Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Caeneus & Poseidon: An Interview with David Donovan

Next up, we hear from David Donovan, our set designer! Watch our website to check out photos of our set in the coming days - it's under construction now.

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What is your role in this production?
Scenic Designer

Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience? How did you get into this aspect of theatre?
I've loved theater since high school, where I played in several musicals (My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Big River, Anything Goes) and one play (Neil Simon's Fools).  I got interested in Architecture in 2007 while doing my PhD in Astronomy.  Later, in 2011, I entered UC Berkeley's [IN]Arch program with the intention of doing a Master's in Architecture.  I did a summer term in Architecture at California College of the Arts but left the program to return to my career in Engineering.  My love for spatial design didn't subside, however, and I found that scenic design allowed me to scratch the creative itch without quitting my day job.  I am very happy to be working with the Caeneus & Poseidon production team on my second show as set designer!
 
In what capacities have you been involved with Dragon Theatre before?
My first scenic design was for the Dragon's Second Stages production of Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie directed by Jenny Hollingworth in June 2016.  Though the Dragon's "diamond thrust" stage is very challenging to design for, there's something about the intimacy of the space and the constraints of working almost in the round that brings out creative thinking.  It's clear that the community really loves and supports the space, and that's a great environment in which to work.

What is your favorite part of what you do? What is the most challenging thing about what you do?
I love the process of moving from a list of scenes to imagining how to bring them to life in the spatial conditions of the stage.  The transition from rough plan sketches to designing the 3d model is really fun.  

I think the most challenging part (aside from determining colors, where I still have a lot to learn) is working out the scene transitions.  Transforming the stage from a city to the seashore or from a bar to the deck of a barge in under a few minutes is a big interconnected puzzle.  Working out the transitions between the final two scenes can have repercussions on the design for Act 1, Scene 1, and I have to consider not only the scene at hand but how it fits into the entire show.
 
Are there any moments or scenes in this play that pose a particular challenge for you?
The two biggest challenges for me in this play were conveying the seashore and dealing with two character-swallowing earthquakes.

For the seashore, I researched actual beaches in Thessaly, Greece, where the play is set, and realized that the cliffs came down very close to the shore.  This was the key to the idea of the staircase pieces, which could ambiguously serve as steps to a building, a hill in the countryside, and rocks leading to the shore depending on how they are approached by the actors.

For the earthquakes, I realized that the set alone would not be enough to convey Poseidon's magic -- I could only provide a place for the swallowed actor to exit.  Fortunately, we have a great creative team on the show and I worked with Leanna (Lighting Design), Josh (Sound Design), and Amy (Director) to establish a multi-sensory language to bring the earthquakes to life.
 
What other theatre projects do you have coming up?
Nothing lined up at the moment.  If you hear of anything let me know!

Who’s your favorite mythological character? (Doesn’t have to be Greek)
I've always been a big fan of Hermes (Mercury), the messenger.  The first manned space program is named for him, and he gets to run around causing mischief in a winged shoes and hat.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself? 
I am happy to be working with such a great production team, and I'm excited to bring more prominence to this little-known myth that explores the beautiful spectrum of human gender!

Caeneus & Poseidon: An Interview with Roman Rimer

The next of our interviews with cast and crew is with Roman Rimer, whom we are grateful to have as one of our script consultants. Roman will also be part of our post-show panel on March 26 - see our home page for details.


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1. What is your role in this production?  
Script Consultant

2. Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience? How did you get into this aspect of theatre? 
I've been a writer and performer for over a decade.  I've written and performed several one person shows, as well as studied, performed and taught longform improv. I've spoken on gender identity at colleges and universities and I've also worked as a community organizer.  Activism has played a major role in the creative work I produce for myself and others, wanting to ensure people whose voices are not usually heard are given precedence.  When I heard the production was looking for trans voices to assist with the script and character development, I gladly accepted. Art offers us the opportunity to look at ourselves. For trans and GNC (gender non conforming) folks, often times we do not see ourselves in works of art, or if we do, they're skewed mockeries. It's crucial everybody, especially trans youth, understand our existence in this world is not only valid, but necessary.

3. Is this your first time being involved with Dragon Theatre? If not, in what capacities have you been involved before? 
Yes, first time

4. What is your favorite part of what you do? What is the most challenging thing about what you do?
Ensuring this trans character is crafted and seen through a relatable lens. Every trans person's journey is unique, and it can feel difficult to incorporate as authentic and humane universal portrayal into the character as one can. I can only speak from my own experience -  I feel the need to make up for the times I was not listened to, or the times I felt unseen. For me, that's an important element in being an artist.

5. Are there any moments or scenes in this play that pose a particular challenge for you? 
The moments when actions and words fueled by misogyny and transphobia are used against Caeneus. Growing up in a society where most people assume not only that gender is binary, and that ours is predetermined before we are even born and can speak for ourselves, is very troubling and at times traumatic. Seeing this played out even in a fictional realm is difficult.  I remember when it's been used against me and folks I know. It happens directly and indirectly and it's what a lot of us deal with on a daily basis. As the political climate is rife with "leaders" who espouse and enact many forms of discrimination, this is one more reminder of our daily lives. It's evocative of the corruption and violence enacted by heinous men in positions of power. 

6. What other theatre projects do you have coming up?
I host of the podcast The Weekly Review at Mutiny Radio Fridays from noon-2pm.  Folks can listen live or to archives at mutinyradio.fm

7.  Who’s your favorite mythological character? (Doesn’t have to be Greek)
Medusa

8. Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I'm grateful for all the trans folks who came before and paved the way. We are here because so many people fought and dedicated their lives to trans liberation. While great strides have been made, there's still a ways to go.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Caeneus & Poseidon: An Interview with Nicky Martinez



In the first of our interviews with the cast and crew of Caeneus and Poseidon, Nicky Martinez tells us a bit about their role and their process as an actor. Thanks Nicky!

​Which character do you play?
Caeneus

What are you most looking forward to about playing this character? Is there anything that is particularly challenging about playing this character?
I'm looking forward to representing a trans character set in Grecian mythological times. As a person identifying as Genderfluid; which means that at any given day, week, month, and even year/ hour my gender changes. I have days where I am really in tune with my femininity and use pronouns she/her. But there are other days where I feel very masculine, bind myself and go with the pronouns he/him. And then there are days where I feel in between or something undefined and go by they/them. Being Genderfluid means I'm under/ a part of the *trans umbrella, and representing a transgender man on stage that is set in this time period is so important. I feel that a lot of people who are exposed to only the media representation of transgender identifying people are limited to this societal perception, and I know from personal experience, that people think that being trans is a "trend" or a new term that has only been around for the past few years. I can tell you this isn't true. Transgender and queer folk have been around for Centuries and having a play like this that highlights Transgender issues in a timeless setting is important. I hope it generates interest to people who haven't been exposed much to the LGBTQ community or their history and ask questions/ research our history that isn't taught in schools... unless you go to college to study gender and sexualities. I think educating ourselves about new things, especially about minority issues, is important in our day and age. And I think coming to experience this play is a step in the right direction to be exposed and open for something new.

The challenging thing about taking on the character Caeneus is to take on such a huge role. I really hope I give the character justice and to represent my community in a way that makes them proud.

Have you been involved with Dragon Theatre before?
Nope, this is my first time, and I'm really excited about it.

What other theatre projects do you have coming up?
I recently got a job at CounterPulse, being their new Program Manager and I am in the works of expanding my own work titled "Missing: GENDER." It was my senior project, performed back in March 2016 at the University of San Francisco and it was also performed in Noh Space in May 2016. Now I'm back to the drawing board trying to expand this original 15 minute piece that was also filmed and could be seen on
youtube here. I hope to make it a full length play, but we'll see what the future holds.

How do you prepare for a role? Is there anything special you do to get into the mindset of a character you're playing? 
I do a lot of script work. I have two worksheets that I've sort of built myself, taking a lot of what I've learned from my schooling in theater, and also from listening to a lot of actors that I admire. The first worksheet consists of analyzing every scene I'm in and answering several questions split up into 3 categories: one, being questions for moments before the scene, two, questions for moments during the scene, and three, questions that pertain to the overall scene. The other worksheet is a list of questions that I like to call my Character's Biography. It helps me answer every personal question like I am the character. The other thing that I've done for a long time, that's worked for me, is to create a playlist for the character. Really finding the music of the character's emotions and actions have really pushed me that extra mile to embody the character I'm playing.

What is your dream role?
I love Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros", I even have a tattoo dedicated to his play that has a Rhino head with the last line of the play enscripted in typewriter font, "I'm Not Capitulating" on my left arm. I would love to play his lead character Berenger. It's just such a powerful stance against conformity in an absurd lense that I'm in love with the role. I read the play at least once every year. Since Trump's presidency I've read it about once a week.

Who’s your favorite mythological character? (doesn’t have to be Greek)
I enjoy Persephone the Queen of the Underworld just because I love the story of how she became Hades' queen and how she controls the seasons.

Anything else you'd like to share with us?
I am very excited to be a part of this show and I hope people enjoy it too! 
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Monday, February 20, 2017

From Page to Stage: On the Origins of Caeneus and Poseidon

by Bridgette Dutta Portman (Playwright and Coproducer)


Caeneus and Poseidon originated as a one-act play written for the 2012 San Francisco Olympians Festival, an annual festival of staged readings of new plays inspired by mythological figures. My subject was Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses, and so I set about reading the various stories surrounding this figure and came across the myth of Caeneus.
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One gift for all: she said; and while she spoke,
A stern, majestick, manly tone she took.
A man she was: and as the Godhead swore,
To Caeneus turn'd, who Caenis was before.

-- Ovid, Metamorphoses
According to myth, Caeneus was a powerful Lapith warrior in ancient Thessaly who began life as Caenis, assigned female at birth. (I am going to refer to mythological Caenis using gender-neutral pronouns, as it is unclear from the original myth how they identified prior to their transformation.) One day while Caenis was walking along the beach, the sea-god Poseidon saw them, was overcome by lust, and -- as the Greek gods were wont to do -- raped them. Poseidon then apparently felt remorseful and offered Caenis a wish. They wished to be transformed into a man, and Caenis thus became Caeneus, and lived the rest of his life as a mighty warrior until the Centaurs, mortal enemies of the Lapiths, defeated him at the wedding of Hippodamia and Pirithous. As Caeneus was invulnerable to weapons, the Centaurs piled tree trunks upon him, forcing him down into the earth until he transformed into a golden bird and flew off.

This play was inspired by the myth, but as you'll see, it doesn't follow it exactly -- and there are ways in which it departs from it quite a bit, particularly the ending. I see the myth as a starting sketch, not as a mold.  I was fascinated by the myth of Caeneus because it’s a lesser-known story that features a different kind of hero from what which we typically see in classical mythology, and because I felt it was a story whose themes could be highly socially relevant today. The play is set in a rigidly patriarchal society in the ancient world. I intend, though, for audiences to come away thinking about gender norms in our own world, and the ways in which people are stigmatized for defying expectations about how women and men ‘ought’ to look and behave.  The play is primarily about a man with a gender identity that does not match his assigned sex at birth, but it is also about the way in which all people face consequences for challenging socially-delineated gender roles, and about how moving beyond a binary and anatomically-based notion of gender is necessary for a more tolerant, compassionate and free society. Ultimately, this play is a story of triumph -- the tale of a man who braves great odds to find self-confidence, love, and acceptance in a society unwilling to see him for who he is and has always been. As a cisgender person aware of the limits of my own life experience, I am deeply grateful to the transgender and nonbinary actors and artists who have read and offered feedback on this script.

I hope you'll join us in March for 
Caeneus and Poseidon!