Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Backstory of "The Woman In Black"

The Woman In Black is the second longest running straight play in London's West End's history - second only to Agatha Christie's classic play The Mousetrap (4th overall if you count musicals) which is an achievement in and of itself. The fact that the play is really told only by two men (and one creepy ghost lady) makes it even more impressive in my book. It's a play that replies not on big lavish spectacle, but on two men who can tell a ripping good yarn. I got curious as to how the play came about, because the credits tell you straight away that it's based on a novella by Susan Hill. I did a little digging and found this backstory

Robin Herford was running the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough when he realised he hadn't spent his entire grant. His boss, Alan Ayckbourn, was off on sabbatical, so Herford decided, what with Christmas coming up, to put on a ghost story that could be staged cheaply and quickly – not in the main theatre, but in the bar. He asked the venue's resident playwright Stephen Mallatratt to rustle one up, with the proviso that the set and costumes couldn't cost more than £1,000, adding that there was only enough money to pay four actors. 
"He wasn't terribly impressed," remembers Herford, 25 years on. "But he came back a couple of days later and said, 'Have you read Susan Hill's book The Woman in Black?'" Hill's creepy novella had been published a few years earlier, in 1983. "I read it overnight and said, 'It's a fantastic story – but it's got a dozen characters.'" 
"I've got an idea about that," said Mallatratt. His masterstroke was to make The Woman in Black a play within a play, one that needs just two speaking actors, and a backstage crew of four. Elderly Arthur Kipps brings a ghost story to a young actor; it's the story of something that happened to Kipps 30 years earlier, and the actor turns it into a drama. 
I rather love that one of the top grossing plays of all time was conceived by a scrappy theatre on a shoestring budget. 
Our fellows and lady are working hard at creating a creepy fun story for our version of The Woman In Black. I think that sitting in such an intimate theatre will really help amplify the story. And they look fabulous don't they? 
Tasi Alabastro, Lessa Bouchard, and Kevin Kirby
Photo by James Kasyan
The show opens next week - it has a pay-what-you-will preview on Thursday, October 9th and then runs Thursdays through Sundays till November 2nd. Pre-sales are pretty strong so get your seats while you can

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lessa Bouchard and Andy Hertzfeld Talk Archiving

Producer Lessa Bouchard sat down and had an interesting discussion about technology and memory with Andy Hertzfeld. For those of you that are quite a bit less geeky than I and didn't automatically squeal when you saw the name, Mr. Hertzfeld is a bit of a computer legend. He was one of the main authors of the original Macintosh operating system at Apple. He's basically one of the people to thank for getting us to use a mouse to click on icons on your desktop rather than type out commands on a command line. More recently, he's moved from computers to writing.

Lessa sat down with Mr. Hertzfeld and they recorded some interesting conversations around the A Moment (Un)Bound - check them out!

Where do you stand on digital versus physical collections? What book changed your life upon reading it? 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Arc:Hive Presents A Moment (Un)Bound - The Music

A Moment (Un)Bound is a new work more than a year in the making. It was written and created as a collaborative effort by a number of Bay Area artists. You can read up on the artists at the Arc:Hive website. But it's more than just a linear story - many of the components that make up the world being displayed on stage for the next two weeks are also the technical bits and bobbins that get overlooked. It's a very tech intensive show, with projected images, sounds, costumes, and very specific set dressing.

One of the things that struck me as I watched a rehearsal was the sound. There was music and sound in there that I couldn't identify. Lessa chose to use music by a number of artists local to her hometown of Detroit.  Detroit's a city with rich musical history - it was the foundation of Motown and has its roots in jazz. Of course Eminem is the most recent version of Detroit's musical history, but there's a lot of interesting music that the Arc:Hive project brought to the table.

Frank Pahl's Scavenger Quartet provides some of the sonic background for the show.

We also listened to a little Audra Kubat, another musician from Detroit. 

Moving a little west to Chicago, we have some music by Wooden Rings

"Finding Me" by Wooden Rings 2012 from Ramah Jihan on Vimeo.

If you like what you hear, go check out these indie artists and pick up an album. If you like what you saw on stage, the sprites need a little help with fundraising - hit their Indiegogo site up and feed the sprites!  Thanks for supporting new talent!