“But ensembles, nationally and locally, are able to focus more,and develop a style of working and an aesthetic, and that’s what makes the work exciting. Because of that, it’s reinvigorated the field. I think this is only the beginning.”
– Mark Valdez (executive director of the Network of Ensemble Theatres)
Are the days of the traditional playwright dwindling? Or are we simply experiencing a new wave of exciting ensemble-created work?
When thinking of playwrights, our mind often conjures up an image of a tortured artist-type, hunched over a notebook or a typewriter in a pitiful flat in some remote location, painstakingly trying to pull words from thin air and force them down onto a page. But new works created by groups of creatives are challenging this traditional method of writing.
And who’s to say that a multitude of voices cannot be better than one? Sure the conditions for artistic creation must be reevaluated. What could easily be a case of “too many cooks in the kitchen,” is instead a creative playground, pumping out interesting, group-driven work. When all the members of the ensemble recognize that there must a shift away from ego and towards the pursuit of a higher art, ensemble pieces really shine.
One of my favorite recent examples of groundbreaking ensemble work was The Method Gun at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The group, Rude Mechs, put together a show that explored the life and techniques of Stella Burden, an revolutionary acting teacher/guru whose method, The Approach (often referred to as “the most dangerous acting technique in the world”), infused even the smallest role with sex, death and violence. The group collected actual journal entries and personal accounts from those in Stella’s troupe in the 60s and 70s in order to create their mystifying show. The Method Gun re-enacts the final months of her company’s rehearsals for their nine-years-in-the-making production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The company’s challenge? To tell this classic without the four main characters. That’s right. No Stella, no Stanley, no Blanche, no Mitch.
And it is. Everything had to be created from “found, recycled or stolen materials.”One of the costume designers that I had the chance to work with last year, the brilliant Ann-Closs Farley, recently took the idea of “Forbidden Fashion” onto the runway. The following photos and excerpts are from China Shop Mag’s writeup on the event.
“When the lights dimmed for the series of shows, models bearing everything from comic book accessorized suits to dresses made of playing cards and Dixie cups took to the catwalk with ease. The shows were a success, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats and occasionally bringing them to laughter.”
Ann’s inspiration for the event was the idea of a fundraiser Fashion Show for The Bootleg Theater using their offbeat name.
“I thought it would create a sexy line of clothes. I also didn’t want the participating designers to have to spend any money in building these clothes that we would auction off. They so generously were offering their time and talents. So, I added a twist to the fashion construction challenge by asking the designers to make their designs from found, recycled or stolen items. I thought it would give the show this black market feel and create a desire for a “hot property” purchase with our audience.”
She created three tracks for the show and divided the outfits up by the following themes:
1) Track 1: Guilty Pleasure
2) Track 2: Illegal
3) Track 3: Fatal
See more photos from the event below:
French Fashionista Ready to Fire
Comic Book Couture
Swattin’ Flies, Breakin’ Hearts
Animal Pelts Abound
Dixie Cup Drunk
Great Gobs of Green
52 Card Pin-up
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever worn? Stuff like this makes me want to dig through my closet and create something wild.
Last night, the cast got acquainted with the Little Zanni walk, a commedia style stride characterized by high knees and bird-like head movements. All that striding around led me to this brilliantly filmed, and well-acted example of the Zanni stock character.
In the commedia tradition, Zanni was a typical comic servant. The longer the mask’s nose, the ‘stupider’ the character. Take a look at this gal’s interpretation.
There’s something to be said about the power of good teachers. You can see from this clip how much this commedia teacher cares about the craft and how that passion translates to her students. Love the excitement and lines of energy throughout.