In this episode of Let Me Ascertain You, the Civilians' podcast, we hear a recording of OH, THIS IS SUCCESS!, the Lobby Project for the Encores! Off-Center production of Road Show.
The R&D Group creates a space each year for artists to dive into their own “investigative theater” projects. The Civilians looks for inquisitive artists and dramatic ideas that are taking our mission to heart by rigorously interrogating vital questions of the present. The R&D community gathers over the course of nine months to share their work and encourage each other on the journey to discovery. This year, the projects have employed different investigative methods, including examining personal histories and historical research, binge-watching Home Shopping Network clips, developing new software to create projected “live drawing” in performance, as well as interviews with adult students, close family members, and folks on both sides of the gentrification divide.
The FINDINGS Series, running May 4-25, gives our artists a chance to share their works-in-progress projects with the public. These six pieces have been incubating together all season and commonalities across projects have inevitably emerged. This year, big questions about the nature of home and self-reflexivity stood out. How do we locate home? In our communities, our relationships, our physical locations, in our own skins? How do we understand, articulate, and redefine our sense of self?
First up in the series is Eva von Schweinitz’s “The Space Between the Letters,” a new multi-media project that investigates adult learning and considers the ways in which education can provide tools to become empowered as a citizen. According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), 18 percent of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level of the PIAAC literacy scale. The experiences of this population (about 40 million adults) are often rendered invisible. Integrating recorded interviews with adult students and teachers, interactive video, live drawing, and choreography, the project centers the perspective of adult learners and highlights the ways in which education can serve as a tool for democracy. Eva’s FINDINGS presentation is full, but you can get tickets to additional work-in-progress performances of “The Space Between the Letters” on May 5 & 6 at Jack HERE. Also read Eva’s Extended Play post about this project HERE.
Next up in the series is “Untitled Harlem Housing Struggle Project,” a collaboration between Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Matthew Paul Olmos, Lico Whitfield, and James Kautz. The group informed their piece with interviews of East Harlem residents (both long-time inhabitants and newcomers) who shared their stories about gentrification in the neighborhood. This investigative theater piece explores our country’s housing struggle by imagining the way home and every thing it represents (refuge, shelter, security, privilege, family) transcends space and time.
The third presentation in the series, Eleanor Burgess’ “Wife of a Salesman,” tells the tale of a 1950’s housewife from Brooklyn who travels to Boston to get her husband’s mistress to stop their affair. Taking inspiration from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and interviews with her grandmothers, Eleanor excavates this explosive confrontation. By centering the experiences of these two very different women, Eleanor is redirecting where “attention must be paid.” The play poses tough questions about the nature of love, marriage, obligation, and freedom. Eleanor asks, “Where exactly do women fit in the American dream? Are they supposed to have dreams of their own, or to be a part of someone else’s?” Estefanía Fadul directs.
The fourth presentation, Deepali Gupta’s “I Love You Stranger,” is a choral pop fantasia which takes a personal look at bipolar disorder. Navigating a balance of research and memoir, it interrogates the labels placed on artists such as genius, tortured, manic, and hysterical. Both Deepali’s musical aesthetic and performance style are raw, deeply intimate, and pierce the listener with the precision of a scalpel. Kate Moore Heaney directs. Check out more about Deepali’s project HERE.
“Untitled Credit Project” examines America’s volatile love affair with both capitalism and live television. Set in the 1980’s after the credit card explosion, it follows a number of suburban women looking for the American dream on a home shopping channel. With a credit card, happiness is just four easy payments away (plus tax, shipping and handling). The principle of credit is predicated on trust. A belief that the promised payment will come. But these women are engaging in a different kind of conviction. Trust in the fact that maybe this time, with this purchase, they can fill the well of personal emptiness they feel. The music in the piece is often as light and sprightly as a commercial jingle, but hides an emotional right hook to the gut. Read more about co-creators Molly Beach Murphy, Jeanna Phillips, and Annie Tippe’s process HERE.
Last (but certainly not least) in the series is “Store Brand” by Zack Zadek. This musical comedy traces the journey of Zack, a twenty-something who has big dreams, but never left his hometown on Long Island. Life is good (or at least good enough) until his mother decides to get remarried prompting big changes. A true story based on dozens of interviews, Zack presents a suburban coming of age story – a few years late. Expect to be charmed by your host, Zack Zadek. Expect infectious pop-rock tunes with toe-tapping melodies. Expect to fall in love with Long Island…maybe just a little. Read more about Zack’s process HERE.
RSVP for FINDINGS
After many months of research and development, we’re excited to share these FINDINGS. All presentations are free. To RSVP please email firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate which presentation you’d like to attend and how many tickets are desired.
APPLY for the 2018-19 R&D Group
If you are a project creator or director, applications for next season’s group are open and due June 15, 2018. Click HERE to apply.