Posted by Thom Smyth, November 27th, 2013
Sensorium Theatre’s co-artistic director, Francis Italiano, takes us through the background behind their new interactive performance for children with special needs – Oddysea.
Words: Francis Italiano Photo: Ashley de Prazer
In our previous show, The Jub Jub Tree, young audiences with special needs relished feeling grass and dirt underfoot in our luscious multi-sensory forest, and delighted in joining the animals they met who lived there. Encouraging them to be active participants in, rather than passive recipients of, the story became for us the cornerstone of Sensorium Theatre’s approach to “immersive” performance. In creating our new show ‘Oddysea’, the company was keen to explore this idea further and make the audience’s interactive experience even more dynamic and kinetic – not only taking them on a narrative journey, but seeing how we could enable them to undertake a physical journey of their own.
An odyssey is a journey or quest – traditionally heroic by nature – with one or more main characters reaching a goal after overcoming trials along the way…
For many of our audience, some of whom have little or no movement and are unable to speak, just getting through a single day can require heroic efforts. How then, to convey a sense of fun and adventure in a journey that they could be part of? Given Sensorium’s method of using sensory stimuli to create cognitive “ins” to a story for our audience within an immersive setting, we began to think about where we’d like that journey to take them, and what kind of sensory delights we might like to offer them along the way? Being a Fremantle-based company, we ended up at The Sea…
So, in Oddysea, we’ve invited children with special needs to come on a journey to explore the sights, sounds, textures, smells and tastes of the oceanic world, and revel in the sensuous joy of sun, sand and sea while encountering some of the beautiful, extraordinary and truly odd characters and creatures who call the sea home.
For the Creative Development of this new show, the company undertook what we now plan to be a template for making our future new works; that is, after an initial brainstorming period for the creative team to establish our framework and objectives, we went on to directly collaborate with a representative spectrum of our intended audiences for the rest of the devising and creation period. Basing ourselves at Kenwick School for the duration of the development over a whole term, we alternated artists’ collaborative devising days with hands-on workshop-style days with the kids and staff in a kind of experiential dramaturgy -where we trialed different story ideas, variations of the live original music and instrumentation, and prototypes of interactive props, puppets and settings with them – adjusting, tweaking, jettison-ing and re-inventing based on their responses and direct feedback. The usually exciting collaborative experience of a creative development was amplified incredibly by having the kids in on the process – if an idea was a dud, then the audible “thud” when it crashed was totally palpable from our harshest critics, but if an idea had wings, then watching it soar, propelled by their enthusiasm, was beyond beautiful. Several of the songs from the score were inspired by the kids and the ending was directly influenced by one class in particular. It seems so obvious in retrospect, but what better way to fashion immersive worlds than to interact directly with the audience you want to invite into them as you are creating them?
Working with the kids in a mock-up of our proposed set, using approximations of the final puppets and props, also allowed us to tackle the practical question of how best to physically convey a journey. Since many of our audience have limited physical mobility, in “Oddysea” we’ve explored “bringing” the journey to them, at times using happily old-school theatre techniques such as “travelling” set-pieces and puppets/performers past them, and at others taking them on mini-promenades – literally propelling them along the slippery gold-satin “sand” if necessary. Wherever possible, children are taken out of their wheelchairs. In the finished version of the show, as we set off from the beach and the kelp-lined rock pools of the shoreline recede, accompanied by sea-shell rattles and steel-drum conch-shells, our principal characters, Crab & Turtle, encourage the audience to go ever further on their Oddysea. Having taken us up on our offer, the kids are treated to multiple transformations of the space before the tactile extravaganza of a crocheted coral reef unfurls before them and they arrive at their destination.
The journey the audience and artists take together is truly an odyssey. After such a rich development, enthusiastic test audiences and a promising start to our pilot tour, we decided our preferred mode of transportation – sensory stimuli, imaginary play, and intimate immersive interaction – is the only way to travel!
The Sensorium Theatre artists are highly skilled in working with children with special needs. Audience size is limited to 12 so that individual learning abilities can be catered for and experiences can be maximised. Performing Lines WA can create a performance package tailored to your needs, from the full 7-day residency to a one-off performance.
2013 School Tour: Kalamunda ESC and Sir David Brand School
2014 School Tour: Malibu School, Gladys Newton School, Carson Street School, Durham Road School, Creaney ESC, Beldon ESC, Merriwa ESC, Gwynne Park ESC
Please note there are no public performances of Oddysea. If you would like Sensorium Theatre to visit your school, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the range of residency and performance packages.
Posted by Thom Smyth, November 19th, 2013
The City of Perth offer arts funding to independent artists presenting work in the CBD. We’ve certainly found their support invaluable for a number of our projects in the past and the application and acquittal process is fairly user friendly, so its worth a look. They are making some changes to the guidelines so even if you’ve applied successfully before it may be worth attending this information session on 2 December to find out more. Check out the details below and don’t forget to register for the info session. – Fiona
They Ran Til They Stopped – This project from The Duckhouse only went ahead due to the generous support of the City of Perth.
City of Perth Arts and Cultural Project Funding
Information Session 10.00 am -12.00 noon Monday 2 December 2013.The City of Perth’s Arts and Cultural Sponsorship Program supports innovative arts and cultural activities through two project rounds each year. If you are considering applying for support through the City’s Arts and Cultural Funding Rounds this is an opportunity to get more information, ask questions and talk to other applicants.The grants and sponsorship guidelines have recently changed so new applicants and returning applicants are also encouraged to attend.
To register for the information session please contact Community Services Administration on 9461 3145
Funding Round One 2013/14
Round One closes on Monday 10 February 2014 at 5.00 pm and is for activities with a public outcome within the City of Perth boundaries between July and December 2014.Late applications cannot be accepted.Grants
Arts and cultural organisations, community groups and individual artists are invited to apply for grants of up to $10,000. Grant rounds are divided into two categories- Creative Community Projects and Arts Projects. Arts Projects encourage artists to publicly share, explore and strengthen their practice. Creative community projects enhance social well being and encourage participation in cultural life.
Arts and cultural organisations and community groups are invited to apply for sponsorship of up to $20,000 to contribute towards the public presentation of high quality local arts and cultural projects or a series of projects.This activity must commence within the relevant project round and be completed within the same financial year.
The City of Perth can consider requests for support of Arts and Creative Community projects of $2,000 or less outside of the advertised funding rounds. Fast response objectives, eligibility and assessment criteria are the same as Arts Projects and Creative Community projects. The Fast Response category is not intended to support recurring projects. Unsuccessful rounds applications, or applications received less than one month prior to commencement will not be considered.
Arts and Cultural Sponsorship Program
City of Perth
27 St Georges Terrace PERTH
GPO Box C120 PERTH 6839
ENGAGE CHALLENGE EXCITE SURPRISE REFLECT
Posted by Thom Smyth, November 6th, 2013
We have a soft spot for the team behind Standing Bird 2. Not only have we had the pleasure of working with the entire creative team individually on other projects – we worked alongside Sally, Danielle and Jacqui on the first iteration of Standing Bird for their premiere season in 2012 during Summer Nights and Fringe World. Billed as a bravura solo performance by Jacqui Claus (2012 Dance Australia Critics Choice – Most Outstanding Female Dancer), Standing Bird 2 has been re-structured, re-visioned and refined for Season Two at The Blue Room Theatre. We talk to Director and Performing Lines WA core artist Sally Richardson about what to expect.
Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Sally Richardson (SallyR)
Photos: Ashley de Prazer
SR. You did it once, why do it again?
SallyR. You return to a work determined to make it better, and to resolve and refine your concept and your ideas. The initial devising space is such a different experience, with a high degree of uncertainty and is always limited by the time and resources available to you. Fringeworld was a perfect environment to show the work at an early stage, in a performance framework that is about experimentation, exploration, and testing your ideas for the first time with an audience who is also excited by the rawness and freshness of the work. The original presentation also incorporated a number of ideas, and story lines I had been working with on and off over a few years. Standing Bird 2 is a synergy and synthesis of those ideas into a single narrative and ‘voice’, co-created and performed by and for dancer Jacqui Claus.
SR. What have been some exciting developments with the next iteration of the work?
SallyR. The work has been re-structured, re-visioned and refined, with some additional new material developed and scored. The new design created by Fiona Bruce and Lauren Ross is bold and contemporary and locates the work in a different context and audience configuration. We also re-shot all the film sections exclusively with Jacqui, and these appear on a range of screens in and around The Blue Room (check out the Cultural centre screen as you make your way to the Theatre). We have also incorporated The Blue Room bar as a performance space, so yes on many levels if feels like a ‘new’ work. (My previous role as a somewhat shadowy presence in the work has also been erased – thankfully)!
SR. What is personal about the story?
SallyR. For me all creative work is personal to a degree…This work is also inspired by many things, including what is a solo? What is a self-portrait? What is particular to this form, and this solo journey that we all experience…Reflection and self-reflection are key concepts, as are both physical and psychological notions of re-framing, reviewing, re-membering, and re-visioning..How we move through time and space, both physically and mentally, backwards and forwards (as does the reflective gaze) …It is interesting in the process of re-visiting this work, the theme of re-construction, re-collection, re-covery and review is central. What is retained, what is rejected, what is re-formed…through the journey of performance making, as in life ,there is a constant editing, of the story. In SB2 as this lone woman moves through landscapes (emotional territories) she recognises herself while also rejecting parts of herself, shedding skins and layers. The idea of metamorphosis and transformation are central. In this version there is always choice (made by her-self)…and ultimately one arrives at a space where there is release and revelation. It is about the pursuit of self awareness, from an initial self consciousness…a process of moving from who am I? to a claimed space of I am…here present and before you in the immediate now..The interior is made exterior and vise versa through fragmentation, re-fraction, and re-formation..The keynote is the gestural, as motifs recur and return moving from the minutae through to the epic..a moment amplifies and echoes, is refracted and re-framed by repetition. …A solo is always about the performer, and as the dancer’s body is ultimately their own unique voice, Standing Bird 2 is also Jacqui’s. It has been created and framed by her own physicality and dance vocabulary, and so it uniquely hers, and hers alone.
SR. As a movement based performance, how have you (as the Director) worked alongside and in collaboration with Choreographer Danielle Micich?
SallyR. Danielle, Jacqui and I collaborate as a team. We each bring a different element to this creative dialogue, and there is a trust and mutual understanding that comes from having worked with each other over many years. Danielle defines herself as a movement director, and her and Jacqui have now collaborated on a range of projects, so there is an efficiency and clarity to their communication. I am there driving the sense of overarching narrative, intention and through line, and commenting, questioning and adjusting what is generated. We all know what we want to create, and the outcome we want to achieve, and it has felt very simpatico in this process. It is exciting to be working together with Dank and Jacqui right now, as both in their own way are professionally at the top of their game, and with that there is a confidence and ease, and sense of play in the creative space that is delicious.
SR. What’s great about presenting Standing Bird 2 in The Blue Room Theatre’s season two?
SallyR. The Blue Room Theatre is a fantastic venue and hub for original new work, and it has a strong audience base and great team that support this focus. To be able to present two new dance works (SB2 + Verge) in such an intimate venue is exciting, as we believe this will give the audience a dynamic performance experience, as it is a rare opportunity to view dance in such close proximity. To also have an almost 3 week season for 2 new contemporary dance works is almost unheard of in Perth, due to high cost of suitable venues. We believe this gives us an opportunity to develop new audiences, and the season duration gives a chance for word of mouth to build, and hopefully we can sell out!!
SR. How did you become a Director?
SallyR. I wanted to. Practice makes perfect. I am still practicing.
SR. Why do you make work in Perth?
SallyR. I make work in Perth as it is my home, and the home of my children. I also have some strong ongoing creative relationships here with other artists and collaborators that have developed and grown over many years. We are a dynamic and diverse creative community and I think we are good at making our own opportunities to showcase our ideas and work. I do enjoy also working in other cities/places, and enjoy the dialogue with other artists from around the country. Living and working in such a remote city as Perth it is essential to travel and see and make work in other environments.
SR.Who do you dream of working with one day?
SallyR. That list is long.
Standing Bird 2 Showing at The Blue Room Theatre
12 – 29 November 2013
The Blue Room Theatre
53 James Street
Perth Cultural Centre
Northbridge WA 6003
Featuring: Jacqui Claus // Director + Concept: Sally Richardson // Movement Director: Danielle Micich // Assistant Director: Katya Shevtsov // Vision Design + Film Production + Editor: Ashley de Prazer // Set + Costume Design: Fiona Bruce // Sound design + Production: Joe Lui + Kingsley Reeve // Lighting Design: Joe Lui // Dramaturg: Humphrey Bower + Sally Richardson
Posted by Thom Smyth, November 1st, 2013
NSW performance maker Nikki Heywood has just touched down in Perth to work with artist James Berlyn on the development of his latest one man show Crash Course. The show is a participatory theatre experience that takes the form of an immersive language class – with a twist. We talk to Director Nikki Heywood about her fascinating arts practice and what surprises are in store when Crash Course opens at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts this 14-30 November.
Interview: Kate Hancock (KH) and Nikki Heywood (NH)
KH. Throughout your career you have focused on performing and creating movement based theatre. Can you tell us about what drew you to this particular area?
NH. I love words and language but have always instinctively felt that a performer’s speaking must be situated, so that it arises through a kind of necessity from the body. When the body is articulate you need less words.
KH. You mention you are not a dancer but what do you love about dance as a means of artistic expression?
NH. I have a great respect for the rigour of a dancer’s practice and for their capacity to move through and with space, and for a dancer’s capacity to compose space. Whilst I also have, and still do, engage in a rigorous practice and I compose space (and time), because I came to dance kind of through the back door of theatre/performance, with a different lineage, I prefer the term performer and performance maker.
What do I love about dance? It has the potential to be extremely honest and direct. It can be very simple… a body, an intelligence, working purely with it’s own perceptual capacity. As an audience, dance can activate all our senses, especially touch. It can be carnal, it can be abstract, and always original. It is the body’s music.
KH. In the early 90’s you worked intensively with Body Weather (via Min Tanaka and Tess de Quincey). Can you tell us about this time and how it shaped your own practice?
NH. Meeting Tess and entering the realm of Bodyweather in the late 80’s and early 90’s opened an entirely new door. The approach to body in and of the landscape, particularly during extended time in the outback on Lake Mungo project, radically altered my ideas of what constituted ‘body’. This experience led to an ongoing commitment to perceptual practices and honoring somatic intelligence.
In my practice of physically driven performance during the 80’s and 90’s the predominant preparation for the performer involved one of a number of quite full on physical training regimes. Whether it be Grotowski based actor training, Suzuki stomping or Body weather MB (Mind/Body, Muscle/Bone) training, I gravitated to approaches that radically shifted the state and the internal perception of the whole body, with elements of aerobic stimulation that not only quicken the pulse, deepen the breath, raise a sweat, stretch and extend limbs and muscles and push the body toward some sort of ‘limit’ but in doing this also create a state of mind that is released and available. Alongside the physical demands, these practices also introduced me to working with images, reimagining the structure and quality of the body.
Over time this imperative for an altered state, which I felt was necessary both to create work and to perform, has moved to a less punishing regime. Now I have a softer, simpler approach to preparation that involves shedding the everyday mind through relaxation, loosening, and more subtly contacting soft tissue, the fluid body and even cellular tone with less focus on muscularity and a less structured use of time. This approach still has the intent of arriving at a state I would call ‘being available’. A state of porosity or permeability of body and imagination.
KH. You are currently completing a creative doctorate at the University of Wollongong, looking at the fragmented body and the unifying intelligences of the corporeal including the body as animal. What have been the highlights and challenges of your study so far?
NH. Taking the time out to reflect on past work and interests and to research deeply has been very rich. Crunching through theoretical writings is a really good work out for the brain cells, and my challenge has been to keep going back to the embodied practice (of myself and others) as the source of ‘knowledge’. Thinking and writing and then making small works that look at areas like the empathic exchange between human and animal form… It’s another kind of rigour that is required.
KH. You are about to launch into the production of James Berlyn’s latest work Crash Course. As director, what will you be focusing on second time around?
NH. James and I are looking at the skeleton of the work… what is the experience for the audience? That is the paramount question for this participatory kind of piece. So that something changes or opens for them. Alongside that, as always, I’m intent on building a trajectory for James as a performer that can continue to grow and surprise and challenge him. Composing the rhythm and arc of his persona/character. He will also dance, sing and offer an enjoyable performance for the audience.
KH. Crash Course experienced a number of showings when you worked on the piece back in 2012. How did audiences react to the work? Were you surprised by any of the responses?
NH. I think people enjoy being challenged, within a safe environment. This work does get people to confront their relationship to new learning, so there was a whole swathe of different responses. I was greatly amused by some people’s determination to ‘get it all right’. And people surprised themselves too I think. Many, including me, were excited by the potential that they saw in the work. So that’s what we are building on.
KH. Crash Course is intended to give audience members’ insight into how they would cope in the challenging situation of learning a new language. Do you think resilience or our ability to deal with challenges is in-built or can it be developed?
NH. This is a really exciting area. So much new research is being done into brain plasticity and ways of forging new neural pathways, and what we are talking about is a new definition of resilience. Not as the ability to ‘tough it out’ or ‘hold ground’ but rather to embrace not knowing and all the feelings that that evokes and to take a deep breath and trust one’s ability to adapt. Let’s face it, our ability to adapt is going to be more and more important for us mere humans this century!
KH. In Crash Course James Berlyn takes on the role of a language teacher. However his ‘students’ (the audience) have never learnt the language of ‘Winfein.’ In your experience as a teacher how would you cope in this situation?
NH. Ha ha! I would hope that I would do what James and I are talking about. Find a way through, a way to reach my students through an understanding of basic principles and to excite their interest in this new area of learning. You have to promote curiosity and to know a bit about what’s vital and what gets the juices flowing…
14-30 November 2013
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
BOOK HERE or call (08) 9228 6300
Nikki Heywood’s work in contemporary performance spans four decades of involvement in movement based theatre and dance as a performance maker: devising and directing original work, making work as a solo performer, participating in collective creation and collaboratively devised projects, running skills based workshops for students and emerging practitioners and assisting the creative process of others as a mentor and dramaturg. Her work has toured nationally and internationally.