2012 was a challenging year in many ways for a lot of people. The economy was still a bit shaky and we all endured a grueling election cycle. There were challenges for us in Bare Theatre – the most notable being the unfortunate closure of Raleigh Ensemble Players, which had seemed to be the perfect new home for us in Raleigh after Much Ado About Nothing.
It’s always interesting to me to look back at what we’ve done and where we’ve been. 2012 brought a lot of firsts for us, and it saw our “little company that could” transitioning into a more established company here in Raleigh and in the Triangle as a whole.
Here’s a brief look back:
February. Winter One-Acts: One Night of Absolute Dismay
February held our third collection of one-acts, a mix of short plays from playwrights new and well-established. We presented new works by Lucius Robinson, Rajeev Rajendran, Ben Ferber, Donnie McEwan, and Mora Harris, as well as a favorite by Christopher Durang.
We premiered three installments of “Hot Greek Porn,” a mashup of Greek tragedy, the European debt crisis, and well…porn. We bloodied the stage with “Everything Seems So Plausible at 1 A.M.,” and explored a couple’s faith being tested by a homeless person. The show wrapped up with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls,” a twisted retelling of Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie.
Notable firsts included Jason Bailey’s first time directing on stage and Olivia Griego’s first time directing with Bare!
May. We had so much fun with “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls” in Absolute Dismay that we decided to mount the entire collection from which it came, Durang/Durang. That show, originally scheduled for May, had to be postponed because of the closure of REP.
We had already rehearsed well over a month by the time we got the sad news, so rather than cancel the show entirely we moved it to July, thus canceling our summer youth conservatory, Rogue Company.
June. Let Them Be Heard
Our first location-based production, Let Them Be Heard, took place at Historic Stagville in Durham, NC. The seven monologues taken from the Slave Narrative Project were staged in actual slave quarters and a hand-built mule barn at the site.
Let Them Be Heard was a powerful experience for us. The fact that the narratives came from men and women who lived in Raleigh and Durham and grew up as slaves made already compelling stories even more meaningful.
Among many firsts with this show was our first Kickstarter campaign, which successfully raised over $1,250 to cover the costs of the production. This in turn helped us donate 100% of ticket sales – over $1,800 – to Historic Stagville to support their mission of historic preservation.
It was also our first appearance on WUNC 91.5 FM’s The State of Things with Frank Stasio. It was also our first (of hopefully many more) production that was audio recorded and broadcast with the help of Kurt Benrud and Triangle Radio Reading Service.
Additionally, the sold-out show was recognized by Byron Woods and The Independent Weekly as among the best of 2012’s Triangle Theater, receiving recognition for best achievements in ensemble, directing, production, and a special achievement in the humanities.
July saw Durang/Durang finally get its run (with a few new cast members), and it was a blast. Olivia was a fantastic director, and we even got her husband Drew onstage with us!
Not only did this show have the honor of being our first-ever production at Burning Coal’s Murphey School, it was also the second-highest grossing show in Bare Theatre history (after our 2011 run of Much Ado About Nothing).
September. SPARKcon 2012
SPARKcon 2012 was Bare’s second appearance at the huge four-day creative explosion in downtown Raleigh. TheatreSPARK wanted to go bigger and better, so local theatre companies took to the streets with an interactive scavenger hunt. With our upcoming clown-centric show, The Leader, rapidly approaching it was time to send in the clowns.
October/November. The Leader
The Leader involved several firsts. Using Eugene Ionesco’s short 1953 play by the same name as a jumping-off point, we explored a creative process unlike our typical process. The devised short plays and sketches that filled out the show were created by the ensemble, with several pieces written by Chuck Keith, and Todd Buker.
Our pals, The Nickel Shakespeare Girls, came to participate in our clown workshops, and we took what we learned out onto the streets of downtown Raleigh to field test it. The Leader was our first production in an art gallery, too – at the wonderful Visual Art Exchange. We also got to visit Frank Stasio at The State of Things again to talk a little about political theatre!
What a year. There were so many unforgettable moments on stage and back stage. We had the pleasure of working with a ton of great new actors, and trying new things with old friends.
Here’s to 2013, which we’ll discuss more on the next post! Wait ’til you hear what’s in store!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Some astute members of our audiences may have noticed that there seemed to be references to scenes throughout the show that were mentioned in Eugene Ionesco’s play, “The Leader,” which we presented at the beginning of the evening. Those audience members may have been onto something.
I’m not going to try to claim that we put them all in there on purpose, although one of our stated goals at the beginning was to try to tie the show together and somehow link the various short plays and bits. I think that certain words and images stick in the mind, however – that is a huge part of what absurdist theatre is all about – and some words and phrases may have slipped their way into our subconscious minds as we created the show. It’s fun to think about, anyway.
Only one of the short plays existed prior to our devising – Chuck Keith’s “Cult Layoff.” I don’t claim any connection and there really couldn’t have been any in that one. There are only two verbal pieces that don’t seem to show a connection with “The Leader” – “Democratist’s Dilemma” and “Down With The Ship” – although it may be interesting to note that these plays deal with the absence of a leader, whereas the others all very much include a leader figure of some sort.
Here is a list I made reviewing Ionesco’s play. I’ve got each reference listed and then a short description of where I see a possible connection:
- Stage Directions: “The ANNOUNCER and THE TWO ADMIRERS leave, crying: ‘Leader! Leeeeader! Lee-ee-eader!’ (This last ‘ Lee-ee-eader!’ echoes in the wings like a bleating cry) – “Sheeple” (a short bit involving sheep-people who baa and make other sounds)
- Announcer: “He’s bending. He’s unbending” – bending and bowing is an image that recurs throughout the show, such as in the opening lazzo (with the slides of world leaders and Bob Dylan’s “Times They Are A-Changing,” “Anatomy of a Leader,” and “Two Rulers” (“…to Our subjects the Crown must bend.”)
- Announcer: “They’re shaking his hand,” and “The leader is smiling.” – “Anatomy of a Leader” (scientists lecture on the handshake of a leader as well as his confident smile)
- Announcer: “He’s dancing…” – Clown Strip-tease (Yep, that happened. A male clown danced each night for a female member of the audience to Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”)
- Announcer: “He’s mounting the stool! He’s climbing piggy-back…” & “He’s mounting the stool. No. He’s getting down.” – Mountain Climbing (two transition bits included a team of mountain climbers who first appeared to be going in a circle with no obvious leader, then later appeared to climb and then descend based on the whims of the two climbers at beginning and end of the chain)
- Admirer: “Oh! If I were king…” – “Two Rulers” (a king espouses a rather conservative view of government)
- Girlfriend: “Let’s go to the market and get some eggs!” – “Excuse Me, pt. 2” (a.d.a. “The Sperm Play,” in which sperm cells discuss who among them is most fit to fertilize the Ovum)
- Announcer: “He’s also tasting the roots of the trees.” – “Lemmings” (root is a very big deal to the lemmings, at least in this fiction)
- Announcer: “He inaugurates the police force.” – Security Clowns (pre-show bit in which clown security officers gave audience members a “search”)
- Announcer: “He salutes the great victors and the great vanquished.” – End Fight (the entire cast gets pulled into a giant brawl to be king of the mountain atop a platform – they all end up dead)
- Announcer: “Finally, he recites a poem.” – “Two Rulers” (the play is written entirely in rhyming couplets)
- Announcer: “The leader has eaten his soup!” – “Soup” (this was a recurring bit in which parents tried to persuade and later force their child to eat his soup)
I’m not sure if there are any more, but if any cast or audience noticed others, please let me know!
There is a lot to say about this show, and I wish time had allowed me to write while we created it. Two new jobs that immediately decided to increase my hours made an already tight schedule even tighter!
First, I need to thank all the people that made it happen. The nine actors in the cast were phenomenal. Not only did they co-create the show and contribute many ideas that went into it, they brought tons of energy and comedy to a very demanding evening of entertainment.
Loren, Jeff, Patrick, Matt, Matthew, Joanna, Diana, Stephen and Cassie are amazing people. They took this odd little idea I had and ran with it. What’s remarkable to me is that each of them said yes to the project in the beginning without really knowing what it would be! That level of trust is pretty humbling.
I tend to ask a lot of my casts. I push them. With THE LEADER, I pushed them in a lot of different ways. For some, they had to overcome clown phobias. Many of them had to learn a lot of lines very quickly as scripts developed. Loren even had to learn a monologue in French!
Others found the challenge to be improv and devising. Working with no script is a tough task! To take it even further, the core group that performed at SPARKcon had to go through a series of street performing exercises right on Fayetteville St. downtown, without costumes or makeup or any other way to indicate they were performing. There was no script – they had to create on the spot and interact with passerby in a variety of ways that can only be described as insane.
Not only did the cast bring their talents, but they also served as their own set and running crew. Almost every night they performed at Visual Art Exchange, they had to convert an art gallery into a theatre – and then convert it back.
I want to commend Emily, who performed the role of stage manager for the first time in her life. None of us could tell she hadn’t done it before, she was so good! Despite a rather deep clown phobia, she stayed with us even though THE LEADER was chocked full of clowns. She was also the person I knew I could count on when I couldn’t be at the shows because of day jobs. I am tremendously grateful to her for all her hard work and dedication.
The creative team also included some very important individuals. Chuck Keith is a great friend and a hilarious writer, and I love his contributions to this show. I knew I wanted to include “Cult Layoff” – the only piece that existed in addition to Ionesco’s “The Leader” when we started. The pieces Chuck wrote for the show, “Lemmings” and “Excuse Me” in particular absolutely killed us in rehearsal from laughing so hard.
The climax of the show was the big fight in the end. All along I knew I wanted to end with a game of “king of the mountain” that spins out of control and gets horribly violent. I knew that Heather was going to bring her excellent fight choreography as she always does, but I think she topped herself this time. She also gave me some really valuable feedback on some of the short plays and bits that made up the rest of the show. I wish she hadn’t had a real campaign going on to get a leader re-elected – otherwise I would have picked her brain more!
I also want to mention Olivia and Jason for their valuable ideas and feedback early on in the process. When you create a show from scratch, it’s hard to tell which concepts and bits are going to be good in the end, but they helped me shape the overall show and get some perspective on certain bits. In addition, Jason singlehandedly shot THE LEADER video trailer and video of our security clowns at SPARKcon 2012, both of which look fantastic. I’m always impressed with his camera work.
Also want to give a shout out to Mollie, who did not shy away from the challenge of creating sperm tails for “Excuse Me!” Her artistry and ideas are always very exciting.
I have to give Katie a big thanks for stepping in as part of the cast that went to SPARKcon – she also overcame a deep clown phobia and even donned the makeup herself to join us in the streets downtown! She did this on top of having a new teaching gig, two young children, a rock band touring its new album, and weekends away doing Nickel Shakespeare Girls at the Carolina Renaissance Festival (still two more weekends, if you haven’t been yet)!
As with every show, I need to thank my parents for indulging me and helping me do completely silly things. This time around, they helped me build a fake metal detector, lemming ears and a weasel tail, cult uniforms, and they created the look of The Leader himself, in all his headless glory.
We absolutely must thank Common Ground Theatre and Visual Art Exchange for having us and giving us such great places to play! Also, I want to thank the Universalist Unitarian Fellowship of Raleigh for allowing us to rehearse there for this show and several others. THE LEADER was our final show to rehearsal there, and we cannot thank them enough for the time and space they have given us.
I love this show. I love what this group created together and I had a great time with these people. I hope we were able to present our audiences with something different and enjoyable, and I think we all needed a break from the election!
Now, just repeat after me and keep chanting, “Father is all, all is father…”