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.

We Players - HEROMONSTER - Press 001

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

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