Tuesday, July 21, 2020

AJ's Virtual Party, an interview with the director

As we gear up for the opening of AJ's Virtual Party I took a minute to ask Nathanael Card, the creator and director of this event a few backgrounders questions about the show. 

Kim: Who is AJ?

Nate: Indeed. Who is AJ?

Kim: This was originally supposed to be a live play event based on the poetry of Joseph Moncure March. Where did you encounter the poem and what made you want to bring it to the stage as an immersive play (and not, say, a third musical)?

Nate: I was introduced to the poem in 2012 by a friend. At the time I was familiar with the musicals (myself more of a fan of the Lippa version), and the revelation that they came from this old jazz age poem which was itself "show-length" got my wheels turning. The poem has a clear storyline, with defined characters and beats, and even dialogue. I tend to like to turn common assumptions upside down, to challenge norms, and to me that meant that there may be something in staging the poem as itself, without need for novel adaptation. At the time, I was also in the business of creating immersive theatre in the form of parties, so it naturally occured to me to use this material in that way. As the concept developed over the years, I sought to use the poem as a means of facilitating conversations about toxic behavior and the ways it's enabled by friends and bystanders in party environments. I also started incorporating some of the history surrounding the work, most especially it's status as a "banned book" and its relationship to the Beat Poets of the 40s, 50's and 60's. That's how Ginsberg's "Howl" got involved.

Kim: When it becomes apparent that a live event wouldn’t be legal or safe, what gave you the idea to pivot into this particular direction away from the poem?

Nate: By April 1, it was clear to me that Covid-19 wasn't going away any time soon, and even if it did subside "by June" as the state predicted, it felt like a huge risk to count on audiences flocking back to theatre, much less theatre in a "party" setting. And then when George Floyd was murdered, the subject matter of The Wild Party felt like a poor, if inappropriate, fit for the moment.

Kim: What got you into poetry in the first place?

Nate: In 7th grade, I had a fantastic English teacher - easily my favorite of that year - and poetry was part of the syllabus. I was inspired by the revelation of the malleability of language. In 11th grade, I again had an excellent English teacher who got me into reading more poetry. At the same time I was falling in love with a band called Incubus whose lyrics were very poetic. That was perfect timing to inspire angsty teen Nate to start writing and reading more poetry and I've held onto that hobby ever since. 

Kim: Who are some of your favorite poets?

Nate: The first "favorites" I can recall having are Sylvia Plath and Langston Hughes. Edgar Allen Poe. Lewis Caroll. Patti Smith. Shakespeare is on another level entirely, but definitely an inspiring linquist. There are a number of musicians who I'd count as poets too, but there are too many faves in that category to start listing.

Kim: What about Ginsburg’s “Howl" resonates so deeply with you?

Nate: It's a raw, guttural, rallying cry of identity pride and exasperation, absent of any need to sound pretty and "poetic." It bucks all sense of formality. And even though we've had decades of "progress" since it's publication, our society (America) is still stuck fighting the same things Ginsberg howled about in 1957. It feels uncomfortably prescient, as though we all might be on the verge of penning our own ranting lament to the heavens, echoing Ginsberg and his generation 63 years later. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Baltimore Waltz and Confession: A Note from the Artistic Directors

Welcome to another first at the Dragon! As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we head into the uncharted territory of repertory theater, a theatrical tradition that goes back centuries, but is new to us. Why are we doing this? Because sometimes it takes looking at things from different points of view to get clarity. We bring to you in this ‘rotating repertory’ two brilliant plays directed by two thoughtful and generous directors, leading one incredible production team of designers, technicians and a team of five amazing actors. It has been such a delight for us to experience these plays back to back, and seeing as different as they are in tone and style, how they reflect off of one another in the themes they explore or the questions they ask. One play is by a giant among American playwrights, Paula Vogel (our first ever Vogel play!), and one is a world premiere by local playwright Barry Slater. Whether in Confession or The Baltimore Waltz you see through the mists of 80’s nostalgia, to a world you still recognize now. Be swept away by the personal tragedy and comedy of it all. We hope you enjoy, and get a chance to experience both sides of our little journey back in time! 

Alika & Max Koknar
Co-Artistic Directors

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Nether: What is an intimacy consultant?

Most people who to go the movies or the theatre know that there's always a fight choreographer on the behind the scenes team to choreograph any kind of violence between actors. It might range from a simple shove to something much more elaborate like sword play. However in 2016 a new branch was founded - intimacy directing. Let's face it, kissing or simulating sex with a co-worker is awkward at best or leads to terrible situations at worst. The Me Too scandals that have rocked Hollywood have made it abundantly clear that this type of protection is absolutely necessary for a healthy and safe acting environment.

Artists can now be certified as Intimacy Directors via a nonprofit organization. You can read more about their mission and training here. The New York Times has laid out a pretty interesting story about this here and it's worth a read.

When we read The Nether with its very difficult role of Iris, it was pretty clear that we needed to bring in an expert to work with the actress, a high school student, the rest of the cast, and be very transparent with the parents to make sure that everyone was on the same page and felt good about what was happening. We're so proud of what Arcadia Conrad, the Intimacy Director for The Nether, brought to the show and we'll utilize Intimacy Directors again for Spring Awakening, a teen musical, and The Baltimore Waltz. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Anne of the Thousand Days: Director's Note

Anne of the Thousand Days presents some special challenges to its cast, crew, and audiences. It catalogs the span of an entire relationship - all 1,000 of its days - in the span of a few hours of moments. It requires the audience to meet and get to know the many other names and faces involved in Anne and Henry's lives, from first meeting to final (and permanent) end. The play also presents its highly stylized (and fictionalized) story through two unreliable narrators as they attempt to justify the ending of their lives together. Heavy stuff.

From the very beginning, I hoped to stage this play in a way that put a unique focus on the performativity of memory. So many people go in and out of the lives of these two characters during their story - and when they outlive their place in the narrative, where do they go? In this production, the small cast ensures that the faces and bodies of Anne and Henry's memories are remade and recycled into the next wave of moments. Faces become familiar, but interchangeable, as the dynamics of the play's relationships blur and change along with them. 

In the end, I hope the cast, crew, and audiences of this play are left with a sense of how memory - how we remember, and how we are remembered, the impermanence of people, places, and moments - can be embraced and experienced as a performance in its own right.

Melinda Marks