Friday, August 19, 2016

Mass Rhetoric 2016

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome and thank you for joining us at the Thalia Theatre for Mass Rhetoric 2016.
We are Fundamental Theatre Project, a non-profit theatre company with the goal of fostering new work that tells stories that resonate globally and personally using an international community of artists.
This year's Mass Rhetoric is focused on current social issues. The plays you will enjoy were submitted under one of five categories: borders, identity, privilege, resources and *****ism.
Every day this week there will be two matinee performances, one brand new short and one evening show. Each of the five main plays will be performed three times.

Sacred Water by Stacy Davidowitz addresses the systemic racism that affects the neediest in America. Set in Florida around the time of the Miami Race Riots we meet characters, incarcerated in a prison and a mental institution, who make tragic choices out of desperation in a brutalised and neglected community where the survival options are limited to drug dealing, violence or prostitution.

Terra Firma by Barbara Hammond finds us in a country founded by self-styled King Roy on a concrete and steel naval platform somewhere in an unnamed sea. Rising water, abandoned mines and the difficulty of governing a country with no citizens see the residents of Terra Firma struggling to thrive on national pride alone. Based on the true story of The Principality of Sealand.

The Other Village by Dan Kitrosser examines how the rest of the world looks at the Syrian Refugee crisis and the people living it, when a walled village with a strict policy on telling stories and having feelings is disrupted by the arrival of Awa, a refugee. She shatters perceptions and shakes cores of villagers who are accustomed to turning a blind eye while inspiring two children to be brave, look further and tell the stories even the terrible ones.

The Winstons by Andrea Ciavenni is the story of one night in the lives of five women who have banded tohether with a singular purpose - to blow up the Wall Street bull. As preparations are made, doubts and tensions begin to surface within the group about whether they can make a difference and what makes the risk worthwhile. Inspired by Occupy Wall St among other movements.

Dickless is where I stop being so formal and start gushing because it's the one that featured Lauren and I, the first time we've ever performed together just the two of us, and we were so lucky to have such an awesome vessel as this play to take us on that magical journey.
Dickless is by Aisha Josiah, a fellow Brit. She's a star it was so awesome to perform her piece but also to meet her and hear her thoughts in the panel discussion following the play.
This play is raucous, grimy, surprising and FUN. I had so much fun every time we did it and judging by the laughter so did the audience. I'm very proud of myself and Lauren because we took this and ran with it in a very us-specific way and gave it our all.
It's actually written as a one-person piece, and it's deliberately not gender specific. Aisha is the only person who has performed it before. Lauren and I got to split it between us to give us both a performance opportunity. There are two characters. First Saff (me) details one very strange night in her life, encountering and instigating pub bathroom violence, revenge plots, threats on her face (most prized possession and currency) parental strife, animal deaths, betrayals, tequila and bloodthirsty pre-adolescents.
As she walks away into the dawn focus changes to Oli who has been having his own odd few days - he's been getting blackmail notes based on a secretly taken photo of him in a dress. He's wondering if a comment made by his mum after a few too many has more significance than he thought at the time, given how he quite liked the dress. With a blackmailer, a jealous girl, a dead dad and eventually a strangely quiet beloved Saff on his hands, Oli struggles to do the right thing.
There is so much in this play that's actually completely tragic. But it's FUNNY! Testament to Aisha's talent.
The first part of this play is Saff's story which is essentially a half hour monologue during which I spoke, swore, sang, screamed and swaggered.
Lauren brought her individual brand of warm personality, grounded cool and sizeable comedy chops to bring it home with the Oli section - I had trouble keeping a straight face as I sat upstage after finishing my half. The whole thing was an absolute riot and I'm so lucky I was able to do such a great piece with such a great person by such a great playwright. Also that Sam took time to work with us on top of all his producer duties and Lucy Pohl who spent a few hours directing us - she is currently slaying at Edinburgh Festival with her one-woman show Apohlcalypse now earning raves right and left. So she knows a thing or two about solo storytelling.
My experience of this play had the added joy of being the first time I've had a family member see me perform in an original play, Daddy got to see Lauren and I in action and also meet a few FTP members and see a little of what it's all about.
Overall Mass Rhet 2016 was a bit success in that we had fantastic material to showcase, met some brilliant new actors to work with in the future, talked about a lot of important stuff and produced a high quality festival in a great venue and the company pulled together with different people dropping by every day to help put out programs and talk to attendees.

There was a closing night party entitled Raucous Caucus (yep that's one of mine) which was a party slash open mic politically inspired performance forum. Unfortunately I can't comment on it because I, having felt progessively weirder every day that week, was suffering in bed with a temperature and kind roommates bringing me lozenges and ice lollies. So that was the end of the week for me!

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