2015 Reflections

We at We Players are so grateful…

that we get to spend so much time outdoors
in historically-significant, culturally-charged, environmentally rich, and stunningly beautiful locations.

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It’s our great joy to scout them out, to invest in complex partnerships with the federal and state governments, and to collaborate with talented artists from around the Bay Area and the world- all to bring thrilling works of art to our public parks.

And we thank YOU for joining us in the fog and mist, in the blustery cold of our coastal climes, in the sun-kissed open spaces, for climbing steep hills and sitting on the ground, for gathering in the dwindling light to enter the unknown in our mead hall. For braving the elements and opening your hearts to the stories we share.
We are SO excited to announce our 2016 sites and programs, we’ll be blaring our horns with news in January.

Before we launch into the new year and all its new adventures, we’re taking some time to reflect on 2015, lessons learned and accomplishments achieved. We’re feeling really grateful for you, our extended community, and we’re feeling proud and humbled at once by what you’ve told us about your experiences with We Players this year.


Savor the sweetness with us!

Here’s what you and your fellow audience members had to say
about Ondine at Sutro this spring and HEROMONSTER at the Fort Mason Center Chapel this fall…

You told us that HEROMONSTER was:

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You said the…

“intensity was palpable and visible in every calculated move made, sweat drop wiped, and grunt or gasp heard.”

and that we “populated [your] dreams with stirring visions”

And you shared personal discoveries:

“Gradually an idea emerged in my mind that had to do with ritual performance of a very old epic story taking place at an annual gathering of which we were part.”

“After all the battles, in the quiet of the aftermath, we wonder…would there still be heroes and monsters if we all lived in a world where everyone practiced how to be more kind, more loving?”

Our thanks to you, for joining us for HEROMONSTER

 


Earlier this year…

y’all couldn’t get enough of that sparkly sea nymph and her sexy silly knight errant!

You told us that Ondine at Sutro was:

“beautiful, smart, and funny”
“mesmerizing”
“unbearably beautiful”
“Superb! So funny, so poignant, too good.”
“the only time I can remember soaring pelicans bringing tears to my eyes”

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And that this is what happened to you:

“I left the piece feeling very filled up, inspired, and awake.”

“I will always remember the magical way We Players used the environs–most particularly the ending, when Ondine and the Old One disappeared over the ridge toward the fog-enshrouded sea. For me, that moment was perfection.”

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“It’s not often that I feel that time has stood still during a performance and that was one of those times.”

“Once again, thanks to We Players I discovered a fabulous new space up to then unknown.”

And the head of SF Rec and Parks, Phil Ginsburg shared that:
“Yesterday’s performance was magical. It was one of the most unique and special theater (or park) experiences I have ever had. Thank you for introducing us to a whole new way of experiencing the elements in that spectacular setting. Thank you for opening our minds and hearts to what the Parks have to offer!”

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In closing, here is a letter we received from an Ondine attendee:

I have continued to think of Ondine throughout the day today — what a profound, magical, and artful experience it was to enter Ondine’s world yesterday.

[My husband] spotted a whale breaching in the Golden Gate, just moments before Hans commented that, in his world, whales could pass between a man and woman in the course of a day…

As we wound our way up the hill to Sutro Heights, I was struck by how radiantly happy everyone was around me, the crowd of We Players attendees all smiling and laughing, in a way that is quite rare in our present-day rush and seriousness, and in a way that seemed to be contagious to those passersby staring in wonder at what must have appeared like our own private carnival. And then spotting the Old One standing above us on a cliff, silently watching our progress.

And when Ondine was wrenched from her consuming grief, by the third call of her name, the stark silence was softened by a burst of quiet birdsong in the tree above her, making it seem all the more real that this was indeed a sudden new dawn for her, and my eyes filled with tears. As Ondine and her fellow spirit beings disappeared into the swirling mist toward the sea, tears streamed down my face.

Thank you for creating this magic. For bringing us to greater awe and connection with the magic already in the land around us here, and in the waters and mists and silent ancient stories they hold.

Thank you for sharing your stories with us. We love you.

Happy Holidays!

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.

Now entering the cave of shadows…

Sutro!

Who speaks of your faded glory? You’ve just changed garments. You’ve traded your glass and steel for a flouncy full skirt of sea foam and a lush blouse of blossoming ice plant. You’ve traded your human imposed form – oh! the towering structure you once lorded over the rock wall separating you from your ancestor the ocean! – for the natural curves of eroding stone. Now you are in constant concert with the waves, your conversation with the wind yields softer edges, rounded now where once there were right angles. Only your stone footprint remains, and a lagoon of gentle waters. Our imaginations fill the well of that open space, the space you’ve left behind. We dream ourselves another world, a world of sea spirits and robust fairy tale figures. May the image of the lone fisherman plying your placid waters linger in our memories! May this memory ignite a thousand more of the story of Ondine and her Hans, which We Players left invisibly, indelibly, imprinted on the air.

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NOW – we move from the vast expanse of Sutro’s sparkling sea towards dark forests where ferocious creatures lurk and mead halls where blazing heroes recount feats of glory.

I wake this morning with a new feeling, a trembling, a quivering, an uncomfortable and yet familiar sensation…
The beginning feeling…

The feeling of standing at the edge of the abyss, horrified at the prospect of stepping directly, purposefully, into the unknowable depths.
Sending one foot and then the other into thin air and thence to discover how falling down the rabbit hole feels this time…

Horrified, and yet certain that I’ll do it.

Though some gears in my physical machinery will resist the plunge, others will overpower the fear, the impulse towards self-protection, and hurdle me forward.
Poised briefly on this thin edge before the plunge…monsters and heroes here we come!

This fall, we will escort you into cave of shadows as we search for the monsters lurking in the closet and under the bed. I hope you’ll join us as we seek the heroes and monsters that live among us.

More from that shadowy cave of dreams soon…

mwah!

Ava