conversations with audiences afterwards, inform and fuel rehearsals as we develop the show for the October performances in the Chapel.

This production is part of an even larger exploration and development process for We Players. Subsequent phases of this work will include collaborations with the renowned dance theatre company inkBoat and masters in the avant-garde music scene, the Rova saxophone quartet. Throughout, multiple translations of the ancient anglo-saxon poem Beowulf serve as a jumping off point, igniting inspiration and helping to inform our understanding of heroes and monsters, where they come from, and where and how they currently live among us all.


A Postscript: It is my honor and pleasure to collaborate with Nathaniel Justiniano and Charlie Gurke on the creation of this piece. Natty has worked with We Players as an actor since 2012, when he captivated audiences as Zeus on the Mount Olympus of Angel Island. Charlie Gurke has served as We Players’ Music Director since 2010, and written award-winning original scores for all of our site-integrated productions since Hamlet on Alcatraz. We are also graced with the musical talents of Steve Adams, who alternates performances with Charlie Gurke. Endless thanks to the ever-gracious Lauren Chavez, our producer and compass, the steadfast and insightful Britt Lauer, assistant producer, and Rowan Beasley, our intern from London, who shines her big green eyes, is quietly curious and attentive, and helps us remain calm.

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Together, along with you, we strive to shine light into the darker shadows of ourselves.

Journey with us into the darkness.